Laos: Walking and Culture in Style

Laos: Walking and Culture in Style


Laos stands out from its neighbours in former French Indochina by its slow and cautious approach to tourism, retaining an unhurried traditional lifestyle which is underpinned by the Buddhist philosophy and reflected in the welcoming, gentle manners of its people.

Laos stands out from its neighbours in former French Indochina by its slow and cautious approach to tourism, retaining an unhurried traditional lifestyle which is underpinned by the Buddhist philosophy and reflected in the welcoming, gentle manners of its people.

In the remote north of Laos we walk in forested hills to encounter the Ikhos and Hmong tribal culture in villages where exquisite textiles are handwoven; we take private boat trips along the Mekong and Nam Ou rivers; go on an elephant trek in the jungle; walk with specialist guides in search of epiphytic orchids; and observe the daily rituals of the numerous monasteries and gilded temples.

We stay in luxury lodges, a ‘barefoot chic’ jungle camp and elegant colonial era hotels and taste both French-influenced food and wines in Vientiane and traditional, delicious, Laotian cuisine in the former Royal capital of Luang Prabang.

Guests’ comments on this trip:

‘Unfailing courtesy wherever we went; highly attractive countryside. Walking in early morning mist is magic.’

‘I loved the trip and Frances is a gifted guide.’

DAY 1
L, D included
  
We meet by midday at Luang Prabang and have a brief road transfer to our beautifully appointed colonial style hotel (4 star ‘Charme’ category, with a small swimming pool). After a siesta and a refreshing swim we drive to the summit of Mount Phou Si to enjoy the spectacular views and stunning sunset. We visit the exotic Night Market of Luang Prabang where the local people come to sell handicrafts (especially woven silks) and have an introduction to delicious Lao food at dinner.

DAY 2 
B, L, D included
 
After breakfast we board our private boat to travel on the Mekong to Pak Ou and visit the famous caves with their thousands of gold covered wood and stone statues of Buddha. Continuing by boat, we see fishermen throwing their nets, many water buffaloes, and local people using the river to transport their goods. We disembark by lunchtime at our award-winning jungle lodge (best described as ‘barefoot chic’) and walk this afternoon to find medicinal plants & waterfalls and see local villagers working their rice paddies.

DAY 3
B, L, D included
We set off after breakfast on the second stage of our private boat journey on the majestic river Mekong. Along the way we have the chance to stop and meet some of the local people who live on the banks of the river. We arrive in Pak Beng in the afternoon and settle into our comfortable lodge - built in traditional Lao style with rosewood floors and beams, a double tier sloping roof and terraces with panoramic views of the Mekong – then have a guided walk of the surrounding area before a Lao whisky and dinner.

DAY 4
B, L, D included
After breakfast, we cross the Mekong to an elephant camp on the opposite bank. The Mahouts take us on the backs of their elephants (on reasonably comfortable howdahs) to explore the Lao jungle. On our return (2 hrs later) we can help bathe the elephants. Following lunch in the lodge we set off by road (4½ hours including stops) into the heart of northern Laos, a region rich in mountain scenery and diverse ethnic groups. In the town of Oudom Xay we see Chinese & Vietnamese merchants mixing with the local people as they buy & sell supplies. Arriving in Muang La, we walk by the river (1.5 hrs), passing saltpans, grazing water buffaloes and a typical village built on stilts. We cross the river by bamboo raft and settle into our elegant, luxury boutique lodge.

DAY 5
B, L, D included
A day to relax and explore the local area on foot, following narrow trails through the rice fields and over small streams, then slowly ascending through primary forest up to a hilltop Khamu village (2.5 hrs). After lunch our walk continues to a waterfall, then we visit the sacred pilgrimage temple of Chiao Pha Kham Sing before returning to our hotel with time to enjoy a traditional massage (herbs and steam) or a soak in the hot spring fed jacuzzi pool overlooking the river.

