Best of Laos and Cambodia

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A spectacular journey from the atmospheric Luang Prabang in the highlands of Northern Laos through the Mekong River archipelago of 4000 Islands & on to the Temples of Angkor & Phnom Penh in Cambodia's heartland.

Details

Duration: 12 Days
Starts in: Laos
Group Size: 4-16

Operated by:

World Expeditions

World Expeditions is an adventure travel and ecotourism company that offers guided small group trekking and adventure holidays.

Itinerary

Arrive Luang Prabang

Sabaidee! Welcome to Luang Prabang, Laos. You are greeted by your driver at Luang Prabang International Airport for your transfer to the hotel. Please look for the WORLD EXPEDITIONS welcome sign in the arrivals hall. You will have time to relax at your hotel and adjust to the pace of Luang Prabang. This tranquil town with its gleaming temple roofs, fading colonial architecture and stunning mountain backdrop has been claimed by UNESCO to be “the best preserved traditional city in Southeast Asia”. Today is free at your leisure to explore the city. In the late afternoon you will meet your guide in the hotel lobby for a trip briefing (time indicated in your final documents) before a welcome dinner. Overnight: Sala Prabang or similar

Luang Prabang Tour & Pak Ou Caves

Hop on a vintage tuk-tuk vehicle and get ready to see Luang Prabang! Along the way, the guide will point out different things to see and tell you more about the history and daily life of the people living in this old town peninsula. You will stop at the most reputed and beautiful temple of the city, Wat Xieng Thong, before visiting the Morning Market. Built on the Mekong River bank in 1560 under the reign of King Setthathirat (1548 – 1571), the temple is best known for its impressive Tree of Life mural depicting the Buddhist story. We continue with a short visit to Ock Pop Tok – an organisation that is offering the weavers in the area a chance to earn a decent income through their weaving skills. Lunch is at local restaurant (own expense). In the afternoon, we embark on a cruise upstream the Mekong River, which gives you a breathtaking view of the tranquil countryside before exploring Pak Ou Caves. Locally called Tam Ting, the caves are filled with thousands of gold lacquered Buddha statues. The caves are noted for their miniature Buddha sculptures. Hundreds of wooden Buddhist figures take many different positions, including meditation, teaching, peace, rain, and reclining (nirvana). You will return to Luang Prabang by vehicle and visit Ban Xang Khong, a village well known for silk hand weaving and traditional Saa paper making en route. Overnight: Sala Prabang or similar

Morning Alms & Kuang Si Waterfall

An early start provides the opportunity to witness and even participate in the captivating centuries old tradition of the alms giving ceremony, Tak Bat. Before first light, hundreds of saffron-clad monks file out from the old town's 35 temples to collect their daily alms (ubiquitous sticky rice) from faithful local residents. Following the ceremony we wander back through the morning market where locals go to buy their fresh produce for the day ahead. We'll head back to the hotel for breakfast, some time to relax and refresh before before heading out to Ban Long Lao, a Hmong village just outside the town. We walk with our guide and engage with the locals to learn more about life in this rural lowland farming community. Our next destination will be the famous Khuang Si Waterfall. You can choose to transfer by road or if you're feeling adventurous, we can hike there which takes around 3hrs. The route is relatively easy going, taking you between paddy fields before following a trail through jungle with a remarkable diversity of tree species. En route we stop by the Free the Bears Sanctuary to see first hand the good work being done. The rehabilitation centre cares for Asiatic Black bears, also known as Moon bears, confiscated from the illegal wildlife trade. We continue on through the forest to see the stunning Kuang Si Waterfall. A 60m cascade feeds into multi-tiered turquoise pools set in a beautiful lush forest setting. Enjoy a refreshing dip in the pools or choose to walk up the trails to the upper section. Overnight: Sala Prabang or similar Please note: The alms giving ceremony is a daily religious event not a show for tourists. Therefore, please be respectful - dress conservatively, turn camera flashes off and carefully follow the instructions of your guide.

