Phongsaly is Laos’, perhaps Indochina’s, last remaining wilderness; and our Adventure Trek takes you right into the heart of it.
Route: Luang Prabang – Muang La – Boun Thai – Mouchi – Phongsaly – Muang Khua – Nong Khiaw – Luang Prabang.
Day 1: Arrive Luang Prabang
Day 2: Luang Prabang – Walking Tour Meals: (B/)
Day 3: Luang Prabang (B/)
Day 4: Luang Prabang – Muang La (B/D)
Day 5: Muang La – 4×4 Adventure & Trek (B/D)
Day 6: Muang La – Boun Thai (B/)
Day 7: Boun Thai – Trek – Mouchi Homestay (B/L/D)
Day 8: Mouchi Homestay – Trek, Phongsaly (B/D)
Day 9: Phongsaly – Nam Ou Cruise – Muang Khua (B/L/)
Day 10: Muang Khua – Nam Ou River Cruise – Nong Khiaw (B/L/)
Day 11:Nong Khiaw – Nam Ou River Cruise – Luang Prabang (B/L/)
Day 12: Luang Prabang Departure (B/)
Upon arrival in Luang Prabang, you will be met by your guide and transferred to your hotel. The remainder of your day is at leisure. The ancient royal city is surrounded by mountains and is situated at a junction of the Mekong and Khan rivers.
In the center of the city is Mount Phousi, rewarding climbers of its 328 steps with stunning views of the surrounding temples and hills. Luang Prabang, a city where time has seemingly stood still, is also an outstanding example of the fusion of traditional Lao architecture with structures built by the European colonial authorities in more recent times. Its unique, remarkably well-preserved townscape illustrates a key stage in the blending of these two distinct cultural traditions. Overnight in Luang Prabang.
An option (although we highly recommend it; in fact, we almost insist) for early-risers (05h30) is a very special dawn visit to witness the long lines of orange-robed monks leaving their pagodas to receive offerings of food from Luang Prabang residents. Ask your guide for how best to join in if you wish to. Return to your hotel for breakfast, or enjoy a pastry and coffee at one of the many stalls already doing a roaring trade.
After breakfast, enjoy a tour of this stunning city. Your circuit begins at the former Royal Palace, now the National Museum, (closed on Tuesdays). Visit Wat Mai, a temple renowned for its golden bas-reliefs. During Pimai (the Lao New Year celebrations in April), the Prabang – normally housed in the Royal Palace Museum – is put on public display in this temple. You will then continue on to the most photographed temple in Luang Prabang (quite an accolade!) – Wat Xieng Thong.
Also visit Wat Visoun, entirely rebuilt after its destruction in 1887 by the invading Black Flags from southern China. In the courtyard of Wat Visoun stands the Watermelon Stupa, which is shaped like the fruit it takes its name from. You will also visit Wat Aham, where you will find the altar of the ‘two geniuses of Luang Prabang’ and Wat That, where the ashes of King Sisavang Vong are interred inside the large central stupa.
In the afternoon visit the excellent Arts and Ethnology Centre which gives an insight into the ethnic and cultural mix of Laos. Continue to the weaving and textile villages of Ban Xangkhong and Ban Xienglek. Our final stop of the day is a climb Mt Phousi, which offers a spectacular sunset and a panoramic view over Luang Prabang and the Mekong River. Overnight in Luang Prabang.
Your day is at leisure. Overnight in Luang Prabang.
Morning departure from Luang Prabang, heading north to Muang La. Although the drive is long (5 hours approx), you will be treeted to rolling countryside where you can admire the beauty of the Nam Ou River and the surrounding rice paddy fields. After a break for lunch at Pakmong, 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 Xong Ja.
Arrive at the delightful Muang La, famous for its natural hot springs, arriving by mid afternoon. The remainder of your day is at leisure to enjoy the serenity of the Muang La Resort and its welcoming hot spring baths.
Overnight in Muang La.
Depart Muang La by 4×4 vehicle for a day of trekking and exploring the local area where you will discover minority hill tribe people and their fascinating way of life. Today’s journey is truly off the beaten track and ensures some stunning mountain views along the way.
