Southeast Asia is famous for many things, not least the array of different culinary experiences that are on offer. Tourists are already familiar with cuisines like Thai, Chinese and Malaysian, which are readily available across the globe, but the region has so much more to offer. Lesser known to many is the cuisine of Laos. Gentler, subtler and certainly less spicy than that of its southern neighbour, Thailand, Lao cuisine is in no way less tasty.
A Taste of Laos’ takes you on a journey across the country, tasting the finest food on offer, experiencing the heart of the nation’s culture and learning how to prepare Lao food for yourself. Starting in the tranquil northern riverside town of Luang Nam Tha, you will have a dinner specially prepared in authentic Northern Laos style using only local produce before going on a tour of the scenic forest and villages in the area en route to the Nam Keo Hoi waterfall. Immerse yourself even further in the local culture over the following days with treks through villages, engaging with locals as they go about their daily agricultural duties. Explore the native wildlife and lend a helping hand with communities as they prepare food, gaining hands on experience of Lao food preparation. You will also get the chance to venture out on bike journeys along the Nam Ou River‘s banks interacting with the locals on excursions to harvest regional produce, to swim in hot springs and to visit caves only accessible by boat.
Spend a day traveling to Luang Prabang along the river, passing by the incredible mountain and jungle scenery with stops of course to enjoy some of the country’s finest food. Laos‘ spiritual capital, Luang Prabang is the perfect place to take a cooking class before going on a tour of the country’s most stunning regions. The mysterious Plain of Jars, the mountains of Xiang Khouang and giant Buddhas of Muang Khoun are all breathtaking to behold. Finish your trip in the modern-day capital Vientiane for a farewell dinner in one of Laos’ finest restaurants.
DAY 1: ARRIVAL IN HOUEXAI – LUANG NAM THA – MUANG SING.
Welcome to Laos. From Huay Xay border, drive through beautiful mountain scenery to the town of Luang
Nam Tha, a tranquil town nestled in the foothills of Northern Laos and surrounded by a diverse mixture of local ethnic hilltribes. Upon arrival in Luang Nam Tha, transfer directly to Muang Sing. The rest of the day is your own free to at leisure or to stroll around this small charming town. Overnight in Muang Sing
DAY 2: MUANG SING – BAN SAI LECK (YAO VILLAGE) (B,L,D)
Start from our office by Tuk Tuk direct to the south of Nam Ha NPA on the R.17 Muang Sing-Luang Namtha around 17 km, where higher mountain cover by jungle forest, many different species of birds and elephant habitat.
Walk up to the mountain Nam Ha NPA to see different type of forest as bamboo, wild banana to visit Payueng waterfall.
A lunch will be eaten at the waterfall, after lunch leave from the waterfall pass through the old forest, agricultural fields, visit Ban Sai Leck (Yao village), where we get an overnight stay.
While waiting for dinner visit the villages walk around and meet the people, learn about traditional Yao architecture and you will receive Yao show their tradition and culture show such as: sing a song, dance and other… After dinner you will receive a massage which is traditionally given to the guests staying overnight in the village.
NOTE: we offer the package of 3D2N Akha and Yao Experience instead of Akha Experience only
DAY 3: BAN SAI LECK – BAN PHA YAH LUANG (AKHA VILLAGE) (B,L,D)
Enjoy daily life of Yao in the early morning, after breakfast at the home stay, continue walk though agriculture field and conservation forest of villages to see different colorful of ethnic groups around Muang Sing Valley, lunch will provide on the trail.
You will arrive Ban Pha Yha Luang around 04:00 PM, where we stay overnight for the second day.
While waiting for dinner visit the villages walk around and meet the people, learn about traditional Akha architecture and you will receive Akha show their tradition and culture such as: sing a song, a traditional dance and other show off… After dinner you will receive a massage which is traditionally given to the guests staying overnight in the village.
