Laos 2019 - New Year tour
10-21 April, 2020.
Download the full itinerary here,
Laos is a hidden Gem in south east asia. Unlike the neighbouring Thailand, Cambodia, China and Vietnam, Laos is less developed, receives less tourist each year, and in my opinion, retains more of its traditional lifestyle and culture. As well as beautiful landscape, waterfalls and rivers, this trip has been designed to feature amazing people photography opportunities. We are visiting the annual Pi Mai New Year festivities – which re celebrated with a huge water fight around the country. We will be experiencing this at the picturesque city of Luang Prabang - the ancient capital which lies in a valley at the confluence of the Mekong and Nam Khan rivers. We are heading to the Oudomxay region to visit the ethnic minority villages, still living a traditional lifestyle in the mountains.
■ 12 days travelling through the “Land of a Million Elephants” with one of the country’s most senior guides
■ Bespoke tour presenting fantastic photography opportunities – unique culture, nature and traditions
■ Visit a huge annual celebration where the whole town stops to celebrate as one
■ Countless beautiful Buddhist temples and shrines
■ Travel in a higher level of comfort – I have personally inspected the hotels and transport options
■ Maximum of 10 guests to ensure a great guest/ guide ratio
DAY BY DAY ITINERARY (Download PDF)
Day 1 VIENTIANE – Arrival 10th April 2020
Upon arrival you will be met by your guide and driver and transferred to your hotel with the rest of the day at leisure. Optional group dinner in central Vientiane for those who have arrived in time.
Today we start our tour explore the city by visiting the oldest wat in Vientiane, Wat sisaket with thousands of miniature Buddha statues, and the former royal temple of Wat Prakeo, which now serves as a museum of arts and antiques. We then drive north through the countryside to the riverside village of Tha Ngon, located on the banks of the Nam Ngum river.
This area is very popular with locals who enjoy the fresh fish in the area. We take a private restaurant boat up the Nam Ngum river where you be served a whole array of delicious local cuisine. After the cruise we return back to Vientiane, stopping to visit the National icon, and most important religious building the golden stupa of That Luang as well an opportunity to take some pictures of the imposing Patuxai Monument, which resembles its Parisian inspiration, the Arc de Triomphe.
Today we catch a domestic flight nort to the city of Luang Prabang. (transfers and flight included). We will be met at the airport and then head out to explore the town, starting with a visit of the royal Palace Museum that provides a fine overview of the culture and history of this ancient city. We follow the quiet back lanes to the beautiful historical huan Chuan heritage house, taking in its historical items and architectural charms while learning about the connection it has with the royal Palace.
After a refreshing lunch, we will explore the back streets, stopping at local points of interest and culturally significant sites I have chosen out.
Today you have an optional early morning start (5.30am) to witness and partake in the daily morning ritual of ‘Tak Bat’ or giving alms to the monks. This is a unique ritual still followed by the locals in Luang Prabang. We can also visit the local fresh market to see how the locals shop, before returning to your hotel for breakfast. After breakfast, we drive out of the town, to the beautiful Kuang si Waterfall where you can cool off with a refreshing swim in the turquoise pool or walk along the forest trails.
This is a fantastic location for long exposure photography, so bring along your filters and tripods! We will enjoy a delicious picnic-lunch of local specialties right next the falls, before transferring to the nearby village on the Mekong riverside. here we board a traditional boat for a gentle 1 hour cruise upstream to the village of Ban Chan, famous for its pottery making. We then continue to nearby Pha Tad Ke Botanical Garden to learn about the importance of biodiversity conservation and walk through the beautiful gardens to the riverside where we board our boat again, back to Luang Prabang. (Download PDF)
Day 5 - Luang Prabang – New Year Water Festival
Today we head out to learn about the celebrations of Lao New Year (Pi Mai Lao). Festivities are nationwide, and you can have the unique experience to participate in the lively celebrations. Be prepared to get very wet! People wish each other a happy New Year by splashing and squirting water at passerby and partygoers alike, even from by passing cars.! Today is the first day, known as Maha songkran, this day is considered the last day of the old year. Locals first visit the temple, then clean their houses and prepare perfumed water and flowers for the days ahead. Another unique activity today is the sand stupa making along the Mekong river.
