Explore the ancient temples of Bangkok and Ayutthaya by land and by river boat
Spend time in the stunning Kanchanaburi province near the historic River Kwai
Uncover Thailand’s northern towns of Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai
Cruise the Mekong River from Thailand to Laos on a comfortable river vessel, the Cruise, complete with cultural stops along the way
Discover the charming delights of colonial Luang Prabang
Learn more about Laos’ culinary creations with a hands-on cooking class
Enjoy a city tour in Laos’ riverside capital of Vientiane
Dive deep into the vibrant cultures, wild natural beauty, sumptuous cuisine and lively cities of Thailand and Laos. From the skyscrapers of Bangkok to rural Laotian villages, the ancient ruins of Ayutthaya to the modern-day city of Vientiane, this 15-day journey will show the best of both countries by land, water and air with an emphasis on the region’s rich cultural heritage, traditions and architecture. Complete with a leisurely two-day journey on the scenic Mekong River travelling from Thailand to Laos with Cruise, the memorable experience is sure to stick in your memory for years to come.
Arrive at the Bangkok Airport where a private air conditioned minivan (2-12 passengers, 6 passengers per van) or coach (13-16 passengers) with a guide will be waiting to provide transportation to the hotel.
Historically known as the ‘Venice of the East’ due to its extensive network of canals, it’s no surprise that one of the best ways to explore Bangkok is by boat. Begin your journey with a cruise along the Chao Phraya River – the city's lifeblood – and the canals of Thonburi, revealing sites not often found in the built-up, modern inner city of Bangkok. Also experience a glimpse of the serene and simple lifestyle of local riverbank dwellers. En route, stop at Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn), one of the most attractive temples in Thailand.
Disembark the boat at Chang Pier for a short walk to the Grand Palace. The Grand Palace was the seat not only of the king and his court, but also, the entire government administration. With architecture blending Thai with European designs, the palace is brilliantly coloured and gilded with intricate detail, making the overall effect dazzling. Within the grounds stand various palaces used for different occasions, including the Funeral Palace, Reception Palace, Throne Hall, Coronation Hall and the Royal Guest House. The majority of halls and palaces can be viewed from outside only, but the exteriors are captivating enough to please. Don’t miss the most famous building on the palace grounds, Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha), regarded as the most sacred Buddhist temple in Thailand. Construction of Wat Phra Kaew began in 1785 when King Rama I moved the capital of Thailand from Thonburi to Bangkok. Unlike other Thai temples, it does not contain living quarters for monks; instead, only richly decorated holy buildings, statues and pagodas exist. The main temple building is the central ubosoth (prayer room) in which the Emerald Buddha resides. Green in colour, the Buddha is carved from a single piece of jade. Though only 17 inches tall, it is the most revered object in Thailand.
Note: The entire Grand Palace is closed during special royal ceremonies and during visits from the Heads of State. Other buildings (such as the Throne Hall and Coronation Hall) are always closed on Saturday and Sunday, public holidays, during special ceremonies and on Buddhist Holidays. A calendar for visiting the Palace and Temple of the Emerald Buddha can be viewed on the web - site of the Bureau of the Royal Household.
In the afternoon, after an exciting introduction to Thailand, return to the hotel for an evening at your leisure.
Have breakfast at the hotel then depart to the picturesque Kanchanaburi. Visit the Thailand-Burma Railway Museum, followed by stops at the war cemetery and infamous bridge over the River Kwai. Continue driving to camp for check in and a delicious lunch.
In the afternoon, visit Hellfire Pass Memorial where the opportunity to hike along the trail of the former Thailand-Burma railway embankment is available. The short trek is approximately 2.5 kilometres and will take around one hour to walk; be sure not to forget strong walking shoes or sneakers! After the hike, transfer back to the camp by van and relax before taking a bicycle ride to a nearby village where you meet locals keeping alive the traditional craft of weaving bamboo baskets. Finally, return to camp for dinner and an overnight stay.
