Active Tour from Yunnan in China to Laos
Overland journey from Lijiang (Yunnan) to Luang PrabangMap
Travel overland from the Yunnan Province in China to the tranquility of Laos.
An overland trip from fascinating Yunnan to the tranquility of Laos. A trip rich in contrasts and activities through the breathtaking landscapes from China to Laos. A trip from lively, modern Yunnan province in south-west China to the calmer, laid-back Laos, where nobody is really in a hurry.
Trip to Kunming, Capital of Yunnan Province, China
Your journey begins in Kunming, the capital of Yunnan Province in south-west China. Kunming, a metropolis of 7 million people, is situated 1900 meters above sea-level on the Yunnan-Guizhou plateau in south-west China. Almost throughout the year a pleasant spring-like climate prevails in the city of Kunming. For that reason Kunming is fondly described popularly as the "city of eternal springtime". However, in the winter months the temperature in Kunming can fall below 10 degrees (Celsius).
The year 765 is officially regarded as the founding date of the city of Kunming, when a city with the name Tuodong was founded there. The city of Tuodong was then a part of the kingdom of Nanzhao, which at its height extended as far as Tibet, Laos, and northern Thailand.
With the invasion of Kublai Khan the city was renamed Kunming and became an important trading center for south-west China. During the Ming dynasty the city of Kunming received city walls, but of that nothing remains today. Only such place names as "Xiao Xi Men" or "Beimen Jie" remind us of the former fortification wall.
Kunming got a further stimulus in its development when the French completed the "Kunming-Haiphong railroad" at the start of the 20th century. That narrow-gauge railroad track still to this day links Kunming with Hanoi. On both the Vietnamese and the Chinese side the railroad is still in use, but in Yunnan province only for freight traffic.
In recent years Kunming had undergone very fast development and today it presents itself to a visitor as a modern, hospitable, and clean city. Thanks to modern infrastructure such as a subway, hybrid city buses, supermarkets and many modern bicycle tracks it is easy to find your way in Kunming.
The real center of Kunming city is Green Lake Park, where every morning the elderly city inhabitants gather to dance, to play mahjong, or to prepare for the day by doing tai chi. Green Lake Park in Kunming is an ideal place to experience a breath of the old traditional China.
Thanks to the pleasant climate a bike tour is the ideal way to explore the city of Kunming.
A trip with the night train from Kunming to Lijiang
A trip with a night train in China is quite a special experience and a good chance to get into contact with the local people.
The lockable "soft sleeper" cabins have four beds, which means you share the cabin with people you do not know. Every bed has a blanket, pillow, and reading lamp. There is no real diner, but you can buy yum yums (ready-to-eat noodles) and drinking water in the train. But the choices are limited and it is recommended that you stock up with your favorite drinks and snacks at the station before setting off.
The trip with the night train from Kunming to Lijiang lasts about ten hours. Depending on when you leave Kunming, you will arrive in Lijiang the next morning between 7 and 8 a.m.
Trip to the old Town of Lijiang at the foot of Jade Dragon Mountain
A trip to Lijiang is on the wish list of practically every Chinese. Every year more than 4 million tourists, mainly Chinese, travel to the picturesque Lijiang old town at the foot of Jade Dragon Mountain.
In recent years Lijiang has become a popular destination for the Chinese. But as soon as you turn from the noisy main laneways into one of the numerous side alleys you often find yourself quite alone in the tangle of canals and tiny laneways that wind through the old town of Lijiang. If you visit Lijiang in the morning you almost have the old town to yourself.
The city of Lijiang is situated in a fertile valley in the shadow of the 5,596 meter high Jade Dragon Mountain. The twelve snow covered peaks of Jade Dragon Mountain soar up majestically into the dark blue sky and give Lijiang something of an “alpine flair”.
The city of Lijiang, 2,500 meters above sea level, was almost totally destroyed by an earthquake in 1996. During the reconstruction UNESCO’s attention was drawn to the old town of Lijiang, and a year later Lijiang was placed on the list of objects worthy of protection.
With the construction of the airport mass tourism to Lijiang took off, which brought with it massive changes as well as prosperity.
But despite the mass tourism Lijiang is still worth a visit, and an early morning walk through the old town should be an integral part of every journey to Yunnan Province in China.
