Experimental Retreat in Northern Laos

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Overview

As an “urban” destination, Luang Prabang can't better match our philosophy. The town itself demonstrates that Sustainable Travel is feasible and also an efficient tool towards a sustainable development. It is just formidable to see how the whole town has managed to acquire a correct approach towards tourism, really knowing-how to take care of its visitors while holding onto its integrity, authenticity, culture and heritage. 

This trip is an encounter with the hearty Lao people, the placid, peerless ambiance of Luang Prabang, the beauty of the verdant mountainous Laotian countryside, its secluded villages and the slow pace of life which is definitely part of the charm of Lao PDR (‘People Democratic Republic, or “Please Don’t Rush’, as some put it). Laos is indeed a synonym for Retreat, a place to unplug, disconnect and unwind and we have fondly designed this loop, one of our favorites at Handspan, so that you can uncover and experience by yourself the secrets and wonders of this hidden gem. 

Highlights

Luang Prabang

  • An approach into UNESCO heritage Lanna, local and colonial architecture.
  • The chance to solve the puzzle of rough Lao's History.
  • Visits to the most celebrated natural surroundings like Mount Phousi and its outstanding views over Luang Prabang, the unmissable Kuang Si waterfalls and the Pak Ou Caves.
  • Fun and experimental activities at socially responsible local venues.
  • The opportunity to wander around the peaceful, mystical and authentically well-preserved UNESCO heritage town of Luang Prabang.
  • An introduction to Buddhist philosophy, remarkable part of LPQ cultural heritage

Northern mountains Loop:

  • The opportunity to enjoy outstanding natural sceneries through different ways:
    • pleasant journeys by car
    • private cruise on a traditional long-tail boat along the Nam Ou River 
    • one day trekking in Muang La mountains
    • one day kayaking on the Nam Ou and the Mekong
  • An encounter with some of the 49 groups which form the rich ethnic population of Laos, having the chance to respectfully interact with them along our route.
  • Discover the delightful Lao gastronomy.
  • Well-deserved retreats at unique accommodations after our explorations.
Arrival in Luang Prabang

Day 1 Arrival in Luang Prabang

Meals: not included  | Accommodation: Luang Prabang - Villa Chitdara, Standard room

Upon arrival at the airport, you will be met by your guide and driver for a short transfer to your hotel.

Getting to know Luang Prabang

Day 2 Getting to know Luang Prabang

Meals: breakfast  | Accommodation: Luang Prabang - Villa Chitdara, Standard room

After breakfast, we visit the quaint 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 Iced Tea in the gardens, we continue our walk up the peninsula to the country’s most historic and enchanting temple, Wat Xiengthong. With its roof that sweeps low towards the ground, this temple's architecture best represents the classical Luang Prabang style. We wander the temple grounds before crossing the road to Wat Khili where this temple’s charming traditional library building houses an historic photo exhibition of Buddhist heritage.

In the early afternoon, we first visit the excellent ‘Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre’, which gives a great insight into the rich and diverse ethnic and cultural blend of Laos.  We then transfer out of town and visit the weaving and textile villages of Ban Xangkhong and Ban Xienglek. Back in town, we continue to Wat Visoun, known as ‘The Water Melon Stupa’ due to its shape.

There are 3 options for the final stop of the day:

  • Transfer to Mt Phousi for a climb up the sacred hill that offers spectacular sunset vista and a panoramic view over Luang Prabang and across the Mekong River.
  • If you prefer to beat the steps (or the crowds on busy days) we will be transferred to Wat Prabath Tai for a more accessible sunset experience.
  • If you rather witness the evening Monk Chants, visit Wat Aham, where monks and novices come together in the colourful prayer hall for their daily rituals. 


