Day 1: Chiang Mai - Arrival (D)
Arrive in Chiang Mai airport, meet and transfer to hotel. Orientation tour of Chiang Mai city visiting the old city moats and walls, a fruit market, a few of the most important temples like Wat Chedi Luang, Wat Phra Singh and Wat Suan Dok, and other sights. If the monks are gathered under the tamarind tree at any of these temples they welcome visitors chatting with them about Buddhism, Thai culture and history, or their daily life in the temple. Be picked up at your hotel at 7pm for the khantoke dinner with northern Thai and hill tribe cultural show. Return to your hotel at 9.30pm or drop off at the Night Bazaar. This evening, stroll in the interesting Night Bazaar which has a wide range of handicrafts and souvenirs as well as coffee cafes, money-exchange booths, restaurants, bars, ice cream parlours and health massage places for foot and traditional massages. Overnight in Chiang Mai.
Day 2: Chiang Mai - Doi Suthep Mountain Monastery (B, L)
Breakfast at the hotel. Be picked up for the tour up the mountain of Doi Suthep to visit Wat Prathat Doi Suthep with its golden chedi, fine views of Chiang Mai below, the small museum of votive tablets and Buddha images. Be sure to ring all the bronze bells surrounding the main chedi for merit. Burn a joss-stick before the Buddha image to pray for good health and good luck. Lunch in a restaurant along the way. After lunch visit Chiang Mai’s cottage industries of teakwood carving, celadon firing, silk and cotton weaving, lacquer ware and saa paper umbrella making in the Bor Sang village. Northern Thai craftsmen are carrying on the artistic traditions of their forebears in the Sankamphaeng and Ban Tawai enclaves producing fine pieces of craft by hand and simple tools. Return to hotel and be at leisure to relax by the pool, or go out and explore Chiang Mai on foot or go for a health massage. Overnight in Chiang Mai.
Day 3: Chiang Mai - Maetaeng Elephant Park (B, L)
Breakfast at the hotel. Today learn a whole lot about elephants at the Maetaeng Elephant Park. Be picked up at your hotel at 8am to go to the park 50km north of Chiang Mai. There are about 40 elephants free-ranging in this park. You can see them taking their bath, feed them and ride on them for a romp into the jungle. Ride an ox-cart to experience an ancient mode of local transport. Then have lunch by the riverside restaurant and glide downriver on a bamboo raft before returning to Chiang Mai, and be free at leisure. Overnight in Chiang Mai.
Day 4: Chiang Mai - Luang Prabang (B, L) - by flight
Breakfast at the hotel. At 8am meet in the hotel lobby to transfer to the international airport for your flight to Luang Prabang by Lao Airlines. Upon arrival, meet your English speaking guide at the airport and be taken to your hotel. Go with your guide on a walking tour of this heritage town which was once a royal city of Laotian kings, in particular in the main street, Thanon Sisavangvong. You will not forget the wonderful simplicity of the town and its sedate flow of life beside the Mekong River and the smaller Nam Khan River. You might like to have a Lao coffee or tea with a baquette sandwich or pastry at Le Café Ban Vat Sene at the top end of the main street. Climb the 329 steps up Phousi Hill and see a panoramic view of Luang Prabang city nestling between the Nam Khan and the Mekong rivers. Upon your descend see the tribal market at the foot of the hill as the Hmong tribesmen would have set up their makeshift stalls on the road to display their home-made embroidery and other products. Have a good Lao dinner at Pakhuay Mixay restaurant that your guide will take you to. Overnight in Luang Prabang.
Day 5: Luang Prabang (B, L)
Breakfast at the hotel. Morning sightseeing of Luang Prabang including the former Royal Palace now the National Museum for the memorabilia of the last Laotian King Sisavangvong and other cultural treasures of Laos before the Pathet Lao takeover. Visit Wat Visoun, Wat Aham and Wat Xieng Thong - the best of them all. Chat with the friendly English speaking monks in these temples and take photos with them. Learn how they study and live the dharma. Lunch at Visoun restaurant. The afternoon is free at leisure. Overnight in Luang Prabang.