Hiking through Tiger Leaping Gorge
Tiger Leaping Gorge is one of the deepest canyons in the world. The difference in height from the Yangtze River to the highest peak of Jade Dragon Mountain is almost 4,000 meters. You travel by public bus to Qiaotou, the starting point of your glorious 2-day hike through Tiger Leaping Gorge. Already the ascent to the Naxi Family Guesthouse offers a wonderful view on the mountain panorama of Jade Dragon Mountain as well as the Yangtze.
The path constantly leads upward until you reach the Naxi Family Guesthouse after about 2.5 hours, where you enjoy a tasty lunch. You then take on the “28 bends”, the steepest and most tiring part of the hike. The exertion is again rewarded by a marvelous mountain panorama! The next section as far as the Tea-Horse Guesthouse is mainly flat and very easy to manage. The night is spent in a simple guesthouse high up above Tiger Leaping Gorge. It is time to put up your feet and enjoy the lovely view of Jade Dragon Mountain in the evening light with a cup of tea or a glass of beer.
After an ample breakfast you set off next day for the Half Way Guesthouse, which you will reach after two hours of walking. After a short pause we descend into Tiger Leaping Gorge. This part of the hike, as far as Tina’s Guesthouse, takes about another two hours.
The hike is ideal for families with children of 7 years or more. However, it is advisable for families to take 3 days for the hike through Tiger Leaping Gorge. Children under 7 can ride along on horseback.
Travel to Shaxi, Yunnan Province, South-West China
The village of Shaxi is situated about 1.5 hours of driving north-west of Dali, embedded in a gentle mountain landscape on the bank of Hui River. In the area around Shaxi agriculture is the main activity.
At one time the village of Shaxi was an important and prosperous trading station on the “Tea and Horse Road”. The old Tea and Horse Road was an extensive road network linking the important tea-growing areas in Yunnan and Sichuan with the Tibetan highlands. On the “Tea and Horse Road” mainly tea from Xishuangbanna was transported to Tibet, and in the other direction salt and horses to Yunnan (i.e., “Tea and Horse Road”).
When the water of Lake Erhai in the neighboring valley sank lower, thereby making a quicker and safer passage possible to the east of Cang Range, Shaxi lost its importance as a staging post for the tea caravans.
Over the following 200 years Shaxi fell into oblivion. In the 1990’s the village was lovingly restored with the support of the Zurich Technical University. Long ago the horse caravans laden with goods disappeared from Shaxi village, but still today you can feel and see traces of the former glory in the hidden alleys all over the villae.
Yunnan trip from Dali to Jinghong in Xishuangbanna
In your action-packed trip from Yunnan to Laos you make a halt in the former royal city Dali as well. The city, pronounced like the Spanish painter, is situated 1,900 meters above sea level in the shadow of the 4,000 meter Cang Range. In the 8th and 9th centuries Dali was the capital of the once influential kingdom of Nanzhao, which at its height extended as far as northern Thailand, Burma, and Tibet.
Later Dali became the capital of the kingdom of Dali, whose downfall was sealed by the invasion of Kublai Khan in 1253.
The area around Dali is inhabited mainly by the Bai ethnic group. The Bai people is one of the biggest of a total of 26 ethnic groups in Yunnan Province. Bai is the Chinese word for “white” and white is also the color of their costumes. The Bai speak a Tibetan-Burmese dialect and have their own written script. The origins of the Bai ethnic group are not entirely clear, but the assumption is that they migrated into Yunnan Province about 900 years ago from the region of the Yellow River.
The pleasant climate and the many street cafés and bars give the old town of Dali a relaxed, Mediterranean atmosphere that invites you to spend a lengthy time there.
After a short flight you reach Jinghong, the capital of the prefecture Xishuangbanna.
Travel to Jinghong, Xishuangbanna, Yunnan Province, China
The city of Jinghong is the capital of the prefecture Xishuangbanna and is situated on the south-western bank of the Mekong River, which at that point is still called Lancang River. Xishuangbanna is a Chinese derivation from the words Sip Song Ban Na, which translate as “the twelve rice growing districts”. The subtropical climate really makes Xishuangbanna one of the most important rice growing areas of China. Apart from rice, a lot of vegetables, bananas, coffee, and sugar cane are cultivated.
The mountains around Jinghong are the home of some of the 26 ethnic groups living in Yunnan Province. You come across the Dai, Zhuang, Hui, Bai, Yao, Lisu, Miao (Akka), Wa, Hani, Bulang und Jinuo ethnic minorities.
