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Chiang Mai to Siem Reap | 18 days fully escorted journey with Ross Goddard

  • Day 1: Chiang Mai

    On arrival we will be met by our representative and transferred to your hotel. Tonight we will join our fellow travellers and prepare for our journey towards the Mekong River. Accommodation: Dusit Chiang Mai Princess 

  • Day 2: Chiang Mai

    Chiang Mai is a welcoming town and the second largest city in Thailand. It has a number of fine restaurants and outdoor eating areas and our hotel is well located at the entrance to the famous Chiang Mai night market. Today we will visit the Elephant Training Camp. This delightful excursion will take us into the hills surrounding Chiang Mai where we can see the elephants working in a natural environment, taking a bath in the nearby river and performing some tricks that they have learnt from their mahouts. There is an option to take a short ride on the elephant. We will continue for lunch then visit Wat Soi Thep, a magni cent pagoda that overlooks the valley of Chiang Mai. Accommodation: Dusit Chiang Mai Princess

  • Day 3: Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai

    We head further north towards the border with Laos and our destination of Chiang Rai. Northern Thailand is a mountainous landscape, rice fields on the low lands and contour farming across the hillsides. We continue for Chiang Rai stopping for lunch at a local restaurant. Chiang Rai is deep in the ‘Golden Triangle’ with Myanmar to the west, China to the north and Laos to the east. It is a key trading town where manufactured goods, agricultural products, cigarettes and clothing pour across the borders to be distributed through Thailand and beyond. After checking into our hotel we will take a wander around the town and find some interesting Chiang Rai food! Accommodation: The Wiang Inn Hotel

  • Day 4: Chiang Rai to Pak Beng by Long Boat

    We leave our hotel by 7am for the 2 hour drive to Chiang Kong, set on the Thai side of the Mekong River. The countryside changes as we head towards river valleys almost in the foothills of the great Himalayan range. The Mekong rises in Tibet and travels for 4,600 kilometres until it divides into nine tributaries in the Vietnamese delta and spills into the South China Sea. Its course takes it through seven south-east Asian countries, the world’s eleventh longest river and in terms of water discharge it ranks tenth in the world. We cross to the Lao side and the small town of Ban Houey Say where our local guide will meet us. Here we must clear customs and immigration before boarding our slow boat for our journey south towards Pak Beng. We will pass small villages of bamboo huts, sometimes no more than seven or eight rough looking dwellings, small children playing by the water’s edge, fishing, swimming or just sitting. We will stop and visit some local villages and lunch is included today on board. Our stop for the evening is the rustic village of Pak Beng, located on a bend of the Mekong in the middle of nowhere. This is almost civilisation, set amongst a green hillside; Pak Beng is the ‘commercial centre’ of the region, just a handful of wooden huts and modest guest houses. We will disembark and stroll up the hill to our guest house for the night. Accommodation: Pak Beng Lodge

  • Day 5: Luang Prabang by Long Boat

    By 8am, we set off again in our long boat down the Mekong to Luang Prabang. The landscape is shining, rich hillsides of green jungle, interspersed with cleared land for agriculture. It is amazing how the farmers can grow anything here on such steep hillsides; it seems all would just wash away with the first heavy downpour. The banks are speckled with thatched huts – small villages with populations of just 50 or perhaps up to 400, each village varying in its state of civilisation even though only small distances separate them. They like to keep to themselves, almost completely isolated but seemingly prosperous in their subsistence. We will stop at a Hmong village once again to stretch our legs, go for a walk and have a chat with the locals. We will continue down the river to reach the Tam Ting caves, and in particular the Pak Ou cave, said to be the home of the spirit of the Mekong and also home to hundreds of Buddha images. The caves are a spectacular sight; set against the right bank of the river with soaring limestone cliffs to the other side. Here the river is broad; further in the distance great mountain peaks rise, jagged and serene. The last stage of our river journey is in broad open water; here the river has expanded to twice its width. Gone are the swirling whirlpools and the rapids that race backwards. We near our destination, the former capital of Laos, Luang Prabang; our arrival is dramatic as the stupa at the summit of Mt Phousi comes into view, a sentinel standing over the city watching approaches from all directions. On arrival we will be transferred to our hotel. Accommodation: Villa Maly Hotel