DAY 6
B, L, D included
Travelling in 4WDs we enjoy stunning views as we climb to 1000 m above sea level to reach an isolated Ikhos community where we have a local lunch in the village. The Ikhos people originate from Yunnan Province in China and also from Tibet and their lifestyle is largely unchanged by modern ways. We continue to the Hmong village of Ban Tauser (a short trek, c.45 minutes). Here we see a different way of life as the Hmong people originate from the high steppes of Tibet. Livestock (pigs, buffaloes etc.) play an important part in village life and the villagers give a great deal of care and attention to their animals. We walk to a viewpoint with a 360° panorama of the region before returning to our luxury lodge.

DAY 7
B, L, D included
Continuing by road (1.5 hours) through the mountains to Muang Khua, we pause to observe how the Tai Dam people produce the rice alcohol ‘Lao Lao’ using traditional methods. We board a private boat to travel down the Nam Ou river, admiring the karst scenery, and have a barbeque picnic on a sandbank. Reaching Nong Khiaw, we disembark and continue by road to Luang Prabang, the former Royal capital of Laos, checking into our original 4 star hotel by early evening.

DAY 8
B, L, D included
On foot, we explore Luang Prabang’s heritage of golden temples and stupas, seeing the dazzling façade of Wat Senssoukarahm, the Wat Xieng Thong temple built by order of King Setthathirat in 1560 and the Watermelon stupa. After a light lunch in a French café we visit the National Museum in the former Royal Palace and the Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre and cross a bamboo bridge to explore a weaving and papermaking village.

DAY 9
B, L, D included
We are up before dawn (optionally) to witness the long lines of orange-robed monks leaving their pagodas to receive offerings of food from the residents of Luang Prabang. We then have a choice of activities - either visiting the market to select spices (lemongrass, chillies, ginger & tamarind) and vegetables, learning the secrets of Laos cooking from a local chef and preparing dishes such as spiced meat in a banana leaf and Lao sticky rice - or a 45 min drive to start a 4 hour walk through Hmong villages, along a wide agricultural valley with papaya tress, then steeply down through jungle to emerge at a waterfall. 

DAY 10
B, L, D included
We set off early in the morning for a journey through breath-taking mountain scenery to Vang Vieng, with stops en route to bargain for raw silk scarves and take photographs of the views. We visit the village of Phoukhoune with its colourful market, enjoy an al fresco picnic, and eventually get our first sight of the impressive limestone cliffs covered with lush, green vegetation that characterise Vang Vieng. Our riverside boutique lodge (4 star ‘Charme’) has a stunning setting and an excellent pool.

DAY 11
B, L, D included
Continuing south by road, our first stop is at Van Xang (which literally translates to ‘Elephant Lake’). The site is in fact an ancient shrine dating back over 300 years to the beginning of the Lane Xang Kingdom and housing immense buddhas carved into the rocks. At Lake Nam Ngeum we see the impressive dam, the first to be built in Laos and have lunch by the lake. Arriving in the capital, Vientiane, by late afternoon we drive along tree-lined boulevards to our celebrated hotel, the superb Settha Palace with its French colonial décor and beautiful tropical gardens and pool.

DAY 12
B, L, D included
We set off early in the morning for the 1.5 hr drive to the Phou Khao Kway (Buffalo Horn Mountain) National Park where a local specialist guide takes us on an orchid trek, an eco-tourism project which supports village development and forest conservation. We walk through both dry evergreen and bamboo forest, see several fine waterfalls (where we picnic and can have a swim) and hope to encounter wild elephants and many butterflies as well as orchids and other tropical flowers.

DAY 13
B, L, D included
Vientiane (‘the city of sandalwood’) is small and still quiet despite new development, and is ideal for exploring on foot and tuk-tuk. We stroll gently from one Wat to another, seeing the beautiful Wat Sisaket with its thousands of miniature statues of Buddha, the Wat Phra Keo which displays Lao and Khmer art, the morning market and the Presidential Palace (formerly the French Governor’s Palace) – and enjoy a delicious Laos lunch in a restaurant run by, and for the benefit of, street children. Returning to our hotel we relax in the pool before our farewell dinner in one of Vientiane’s best restaurants.

DAY 14
B included
We have time for last minute shopping or photographic forays before we depart for the airport.