Most recently Xishuangbanna has developed into a Mecca for Chinese tourists. Especially the purchase of jade from Burma attracts many Chinese to Xishuangbanna. In China there is a general belief that with jade you gain health, success, and a long life in harmony with nature. The jade sold in Jinghong comes mainly from Burma. For that reason you find in Jinghong many Burmese who are active in the trade in jade.
In recent years Jinghong has experienced a real boom period in construction. Today the visitor will find a modern and upcoming city that satisfies every wish. From simple backpacker accommodation to modern 5-star hotels with 36-hole golf courses and amusement parks nearby the city of Jinghong has now everything to offer.
Despite modernization the atmosphere in Jinghong is still that of a quite relaxed, southern ambience, and it gives the impression that nobody is really in a hurry.
Apart from jade Xishuangbanna is known for high quality green tea. Particularly mature pu’er tea has become known all around the globe in recent years. It is said that pu’er tea is good for your health. In any case pu’er tea has a regulating effect on the cholesterol level and supports the human immune system.
Pu’er is the name of a town in the north of Xishuangbanna, about 2 hours drive from Jinghong. The city of Pu’er was once on the legendary “Tea and Horse Road”. More than 1,000 years ago goods were transported on the “Tea and Horse Road” between Tibet and China. The main products were Tibetan horses and salt that were exchanged for tea from Pu’er. As a result the name Pu’er became synonymous for a quite special type of tea: a fermented, mature tea from the southern Yunnan Province in south-west China.
Trip from Yunnan across the border into Laos
Via the modern highway you reach the Laotian border at Mohan in less than 3 hours.
Plant enthusiasts can make a stopp en route at the botanical gardens in Menglun. The various “thematic gardens” with over 8,000 diverse tropical plants are linked by beautifully laid-out walking paths.
In the sleepy village of Mohan (Boten) you cross the border into Laos. Mohan lives mainly from the border traffic between China and Laos. There are a few simple hotels, restaurants, and shops that sell articles from Thailand, Vietnam, and Laos.
After leaving China you go on foot along the road, past the whole fleet of trucks waiting for papers for entry into China. After about 100 meters you can already see the gleaming gilded Laotian border post at Boten.
Welcome to contemplative Laos!
The north of Laos excites you with its breathtaking landscapes, innumerable rivers, waterfalls and its wonderful people. But the tranquil lifestyle and the pristine quality of the country also charm the visitor.
Although the Chinese influence is quite obvious the land has till now been spared the partly dramatic development of China, and it has been able to preserve to a great extent its own character.
Besides, the special feature of Laos is the great variety of ethnic groups and languages. The official national language is indeed Laotian, and all citizens of Laos have to learn it in school. However, in some remote parts of the country many people speak only their ethnic language. After you travel across the border from China into Laos at Boten you continue your journey to the Chom Ong Cave.
The Chom Ong Cave in Laos
After you go through the border check the Laotian guide is waiting for your trip in the direction of Oudomxay. On a very bumpy road you travel first of all to the Khamu village Chom Ong. The Khamu comprise the biggest ethnic minority in northern Laos. In contrast to China, in Vietnam, Thailand, Burma, and Laos the Khamu are recognized as an official ethnic minority. The Khamu in Xishuangbanna in southern China are officially designated as just a subsidiary group of the Bulang.
From the Khamu village of Chom Ong you go on a hike of about 1 hour to the impressive Chom Ong Cave. The Chom Ong Cave is the second longest cave system in Laos, the longest in northern Laos.
An estimated 18 km. the cave winds its way into the mountain landscape of northern Laos. The main entrance to Chom Ong Cave is simply breathtaking; a huge opening rises up to 35 meters. You follow that tunnel for about 850 meters, dimly lit by solar lamps. In some places that impressive cave is up to 50 meters high. Good shoes are a precondition for visiting Chom Ong Cave.
After that you hike back to the Khamu village of Chom Ong, where you spend the night with a nice local family. Accommodation in Chom Ong is very simple. Later in the afternoon you explore the village or you help the host family to prepare the dinner.
Boat trip on Nam Ou River
From Chom Ong your journey takes you first of all back to the main road and on to Oudomxay (Muang Xai). The city of Oudomxay (Muang Xai) is the capital of the province of the same name and the biggest city in northern Laos. The city of Oudomxay (Muang Xai) is an important trading place for goods from Thailand, China, and Vietnam. From Oudomxay your Journey from Yunnan to Laos takes you further north-east to Muang Khua, the starting point for your unforgettable boat trip on Nam Ou River to Muang Noi.
