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Mekong Passages

Introduction                                                                                                                                                                                           

Mekong - the source of life for many of Southeast Asia’s people and our journey will chronicle portions of the mighty river starting at the Golden Triangle and ending in the vast Mekong Delta of Vietnam.  We’ll take a few side trips off the Mekong to tributaries and must see sights along the way like Karen Villages in Thailand, Angkor Wat in Cambodia.  In Vietnam we’ll make side trips to Ho Chi Minh City, resistance fighter areas of the Indochina war as well as a full exploration of the Mekong Delta.  Mekong, life blood of Southeast Asia and home to millions.


Brief Itinerary

Day 1: Bangkok - Chiang Rai - Elephant Ride in Karen village
Day 2: Chiang Rai - Chiang Saen - Mea Sai - Golden Triangle
Day 3: Golden Triangle - Chiang Saen - Houay Sai/Laos
Day 4: Houay Sai - Pak Beng
Day 5: Pak Beng - Kamu Lodge
Day 6: Kamu Lodge - Pak Ou Cave - Luang Prabang
Day 7: Khao Niew Offering - LuangPrabangCity Tour - Tad Kuang Si - Vientiane  
Day 8: VientianeCity Tour - BuddhaPark
Day 9: Vientiane - Pakse – Wat Phou – Don Khong
Day 10:Don Khong - Don Khone - Don Det - Khone Phapheng - Boat to see dolphin-Veun Kham
Day 11: Veunkham - Kratie, Cambodia
Day 12: Kratie to Phnom Penh
Day 13: Phnom Penh - Siem Reap
Day 14: Banteay Srey - Kbal Spean - Sunset over Tonle Sap
Day 15: Siem Reap - Phnom Penh - Tuol Sleng Prison Museum - Killing Fields
Day 16: Phnom Penh City tour - Chau Doc/Vietnam
Day 17: Chau Doc - Long Xuyen - Can Tho 
Day 18: Can Tho – South China Sea – Can Tho
Day 19: Can Tho - Ho Chi Minh City
Day 20:  Ho Chi Minh City Tour
Day 21: Ho Chi Minh City - Tay Ninh - Cu Chi Tunnels - Ho Chi Minh City
Day 22: Ho Chi Minh City Departure


Day to Day Itinerary


Day 1: Bangkok - Chiang Rai - Elephant Ride in Karen village

On you arrival from the flight from Bangkok, you are met at the airport in Chiang Rai and transfer to the hotel, check in and enjoy lunch.

After lunch, we leave by minibus to Chiang Rai boat landing. Here, we travel by long tail boat up the KokRiver, a tributary of Mekong. We’ll stop to visit temple located in a beautiful cave, and continue to a Karen(long neck) hill tribe village and elephant camp. We enjoy one hour elephant ride around the village.  By the end of day, we return by long tail boat to Chiang Rai and in the evening visit the night market.


Accommodation: Hotel or Guesthouse from our LIST
Transit
: 1 - 1.5 hours by mini bus or car/ boat journey varies by flow of Kok River/1 hour elephant ride
Meal plan:
L


Day 2: Chiang Rai - Mae Sai - Golden Triangle - Chiang Saen  

We start our trip with a drive north to the border with Myanmar at Mae Sai and on our drive we’ll depart the main highway for the panoramic drive directly along the border mountain and arrive in town and take lunch in Mae Sai. 

We then continue on to the OpiumMuseum located near the Golden Triangle for a visit and understanding of the Poppy, while some think of it as a medicinal drug and others as an addiction ruining lives, the museum even has a field for you to see!   We’ll depart from here and a very short drive will take us to the photo spot along the Mekong – The Golden Triangle, where Thailand, Laos and Myanmar intersect. 

We’ll then visit Chiang Saen Museum which houses a remarkable selection of ancient Buddha images and antiques.  We then visit nearby Wat Chedi Luang and Wat Phra Thaat Jom Kitti by climbing up 383 steps to the Hilltop Pagoda containing a Buddha relic where we will enjoy sunset over Thailand and Myanmar.  While on the hilltop, visitors can enjoy a good view of Chiang Saen and the MekongRiver.

We overnight in Chiang Saen.


Accommodation: Hotel or Guesthouse from our LIST
Transit
: 4 hours by car
Trekking
time: 1 to 2 hours
Trekking
difficulty: 383 steps!
Meal plan:
B, L


Day 3: Golden Triangle - Chiang Saen - Houay Sai/Laos

We enjoy our breakfast at the hotel and then take a short drive to where we embark on a local boat for a glide down the Mekong.  We will clear customs and immigration in Thailand and as well upon our arrival in Houay Sai, then check into our hotel and have lunch.

