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Laos - Into The Wild

7 Nights /

8 Days

1 Day 1: Arrive Viengxay

Your guide and private car will meet you at the border. After all formalities are completed you will be driven 2 hours to Viengxay. 

Overnight in Viengxay

2 Day 2: Viengxay - Sam Neua (B,L)

Spend the morning exploring Viengxay.

The town of Viengxay contains hundreds of caves which sheltered local people and the country's future leaders for a vital period in world history.

In the 1960s Laos was caught up in the conflict known to the world as the Vietnam War. For nine years, from 1964 to 1973, more than 20,000 people lived in a 'hidden city' they built inside the limestone peaks all around the area to try to survive daily aircraft bombing raids directed by US forces.

They were only able to farm or work at night, so inside the caves they built everything they needed for their society to survive, including schools, hospitals, markets, a radio station and the headquarters of the Lao Patriotic Front - also known as the Pathet Lao.

Take and audio tour that tells the story of the 'hidden city' through the history that created it and interviews with local people. Discover the area's beauty as well as its fascinating hidden history.

After lunch in a local restaurant drive about an hour to Sam Neua.

This afternoon you will be taken on a tour of the town. This will include a visit to the Nam Sam River Promenade followed by Wat Phoxaysanalam which is home to a Buddha statue dating back to 1565. Visit weaving houses near the temple to see stunning cotton and silk textiles being made. Finish the tour with a visit to the market selling stunning Houaphanh textiles and clothes from different ethnic groups, woven bamboo items and traditional foods and animals.

Overnight in Sam Neua

3 Day 3: Sam Neua - Nam Nern Night Safari (B,L,D)

After breakfast depart for the Nam Et-Phou Louey NPA (National Protected Area). The drive will take roughly 3 hours. 

Here you will experience the Nam Nern Night Safari and stay in a simple ecolodge, all of which has been developed with the local community. Learn about wildlife conservation, medicinal plants, traditional agriculture and the history of the Secret War from your local Khmu guide. 

Upon arrival at Ban Son Koua, an ethnic Khmu Village, village guides and boatmen will meet you and take you on a short tour of the village where you will learn about the animist tradition of appeasing the village spirit. Then embark on a 1.5 hour journey to the park substation on the Nam Nern River by long?tail boat, along the way learning about upland rice cultivation and having opportunities to spot monitor lizards and bird life. 

After arriving at the park substation, you will enjoy a lunch prepared by the village cooking group. After lunch, receive a briefing by park staff about the on?the?ground efforts in protecting tigers and their prey. Around the middle of the afternoon you will depart for the night safari. 

Stopping near a salt lick, you will hike into the forest. Your local guide, a skilled hunter and tracker, will explain how local people track deer and other wild ungulates. Your guides will point out evidence of wildlife, such a tracks or scat at the salt lick. 

The boats will continue upriver to the dinner site, a sandy, flat bank, where you will have a picnic dinner around a campfire. After dinner, your guides tell Khmu folktales and stories about dragons, wildlife, and ghosts. They will educate you about the species of animals you may see during the spotlighting and explain the rules and expectations for spotlighting.  Depending on the amount of moonlight, depart for the night spotlighting 1-2 hours after dark, floating down river with engines off. There is only one light per boat. Only guides use the light, to avoid scaring the animals. The guides and boat drivers communicate via hand signals to avoid talking that might disturb the animals. The boat is very quiet so as not to disturb the animals. Animals that may be seen include Sambar Deer, Otters, Barking Deer, various species of Civets, Slow Loris, Porcupine and Owls (Hogbadgers, Asian golden cat and wild dogs have also been seen).Paul Eshoo_ 9/3/10 15:38

At the end of the spotlighting, the boats arrive at the evening camp. Before going to bed you will be able to check out a variety of insects attracted to the black light set up near the substation. 

Overnight in Nam Nern

4 Day 4: Nam Nern - Nong Khiaw (B,l)

Before breakfast, your local guide will take you on a walk around the jungle, teaching you the use of medicinal plants and explaining the history of the site, which was once a major settlement during the Secret War. After breakfast, the boats float back to the village at a relaxing pace with engines off, pointing out birds along the way. 

Upon arrival in the village, you will be invited to try earthen jar rice wine (lao hai). Before departing, you will be asked to fill out a wildlife monitoring form that is used to monitor wildlife abundance and indicate the amount of bonuses put into the village development fund from the tour costs. This is one of the keys to the success of the project because locals are therefore incentivized to preserve the wildlife and the habitat. If you are extremely lucky and see a tiger then you will be asked to pay an additional 1,800,000 Kip (roughly $225) per sighting per group. 

