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Best of Northern Thailand, Laos & Cambodia

Best of Northern Thailand, Laos & Cambodia

From $ 8,175 AUD

Description

Thailand, Laos and Cambodia are home to some of the most beautiful countryside, scenery, temples and architecture in the world. On the surface things may appear chaotic – particularly in Bangkok – but there’s a kind of quiet cohesion that makes everything click into place and keep moving along. Let yourself slip into this relaxed way of life and soak up the atmosphere as you boat along the Mekong River and see magnificent temples in Chiang Mai and Luang Prabang. Learn about the fraught history on the Thai-Burma Railway and then enjoy the whimsy of French colonial architecture meshed with Buddhist temples in Vientiane. Then, travel to Cambodia to discover the dark history of the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek and explore the once ‘lost’ ruins of Angkor, the archaeological treasure of the Khmers. You’ll have plenty of time to explore, discover, taste and experience South East Asia on this illuminating voyage.

Trip Name
Best of Northern Thailand, Laos & Cambodia
Last Updated
2020-05-30
Days
20
Capacity
12
Highlights
  • Support an important animal welfare initiative and get close to incredible creatures at the Elephant Nature Park
  • Visit the home of the infamous ‘Bridge over the River Kwai’, learn about its dark history and the construction of the railway during the war
  • Enjoy lunch on board a slow trip down the Mekong River, observing the stunning scenery and remote village life, and visiting a cave crowded with shrines - all at a relaxed pace
  • With a visit to the Hmong Hilltribe Lodge, immerse yourself in the wonders of an ancient tribal culture without compromising on creature comforts
  • Unwind in the laid-back jungle town of Luang Prabang. Watch as orange-clad monks gather offerings of rice, fruit and sweets from locals before sunrise in a daily alms giving ceremony
  • See the important sights of Phnom Penh on a full-day guided tour around the Cambodian capital. The Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (S21) and the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek are sobering experiences you won't forget
  • Enjoy two days of fully guided temple tours in Siem Reap, with in-depth insights into the history of these extraordinary structures and plenty of time at Angkor Wat
  • Spend your nights in comfort under the roof of Peregrine standard hotels – centrally located and ideal for relaxing
  • Enjoy a visit to a working Buddhist Monastery and meet the resident monks to learn more about this religion and it's importance to the Cambodian people.
  • Included flights on this trip makes travelling easy and allows for maximum time in each destination

Itinerary

ITINERARY CHANGES: Our itineraries are updated regularly throughout the year based on customer feedback and to reflect the current situation in each destination. The information included in this Essential Trip Information may therefore differ from when you first booked your trip. It is important that you print and review a final copy prior to travel so that you have the latest updates. Due to weather, local conditions, transport schedules, public holidays or other factors, further changes may be necessary to your itinerary once in country. The order and timing of included activities in each location may also vary seasonally to ensure our travellers have the best experience. Your tour leader will keep you up to date with any changes once on tour. OPTIONAL ACTIVITIES: A selection of optional activities that have been popular with past travellers are listed in the day-to-day itinerary. This isn't an exhaustive list and should be used as a guide only for some of what might be available. Prices are approximate, are for entrance only, and don’t include transport to and from the sites or local guides unless indicated. All activities are subject to availability, and may be on a join-in basis. It may not be possible to do all the activities listed in the time available at each destination, so some pre-planning for what you are most interested in is advised. When it's recommended that travellers pre-book these activities, look for a note in the Special Information section of the day-to-day itinerary. For most, they can either be organised independently on the day, or let your leader know you are interested and they can assist. Where activities are considered medium or high risk, we work with operators whose safety and credentials we have sighted and assessed. Although it is possible that you may find the same activity cheaper with another operator on the ground, we cannot vouch for the safety or quality of that operator. Medium and high risk activities not listed above have not been assessed by us and as such our staff and leaders are unable to assist you with organising these activities. Activities that contravene our Responsible Travel policies are also not listed. Please remember that the decision to partake in any activity not listed is at your own discretion and risk.