Day 6: Pak Ou Caves - Kuangsi Waterfall (B, L)
Breakfast at the hotel. Morning trip by road to the Kuangsi Waterfall about 30km to the south of Luang Prabang. On the way visit the famous hand-weaving village of Ban Phanom where very good embroidery works are made by the villagers, and see some village life and the weavers busy at their looms underneath their houses. The Kuangsi Falls have water tumbling over several tiers of limestone formations into several turquoise pools that people enjoy wading in. Lunch of French set menu at the Elephant Blanc restaurant. Afternoon excursion by boat upstream of the Mekong River to visit Ban Sang Hai (a village producing very good Lao rice-wine and embroidery works) by the bank of the Mekong River. It used to be famous for its earthen jars but today it imports such jars to contain its copious production of rice-wine. Proceed by boat to the Pak Ou Buddha Caves (Tham Ting) where local people bring various sizes and kinds of Buddha images and wooden elephants to place at this shrine for good luck and fortune. By now there are hundreds if not thousands of these images inside the main cave. See the light of the setting sun strike the limestone cliff opposite the caves. Return to Luang Prabang revived by this mystical experience. Dinner at Indochina Spirit restaurant. Overnight in Luang Prabang.
Day 7: Luang Prabang - Free Day (B)
Breakfast at hotel. Full day you are free at leisure. It is a required thing for visitors to this ancient heritage city to have a day all to themselves to discover the little gems around the town and truly absorb themselves with Luang Prabang. Overnight in Luang Prabang.
Day 8: Luang Prabang - Xieng Khuang (B, L)
Breakfast at hotel. Excursion by road to Xieng Khuang a drive of about 270km through verdant valleys and mountains to an ancient capital of the Lan Xang kingdom. On the way make a few stops at local minorities villages for sightseeing. Tour the mysterious “Plain of Jars” where hundreds of huge and small stone jars carved in situ are strewn in clusters all over the plain. Their purpose has been debated for decades with no consensus reached. We will also explore Muang Khone, the former and ancient capital of Xieng Khuang. Return to town for lunch in a local restaurant, then continue to Meuang Kham to visit the Tam Hmong hill tribe, historical cave (Tham Piou) and hot spring. Return to town and transfer to hotel. Overnight in Xieng Khuang.
Day 9: Xieng Khuang - Vientiane (B, L) - by flight
Breakfast at hotel. Transfer to the airport for your flight from Xieng Khuang to Vientiane, the capital of Laos. Upon arrival in Vientiane, meet and transfer to hotel for check-in. In the afternoon tour the city. Sightseeing of Vientiane will include Wat Sisaket (built by Prince Anou in 1818 of Thai design that was not destroyed by the Thai invaders of the early Bangkok period), Haw Pha Kaew (a former royal temple built in 1565 to house the Emerald Buddha that is now in Bangkok since 1779), That Luang (the holiest of Lao temples that annually holds a huge religious fair that attracts devotees from all over Laos), and Patuxai (Laos' own Arc de Triomphe). Dinner at Kua Lao restaurant. Overnight in Vientiane.
Day 10: Vientiane - Siem Reap (B, L) - by flight
Breakfast at the hotel. Check out of the hotel after breakfast. Visit the large sprawling morning market to have an insight into the kinds of food consumed daily by the Lao people in Vientiane. You will see a host of edible products including frog legs so loved by the former French colonialists in the city, and baquettes by the basketfuls, a whole range of vegetables and many other things. Transfer to the airport for your flight to Siem Reap (in Cambodia). Upon arrival, be met by your driver-guide and taken to your city hotel for check-in. Overnight in Siem Reap.
Day 11: Rolous Group & Angkor Thom (B, L)
Breakfast at the hotel. Morning tour to the Rolous group temples of Lolei, Bakong and Preah Ko all built in the pre-Angkor period (850-893) to see the precedents of the great Angkor period temples. Lunch at Jasmine Angkor restaurant. Afternoon sightseeing of Angkor Thom, the great city located next to Angkor Wat. Angkor Thom was the greatest achievement of King Jayavarman VII. Built in the 12th century, it extends almost 4 square miles and is enclosed by a wall 26 feet high, 7.5 miles long and surrounded by an originally crocodile-infested moat. This great city contains many structures built to honour the Buddha and amenities for the king and people to enjoy. The area is surrounded by five monumental gates more than 65 feet high, each dominated by 5 huge carved faces of the king himself represented as the Buddha Avalokitesvara, facing north, south, east, west and centre. In front of the south gate are giant statues of 54 gods on the left, 54 demons on the right. In the centre is the Bayon, a massive cluster of towers carved with 216 faces of the king. More great carvings are found on the 4000 feet of interior walls that are covered with bas-reliefs showing 11,000 figures engaged in battles, ceremonial pageants and everyday life of 12th century Angkor. Visit Phimeanakas, a 10th century temple built by Jayavarman V; the Elephant Terrace, a viewing platform from which the kings of Angkor watched military processions; Terrace of the Leper King, supposedly named after the founder of Angkor who legend says was afflicted with leprosy. Visit also Preah Khan dedicated to Buddhism and Neak Pean, both built by Jayavarman VII, the latter a healing place. Dinner at New Bayon Restaurant. Overnight in Siem Reap.