  • Day 6: Luang Prabang

    You can hear the drums and gongs of Luang Prabang starting their rhythm around 5am every morning. The city is the spiritual home of Laos, a country predominantly Buddhist, and in this town there are many wats, monasteries and temples with hundreds of monks. Each morning as the sun rises the monks take the first of their two daily meals by calling for alms, their bowls tucked under their arms. They Indian file past the town’s inhabitants accepting sticky rice, vegetables, fruit and meat, even the odd pack of cigarettes! We will take a walking tour of the old city and visit some wats and monasteries just to get everyone orientated. By lunchtime we will have seen the best parts of the old city and there is now two free days to explore this beautiful town at your own pace. There is fantastic shopping, endless handicrafts, the local Hmong market and plenty of cafes and restaurants. Accommodation: Villa Maly Hotel

  • Day 7: Luang Prabang to Xiang Khouang

    Our adventure continues as we drive from Luang Prabang over the mountains to the east and our destination of Phonsavan and the Plain of Jars. The journey will take most of the day and the road may be a little bumpy in sections. Today we will see local Lao people going about their business at markets, in the fields and tending their domestic animals around their simple homes. We will stop enroute for lunch at a local restaurant. A visit to the jars is a special travel experience. Little is known of these structures, as archaeologists have only recently been able to start their investigation. In the 1930s a French conservationist did some preliminary work which revealed that the jars were more than likely used for funeral purposes. Their composition remains a mystery with some theories suggesting the jars are made from sand and buffalo skin then red in a kiln. You will be able to come up with your own theories as we visit the Plain of Jars sites 1, 2 and 3. Accommodation: Auberge Phouphadeng Hotel

  • Day 8: In Xiang Khouang on the Plain of Jars

    This morning we will visit the old town of Muong Khong and the Plain of Jars Sites one and two. Mang Khong was the former capital of the area and a stronghold for the North Vietnamese during the war. The town was completely destroyed during the Vietnam War in 1968. Some burnt-out buildings remain along with the remains of various stupas. The town is attractive and quiet, the pace of life slow so we can wander around and visit a local Hmong village to meet the people and see what they are up to. Accommodation: Auberge Phouphadeng Hotel

  • Day 9: Plain of Jars and Vientiane

    Depart from our hotel and a lovely drive to Plain of Jars site 3. Our aircraft is scheduled for later in the day (although times change without notice) so we will have a chance to visit the local market on the way where you will see an array of interesting foods and merchandise. The flight takes around one hour over some spectacular mountains until we descend to the plains of Vientiane and back once again to the Mekong River. On arrival we will meet our guide and transfer to our hotel, well located, by the banks of the river. Accommodation: Beau Rivage Hotel

  • DAY 10: Vientiane

    This morning we have a sightseeing tour of the Location capital to include Vat Si Saket, Patousay and That Luang Stupa. The afternoon is free to explore in preparation for the next leg of our journey in Cambodia. Accommodation: Beau Rivage Hotel

  • DAY 11: Vientiane to Pakse

    This morning we will head back to Vientiane airport for the short flight to Pakse in the south of Laos. Once again we are by the Mekong River and close to the Khon falls where the river tumbles across a ten kilometre wide cataract. We continue to the small town of Champasak and visit the splendid Khmer temple called Wat Phou. Built in the pre- Angkorian period around the 10th century this majestic structure folds into a sandstone mountain range ascending slowly through a series of balustrades and small halls. There is a museum at its base giving us an overview of the temples history before we continue for lunch then by local boat to Dong Daeng island and our accommodation for the evening. Accommodation: La Folie Lodge 

  • DAY 12: Dong Daeng Island

     Some free time for us today to relax by the Mekong . There is an optional cooking lesson or escorted bicycle ride for those who are interested. Accommodation: La Folie Lodge 