Day 1 - Bangkok
Welcome to Thailand. One of our transfer representatives will collect you from the airport and take you to your hotel. After settling into your room, your journey begins with an important meeting at 6 pm. Please check for the Peregrine noticeboard in the reception area of the hotel. Please advise your flight details at the time of booking so we can arrange your airport transfer. With free time, acquaint yourself with this frenetic city of tuk tuks, street food and traditional khlong boats winding down the Chao Phraya River. Tonight you'll enjoy a welcome dinner at a great local restaurant.
Day 2 - Bangkok
Enjoy a day of sightseeing and activities in lively Bangkok. Visit Wat Po, a larger-than-life temple complex in the city. This is the home of the Temple of the Reclining Buddha. Wat Pho is among the six officially recognised highest calibre temples in Thailand, and it's certainly one of the most impressive. Also visit the majestic Grand Palace, which has been the official residence of the kings since the 1700s, and enjoy a boat tour of the city's khlongs (canals) to see another, more tranquil, side of Bangkok. The afternoon is free to do as you wish, perhaps visiting Jim Thompson house or enjoying a Thai massage. You’ll have a BTS day pass so you can use the Sky Train to help you get around.
Day 3 - Kanchanaburi
Travel by private transport to Kanchanaburi (approximately 3.5 hours). While the town may appear modern, it holds a dark past. Many Allied prisoners of war and conscripted Asian labourers were engaged here to help build a rail route to Myanmar (Burma), including the passage infamously known as Hellfire Pass. Visit the memorial museum of the pass to learn more about this chapter in history, and take a historical train journey along a portion of this 'death railway'.
Day 4 - Kanchanaburi
Make the short drive to the Erawan National Park and waterfall. Its radiant emerald green ponds, named after the three-headed white elephant of Hindu mythology, make for a lovely photo opportunity. On the way back to Kanchanaburi, stop in at the World War II cemetery and museum and spend some time there. This cemetery is the main resting place for the prisoners of war who laboured under Japanese rule in building the Thai-Burma Railway.
Day 5 - Uthai Thani - Nakhon Sawan
Depart Kanchanaburi in the morning and drive to Hup Pa Tat (approximately 3 hours). Spend an hour or so exploring this beautiful green area surrounded by limestone mountains. Legend has it that centuries ago this valley was a gigantic cave, until the ceiling caved in; massive chunks of limestone lying on the valley floor support the theory. Next you continue to Uthai Thani (approximately 1 hour). Enjoy lunch, while cruising on a traditional rice barge, watching village life along the riverfront stream by, as your travel through beautiful countryside. Afterwards, visit nearby Wat Tha Sung (Crystal Hall) before travelling on to Nakhon Sawan (approximately 1 hour) where you will spend the night. Perhaps head out to the local market in the evening where you can taste many different street foods from the region.
Day 6 - Sukhothai
Travel by private transport from Nakhon Sawan to Sukhothai (approximately 3 hours). In the afternoon you have the option to visit the Organic Culture Project and spend a couple of hours joining in on traditional Thai farm activities. Check out the organic vegetable garden and attend a demonstration out in the rice fields.
Day 7 - Sukhothai
Sukhothai, established in the 13th century, was one of the first ancient capitals of Siam. Famed for its World Heritage listed historical park, which captures the Golden Age of Thai civilisation, the capital's name literally means 'Dawn of Happiness'. Today we visit the historical park, which spans the ruins of the town. You will rent a bicycle and take part in a cycle tour. As you ride around, you'll learn more about the history of this former metropolis and its fascinating structures. Enjoy a home-cooked picnic lunch in the beautiful grounds of Sukhothai Park. The rest of the afternoon is free, you might want to simply read a book by the pool back at your resort.
Day 8 - Hmong Hilltribe Lodge (feature stay)
Travel from Sukhothai to Hmong Hilltribe Lodge, which will take approximately six hours in a private minivan. The Hmong are an ethnic minority in Thailand who originated in the south of China. Today they comprise the second largest hilltribe group in Thailand. After a barbecue dinner in the lodge's open-air dining area, the day concludes with a Hmong cultural performance. You'll gain an insight into the traditional lifestyle of the tribe, with a wedding ceremony enactment, shamanic ritual and makong (cotton ball) throwing.
Day 9 - Chiang Mai