£TBC per person sharing
£TBC deposit per person
£TBC single room supplement

Please note that the single room supplement is imposed by the hotels and not by Kudu Travel. If you are willing to share but no other suitable guest books on the trip, we regret that the supplement will be payable. We shall endeavour to obtain double rooms for single occupancy whenever possible, but hotels in some countries do have single rooms that are small and less well positioned - in this case the supplement is simply ensuring your privacy.

Price includes

  • all accommodation for Days 1 through 14, on a twin shared basis
  • all meals with local beer at lunch and dinner as listed (beer is far more appropriate with Laotian food and the tropical climate, and wine is often spoiled by inadequate storage), except in Luang Prabang and Vientiane where French or Australian wines are served with    dinner
  • all land transportation in private airconditioned vehicles as described
  • 4WD transfers and river crossings on local ferries as described
  • private boat trips on 3 days on the Nam Ou and Mekong rivers
  • cooking class in Luang Prabang
  • all entrance and sightseeing fees except during free periods
  • tips for drivers, porters, boatmen, restaurant & hotel staff (appreciation for tour leaders/managers is entirely at your discretion)
  • services of expert local naturalist guides and tribal trekking guides (plus our Kudu Travel tour leader)

Price does not include

  • International transportation to Luang Prabang and from Vientiane
  • trip cancellation, medical or other insurance
  • immunisations, prescriptions or other medical requirements
  • passport, visa and health documentation
  • personal expenses (laundry, alcohol besides beer/wine where available with group lunches and dinners, free time activities, etc.)
  • meals noted as excepted in the daily notation
  • transport and transfer of excess baggage
  • Laos airport departure tax, currently US$15 for international flights

VALUE FOR MONEY - SO MUCH IS INCLUDED

On Kudu trips you will only need money for postcards, presents to take home, the odd G & T or an irresistible ice cream. Festival and opera tickets, entrances, National Park fees, all meals (with a few exceptions specified in individual itineraries), wine with lunch and dinner, access to specialist books carried by the guides, gratuities for porters and hotel and restaurant staff, boat rides, steam train trips, chairlifts, wine tastings etc are ALL INCLUDED in the cost of your holiday. 

We are confident that, like previous very satisfied guests, you will discover that our tours give you very good value for money.

  • 4 nights (separate) in Luang Prabang, in a beautifully appointed colonial style hotel (with a small swimming pool)
  • 1 night in an award-winning jungle lodge (best described as ‘barefoot chic’)
  • 1 night in Pak Beng, in a comfortable lodge built in traditional Lao style with rosewood floors and beams, a double tier sloping roof and terraces with panoramic views of the Mekong
  • 3 nights in Muang La, in an elegant, luxury boutique lodge
  • 1 night in Vang Vieng, in a riverside boutique lodge (4 star ‘Charme’)
  • 3 nights in Vientiane, in the superb Settha Palace
 

Off the beaten track
Please be aware that electricity and water supplies may occasionally be erratic, travel arrangements can be disrupted and standards of driving & vehicle maintenance etc. are not set by Brussels. Kudu Travel will endeavour to do everything possible to ensure a smooth-running tour, but please be ready with your sense of humour and tolerance when travelling in the tropics.

Visa and Health Requirements
All visitors require a valid passport and a visa for entry to Laos. 30 day Tourist visas are issued at Luang Prabang airport on arrival - costs are between US$30 and US$42 depending on nationality.

At present there are no specific and compulsory health requirements for entry to Laos. Immunisation/boosters against Hepatitis A, Rabies, Tetanus, Typhoid and Polio are usually recommended – please consult your doctor in good time about this (at least 6 weeks before departure) and also the latest situation on essential malaria prophylaxis and anything else they recommend. A dental check up is also a good idea. You may also wish to check the advice given to travellers by the Department of Health and the FCO.

Insurance
It is essential, and a condition of booking, that you protect yourself with a suitable travel insurance policy as soon as you book a trip. Follow this link for a quote for a policy available to UK residents.

If you are already insured, or a non-UK resident, please inform us of your policy at the time of booking.

Size of Party
This trip will run with a minimum of 6 and a maximum of 14 guests.