This morning, check out and drive to Elephant World. Also in the Kanchanaburi province, Elephant World is a non-profit organization that functions as a “retirement home” to elephants who have been worked for humans either in the logging industry, entertaining tourists at camps and circuses or begging in the streets of the big cities. The foundation not only cares for old and sick elephants, but also attempts to rescue young elephants before they enter a life of mistreatment. The loving employees at Elephant World care for these creatures by preparing food, feeding them and washing them. Don’t be afraid to get a little dirty and join the staff in their daily tasks with the elephants! Every day is different depending on the needs of the animals, however general activities include: feeding the elephants, planting/gathering crops, preparing special food for the older elephants, even enjoy swimming and bath time with the elephants!
After spending the day caring for and playing with these amazing animals, continue to the hotel in Ayutthaya to relax for the night.
Begin your day in Ayutthaya exploring the ancient capital and taking in the romantic atmosphere via river cruise. Find precious artistic and cultural treasures preserved in their beauty for later generations to admire with ample time to discover these magnificent sites along the river and observe the daily activities of the people living along the riverbanks. Visit the area’s most picturesque sites including:
• The Phet Fortress
• Wat Phananchoeng
• Wat Putthaisawan
• St. Joseph Catholic Church
• Wat Chai Watthanaram
• The Memorial Stupa of Queen Suriyothai
After the cruise, a minivan transfer back to Bangkok will be provided.
After breakfast at the hotel, prepare for a quick morning flight north on Thai Airways to the beautiful city of Chiang Mai. Hotel check-in will be available at 14:00 hrs.
Begin your Chiang Mai experience with a visit to Wat Doi Suthep, the region’s most important temple tucked away in the mountains at 3,280 feet. Built in 1383 by King Gue-Na, the outstanding monastery is reached by a staircase with 290 steps and flanked by a naga balustrade on either side. In the centre is a large chedi (spired pagoda), which contains partial relics of Lord Buddha. Drive down the mountain passing by the city’s biggest local market, Wororot Market, before going to two more important temples: Wat Chedi Luang and Wat Phra Singh.
In the morning, visit the small village of Mae Klang Luang. Located inside the boundaries of Doi Inthanon National Park, this beautiful village heavily relies on community-based tourism (CBT) to provide an income. Villagers also produce and sell crops but, due to their location in the national park, they are unable to expand fields or crop production. Through CBT, the people of Mae Klang Luang have developed new skills, which have improved their quality of life.
The Karen, or “Pa Kaa Ka Yor”, people of Mae Klang Luang migrated from Myanmar in 1787, settling in a fertile valley in the heart of Doi Inthanon National Park. Founding families carved terraces of emerald rice fields into the mountain landscape, making a stunning first impression to visitors in the area. The village lies at an elevation of approximately 1,200 metres above sea level and is surrounded by lush mixed deciduous and hill evergreen forests.
Local guides will explain the many uses of forest products in daily village life such as which wild plants are used as foods, herbal medicines and natural dyes. You’ll also learn about traditional beliefs that divide the forest into areas where crops can and cannot be cultivated, ‘community forests’ which can only be used to gather wild forest products and sacred watersheds that are strictly protected.
After this culturally rich experience, return to the hotel in Chiang Mai.
Accommodation at hotel
Lunch (picnic lunch or lunch box)
After breakfast, drive even further north toward Chiang Rai via the beautiful Wiang Pa Pao to visit the Golden Triangle. Stop for a relaxing boat ride on the Mekong River where the borders of Thailand, Myanmar and Laos converge. After disembarking from the boat, continue by land to the hotel in the town of Chiang Rai.
Have breakfast at the hotel followed by transportation from the hotel to Thailand – Laos border. Here, a Diethelm guide will be waiting with a welcome sign at the Houay Xai Immigration Checkpoint. The guide will assist in filling out an application form for a Laos visa. After receiving the visa and passing through immigration, transfer to the boat pier to embark on a beautiful boat, to begin your adventure. After a quick stop in Pak Tha to get signed boat documents, you’re off on a leisurely cruise headed toward Luang Prabang.