After lunch at a local restaurant continue driving approximately 4 hours to the sleepy town of Nong Khaiw. Arrive late afternoon and the remainder of the day is free at your leisure.  Overnight in Nong Khiaw  

5 Day 5: Nong Khiaw - Luang Prabang (B,L)

After breakfast travel down the Nam Ou River by boat on your way to Luang Prabang. As you cruise down the river, watch the local fishermen and the lifestyle of the riverside residents. Enjoy a picnic lunch along the way. This first leg of the journey takes roughly 4 hours. 

After breakfast travel down the Nam Ou River by boat on your way to Luang Prabang. As you cruise down the river, watch the local fishermen and the lifestyle of the riverside residents. Enjoy a picnic lunch along the way. This first leg of the journey takes roughly 4 hours. 

Continue downstream another 2 hours to Luang Prabang. 

Arrive in Luang Prabang. Welcome to the spiritual capital of Laos.

As today comes to a close, climb the stairs of Mount Phousi and watch the sun set over the city and surrounding hills.  Transfer back your hotel, stopping along the way at the hill tribe evening market for some shopping.

Overnight in Luang Prabang

6 Day 6: Luang Prabang (B,L)

After breakfast take a guided tour of Luang Prabang, a UNESCO World Heritage site.  Visit Wat Visoun, the holiest temple of the city, which was entirely rebuilt in 1887 after being destroyed by the invading Black Flags fromSouthern China. In the courtyard of Wat Visoun stands the Watermelon Stupa shaped like the fruit from which it takes its name. Continue past Wat Aham, which was first built in the 1500s, and on to Wat That where the ashes of King Sisavang Vong are kept inside the large central stupa. 

Pursue your discovery of the town with a visit at the Traditional Arts & Ethnology Center where you will learn more about local hill tribes in Laos. 

This afternoon, visit COPE, an association working to help landmine victims. A visit to the center provides in-depth information about the history of the American/Vietnam war and the lasting impact of unexploded ordinances (UXO) in the area and the efforts underway to clear them. 

In the afternoon, start at the former Royal Palace, now the National Museum, where you will explore the history of Laos. Continue on foot to Wat Mai, a temple renowned for its golden bas-relief, and Wat Sensoukarahm, which features a beautiful dazzling golden façade.

Finish this morning’s tour at Wat Xieng Thong, the most revered temple in Luang Prabang. Located at the end of the peninsula, close to the Mekong, this temple was built in 1560 by King Setthathirat and is decorated with ornate carvings and mosaics. 

Overnight in Luang Prabang

7 Day 7: Luang Prabang - Kuang Si Waterfall - Luang Prabang (B)

Optional: For early risers, there is a very special dawn visit to watch the monks collecting the alms.  As the sun begins to rise, long lines of orange-robed monks leave their pagodas and walk barefoot down the streets collecting offerings from Luang Prabang residents.  It is a beautiful, serene ceremony that highlights the spiritualism of the Laos people.   Return to the hotel for breakfast. 

Your guide will pick you up from your hotel for a short transfer through the Luang Prabang countryside to Kuang Si Waterfalls (32km southwest of the city). Along the way you will drive through beautiful landscapes of rice fields, hills, and small villages. There are also viewpoints overlooking the Mekong River. 

Stop en-route to visit a small village which is home to one of the area’s many ethnic minorities. You will have an opportunity to learn about their traditions and culture, much of which has remained unchanged for centuries. 

Upon reaching Kuang Si Waterfall, relax and enjoy the beautiful natural surroundings. The jungle and dense woods surrounding the falls is perfect for exploring on foot. For the adventurous, it is possible to walk to the top of the falls via a steep track where stunning views await you at the top. 

These waterfalls cascade down a multilevel limestone formation creating a series of turquoise blue pools perfect for swimming in on a hot day (Note: when bathing please be respectful, wear a sarong and be careful not to show too much skin). 

Before you leave you might like to visit the bear sanctuary which is next to the falls, run by Free The Bears Fund Inc. There are currently 23 Asiatic Black Bears living in the sanctuary, which has saved them from poaching. The main threat to these bears is poaching due to the use of their bile in Chinese medicine. You can read about their habits and observe their playful nature, whilst learning about the difficulties they are facing. 

The rest of the day is free at leisure in Luang Prabang.

Overnight in Luang Prabang

8 Day 8: Luang Prabang Departure (B)

In the morning enjoy free time at leisure to walk around the town or do some last minute shopping. Your guide and private car will meet you at your hotel and transfer you to the airport for your departure flight.

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