Commence trekking over farmland and hills, with a picnic lunch trek for 45 minutes at the beautiful village of Ban Phavie, a Khamu village atop a hill, and with superb views over the surrounding area.
After lunch continue trekking to reach a beautiful waterfall where you can relax and freshen up. Return to Muang La in the late afternoon where the remainder of your day is at leisure. Overnight in Muang La.
After breakfast, depart for the remote northern province of Phongsali. The journey takes approximately six hours and along the way you will pass a number of colorful minority tribal villages. Upon arrival at the Khmu minority village of Ban Nakrasip there will be a chance to stop and explore the village, learning more about the Khmu way of life.
Arrive at Boun Thai in the late afternoon. The town is a popular stopping point for travellers heading to Phongsali, and a number of non-Governmental Organisations (NGO’s) are based here. The remainder of your day is at leisure.
Overnight in Boun Thai.
After breakfast make a visit the morning market, before driving 2 hours to the start point for your day’s trek. Arriving in the late morning, and having enjoyed a picnic lunch (Laos style!), trek for around three hours to a beautiful village of the Mouchi minority tribe, one of just six Mouchi villages in Phongsali Province.
The Mouchi people are extremely welcoming and, upon arrival, you are likely to be offered a traditional welcoming massage.
In the evening dinner is cooked by the villagers, and you will spend the night as guests of one of the families.
Overnight at homestay.
After breakfast at the village, trek for a further three hours to an Akha Eupa minority tribe village, where you can stop and spend a few hours with the villagers, and enjoy a local lunch. You driver will meet you nearby to complete the journey to Phongsaly by car.
Unquestionably one of Laos’ most interesting towns and certainly far less visited than most, Phongsaly is located close to the Chinese border, with a opulation unsurprisingly consisting predominantly of Chinese traders, as well as a large number of local ethnic groups such as the Phou Noy and Chinese Ho. In fact it is only due to quite recent French occupation that Phongsali is not part of China.
In the late afternoon enjoy the spectacular sunset view from Phou Fa, or Sky Mountain, looking out across the rice terraces and valleys as far as the eye can see.
Overnight in Phongsaly.
After breakfast, transfer to the village of Hatsa, from where you will board a private boat for your five hour cruise down the Nam Ou River. It’s a particularly picturesque stretch of water, even by Lao standards, and throughout the day you will pass by a number of riverside settlements where you can stop to explore further if you wish.
Arrive in the afternoon in Muang Khua, located on the banks of the Nam Ou River and overlooking a floating bridge just 60km from the Vietnamese border. The French had a presence here until 1954, when their forces were ousted from Vietnam in the aftermath of the infamous battle at Dien Bien Phu.
It has a shanty-town look about it, with rickety, old wooden buildings and narrow winding streets. You will see many minority tribal folk from the surrounding countryside, as they come to buy or sell in the market, especially in the mornings. Overnight in Muang Khua.
Leaving Muang Khua you will take a slow boat down the Nam Ou river. En route, stop to visit Muang Ngoi. Only accessible by boat, it was once a quaint village, nestling at the foothill of a giant limestone outcrop. Now it’s an ideal place for travellers to take a break whilst coasting up and down the Nam Ou. There’s time to explore the nearby Tham Kang and Tham Pakeo caves. Continue by boat to Nong Khiaw, a friendly junction town, popular with travellers heading to the north and east.
We’ve left your evening free for you to do as you please. There are a number of excellent local restaurants to choose from – the fine Indian restaurant next to the river is always popular with the backpackers in town. Overnight in Nong Khiaw.
Departing early, enjoy a day cruise down the Nam Ou River towards Luang Prabang, passing under towering limestone karst and cliffs throughout much of the day.
Stop en route to visit the Pak Ou caves, which house literally thousands of Buddha statues, hidden from the looting Chinese Haw in times gone by. The statues range from a few centimetres to the size of a human.
Approaching Luang Prabang in the late afternoon, it’s a wonderful way to arrive at this engaging city. The remainder of your day is at leisure.
Your day is at leisure until your transfer to the airport for your onward flight.