After lunch, we depart by car to visit Souvan Nakon Kham Buddha statues which have been enshrined since 5th century.  On the way, we stop over to visit Pra Pha Buddha located at the side of the steep cliff on the bank of the MekongRiver. We continue to visit different minority villages only found in the north of Laos such as Thai Lublack Mouser at Houei Ong village, white Mouser at Nam Ti village, Khmu village.  We return to Houeisai in the late afternoon.


Accommodation:
Hotel or Guesthouse from our LIST
Transit
: 1 – 2 hours car, boat journey time depends on the Mekong flow
Trekking
time: 1 hour
Trekking
difficulty: Easy
Meal plan:
B, L

Day 4: Houay Sai - Pak Beng

Our choice for downstream cruising is with Luang Say Cruise from Houay Sai to Kamu Lodge.  The Luang Say boat departs from Houei Say pier at 09:00 hrs for a cruise down the MekongRiver to our overnight stop at Pak Beng. Along the voyage we stop to visit and admire the authentic rural life of hill tribe settlements.  A delicious Buffet lunch is served on board.  The boat will arrive at Luang Say Lodge in Pak Beng before sunset for overnight stop.  Dinner is served at terrace overlooking the MekongRiver.

        Luang Sai is not available from 01 to 30 June every year for annual maintenance.  Luang Say is also the preferred choice of travel in the region and during maintenance time and when Luang Say is fully booked; we provide passage on local private or shared boat to Luang Prabang on this section of the trip.


·         From 01 May 07 - 30 Sep 07 departs every Monday and Friday
·         From 01 Oct 07 to 30 Apr 08 and 1-31 Oct 08 departs every Monday, Thursday & Friday
·         From 01 May 08 - 30 Sep 08 departs every Monday and Friday

Accommodation: Luang Say Lodge
Transit
: 7 – 8 hours by boat
Walking
time: limited
Walking
difficulty: Easy
Meal plan:
B, L, D

Day 5: Pak Beng - Kamu Lodge

Breakfast is served at terrace around 07:30. In the morning, we’ll visit the morning market (Optional) of Pak Beng where the nearby villagers and hill tribes buy and exchange their goods.

Luangsay Boat departs at 08:30 for her second part of trip.  Boat makes another stop at Ban Baw to observe the processing traditional rice alcohol.  Lunch is again served on board; then the boat cruise to KamuVillage.  The boat will arrived at 14h00 in Kamu Lodge for the check in. In the afternoon you may choose to participate in the different activities. You will be rewarded with a very original Lao experience.
·          Rice planting and harvesting in surrounding rice fields
·          Gold panning (January to June) in the Mekong. Anything you find is yours!
·          Jungle walks to search for medicinal plants
·          Trekking through the forest to waterfalls (two hour hike and boat ride)
·          Traditional fishing techniques. You can sample your catch for dinner!
·          Local village visit
·          Archery contest

We enjoy dinner and overnight at Kamu lodge

Accommodation: Kamu Lodge
Transit
: 5.5 hours by boat
Walking
time: depends on the activity chosen
Walking
difficulty: Easy
Meal plan:
B, L, D

Day 6: Kamu Lodge - Pak Ou Cave - Luang Prabang

Breakfast at lodge, after some time to relax and a visit to the village of Kamu, cruise down to Luang Prabang (UNESCO world heritage city) by Kamu boat to Pak Ou village at the mouth of Nam Ou River, boat stops for a trip to visit Tam Ting or Pak Ou Cave Caves of thousand Buddha’s’ then arrive Luang Prabang before lunch.

We check into the hotel and enjoy lunch in town.  After lunch, you are free to relax, catch up on email, personal journals or simply stroll about and enjoy Luang Prabang.  We suggest a perfect afternoon in Luang Prabang by ascending to the top of Phou Si for the view and after returning to town, a massage to rejuvenate your muscles followed by a cold Beer Lao at one of the many places in town.  In the evening, the night market is a must see, local handicrafts and all sorts of souvenirs can be bought.

 Accommodation: Hotel or Guesthouse from our List
Transit
: 5.5 hours by boat
Walking
time: limited
Walking
difficulty: Easy
Meal plan:
B, L

* Note:  our suggested afternoon is at your choice, entry fee to Phou Si, massage and Beer Lao are not included!  Also of note is the difficulty to ascend Phou Si, lots and lots of stairs!