 

LPQ: Living Land, Kuang Si waterfall, Buffalo Dairy, Local-style Evening

Day 3 LPQ: Living Land, Kuang Si waterfall, Buffalo Dairy, Local-style Evening

Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner  | Accommodation: LPQ - Villa Chitdara, Standard room

Transfer this morning by car to the Living Lands Organic Farm where you meet the local farming guide. You are invited to interact and experience each step of the rice harvest and will see how different tools are created. The tour ends with a tasting of the traditional foods made from rice. You will have a new appreciation for rice and admiration for the people of Lao who to this day continue to harvest rice without modern machinery. Plus it is a really fun, experimental and muddy experience and a community-driven initiative whose benefits go directly for social and educational purposes for the young and retired locals who are taking part in it.

In the afternoon continue to Kuang Si Waterfall, where you can enjoy a picnic lunch overlooking the falls and wander around one of the most celebrated natural wonders in Southeast Asia.

On our way back to Luang Prabang, a very special place will be awaiting us: The Laos Buffalo Dairy , a social and ecological responsible business whose main activity is to host the buffalos and to elaborate sustainable dairy products when the farmers of the region don't need them on the fields. We will enjoy a visit around the farm and we will be explained about how they take care of these endearing animals. This way, the farmers avoid the cost of taking care of them during this period and are directly benefited from the revenues obtained through the dairy products, plus more and more of them are coming to learn very interesting sustainable techniques (when they see how well they work for their neighbours!). Vacuums and other sort of cares are also provided by vets, workers and volunteers specialists on animal’s ethical treatment. Apart from their majestic herd of buffalos, there are also rabbits, ducks, chickens, porks...  

We then return to Luang Prabang by late afternoon. Your driver and guide will pick you up again at around 5pm to spend a local-style evening together.  First you will join the petanque players and try your hand at this sport which is a favourite pastime of the Lao people.  We then head off to a local ‘Sin Dat’ or Lao BBQ restaurant where you will see few tourists and is very popular with locals.  Delicious food and local beer is included!
 

Luang Prabang - Ban Kat, Oudomxay

Day 4 Luang Prabang - Ban Kat, Oudomxay

Meals: breakfast, dinner  |  Accommodation: Oudomxay - Namkat Yorla Pa Resort, Superior room

This morning we leave Luang Prabang early and head north to Muang La.  The morning drive brings us out  into rolling countryside where you can admire the beauty of the Nam Ou River and the surrounding rice paddy fields.  

After Pakmong, about 3 hours drive north of Luang Prabang, the road twists and the scenery becomes increasingly mountainous.  This section of the journey is a good opportunity to stop and explore some Hmong villages including Ban XongJa.  We pass through the market town of Oudomxay, and then continue for other 12 km till we arrive in the late afternoon to Ban Kat. 
 

Ban Kat – Muang La Mountains Trek to Ban Phavie

Day 5 Ban Kat – Muang La Mountains Trek to Ban Phavie

Meals: breakfast, lunch dinner | Accommodation: Oudomxay - Namkat Yorla Pa, Superior room

We set off in the morning in the direction of Pak Khai; this pleasant journey gives us wonderful views across the River Nam Pak, terraced rice fields and the small villages along the banks of the river. On your arrival, we start our trek along a mountain trail which follows a mountain stream meandering through the lush vegetation.  

We will 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 1½ hours, we leave the forest and arrive in the village of Ban Phavie; a beautiful Khamu village which sits on the top of a hill.

After having a picnic lunch in the village, we continue to some nearby waterfalls. We can relax in the cooling clear waters, lulled by the gentle breeze and tranquillity of the falls (weather permitting). At around 14:30, we head back to The Lodge and arrive in the late afternoon.
 

Ban Kat– Muang Khua – Nong Khiaw (by long-tail boat)

Day 6 Ban Kat– Muang Khua – Nong Khiaw (by long-tail boat)

Meals: breakfast, lunch | Accommodation: Nong Khiaw - Mandala Ou, Riverside room 

This morning we drive to the riverside town of Muang Khua and board our local traditional long-tail boat for an unforgettable private cruise down the Nam Ou River to Nong Khiaw.  After around 2 1/2 hours we disembark and board a minivan for a short trip to pass the new Nam OuHydropowerDam, before boarding a second boat for the downstream part of the boat journey. This particular stretch offers stunning scenery and remote villages, including Ban Sob Jaem a Khmu and Hmong village that can only be accessed by boat.  

