26th/27th December: Depart Malta, Explore Bangkok
Let’s go!!!! We will meet at Malta International Airport to catch our afternoon flight to Bangkok with a transit of 2hrs 35mins at Dubai Airport. According to the current flight schedule we are expected to arrive in Bangkok the next day at 12.45hrs. Upon arrival we will go through customs, transfer to our hotel and start our adventure!
One of the best ways to explore Bangkok is by hopping on a traditional long-tail boat, and ride down the city’s authentic canals. Back in the days, Thai people traveled by water, so as you travel back in time, we will experience how locals moved from one area of the city to another. We will head to the old capital, which will offer us a more intimate way of looking at the old Siam whilst experiencing the historical, cultural and interactive lives of the local canal people. We will also enjoy magnificent views of lush greenery as we cruise along orchards and small family farms.
Heading back to the hotel, we will freshen up and off we go to discover Bangkok by night. Bangkok is a cosmopolitan city and at night its streets and alleyways brim with everything under the sun! Street food, night markets, red light districts all in walking distance. And as our feet feel sore after a long day out, we’ll call it a day and rest preparing for the days to come!
We will overnight in Bangkok for the next 2 nights. Accommodation Ibis Style Silom or similar.
28th December: Bangkok (B, L)
At the crack of dawn, locals head to Damnoen Saduak, Thailand’s most vibrant and colourful floating market with loads of boat vendors. We will take a scenic boat ride to discover the area and to gain a deeper insight into the local culture. People will be selling their produce right from their boats and we will be right in the middle of all of this. Fresh and tasty tropical fruits are in abundance and you can try these out right from your seat. We will also come across stilt houses and shops floating on the river.
Remember that scene where on the horn of a train, people suddenly move to the side clearing up and making way for the train to pass? This is where we will be heading next…the Mae Klong Railway Market, and this will surely be an experience like no other.
Next up is one of the greatest collections of architecture and cultural treasures in the country…the sprawling Grand Palace. Prepare to be amazed! And as the sun starts setting, we will jump on our tuk-tuks for a ride to the night markets to explore more of Bangkok in a fun and exciting way!
After a full day out we will head back to our hotel for a very well deserved rest!
29th December: Welcome to Laos (B)
An early wake up call as we continue our adventure to Laos! We will proceed to Bangkok airport for our morning flight to Luang Prabang. Located at the heart of a mountainous region, Luang Prabang will awaken your imagination with its spiritual nourishment. The whole city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, home to stunning golden-roofed temples, colonial French architecture, and surreal turquoise waters, making it as the most charming town in South East Asia.
In close distance to the airport, is the town centre where our hotel is located. We will drop our bags and off we go to start our first discovery. Being a UNESCO site, trucks and buses are banned from the city centre so we can truly enjoy its peacefulness.
A short drive along the Nam Khan river bring us to Wat Xieng Thong. This is one of the most important temples in the entire country of Laos and the most important one in Luang Prabang. Inside the courtyard, we’ll find stunning architecture and intricate mosaic covered in gold and detailed decorations, that shimmer in the sunlight.
After a short walk along the streets we will arrive at Wat Mai, the most picturesque and most photographed of the wats of Luang Prabang. A visit to the National Museum will make our historical part of the itinerary complete as our guide will explain the details and all the information about Lane Xang kingdom in its original splendour, and many other religious treasures.
After a day of exploring, the Luang Prabang night market is a great place to unwind. At sunset, the main road transforms into a charmingly lit, colourful street, filled with stalls, selling different items including clothing, textiles, jewellery and wood carvings. Your bargaining skills will definitely come in handy here, as South East Asian markets are some of the best in the world and the night market here definitely lives up to this expectation!
We will overnight in Luang Prabang for the next 4 nights. Accommodation Muang Luang Hotel or similar.
30th December: Becoming Local (B, L)
Luang Prabang is the perfect place to see one of the most sacred Lao traditions, the Buddhist Alms Giving Ceremony. Every morning, at sunrise, hundreds of barefooted Buddhist monks leave their temple. Lined-up, they walk down the streets in their saffron-coloured robes collecting offerings from the local people. Alms-giving, or Tak Bat, is an important and meaningful part of Laos’ culture and we can also join the locals and provide the monks an offering ourselves.
Then it’s time for a spectacular sunrise moment on the Phousi Mountain. We will climb the steps of Phou Si hill, to the top, which is studded with many small temples and shrines.
Next up we will watch the town come to life as we visit the morning market before returning to the hotel for breakfast.
It’s not even 9am and we’ve already experienced so much! Today we will leave the town and make our way to a hill tribe village which inhabits Khmu and Hmong ethnic groups. As soon as we arrive at the Long Lao Village we will explore the life and culture of the inhabitants and then we will begin our hiking.