Nam Ou River is one of the most important rivers in Laos. Nam Ou River has its source in the area bordering China and flows in a southerly direction till after 448 km it flows into the Mekong. The area along Nam Ou River is one of the most charming regions of Laos. In your boat you travel at a leisurely pace down the river while the glorious landscape slowly glides past you.
Shortly before arriving in Muang Noi you visit the village Ban Sop Jam, whose citizens are known for their art of weaving. You spend the night in a simple guesthouse in Muang Noi.
Trip to the former royal city Luang Prabang
The former royal city Luang Prabang is another highlight of your journey from Yunnan to Laos and at the same time a worthy finish to this journey. The sleepy provincial city Luang Prabang is one of the outstanding cultural destinations of the region and is without doubt one of the most charming towns in Asia.
The former French colonial city Luang Prabang is on a peninsula at the junction of the rivers Nam Khan and Mekong. The town has its name from the statue of Buddha called Phra Bang, the most important portrait of Buddha in the country, and it has been kept in Luang Prabang since the 14th century.
In the 17th century Laos came under the rule of the French, who made Laos an officially recognized kingdom. After emancipation from the colonial power its king, Sisavang Vong, took over the position as head of state of the Kingdom of Laos. In the 20th century the country fluctuated again and again between local and foreign rule until a coup by the Communists in 1975 abolished the monarchy and declared that Laos was definitively independent. The splendid temples, the many historic colonial buildings, and the tranquility of the local people can enthuse even the most passionate travelers. Since 1995 Luang Prabang is on UNESCO’s list of world cultural heritages.
A worthwhile attraction of Luang Prabang is the former royal palace, Haw Kham, which today is a museum. Some of the private rooms of the royal family are preserved just as they were left after the takeover by the Communists in 1975. As well as gifts from diplomats from countries all around the world, you can admire the throne, the crown jewels, and swords made of pure gold. In the garage you can also look at the former royal vehicles. Most of those well-preserved luxury state coaches were gifts from the United States and France.
The most commonly practiced form of Buddhism in Laos is the classical Theravada Buddhism, which is dominant in all of south-east Asia. You see that most clearly in the many Buddhist temples in Luang Prabang. One of the most important, and simultaneously most beautiful temples of Luang Prabang is Wat Xieng Thong. This temple dates from 1560 and was once under the protection of the royal family. Luckily Wat Xieng Thong escaped the plundering and destruction during the invasion by Chinese “black flag marauders” in 1867. The leader of the invasion, Deo Van Tri (Kham Oun), had been in his youth a novice monk at Wat Xieng Thong, and so he used it as his headquarters. The numerous pavilions, shrines, and the beautiful garden make a visit to Wat Xieng Thong a very special experience during your journey from Yunnan to Laos.
You can enjoy a lovely view of Luang Prabang and its surrounds from Phou Si Hill. 328 steps lead up to the monastery Chom Si on the hill. Right near the monastery there is a viewing platform from which you have a beautiful view of the junction of the rivers Mekong and Nam Khan. Especially at sunset the ascent to Phou Si Hill is worthwhile. Straight after Phou Si Hill you can then make a visit to the night bazaar that occurs every evening.
Of course this journey can be made in the opposite direction.
"...ganz besonders gut gefallen hat uns der Homestay in Ban Ta Luang....sehr einfach, aber die Gastfamilie war sehr nett und das Dorf richtig beschaulich...Vielen Dank nochmal für die tolle Organisation..."
Eliane und Viviane aus der Schweiz
"...unser Guide in Laos, Mr. Khamdi, war ausgezeichnet...alles war gut organisiert...die Bootsfahrt auf dem Nam Ou Fluss ist unbedingt zu empfehlen..."
Caroline und Gerard, Paris
Day 1: KUNMING – BICYCLE TOUR – NIGHT TRAIN TO LIJIANG
The best way of discovering Kunming is undoubtedly by bicycle.
The rather easy round trip leads first to Green Lake Park (Cui Hu). Green Lake Park is in the center of the city and is, especially for elderly locals, a popular meeting place to gather and play mahjong or cards. In Green Lake Park you find many people who get ready for the day with various exercises, such as tai chi or chi gong. To relax we take a seat in one of the tea houses and observe the bustling activity in the park over a cup of pu’er tea.