Fly to Pakse, visit Wat Phou

This morning we take the morning flight to Pakse and travel by road to the religious complex of Wat Phou. Located on an escarpment overlooking the Mekong Rive, Wat Phou reflects the Hindu culture of the pre-Buddhist Khmer society that constructed it. The summit, Phu Kao, immediately commands attention because of its shape, identified in ancient times with the linga, the phallic symbol of Shiva from which originated its ancient name, Lingaparvata, and its reputation as a sacred hill. The permanent spring at the foot of the cliffs is probably one of the main reasons the ancient rulers of the area established a sanctuary to Shiva at this spot. Overnight: Pakse Hotel or similar

Pakse to Don Khong

Today we will drive to the 4,000 Islands region. Here, the Mekong can reach up to 14km wide during the rainy season and it is dotted with thousands of islands of various sizes. Don Khong is the largest of the Mekong Islands at 16km long and 8km wide, and the site of Muang Khong, a small former French settlement. Here we take a boat trip to Khone Island and start by visiting one of the highlights of this Mekong Island. We explore the old French heritage sites of Done Khone and see colonial buildings and the remnants of a locomotive from the first Lao railway. Continuing our discovery of the 4,000 islands area, we go to Liphi Waterfalls, one of the most beautiful waterfalls marking the end of Lao border to Cambodia - also known as the Samphamith. Our journey continues as we hope to see the famed Irrawaddy dolphins, an endangered species indigenous to the Mekong River, usually only found in Laos and Cambodia. Overnight: Sala Done Khone or similar

Khone Phapheng Waterfall, to Cambodia

Saying goodbye to 4,000 Islands, we head out to visit the breathtaking Khone Phapheng Waterfalls, Southeast Asia’s biggest waterfall and known as the Niagara of the East. The sheer volume of water thundering over over huge boulders is truly a sight to behold. From here we continue on to the border of Cambodia. Sua s’dei, Welcome to Cambodia. You will be greeted by your Cambodian guide and driver and transferred to your riverside accommodation in Stung Treng. En route we will stop to gently kayak (motorised boat can be provided) across the Sekong River to visit Hang Khou Ban, where Laos villagers make bamboo roasted sticky rice known as 'krolan'. Watch as villagers cook this very popular travel snack in its bamboo packaging over charcoal as they have done for generations. We spend the remainder of the evening at leisure beside the river. Overnight: Mekong Bird Resort or similar

Stung Treng to Preah Vihear

We enjoy some time at leisure this morning to explore Stung Treng - a great opportunity to witness the sunrise over the Mekong River where local fishermen will already be out on the water plying their trade. You could then venture to the market to experience a genuine Cambodian morning market or just relax at your charming riverside accommodation. Early afternoon we leave Stung Treng and head west toward the border with Thailand and the site of the majestic Preah Vihear Temple sat atop a 525m escarpment in the Dângrêk Mountains. The very best time to visit the temple is in the morning and so we can relax for the remainder of the day at the poolside of our comfortable hotel. Overnight: Preah Vihear Boutique Hotel or similar

Preah Vihear & Koh Ker Temples, to Siem Reap

This morning we switch to a jeep for the drive up the remote mountain road to Cambodia's most dramatically situated ancient Angkorian monument. Preah Vihear Temple sprawls for 800m along the edge of a cliff in the Dangrek Mountains, which forms a natural border between Cambodia and Thailand. The site provides breathtaking views of both nations below, stretching as far as the eye can see. In July 2008, Prasat Preah Vihear was granted Unesco World Heritage status. Following our visit of this incredible site we continue our journey, south toward Siem Reap. En route we stop off to visit another incredible ancient temple complex at Koh Ker, the jungle surrounded remnants of the capital of the Khmer Empire from 928 AD. - 944 A.D. - a unique period in the Age of Angkor. From the time the Khmer capital was first moved to the Angkor area in the late 9th century, it would remain there for almost 500 years, with one brief interruption when it moved to the site at Koh Ker. The most impressive monument here is the seven tired pyramid, Prasat Thom towering almost 40m above the surrounding jungle. Continue on to Siem Reap, the gateway to Angkor, arriving late afternoon. This evening we enjoy an Apasara Dinner & Dance performance. Overnight: Sokha Roth Hotel or similar