We reach Nong Khiaw by late afternoon.  Upon checking into your hotel, you have the option of taking a short bicycle ride to the picturesque local limestone caves nearby (bicycles available at the resort, and your guide will be happy to assist). 

NOTE: The journey  Muang Khua – Nong Khiaw used to be done by one sole boat all along the Nam Ou river. From now on, it will be necessary for us to change the boat due to the dam which is being built on our itinerary for today. Please bear in mind that for the time being, the place by the dam where we will change to our second boat counts on very local facilities.
 

Nong Khiaw - Kayaking on the Nam Ou and the Mekong - Luang Prabang

Day 7 Nong Khiaw - Kayaking on the Nam Ou and the Mekong - Luang Prabang

Meals: breakfast, lunch | Accommodation: LPQ - Villa Chitdara, Standard room 

We leave Nong Khiaw early this morning and follow the Nam Ou2½ hours to the village of Ban Hatya.  Here we meet our Kayak guide for the day, who will start with some kayaking & safety instructions. 

We then head-out and paddle downstream the Nam Ou river, until we reach Pha An, where the Nam Ou meets the Mighty Mekong.  We stop for a picnic lunch on a river sandy beach overlooking the karst scenery, before we cross the river and visit the sacred Pak Ou Caves crammed with thousands of Buddha images. 

We continue paddling downstream the Mekong until we reach the mystical island of Done Khoun. We visit the famous Wat Done Khoun temple, and have some snacks before continuing the last leg of our kayaking tour. After another 20 minutes kayaking, we’ll arrive at Ban Pakxeuang, from where we shortly transfer to the hotel, arriving in the late afternoon. 

NOTE: Kayaking route: around 23km (an average of 3h30 - 4h) with several stops on the way. Easy-intermediate paddling for those travellers used to outdoor activities, although depending on the season, we can find a few challenging stretches both on the Nam Ou and Mekong rivers. It is anyway a very pleasant experience and also an alternative and green way to visit Pak Ou caves. Nevertheless, the program can always be adapted to your preferences, and the kayaking can be either shortened or replaced by a cruise with a supplement.
 

Luang Prabang - Departure

Day 8 Luang Prabang - Departure

Meals: breakfast | Accommodation: not included 

Depending on your departure flight, you may have free time at leisure before being met by your guide for a short transfer to the airport and either continue with the next stage of your trip around Indochina or coming back home. In both cases, although you will be leaving this very special landlocked country, from Handspan we hope that you don't forget to pack all those memorable moments that you will have certainly been collecting during these days so that they can also go with you. That's our purpose with this trip!
 

Price per person based on group tour

Group size 2 pax 3-4 pax
Price per person (Oct. 2018 - Apr. 2019)  USD 1516 USD 1258
Price per person (May - Sept. 2018 & 2019)  USD 1458 USD 1201

 

* Prices valid until Sept. 2019

* Would you like to adapt the itinerary, accommodation or any activity as per your needs and preferences? Then just get in touch with us with your comments at info@handspan.com (we are specialists designing tailor-made trips!) 

* Special prices for children, groups of more than 4 people and the possibility to connect the tour with other stages of your trip around Indochina, by contacting us at info@handspan.com. 

* A private trip for a solo traveler and higher-end accommodation choices also available with a surcharge.

Included

  • Accommodation in shared double room as specified on the program (upgrades available with a supplement)
  • Transportation in private vehicle with experienced driver and boat trip
  • English speaking guide
  • Mentioned activities, visits and admission fees to indicated sights
  • Meals: daily breakfast at hotel, lunch/dinner where stated only 
  • Gov’t tax 

Not included

  • International flights and visas
  • Personal travel Insurance
  • Child or adult in triple sharing room
  • Drinks, gratuities and personal expenses 
  • Supplements on peak season
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