After that your Kunming bicycle tour continues through the grounds of Yunnan University, one of China’s oldest universities. With the Taoist temple Yuan Tong you visit the biggest and busiest buddhist temple complexes in Kunming.
On the ride back to the hotel you make another stop at the East-West Pagodas that date from the 9th century. Then you give back the bicycles and transfer to the railroad station for the trip by night train to Lijiang. You spend the night in the train.
Day 2: LIJIANG
Arrival in Lijiang. Transfer by taxi to the old town of Lijiang. Breakfast at our own cost in one of the many coffee shops in the center of town.
You make a walking tour around the old town with criss-crossed by innumerable narrow laneways and canals. On this occasion you get to know more about the secrets of the mystical and unique Naxi culture.
In the morning hours you have the Old Town Lijiang almost to yourself. Almost totally destroyed by an earthquake in 1966, Lijiang was placed after its reconstruction on the list of UNESCO’s world heritage sites. You ascend Lion Mountain, from where you have a beautiful view over the roofs of the city center.
Drive to Shuhe old town. Shuhe was once a busy trading post on the “Tea and Horse Road”, a branch of the southern Silk Road. A small river flows through the middle of the idyllic village of Shuhe, and many of the ancient wooden houses have been restored and converted into trendy bars or restaurants. Check in at the hotel. Round trip through Shuhe. Overnight accommodation is at Shuhe.
Day 3: LIJIANG/SHUHE
Day at leisure in Shuhe.
Optional tour: (admissions and hire of bicycle have to be paid extra).
In the morning you ride first 5 km through Lijiang Valley northwards to Baisha. Baisha was once the capital of the Naxi Kingdom and the birthplace of the first Naxi king.
Visit Liuli Temple, where there are still well-preserved wall paintings to be admired from the late Ming Dynasty. After that you ride to Yufeng Temple. The lama monastery Yufeng was built in 1756. Inside there is a 400-year-old camellia tree which still presents a marvelous coat of blossoms in spring.
From there you cycle to the village of Yuhu, a romantic village where the famous Austro-American botanist Joseph Rock lived from 1922 to 1949. In his house a small museum was set up that gives information on the life and work of Joseph Rock.
In the afternoon we ride back to Shuhe.
Day 4: LIJIANG – QIAOTOU – HIKING THE TIGER LEAPING GORGE
From Lijiang you travel to Qiaotou, the starting point for your 2-day trek through Tiger Leaping Gorge.
Wedged between Jade Dragon Mountain and the Haba Mountain Range, the Tiger Leaping Gorge is probably the world’s deepest ravine. The name is derived from a story that describes how a tiger escaped his hunters by leaping over the Yangtze River with one big leap.
The path goes constantly upward while following the mountain side north-east into the gorge. Already from that point there are maginificent views down onto the Yangtze River. After hiking for two hours you reach Naxi Family Guesthouse. Following that you set out on the steepest and most arduous part of the hike with “28 bends”. The efforts are once again rewarded with a wonderful view of Jade Dragon Mountain.
After about 3 hours you reach Tea-Horse Guesthouse, situated high above the Tiger Leaping Gorge.
Day 5: TIGER LEAPING GORGE (HIKING) - DRIVE TO SHAXI
After an ample breakfast you leave Tea-Horse Guesthouse and hike on a high path a good 2.5 hours along the slopes of Haba Mountains.
During the whole hike you have a spectacular view of Tiger Leaping Gorge (Hutiao Xia) and the “5 fingers” of Jade Dragon’s snow peaks.
The path is mostly flat as far as the village of Bendiwan, where you take a short rest. From there the path leads mostly downwards to Walnut Copse and to Tina’s Guesthouse. You can take a last glance into the valley.
At Tina’s Guesthouse your driver is waiting to take you on the drive to Shaxi.
After arrival at Shaxi walking tour around the picturesque village. Night spent in a rustic guesthouse close to the village square.
Day 6: SHAXI – XIZHOU – DALI
Drive to Xizhou. En route you make a detour to Shibao Mountain. You explore the many temples and pavilions from various dynasties, and admire the over 1300 years old buddhist rock carvings.
A simple hike of 1.5 hours along the old “Tea and Horse Road” takes you to Shaxi village. The hike offers a magnificent view on the entire Shaxi Valley.