In the afternoon, enjoy a delicious lunch on board then stop at the Kamu village of Ban Houay Hao for a quick visit before continuing on to Pak Beng for the evening.
Have a relaxing dinner at your leisure.
Start the morning with breakfast at the hotel before boarding the boat and continuing to Luang Prabang. Spend the trip relaxing and admiring the scenic landscape along the Mekong River. On the way, lunch will be served onboard. Make two interesting stops before arriving in Luang Prabang, a visit to Pak Ou Caves and Ban Xang Hai, a Lao whisky village.
Arrive in Luang Prabang in the afternoon where transportation to the hotel will be waiting.
Known as the Crown Jewel of Laos, Luang Prabang, is perhaps the most well preserved traditional city in Southeast Asia. Magical and charming with splendid natural scenery and a sense of timelessness, the city has maintained its longstanding reputation as a stronghold of Lao culture and was named a UNESCO World Heritage City in 1995.
After breakfast at the hotel, an English-speaking guide will be waiting in the hotel lobby to accompany you Elephant Village Camp. Upon arrival, be greeted by the camp manager and receive a short briefing about the resident elephants. Next, board a traditional Lao long boat to the Tad Sae Waterfall to relax or swim in the clear water (swimsuit recommended!). A buffet lunch will be served with coffee, tea and drinking water (vegetarian options are available) at the Elephant Camp Restaurant before departing the camp for another exciting waterfall destination – Kuang Si Waterfall.
Upon arrival, a short walk along the pools leading to the waterfall will bring you past the Khmu minority village of Ban Thapaene and the rescued bears of the “Bear Lao” project as well. Once at the falls, stand in awe as the water tumbles over multi-tiered limestone formations into cool, clear pools ideal for swimming and relaxing before returning to Luang Prabang.
In the morning after breakfast, drive to Wat Xieng Thong, the most important Buddhist monastery in the country. This sanctuary represents the classic Luang Prabang temple architecture with roofs that sweep low to the ground. Also in the compound see several small chapels housing bronze Buddha images, which were displayed in Paris in 1911, and the Royal Funeral Chapel near the east gate. Inside discover an impressive 12-metre-high funeral chariot and various funeral urns of each Royal Family member. Don’t forget to see the gilt panel on the exterior of the chapel, which depicts a semi-erotic episode from Ramayana.
Also stop at Wat Mai, built in 1796 and famous for the five-tiered roof of its wooden sim. Afterward visit the National Museum (a former King’s Palace) to see a collection of personal artefacts from the Royal Family.
Next, board a traditional riverboat for a trip up the Mekong River to see the famous caves of Pak Ou, which house thousands of statues representing Lord Buddha. After the visit, return to Luang Prabang by road for lunch at your leisure.
In the afternoon, play a private game or two of pétanque (bocce ball) before returning to the hotel. The opportunity to take an optional Lao cooking class will be also provided. If not partaking in the class, enjoy an afternoon to yourself and try dinner at a local restaurant in town.
OPTIONAL COOKING CLASS:
Be picked up at hotel and head to Tamarind restaurant. From there, drive to the cooking school to begin a hands-on instruction of cooking a Lao feast. Practice preparing three Lao dishes as well as the country’s staple: sticky rice. Sit down to a banquet of the dishes you cooked including: varieties of ‘jeow’ (the fundamental Lao spicy dipping sauces), ‘mok pa’ (fish steamed with herbs in banana leaves) and Tamarind’s specialty, chicken stuffed with lemongrass and herbs.
After indulging in the feast, return to the hotel for the rest of the evening.
Cooking class conditions:
- Public joint classes are available Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Minimum of 2 people and maximum 12 people.
- Private classes are available Monday – Saturday. Minimum of 12 people and maximum 18 people.
Have a relaxing morning at the hotel before departing to Luang Prabang Airport for your own flight to Vientiane.