DAY 4: BAN PHA YAH LUANG – MUANG SING (B,L)
After breakfast at the lodge, again walk to visit other minority groups in different villages as Akha, Tailue and Lolo, all local people in the villages they are very friendly, the tour will finish when get the Tuk Tuk back to Muang Sing around 4:00 PM. Upon arrival in Muang Sing. Overnight in Muang Sing
DAY 5: MUANG SING – OUDOMXAY – MUANG LA (B,D)
The local market also attracts numerous ethnic minorities who converge from the surrounding mountainsides or valley to barter and trade their goods. We visit this congregation before setting off on our journey along the south to Muong La via Oudomxay. Here we have the chance to visit the intriguing Pra Xack Kham Temple with its sacred Buddha image. The 400 years old legendary statue is said to have many supernatural powers, and is widely worshipped among the faithful local Buddhists. We arrive in Muang La, famous for its natural hot springs by mid-afternoon. Here you can relax by taking a traditional massage, or enjoy the hot springs. Overnight in Muang La
DAY 6: MUANG LA – HALF DAY CYCLING DISCOVERY (B,D)
Along the banks of the River Nam Pak, there are many Khamu villages dotted along the course of the river. As you explore the area on your mountain bike, you pass through some beautiful scenery and meet the villagers at work, harvesting vegetables on the banks of the river. You will stop in one of the villages and as you pass through the village,
you have the opportunity to learn about the daily life of the village and its inhabitants. You will learn about their traditional beliefs such as respect of the wisdom of the village elders, the innocence of youth and the communal spirit of the village. After around 11km, you reach the village of Tad Muan where you can learn how the traditional houses are built and the different ways of hunting that used by the villagers. You leave the village and cycle back to The Resort. The rest of the day is free at leisure. Overnight at Muang La Resort
DAY 7: MUANG LA – MUANG KHUA – NONG KHIAW (B)
Early morning, we will take the short transfer to Muang Khua, the small town near the border with Vietnam. From there, we begin the 4.5 hours on a boat down the most beautiful stretch of the Nam Ou River. Take in the stunning scenery as the river passes by towering limestone karsts. Delve into the cultural richness of the area by visit some Lao villages along the river. Stop at Muang Noy, believed to have been built by the ancient Khmu kingdom.
Enjoy a free afternoon to explore this picturesque region at your leisure. Perhaps take a bike ride along the scenic trails around the foot of the limestone mountain.
Spend the night in a guesthouse overlooking the serene Nam Ou River.
DAY 8 NONG KHIAW – PAK OU CAVES – LUANG PRABANG (B)
In the morning, visit the historical cave of Phathok. The Nong Khiaw villagers used this cave as a war shelter during the “Secret War”, to shelter people from bombs dropped in the region. It is about a 30 minute gentle walk from Nong Khiaw town and takes you through beautiful scenery. Learn more about a secret part of the Lao history and explore the historical caves with your guide. From the cave you will have a beautiful view of rice paddies and the valley. Walk back to Nong Khiaw along a small path through the rice paddies.
In the afternoon, we will drive to Luang Prabang, the UNESCO World Heritage City, enjoying the lush green forests and landscape. We will be able to stop off at a few villages and admire the breathtaking limestone karst scenery. We will stop at Pak Ou Village, and take the small motorboat to visit Pak Ou Caves, two linked caves crammed with thousands of gold lacquered Buddha statues of various shapes and sizes left by devoted pilgrims. We will continue the drive and arrive back to Luang Prabang at around late afternoon, check in your hotel. Overnight in Luang Prabang
Note: Cannot do the boat today from Nong Khiaw to Luang Prabang as they are building a dam along the way, expecting to finish at the end of 2016
DAY 9: LUANG PRABANG – FREE (B)
You are free to stroll around the city of Luang Prabang or just stay relax. Overnight in Luang Prabang
DAY 10: LUANG PRABANG – KUANG SI WATERFALL – CITY TOUR (B/L)
An optional early start gives you the fantastic opportunity to participate in the daily morning rituals of saffron-clad monks collecting offerings of Alms (ubiquitous sticky rice) from the faithful residents. This tradition is very unique in Laos, being the only Buddhist nation still preserving the procession.
ABF, we visit Royal Palace Museum, which hosts a range of interesting artifacts. Our next stop in the city is the magnificent Wat Xiengthong with its roofs sweeping low to the ground, which represents classical Laotian architecture. Laos is also known for its traditional crafts, and today you will visit local villages of Lao ethnic minority groups at Ban Ouay, a Hmong village, Ban Ou a Laoloum village and Ban Thapene, a Khmu village. This then takes us to the beautiful Kuang Si Waterfall where you can cool off with a refreshing swim in the pools or walk along the forest trails.