Continue your journey to Xizhou. The village of Xizhou is known for is well-preserved Bai architecture. You make a walking tour around Xizhou old town. In doing so you visit the former residence of the once influencial Yan family, a wonderful wooden house with many inner courts that was built at the end of the 19th century. Continue to Dali. Check in at the hotel and round trip through the city center.
Day 7: DALI
Today you decide how to spend your day.
Optional tour 1:
On today’s program there is a “delicacy” in the literal sense of the word.
The cuisine of Yunnan, mostly unknown in the West, is one of the most varied and exciting in China. Under professional guidance you will yourself prepare a tasty Chinese lunch.
In the morning you visit the local market and acquire the ingredients for the meal. While making the vegetables “ready for the pan” you learn more about the specialties of the cuisine of Yunnan.
Finally you of course get the recipes in written form.
Optional Tour 2:
More active people undertake a lovely and scenic bicycle tour along Erhai Lake to Xizhou.
Erhai Lake is about 2 km east of Dali and is, with its total length of 42 km, the second biggest lake in Yunnan Province. En route there is a guarantee of many stops to take beautiful photos.
Along the way there are numerous small villages to be expored and many photo opportunities await. The once with enough fitness can cycle all the way to Xizhou.
The less enthousiastic cyclist can simply cycle as far as he likes and then turn back can cycle back to Dali Old Town. (about 55 km there and back on flat ground).
Optional Tour 3:
You visit the Three-Pagoda Temple (San Ta Si) from the 9th century situated a little outside Dali.
A local taxi takes you to Chongsheng Temple with its characteristic three towers, the “San Ta Si”. The towers date from the 9th century and have meanwhile become the landmark of Dali.
After the earthquake of 1996 the three towers were totally renovated and today they shine once again in their old glory.
During the restoration a vessel was found containing objects from the time of the Nanzhou Kingdom when the pagodas were built. Those valuable objects can be viewed in the museum.
Of course the excursions can be combined.
Day 8: DALI – FLIGHT TO JINGHONG – MENGLUN
Transfer to Dali airport and flight to Jinghong. Jinghong, the capital of the autonomous prefecture Xishuangbanna, is situated on the south-west bank of the Mekong, which in China is called Lancang Jiang.
Most recently Xishuangbanna has developed into a very popular destination for Chinese tourists. Especially the sale of jade from Burma is regarded very highly by the Chinese. In China there is a general belief that through jade you gain health, success, and a long life in harmony with nature.
Arrival in Jinaghong is about midday. You are met by your guide and driven to your hotel in Menglun. The small town Menglun is situated 75 km south-east of Jinghong on the bank of Luosuo River, a tributary of the Mekong.
The main attraction of Menglun is the wonderful tropical garden, more than 900 hectares in size, and situated on the other side of Luosuo River.
The tropical garden of Menglun was founded in 1959 and contains over 8,000 various species of tropical plants. In a small museum the “function” of a rainforest is graphically presented in a very understandable way. Visit to the botanical garden. Overnight accommodation is at Menglun.
Day 9: TRAVEL FROM MENGLUN VIA MOHAN TO CHOM ONG CAVE IN LAOS
Your travel via the new highway to Mohan, the border crossing station between China and Laos.
After completion of the border formalities you will be met by your Laotian guide; after that you drive through the beautiful landscape of northern Laos in the direction of Oudomxay.
En route you make a detour to the impressive Ban Chom Ong Caves. Chom Ong Cave is the second longest cave system in Laos and enthuses with its sparkling tufaceous limestone formations and gigantic stalagmites and stalactites. An estimated 18 km of the cave wind into the landscape of northern Laos, and the first 450 meters are illuminated by solar lamps. (Good walking shoes are a necessary). In some places the cave is up to 50 meters high.
From the nearest village, Khamu, you hike about 1 hour to the entrance to the cave.
After exploring the cave you march back to the Khamu village of Chom Ong, where you will spend the night in simple accommodation with a local family.
Day 10: CHOM ONG CAVE – MUANG KHUA – BOAT TRIP ON NAM OU RIVER TO MUANG NOI
From the village of Chom Ong you travel first back to the main road and on to Oudomxay (Muang Xai), the capital of the province of the same name and the biggest city in northern Laos.
The city of Oudomxay (Muang Xai) is an important transshipment center for goods from Thailand, China, and Vietnam. You continue in a north-westerly direction to Muang Khua, the starting point for your wonderful boat trip down the Nam Ou River to Muang Noi.