The Temples of Angkor

Today is a full day to explore the most famous temple complex, the UNESCO World Heritage site of Angkor Archaeological Park. To beat the crowds we start early at Ta Prohm which unlike many other Angkorian temples has been left as it it was when first rediscovered - a photogenic and atmospheric maze of trees growing out of temple ruins amidst jungle surroundings. Continue on to the lofty heights of Ta Keo then through one of four mighty gatehouses into the ancient walled city of Angkor Thom. Angkor Thom was the last capital of the Great Khmer Empire under the reign of Jayavarman VII and at the time was the most populous city in the world with 2m inhabitants. The crowning jewel of the city is Bayon at its epicentre. This 12th century masterpiece is a study in grandeur, its exterior gallery walls featuring world class bas-reliefs and its 54 towers, decorated with 216 gargantuan faces. We'll break for lunch before completing our day at the most incredible temple of them all, Angkor Wat - the ultimate expression of Khmer genius. The temple is in fact the largest religious structure in the world and has inspired visitors for centuries. We finish our spectacular temple day with a visit to Pre Rup to enjoy the sunset over the Angkor Archaeological Park and its surroundings. Overnight: Sokha Roth Hotel or similar NOTE: Appropriate attire when visiting Angkor temples is trousers or shorts which cover the knees and tops to cover shoulders. Visitors are frequently turned away from temples when wearing revealing clothing.

Siem Reap to Phnom Penh

We enjoy a morning at leisure. Relax by your hotel pool or venture out to explore the markets, boutiques, cafes and restaurants of Siem Reap. After lunch we checkout and start our journey south to Phnom Penh. En route stop by the town of Skuon, also known as Spiderville, which boasts some of Cambodian’s more exotic culinary delights – the deep-fried spider. We arrive in the late afternoon into the Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia. The city suffered much during the long war years and the subsequent abandonment from the Khmer Rouge but today its wide, riverside boulevards are bustling with activity. Phnom Penh boasts a unique blend of Asian and French traditions. The story of the capital of Cambodia dates back to an event in the year 1327. It is said that a rich widow named Don Penh found a tree with five Buddha's in it. She thus founded a pagoda Wat Phnom Don Penh, the monastery on the Hill of Lady Penh. In 1434 the city founded years earlier by King Ponhea Yat was completed and in 1866 became the capital. Today Phnom Penh is a bustling city built at the confluence of the Mekong and Tonle Sap rivers. Overnight: River Home Hotel or similar

Phnom Penh Tour

Today begins by scaling the steps up a small hill to see Wat Phnom, the birthplace of Phnom Penh. Next we embark on a cyclo ride through the bustling streets passing by the Central Market, Independence Monument and along the riverside. Among the city's prime attractions, you will explore the famous Royal Palace, built in 1866 under the French protectorate and King Norodom. The adjoining Silver Pagoda, built in 1962, is famous for its lavish decorations, silver paved floor and several Buddha statues made from precious metals and stones. Wander the National Museum, a treasure chest of Angkorian and pre-Angkorian artefacts. Our journey continues with a visit the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, housed in a former high school which was used as the Security Prison 21 (S-21) by the communist Khmer Rouge regime from its rise to power in 1975 to its fall in 1979. Learn more about a dark page in Cambodia’s history at the Killing Fields memorial site. Here you can pay respects to the countless victims of the Khmer Rouge. The Russian Market (Phsar Toul Tom Poung) is the city’s best place to shop for art objects, including textiles, antiques, wood and marble carvings, ritual objects and old Indochinese coins. Next we board a cruise and travel along the Tonle Sap River towards the Mekong. Relax on board and enjoy drinks (own cost) while watching the sunset over Phnom Penh city. Overnight: River Home Hotel or similar NOTE: To see the Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda, visitors are required to wear appropriate clothes. Trousers or shorts which cover the knees and tops which cover the shoulders. Visitors are frequently turned away for wearing revealing clothing.

In Phnom Penh, trip concludes

The day is at leisure until your transfer to Phnom Penh International Airport for your outbound flight. Trip concludes

Additional Information

This unforgettable adventure combines the very best of Laos and Cambodia into one unforgettable itinerary. Our journey begins in the tranquil UNESCO listed Luang Prabang, set on the banks of the Mekong River. We explore its exquisite golden temples, pilgrimage caves, nearby hill tribe villages and the stunning Kuang Si Waterfall before flying south to Pakse. From here we travel to the ancient ruins of Wat Phou then continue on to the beautiful Mekong riverine archipelago known as 4,000 Islands where we explore thundering waterfalls, search for the elusive freshwater Irrawaddy dolphin and relax on peaceful rural river islands. Crossing the border into Cambodia, we stop by Stung Treng, then the remote and stunning temples of Preah Vihear and Koh Ker before reaching Siem Reap, the gateways to the ancient temples of Angkor. Follow our crowd avoidance route to see the best temples, including Angkor Wat, Bayon and Ta Prohm at the least crowded times before ending your trip in Cambodia’s re-emerging capital, Phnom Penh. If you’re looking for a relaxed adventure exploring the depth and beauty of these two gems of Indochina, this is the journey for you.

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