We transfer to the Mekong riverside where we board a local private boat for a short cross the sand banks at Ban Xiengmaen. These sandbanks are an impressive sight as many villagers come here for Chedi sai or the building of sand Pagodas. Learn from your guide about this traditional side of the New Year festival before we return to town in the late afternoon.
Day 7 - Luang Prabang – Nong Khiaw
After breakfast, we board our minivan and head north. Where the Mekong meets the Nam Ou river, we cross the Mekong by local ferry to visit the mysterious Pak Ou Caves; two caves set in a limestone cliff facing the Mekong river crammed with thousands Buddha statues of various shapes and sizes. Afterwards, we drive to Nong Khiaw, stopping for photo opportunities along the way.
After a rest, we head out of town for an optional trek up the nearby Viewpoint, to be rewarded with spectacular sceneries of the town and the valley while the sun sets behind the hills. The hike down will take about 1 hour.
After breakfast, transfer to the riverside and board our local private boat for an unforgettable cruise up the Nam Ou river to Muang Kua. This particular stretch offers stunning lime-stone scenery and remote villages; including Ban sob Jaem where the villagers produce traditional Lao skirts and which can only be reached by boat.
After around 2 hours we disembark and board a tuk-tuk for a short trip to pass the new Nam Ou Dam, before boarding a second boat for the 2.5 hour upstream part of the boat journey. Enjoy a tasty picnic lunch on the way, before we reach Muang Kua by mid-afternoon. From here we drive in to our beautiful resort accomodation. The rest of the day is at leisure to enjoy the resort facilities.
Today we head out to explore some of the Akha villages and other ethnic minority villages in the region. The journey gives you wonderful views across the river Nam Pak, terraced rice fields and the small villages along the banks of the river. On your arrival, you start your trek along a mountain trail which follows a mountain stream meandering through the lush vegetation.
We will most likely split into 2 groups to minimize the impact of so many photographers arriving at once. These are real hill tribes – not a made for tourists experience! You have the chance to meet the local farmers working in their rice fields and learn how they cultivate their lands, hunt for small game and fish in the mountain stream, before you enter into the tropical rainforest. After around 1.5 hours, you leave the forest and arrive in the village of Ban Phavie; a beautiful Khamu village which sits on the top of a hill. Explore more off the villages and return to our resort in the late afternoon.
Enjoy the morning free at leisure to rest, back up photos or take an optional trek, before it is time to transfer to the nearby airport of Oudomxay for a flight to the capital of Laos; Vientiane. Upon arrival, you will be met for a short transfer to your centrally located hotel with the evening at leisure.
After breakfast at your hotel, we drive along the Mekong river through small villages, stopping off at temples and stupas that are completely off the tourist radar. From here we head to visit the quirky yet impressive Buddha Park, an enchanting collection of Buddhist and hindu sculptures on the banks of the Mekong river. By no means historic – Buddha Park was built in the 1950’s by a self styled ‘holy man’ – the park features some very photogenic and unusual sculptures, including a huge reclining Buddha, and a giant pumpkin.
This is a very touristy park, but it offers some great photo opportunities. The final visit of the day will be the excellent COPE exhibition centre, highlighting a much overlooked aspect of Laos and a major problem many of the local people face on a day to day basis in the form of unexploded ordnance as a result of heavy bombing campaigns during the Vietnam War area. Tonight is our farewell dinner and we are heading to one of the premier restaurants for Lao specialties.
Day 12 - Vientiane Depatures - 21 April 2020
Depending on your departure flight, you may have free time at leisure, before being transferred to the airport for your flight.
Download the full itinerary here,