Nam Ou River is one of the most important rivers of Laos and is from a landscape point of view one of the most attractive places Laos has to offer. Nam Ou River has its source in the border area with China and flows 448 km south to its junction with the Mekong. Avail yourself of that idyll, because due to construction of a dam after 2019 some of the area will be flooded.
At a leisurely pace the boat travels down Nam Ou River while the glorious landscape slowly glides past you.
A midday break in the form of a picnic on a sandbank of the river. You make a stop at the village of Ban Sop Jam, which is known for its art of weaving. Toward evening you reach Muang Noi, where you will spend the night in a guesthouse.
Day 11: MUANG NOI – MUANG KUEY – KAYAK TRIP ON NAM OU RIVER – TREK TO BAN NA LUANG VILLAGE
Straight after breakfast your muscular strength will be called on: aboard your kayak you will slowly paddle downstream on the Nam Ou River. The slow speed of the water makes the kayak trip a pleasant and enjoyable experience! Slowly and silently you glide through the jungle of northern Laos! Two hours later you reach the village of Muang Kuey, the starting point for your hike to Ban Na Luang.
The lovely hike to Ban Na Luang first of all leads you on flat ground along rice paddies and vegetable plantations. Depending on the season the peasants are plowing with their water buffalos, or you can watch the local people during the harvest.
You then take on the most strenuous part of the hike. The way leads steeply upward through the dense jungle of northern Laos for about 1.5 hours. Arriving at the top you enjoy the magnificent view of the surrounding mountainous landscape of northern Laos. From there the way leads downhill to the village of Ban Na Luang, which you reach after another hour of walking.
The little village of Ban Na Luang is situated on a small river, embedded in the typically forested karst mountains of northern Laos. Ban Na Luang is home to the ethnic minorities of the Khamu and Hmong as well as the Lao. In the afternoon you can enjoy village life, play with the children of the host family or help the woman of the house preparing the dinner. You spend the night in very simple accommodation with a local family.
Day 12: HIKING FROM BAN NA LUANG – NONG KHIAW – LUANG PRABANG
Breakfast local style. After that you hike for about 2 hours to Nong Khiaw. There your driver is waiting to drive you to Luang Prabang.
On your trip to Luang Prabang you make a stop at Pak Ou Caves. The village Pak Ou is situated at the junction of Nam Ou River and the Mekong River and is known for its two caves: Tham Loum and Tham Theung, that is, the Pak Ou Caves.
In the interior of the two caves there are thousands of statues of Buddha made of wood or gold in all shapes and sizes.
According to a legend the temples were built in 1547 by King Setthathirat, who simultaneously had Vat Pak Ou built on the other side of the river. But it is said that the site is much older. Earlier the caves were regarded as habitation for the river spirit (Phi) and the Naga king Chao Ulonngka, the guardian over the mouth of the Nam Ou.
Later a drive by car to Luang Prabang. Check in and overnight stay.
Day 13: LUANG PRABANG
Luang Prabang is in north-central Laos at the junction of the Mekong and Nam Khan River. In 1995 the old city center of Luang Prabang was placed on UNESCO’s list of world heritage cultural sites to be protected. The many golden temples, the old French colonial buildings, the lovely natural landscapes and the easy-going and relaxed character of the people give this former royal city a very special charm which a visitor finds it hard to resist.
On your rented mountain bike you make a tour around Luang Prabang. You visit the busy morning market and then go to what is probably the most beautiful and the biggest monastery in Luang Prabang, Wat Mai. It acquired its present name after the restoration ordered in 1821 by King Manthathourat.
Continue cycling to the National Museum, located in the former royal palace (Haw Kham). As well as other cultural treasures the National Museum houses the magnificet royal throne from the Lane Xang Empire. After visiting the museum you continue on your mountain bike to Wat Visoun. That temple was set up during the reign of King Visounarat in about 1520 and today houses a collection of statues of Buddha and religious artifacts from the 14th century.
In the afternoon you ride along Nam Khan River to Wat Xieng Thong. Wat Xieng Thong is the most important temple in Luang Prabang and is also one of the most important temple grounds in Laos.
At the end of the day you visit the temple called Wat Phabat Thai, which is situated on the bank of the Mekong. There we enjoy in a relaxed atmosphere sunset over the Mekong. Overnight stay in Luang Prabang.
Day 14: DEPARTURE FROM LUANG PRABANG
Transfer to airport.