Today will be spectacular! We will start walking through a bamboo forest passing by orchards, rice fields, and vegetable gardens before reaching the forested mountains with wild jungle scenery. Eventually we will arrive at the crystal clear Kuang Si Waterfall. An exciting forest trail leads us to the end of our trek and our reward – the welcoming and refreshing pools of Kuang Si Waterfall where we will have plenty of time to relax and swim. The 50-meter high fall has multiple tiers, allowing us to swim in various different blue pools. You can also try the rope swing which is quite a fun thing to do!!
*It is important to highlight that the trek covers a distance of 10km, it is mainly flat with just 1 section of going up and down a hill.
After relaxing in this paradise, we will return to Luang Prabang, arriving early in the evening. Tonight we will explore the street food market, which is a must do here. Delicious street foods such as coconut pancakes, meat and veg skewers, and yummy baked goods come in plenty, and this is a great way to end our day.
31st December: Experiencing the Local Life (B, L)
Have you noticed the date? It’s the last day of the year and we will end it just like we love!!
Prepare yourself for an immersion in nature as you experience more of Laos.
After an early breakfast we’ll head to an elephant sanctuary amid jungles, cliffs and waterfalls. Elephants are endangered species here in Laos and the elephant village ensures the support and survival of elephants living in harmony with nature and the community. We will start off with a briefing about the elephants and the work done here to better understand why and how our contribution makes a difference. You will get to experience being a mahout. Learning how to communicate with the elephants, whilst getting up close and personal during feeding time.
Then, we will ride in a traditional Lao long boat to the stunning Tad Sae Waterfall where we will dip in and swim in the clear water. This will be followed by a delicious lunch in lush surroundings.
From a mahout to a farmer, we will leave the camp and head to the ancient rice terraces for a very fun activity as we experience the life of a farmer! You will join Lao people planting seedlings, threshing and cutting rice, and for the more daring ones try your hand at ploughing the rice paddy with a water buffalo!
Midnight is getting closer. We will head back to our hotel to freshen up and get ready for the night! Every year, the city of Luang Prabang celebrates New Year’s Eve with a countdown party, fireworks, traditional arts performances, live music and delicious Lao food. This evening we will join together with the Lao community to welcome the New Year! NB information about this year’s celebrations are not out yet and no bookings have been made. Once this information is available we will send you all the details.
1st January: Mekong River, Pak Ou Caves & Rice-Whiskey (B, L)
Good morning 2024! You will start off the year by boarding a traditional boat for a trip on the Mekong River. Crossing over to Ban Xieng Maen, a peaceful village across town, but so different than the rest of the city.
On arrival, be prepared as you will be excitedly welcomed by children, adults, ducks and chicken! Locals love it when visitors come by. In fact, people here like to interact with travellers and this is what draws us to visit this village. We will walk around the village to witness the local Lao life. Our village walk will lead us to Wat Chom Phet where we can enjoy the view of the Mekong River, and then we will continue to Wat Long Khoun. Here, monks will take us to a hidden grotto located in this complex, before we continue crossing the Mekong River on a traditional boat.
This majestic river runs from the Tibetan Plateau through China, Burma, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. It is the world’s 10th longest river, with an estimated length of 4,909km, and the second richest area of biodiversity in the world, exceeded only by the Amazon.
We will stop to visit the holy Tham Ting Caves, also called the Pak Ou caves. This is a site of ancient spiritual significance. Within the two caves of Tham Ting are over 4,000 wooden figures of Buddha, many highly ornate, stand within the natural limestone caves, testament to the skill of Lao craftsmen centuries ago. This cave is like no other with magnificent landscape all around.
Continuing along the river, we will visit local villages; (i) we stop to visit Ban Xang Hai village to learn more about the traditional rice-whiskey making process. It is a great chance to taste its unique flavour, (ii) and Ban Xang Khong, famous for its wood paper and Lao silk weaving.
We will then make our way back to Luang Prabang, and the rest of the evening is free for you to explore the town as you wish. One suggestion would be to book a relaxing massage in one of the many parlours around. You can also enjoy sunset from Mount Phousi, or do as the locals do and enjoy some local food from street vendors.
2nd January: Vang Vieng’s Tuk-Tuk Rides and Lagoons (B)
After breakfast, we will drive to the train station, and take a train to Vang Vieng, a riverside town in Central Laos. When arriving in Vang Vieng, we will transfer to the hotel to check-in and then we will continue with our adventure.
We will visit Tham Jang, a cave just to the southwest of Vang Vieng. Approached by a bridge over the Nam Song River and then a flight of steps, we will walk up to the main cavern entrance and to a spring located about 50m inside the well lit cave. From here we can enjoy a nice view over Vang Vieng
We will take a Tuk-Tuk ride through villages, make stops to meet locals and experience a glimpse of their daily life. Eventually we will reach Tham Phu Kham where we will visit and swim in the amazing Blue Lagoon!