Travel from Hmong Hilltribe Lodge to the Elephant Nature Park, approximately 1.5 hours by minivan. This is a unique project providing a sanctuary and rescue centre for elephants and other animals such as buffalo, dogs, cats and birds. Be greeted by an expert local guide and then learn the stories of the rescued elephants and the issues confronting elephants in South-East Asia. Witness how these elephants have become a happy herd and are finally free from abuse for the first time in their lives. You'll have a chance to feed the elephants from the viewing platform as well as a tasty vegetarian buffet lunch. Walk with the park staff to the river and watch elephants bathe and play as they are watched over by their personal mahouts. The park visit is all about spending quality time observing elephants and does not stick to a strict schedule so make the most of enjoying these beautiful creatures in a safe and protected environment. Return to Chiang Mai early afternoon (approx. 3-330). Freshen up at the hotel then head out for a street food tour in the evening. Hidden down the back alleys of the city’s old town district you will sample dishes like khao man gai and khao kha moo from many local shops unknown to the tourist eye. Chat with street food vendors who have been serving the same dishes for more than 20 years and understand the influences that Isan and Shan cultures have had on the Northern Thailand’s culinary scene. Your local guide will also suggest many other places you can eat during your time in Chiang Mai.
Day 10 - Chiang Mai
This morning you’ll have a very unique opportunity to chat with some monks from Mahachulalongkornrajavidyalaya University, a university specifically for Buddhist monks. Learn the basics of Buddhism and find out more about their schooling, lifestyle and world view. Enjoy a free afternoon afterwards to explore Chiang Mai further, perhaps getting out into the lush countryside or checking out more Buddhist temples. In the evening, your group will be treated to dinner at a nice restaurant to celebrate your Northern Thailand adventure.
Day 11 - Luang Prabang
You will be transferred to the airport, where you will say goodbye to your Thai tour leader and fly to Luang Prabang, Laos. Please note: you will be unescorted on this flight. When you arrive in Luang Prabang you will be transferred to your hotel. A welcome meeting will be held in the evening. Please check for a welcome notice on the Peregrine notice board located in the reception area of the hotel. This will provide you with your leader's name and the exact time and location of your Welcome Meeting. Keep in mind that you will need to again bring your travel insurance details with you to the meeting. After meeting the new travellers joining your group, take part in a Baci ceremony to welcome you to Laos, and balance your soul according to Lao tradition. The ceremony is based on an ancient belief that the body is made up of 32 different spirits – all inhabiting different organs. The ritual is intended to call back spirits that may have strayed from the body, bringing a sense of balance and health.
Day 12 - Luang Prabang
Wake early to participate in the alms giving ceremony, one of the most sacred Buddhist traditions in Laos, where locals offer food to monks in order to seek spiritual blessing. Alms giving takes place daily as the sun rises, beginning on the main street of Luang Prabang before spreading out to side streets. Follow the locals as they kneel down, ready to give offerings of rice, fruit and sweet snacks to the monks. Later that morning, spend time learning about Laos’ diverse ethnic groups at the Traditional Arts & Ethnology Centre. Afterwards, enjoy an essential activity in Luang Prabang – a boat ride on the Mekong River. It's a great chance to see the riverside from a different angle, with all its stately French villas, trees, and slow-paced two-wheeled traffic. Further along the stream, outside of town, you visit the Pak Ou Caves, located at the confluence of the rivers Mekong and Ou. Enjoy lunch on the boat along the way.
Day 13 - Luang Prabang
In the morning, visit Ock Pop Tok, an inspiring fair trade social enterprise that provides a sustainable source of income for female artisans in Luang Prabang. Their dedicated team shows women how to make a better living from their skills. The organisation then employs women to design, make and sell beautiful textiles and handicrafts at three shops across the city. Later take a short ride out of town to visit Kuang Si Waterfall. Its glorious blue-green cascades make for one of Laos' most photogenic attractions, and the pool at its base is great for swimming in. There is time to visit the nearby Bear Rescue Centre as well. In the evening, sit down to dinner at Khaiphaen, a Friends-International enterprise dedicated to improving the welfare of disadvantaged youth through skills-training.
Day 14 - Vientiane
Fly to Vientiane, the capital of Laos, in the early morning. Though not as visually impressive as Luang Prabang, this city is renowned for its food and has some must see sights. Its main streets are awash with a variety of high-calibre restaurants that serve a remarkably diverse span of cuisines from across the globe. Embark on a guided sightseeing tour of the city, stopping in at Wat Si Saket, Hor Prakeo, Patuxai (Victory Gate) and That Luang along the way. You’ll also visit the Cooperative Orthotic and Prosthetic Enterprise (COPE), a remarkable not-for-profit organisation that makes rehabilitative devices and medical equipment accessible to people with physical disabilities in Laos.
Day 15 - Phnom Penh