  • DAY 13: Four Thousand Islands and the French Railway

    We check out from our riverside hotel and drive a short distance south to the village of Nakasang where we board our local boat for an excursion to Don Det and Don Khon Islands. We are greeted by stunning river landscapes as we venture amongst islands that form the first cataract of the Mekong River. It was here in 1867 that the French exploration of the river came to a standstill. Unable to breach the falls and find a way through the surging torrent upstream to calmer waters they dismantled their boats and  carried them across the falls. Later in 1894 as the French consolidated their colonial hold over Indochina they conceived of an ambitious project to build a railway for 14 kilometres across these islands to transfer their boats to the upper river. The railway flourished until the late 1930s when roads became an easier way to transfer goods and people. Vestiges of the railway remain for us to visit today. We return by local boat and a night on Khong Island. Accommodation: Pon Arena Hotel 

  • DAY 14: The Khon Falls and across the Border

    A fascinating day ahead as we head for the border between Laos and Cambodia and our destination the small town of Sa Em. Before we leave Laos we will visit the spectacular Khon Phapheng falls in an area called Si Phan Don which literally translates to ‘Four thousand islands’. At this point the Mekong River broadens and during the rainy season a series of cascades over ten kilometres wide turn the river into a raging torrent .We can get close to the falls where spectacular views await. Farewell to Laos as we continue to the border then drive for two hours by our bus into the remote north west of Cambodia and our destination of Preah Vihear (Sa Em village). Accommodation: Preah Vihear Boutique Hotel 

  • DAY 15: Preah Vihear

    Many of us are familiar with the recent history of Cambodia , its struggles with war and the violence of the Pol Pot period. In many ways the country is still recovering from an unprecedented period of destruction to its society and infrastructure. One thousand two hundred years earlier a civilisation called the Khmer ruled in Cambodia and also over what is now Thailand and Laos. In an incredible period lasting almost 500 years the Khmer Kings constructed thousands of temples to honour their Hindu gods. Predominately from sandstone and on a laterite base the balustrades, hall ways and worshipping halls are beautifully decorated with intricate carving that still dazzles and bewilders so many years later. The temple of Preah Vihear was unreachable during the Pol Pot period and then even after peace had finally come Preah Vihear became the centre of a border dispute between Thailand and Cambodia that ended in a military standoff which was eventually settled in favour of Cambodia. Perched on top of a mountain with commanding views Preah Vihear is a fine example of early Khmer architecture and rarely visited by foreign travellers. Accommodation: Preah Vihear Boutique Hotel 

  • DAY 16: The Khmer Way

     We travel further south today with visits to the temple complex of Koh Ker which is situated on what was known as the old Khmer way. This road linked Siem Reap with Preah Vihear and onto Wat Phou in Laos where the Khmer Empire extended its reach. Whilst the temples were to their religious beliefs they also acted as frontier outposts to garrison soldiers and prepare attacks on their enemies. This temple is pyramid shaped and was also used by Pol Pot during the 1980’s as a stronghold. We continue for lunch then onto Siem Reap. Accommodation: The Victoria Hotel 

  • DAY 17: Angkor Wat and Siem Reap

    There are few places in the world where the forces of culture, intelligence and vision come together so splendidly; the region of Angkor on the north-western edge of the Tonle Sap Lake in Cambodia is one of those special places. The two distinct seasons mean that for five months of the year torrential rains soak the sandstone temples promoting jungle growth all around the temple sites. Indeed when the French archaeologist, Mr Henri Mouhot, re-discovered the Angkor area in 1860 he must have been amazed to see massive sculptures, enormous city walls covered with jungle vines and enormous trees with their roots sometimes spilling over the temple rooves into the hallways and entrances like a giant octopus. Since the French discovery, many of the sites have been cleared and many are under restoration work with assistance from Japanese and French organisations. Today we will visit the south gate of Angkor Thom, Bayon, Royal Enclosure, Phimeanakas, the Terrace of the Leper King and Angkor Wat. Our farewell dinner is included tonight. Accommodation: The Victoria Hotel 

  • DAY 18: Departure

     There will be some free time this morning before transferring to Siem Reap International Airport for your onward flight. 


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