Upon arrival at the Vientiane Wattay Airport, enjoy a guided transfer and check in at the hotel. Spend the remainder of the day at your leisure in the country’s capital, which has maintained its timeless charm with tree-lined avenues, brightly painted temples and quaint French architecture. Vientiane’s major attractions include the serene Buddhist monasteries that dominate the centre of town – take a stroll around and explore.
Begin the day with breakfast, head out to explore the city starting with a visit to wat Sisaket, the oldest original temple in Vientiane. Built in 1818, Wat Sisaket is the sole survivor of an invasion in 1828 and features remarkable frescoes and 6,840 Buddha images.
Nearby is Ho Phra Keo, once the royal temple of Lao monarchy. Built in 1565, Ho Phra Keo has been used as a museum since 1970 and contains some of the finest Buddhist sculptures and artefacts in the country. The main structure originally housed the famous Emerald Buddha that now resides in Bangkok’s Wat Phra Keo.
Next, visit one of the most photographed images in Vientiane – Patousay, the victory gate also known as Anousavari. Constructed in 1958, its architecture is inspired by the Arc de Triomph in Paris. Another famous Vientiane landmark is the That Luang Stupa. King Setthathirath built this great sacred stupa in 1566 and its 45-metre-tall central structure echoes the curving lines of an elongated lotus. The original stupa was said to contain relics of Lord Buddha.
After lunch at your leisure, drive to the COPE Visitor Centre. Laos is still littered with a significant amount of UXOs (unexploded ordnance) from the war ending in 1975. Standing for Cooperative Orthotic and Prosthetic Enterprise, COPE provides prosthetics and mobility devices free of charge for people in need who cannot afford to pay for them. The visitor centre is a free museum and interactive exhibit educating guests about the UXO problem tells how UXO affect communities.
After learning about this inspiring organisation, visit a coffee shop to relax and taste local Lao coffee then return to the hotel for an afternoon at your leisure.
For dinner, try some Laotian cuisine at a local restaurant along the river.
Enjoy breakfast at the hotel before checking out and being transported to Vientiane’s Wattay International Airport for your departure from Laos.
Accommodation in shared twin room with air - conditioning (AC) and private bathroom
Meals as stated in the programme B= breakfast, L= lunch, D= dinner
Transfers and tours with local guides in private air - conditioned vehicles
All entrance fees, boat fees and / or cyclo fees as mentioned in the programme
Drinking water and cold towels available on the vehicles
Domestic airfare (quoted separately, if requested)
International airfare (quoted separately, if requested)
Surcharges for Lao Pimai (New Year)
Surcharges for other language guides
Surcharges for night - time services, especially applied for transfers with arrivals after 23:00 hrs and arrivals or departures before 06:00 hrs.
Personal travel insurance
Personal expenses such as drinks, souvenirs, laundry, camera fees, communication, postage, gratuities etc.
Meals and services other than mentioned in the programme
Drinks with meals
Compulsory gala dinners during festive seasons and peak season surcharges. Rates will be advised at the time of booking
Early check - in and late check - out at hotels, if not mentioned in the programme
Most Museums are closed on Mondays and some public holidays.
Independent third parties such as airlines, hotels, transport operators and local tourist offices provide certain aspects of the tour on offer. Diethelm Travel is therefore not responsible for any loss, injury or damage caused thereby to the tourists, including those occurring outside of the normal tour programme. Additional expenses incurred due to delay, accident, natural disaster and political actions or unrest are the responsibility of the traveller.
In the case of schedule changes or flight cancellations we always try everything possible to arrange an alternate programme within the framework of the original quoted costs. However, we reserve the right to charge any cost exceeding the original budget to the tour operator / travel agent or to the participant of a tour after consultation with the agent.
Programmers, prices, services and conditions are based on those valid at the time of proposal submission and are subject to change thereafter without advance notice until all services have been paid in full.
We strongly advise leaving valuable items (money, passport, credit cards, jewellery, sensitive documents, laptop computer, etc.) in the hotel safe. During excursions, personal belongings, especially money and valuables should NEVER be left on vehicles, even during short breaks, and should be carried at all times. Diethelm Travel is not responsible for any loss or theft.
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