Day 12: Ta Prohm & Angkor Wat (B, L)
Breakfast at the hotel. Morning departure at 8.30am to tour Ta Prohm which is unrestored and left to the elements with giant trees embracing its stoneworks, giving Ta Prohm its unique character. Also Ta Keo, a 11th century sandstone temple dedicated to Shiva. Prasat Kravan, Banteay Kdei, Sras Srang and others if we have time for. Lunch at Angkor Cafe. Continue sightseeing after lunch. Visit Angkor Wat, the great temple built before Angkor Thom. Angkor Wat represents the spiritual and mystical grandeur of the Khmer people. The kingdom was founded in the early 9th century by King Suryavarman II as a microcosm of the mythical world in which he identified himself with the god Vishnu. At the heart of the city was a mountain temple - traditional home of the Hindu gods and also the centre of an earthly kingdom in which the king was regarded as sacred. The temple also served as a mausoleum for the dead kings and was in use until 1431 when the Siamese eliminated the kingdom. The lost city was re-discovered by western archaeologists in the late 19th century. The temple complex of Angkor covers 200 acres, enclosed by a massive rectangular-shaped wall and surrounded by a moat. The wall contains gates on all four sides, with the main entrance richly decorated with carvings and sculptures. The temple comprised of five distinctive towers with 72 major monuments and an irrigation system, which together portrayed the harmonization of Indian roots in a Cambodian context – which was the very foundation of Khmer art and architecture. This place is probably the largest religious monument ever built on earth, and is considered one of the most inspiring. Angkor Wat was declared a world heritage site by the United Nations, and is regarded as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. As the sun lowers itself beneath the horizon, climb up to the Bakheng Temple ruins to see the sunset on Angkor Wat. Dinner at Sampheap restaurant. Overnight in Siem Reap.
Day 13: Tour of Banteay Srei & Kbal Spean (B, L)
Breakfast at the hotel. Pick up at 8.30am to drive to the temple of Banteay Srei, 38 km from Siem Reap. It is the only pink sandstone temple exquisitely carved dated before Angkor Wat. Its apsaras on the walls are regarded as the best in the whole Angkor temple complex. Venture out farther into the Kulen Mountain area to Kbal Spean, which was the first capital of the pre-Angkor period. There are over 20 unrestored temple ruins here, but the marvellous carvings are of huge Hindu gods and the hundreds of carved lingas in the river-bed that you get to with a half-hour trek along a shady jungle path. On the return trip, if there is time, also visit Ta Keo, an 11th century sandstone temple dedicated to Shiva, Banteay Kdei in the image of Ta Prohm used as a monastery, Prasat Kravan and Sras Srang. Lunch along the way. Return to Siem Reap and be at leisure. Overnight in Siem Reap.
Day 14: Siem Reap - Phnom Penh (B, L) - by flight
Breakfast at the hotel. Morning transfer to the airport for your flight to Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia. Lunch at Rum Chang restaurant of good Khmer cuisine. Tour of the city to include the National Museum (a wonderful museum displaying priceless artefacts from the Angkor classical and non-classical periods), the Royal Palace where King Sihanouk resides, Silver Pagoda tiled with 5,000 slabs of silver on its floor each weighing one kilogram, Wat Phnom the holiest temple in Phnom Penh on a knoll housing the Buddha statues that started with the foundation of the city, the Toul Sleng prison-museum and the "Killing Fields" at Choeng Ek where the truly savage brutalities of the Khmer Rouge will forever haunt the nation and the world. Dinner at Pondok Restaurant. Free evening to stroll along the waterfront beside the Mekong River that is lined by many nice shops, pubs, bistros and bars. Overnight in Phnom Penh.
Day 15: Phnom Penh - Departure (B)
Free time for shopping or optional visit before transfer to airport for flight back home. End of services. Our staff will give you the warmest goodbye and hope to see you again.