You will be transferred to the airport, where you will say goodbye to your trip leader and fly to Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Please note: you will be unescorted on this flight. When you arrive in Phnom Penh you will be transferred to a comfortable and centrally located hotel. A Cambodia trip sector briefing will be held in the evening. Please check for a welcome notice on the Peregrine notice board located in the reception area of the hotel. This will provide you with your trip leader's name and the exact time and location of your Welcome Meeting. If you have free time in the afternoon, perhaps stroll the streets of Phnom Penh and explore the city, taking in the interesting French colonial architecture. Dinner tonight will be at the restaurant run by Friends International. You might decide to go for a drink at the Foreign Correspondents' Club afterwards. Note: The restaurant run by Friends Internationl is closed on public and school holidays. Alternative dinner arrangements will be made during these times.
Day 16 - Phnom Penh
Today a full city tour introduces you to the sights of Phnom Penh, a city that lies near the confluence of the Mekong and Tonle Sap rivers. The private quarters of the Royal Palace are home to King Sihamoni and are closed to the public. You will, however, be able to visit the Silver Pagoda that lies in the palace complex, which is the most sacred temple in the country. Phnom Penh remains a living relic of the country’s past struggles and successes. Your included visits to the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum and the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek tell the story of the tragic legacy of the Khmer Rouge. There is an optional visit to Wat Phnom, the temple that gave rise to the foundation of the city in the 15th century. Later you head out of town to a working monastery to learn more about the life of a monk and Theravada Buddhism. Buddhism in Cambodia is a way of life that most people incorporate into their daily life. You will get to meet the monks, enjoy a sacred water blessing for good luck and prosperity, have a red band tied around your wrist to keep you safe in your travels and see the temple’s fascinating Pagoda art. Note: The Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (S21) and Killing Fields of Choeung Ek are major parts of the experience here, but if you don't wish to visit them, please inform your leader.
Day 17 - Siem Reap
Fly north to Siem Reap (approximately 40 minutes) where the great temples of Angkor await. After a relaxing morning at your hotel, travel into the countryside to a local farming community, walk through rice fields and learn about Cambodian stilt homes and life in a typical farming village. Hear about the myriad ways a non-government organisation called HUSK Cambodia works directly with this community to improve the lives of Cambodian families. End the day with a stop for a sunset drink at a scenic point overlooking the countryside.
Day 18 - Siem Reap – Angkor Wat
Spend a full day visiting the amazing temples of Angkor on a guided exploration. Angkor Wat is the largest and most complete structure, and the only one of Angkor's temples that has its entrance facing west – the others face east. Then there is Angkor Thom, the 'Great Royal City', a temple famous for its series of colossal human faces carved in stone. Of all the temples visited today, Bayon temple is the centrepiece, with over 200 smiling carved faces and more than 50 gothic towers. For lunch you'll visit the Sala Bai Hotel School where underprivileged local youths learn skills that enable them to find gainful employment in the hospitality industry. Here you can enjoy a meal prepared by students at the school. After lunch it’s off to the Ta Prohm temple, which has large trees embedded in the stone foundations of the structure – powerful symbols of nature. Note: The Sala Bai Hotel School is closed on public and school holidays, so on these days an alternative restaurant will be used.
Day 19 - Siem Reap – Angkor Wat
Embrace a very early start today if you wish to experience a sunrise visit to the Angkor complex (this is optional). From here, continue onto Banteay Srei. You'll see it's not a huge temple, but thanks to its intricate stone carvings it is sometimes referred to as ‘the jewel in the crown of Angkorian art’. At this point you can either head back to your hotel or carry on exploring more temples, such as Preah Khan. This temple contains a maze of vaulted corridors and is another complex that has been largely reclaimed by the jungle. Your ticket for the Angkor ruins also lets you spend more time exploring this site. Otherwise you might like to take a free afternoon to explore the town. If you have time, perhaps indulge in a traditional Khmer massage. Tonight you will enjoy a final dinner at a great restaurant in town serving local cuisine.
Day 20 - Siem Reap
Your trip comes to an end after breakfast this morning.

Trip Dates

StartEndPrice FromRoom Type
18-12-202006-01-2021AUD $ 8,175-

Accommodation

Hotel (13 nights),Lodge (1 night),Resort (5 nights)

Transport

Private minibus,Plane,Train,Tuk-Tuk,Bicycle,Boat

Map