Before returning to Luang Prabang, we stop to visit the Kuang Si Falls Butterfly Park, one of the must-visit spots, newly opened on January 2014. Arriving in Luang Prabang, we ascend the 329 steps to the top of Phousi Hill for a beautiful sunrise view of the city and its glowing reflection on the Mekong River. Overnight in Luang Prabang
DAY 11: LUANG PRABANG – XIENG KHOUANG (B)
After breakfast, we make our way over the mountains to Xieng Khuang, the province which is best-known for having been heavily bombed during Indochina War. But of course it is also famous for its historic Plain of Jars. The journey takes about 8 hours and we can make some stops at villages to observe the rural life of local people, including ethnic minorities such as the Hmong people. Arrival in Phonsavanh, the capital of Xiengkhouang province and check into your hotel. Overnight at hotel in town!
DAY 12: XIENG KHOUANG – MUANG KHOUN – PLAIN OF JARS (B)
In the morning you will journey through Phonsavan and the Plain of Jars.
The Plain of Jars is a huge archaeological complex littered with mysterious 2000 years old stone jars sized from 70cm up to 3 or 4 meters. Their true origin remains a mystery. It seems that they were carved into boulders. Several researches lead by the French archaeologist Madeleine Colani in the 30’s suggested that they could be old graves, but to this day they remain an enigma.
Your trip will enable you to visit the 3 sites and also discover some local villages where you can observe local village life. Site 1, close to the town is settled at Thong Hai Hin and is the biggest site. Site 2 is at Hai Hin on Phou Salator, “Phou” in Lao means “Mountain”. End your tour at site 3 in Hai Hin Lat Khai. Site 3 is the most impressive with over 150 jars. Close to this site, you will visit Ban Xiengdi where there is a small monastery with Buddha images. On the way back, you will pass areas that were important battlefields during the American secret war. You can still see bomb craters from that time today.
Attention: The Plain of Jars has been heavily bombed during the war and you have to respect all the signs and stay along the defined trails due to bombs, UXO and landmines.
In the afternoon, enjoy a half day trip to Muang Khoun. Muang Khoun one place in the old provincial capital that was not been destroyed by the American bombings during the secret war. Muang Khoun is home to unique sitting giant Buddha as well of some old pagodas that lies in ruins. The foundation and columns of Wat Pia Wat are still standing and close to this site, there is also an old 30m stupa constructed in the Lan Xang/Lanna period.
Then return to Xieng Khouang and overnight.
Note: Lao Airlines changes the flight schedule from Xieng Khuang to Vientiane to the morning. So we will not have enough time to visit Xieng Khuang if taking the flight to Vientiane today
DAY 13: XIENG KHUANG – VIENTIANE – CITY TOUR (B)
You are free before taking the short morning flight to Vientiane. QV402 XKH VTE 10:30 11:00
On arrival in Vientiane, you will be met and transferred to your hotel. After a soft rest, your half day city tour enables us to see the major temples of Vientiane including the oldest, Wat Sisaket, a temple of thousands of miniature Buddha statues, and the former royal temple of Wat Prakeo, which previously housed the famous Emerald Buddha Image. We also visit Lao national icon, That Luang Stupa, and we stop to take some pictures of the imposing Patuxay Monument, which is Vientiane’s own Arc de Triumph. Overnight in Vientiane
DAY 14: VIENTIANE – ORCHID TREK – VIENTIANE (B,L)
7:30 The car and guide will pick you up at your hotel. After around 2-hour drive, we will arrive in the village of Ban Hatkhay. Here, we will meet the local guide, the expert for Lao orchid.
Afterwards, we will drive through the small road among the paddy field to Ban Pha Say. From here, our orchid trek will start.
We move on small trails and discover shade different forest types: semi-deciduous jungles, bamboo, accompanied by two guides and an expert on orchids.
Do not be surprised by abundance of orchids in some places, all the rocks are covered!
Some biotopes are extraordinary. We will also have the opportunity to learn many things on medicinal plants and other plant families such as: Cane, the Gingers, the Dypterocarpes …
The picnic will be in the bed of a dry river any part of the year. The afternoon will end with a swim at the waterfall of Tad Say before returning to the village. Back in Vientiane expected around 18h. Overnight in Vientiane
DAY 15: VIENTIANE DEPARTURE (B)
After breakfast the morning is at your leisure to relax, explore, or do some last minute shopping before transferring to the airport for your onward flight.