Return to Vang Vieng in the late afternoon. Today ends with a superb sunset panorama
reflecting over the Nam Song River as we take a long tail boat ride.
We will overnight in Vang Vieng for the next 1 night. Accommodation Vansana Vang Vieng or similar.
3rd January: Unrivalled Natural Surroundings (B, L)
Today we will spend our time discovering Vang Vieng’s natural landscapes on our impressive Vang Vieng Cave Trail.
In the morning, we will head to the amazing Tham Sang. Located in a scenic karst area to the northeast of Thakaek, Tham Sang is one of many famous caves known for its remarkable limestone formation. The area surrounding offers beautiful scenery and from the top we can enjoy superb views of the Mekong River.
From Tham Sang a path takes us about 1km northwest through rice fields to the entrances of Tham Hoi and Tham Loup, a large and delightfully untouched cavern with some very impressive stalactites. Local kids will happily show us the way to the entrance of Tham Hoi (snail cave) which is guarded by a large Buddha statue. The trail continues for about 3kms deep into the mountains and underground lake. Here we spend our time exploring the numerous long corridors and wonderful limestone formations.
Next, is probably the highlight of our morning, Tham Nam. We will put on our swimsuit, jump on a floating tube and pull ourselves within the water cave system. Besides being fun, it is also very safe as the water below you is knee to waist level, so worry not if you lose your balance and end up in the water!! Once we reach the end of the rope system, we will be required to swim a short distance and come out knowing that we just had an experience of a lifetime!!!
We will finish are adventurous day with a short trek to the Hmong Village of Phathao, passing through rice paddy fields and vegetable gardens.
Later this afternoon we will continue our journey south, reaching Vientiane in 2 hours.
We will overnight in Vientiane for 2 nights. Accommodation Lao Orchid Hotel or similar.
4th January: Highlights of Vientiane (B, L)
After breakfast we will head out to explore the hidden charm of Vientiane with various historic sites including Wat Phra Keo – one of the most impressive and interesting temples in Vientiane, Wat Sisaket – which features beautiful architecture; Pha That Louang – the most important Laotian religious site, and Patuxay – the most prominent landmark in the city which offers an excellent panoramic view of the city.
In the afternoon, we make our way to the famous Buddha Park – home to hundreds of Buddha statues and an enormous Buddha image which is 40m in length. We will take our time to explore its unique statues with different size and shapes of human, Godheads and animals. This will lead us to Sala Keoku Park located right next to the Thai-Lao border and Mekong River. So with a stretch of your hands, you will be in Laos and Thailand at the same time!
Another important aspect of this trip is supporting local communities. We have teamed up with COPE, a foundation that supports individuals with disabilities and provides rehabilitation services. Our short stop here will help us understand the valuable work they do here, for which otherwise, the individuals will be left alone on the streets fending for themselves.
5th January: Back to Bangkok (B)
After breakfast, we will allow some free time to pack our bags before we head to the airport for our flight back to Bangkok to continue our exploration of this vibrant city. This afternoon we will visit Wat Arun and Wat Pho, 2 iconic sights. Wat Pho is famous for the huge Reclining Buddha, and Wat Arun, or the Temple of Dawn is one of the best known landmarks in the country. After the places we visited at the start of the trip, these 2 temples round out the must see sights in Bangkok.
After a cultural afternoon, we will then discover a totally different side to Bangkok. This time we will get lost in China Town, one of the largest Chinatowns in the world, filled with colourful alleys, Little India, a labyrinth of narrow lanes barely wide enough for a person to pass through, and finally we will lose ourselves in Khao San Road, the backpacker centre in Thailand where the best bars and night clubs are located. Get ready for an amazing last night out!
We will overnight in Bangkok for 1 night. Accommodation Ibis Style Silom or similar.
6th January: Bangkok (B, D)
It’s our last day in Bangkok, but our adventure is not over yet!!
Taking you back to a wondrous time to discover the siamese kingdom, natural beauty, indulging in Thai culture,
Mueang Boran is the biggest open-air museum in the world! Taking us back to a wondrous time, we will discover the Siamese kingdom in miniature as it offers more than 120 replicas of the most remarkable structures in Thailand. In one morning you will witness all of Thailand along natural beauty and Thai culture. From here we will move on to Erawan, undoubtedly one of the most remarkable sites famous for its holy shrine and giant 3-headed elephant sculpture. Surrounding the museum is a lovely tropical garden covered in lotuses symbolising purity. We will spend some time relaxing here breathing in the fresh air.
We then invite you to join us for a farewell dinner together as we cherish the experiences shared, and the new friendships made, hoping that you will carry these beautiful memories for many years to come!
We will head to the airport just before midnight as according to our flight schedule we are expected to depart at 02.00am on the 7th of January, arriving in Malta at 1.15pm on the same day.