Day 7: Khao Niew Offering - LuangPrabangCity Tour - Tad Kuang Si – Vientiane

We start the day in the early morning at 05:30 for Khao Niew Offering. This unique experience gives us the chance to offer sticky rice to the adolescent monks and to join the tradition of Laotian people. We continue to visit Phosi Morning Market before returning to hotel for breakfast

Following breakfast, we’ll visit old RoyalPalace which was built in 1904 during the early French colonial era as a residence for King Sisavang Vong and his family. The building features a blend of Lao motifs and French beaux-arts styles. We continue to Wat Visoun which was built by Visounnarat in 1513. It is the oldest operating temple in Luang Prabang. We finish the city tour at Wat Xieng Thong which was built by King Setthathirat in 1560. It is Luang Prabang’s most magnificent temple. We then drive east to Thai Lu village of Ban Phanom, which is well known for cotton and silk hand – weaving. We finish our half day tour at Ban Xang Khong, Sa paper making village and back to the town by lunch time.

We enjoy lunch in town. We then continue by car to Kuang Si Waterfall. This beautiful spot has a series of cool, turquoise pools and beautiful waterfall surrounded by a forested area. Swimming is recommended and don’t forget to visit young tiger and bears by the entrance gate. We take a walk to nearby Khmu village, Ban Thapene that lies around some of the most beautiful pools of Tad Kuang Xi.  On our return, we take a late flight to Vientiane and upon arrival check into our hotel.

Accommodation: Overnight at your proposed Hotel from our List
Transit
:  ½ hour to and from the morning offering/ 2 hours to and from Kuang Si Waterfall, 1 hour flight to Vientiane
Walking time:
2 hours
Walking
difficulty: Easy
Meal plan:
B, L

Day 8: VientianeCity Tour and Buddha Park

In the morning time, we take a sightseeing tour of Vientiane, to visit religious museums of Wat Sisaket, the oldest temple to have been survived from the Siamese war of 1828 and its cloister contains more than 8000 Buddha statues; Ho Prakeo, the former home-temple of the Emerald Buddha statue or Pra Keo from the early time of Lane Xang Kingdom until 18th century, but today it contains a collection of Buddha statues, antiques and all artifacts found in around Vientiane; That Luang Stupa, the single most important monument in Laos, which was built to cover the original small stupa containing a piece of the chest bone of Buddha, That Luang serves as the main and symbolic stupa in Laos. It's also our national symbol and recognizable throughout the world, gathering place for national Buddhism ceremony. It's also the biggest stupa in Laos; Patouxay (Arch de Triumph), built quite recently in commemoration of those who died during the wars in the past and it is today as the land-mark of Vientiane.

We make a lunch stop at a riverside restaurant.

In the afternoon, we continue the sigthseeing tour to Carol Cassidy House, a Gallery weaving Lao textiles and natural dye making process from A-Z.  We then transfer to BuddhaPark on the Mekong of which Buddha statues are built in various shapes and sizes. One of them is the largest reclining Buddha in Laos. They were built by a Lao man in order to teach following generations about religions worldwide after his study in India. A larger park was built in Nong Khai, Thailand and his body has been kept there.

We return to Vientiane in the afternoon. We recommend an early night as you will take an early flight to Pakse the next day.

Accommodation: Overnight at your proposed Hotel from our List
Transit
: 2 hours by mini bus or car
Walking time
: 4 hours
Walking
difficulty: Easy
Meal plan:
B, L

Day 9: Vientiane - Pakse – Wat Phou – Don Khong

We depart on the early flight to Pakse and upon arrival, our guide will meet you at the airport. Our breakfast is followed by a brief of our itinerary. We then embark on a motor boat for one and half hour ride to Champasak. From here, we take a tuk tuk to Wat Phou.

Wat Phou is a pre – angkorian temple complex occupying a dramatic mountainside site over looking the Mekong valley. The wat is divided into lower and upper parts and is joined by a steep stairway.

We return to Champasak and continue our boat cruise KhongIsland for overnight. KhongIsland is the largest island of 4000 Island (Si Phan Don), one of nature’s marvels. Here the Mekong suddenly fans out, forming an intricate, beautiful network of channels, rocks and sandbars and island of 14km wide.

Accommodation: Overnight at your proposed Hotel from our List
Transit
: 1 hour by mini car and tuktuk/ 4 ½ hour boat, 80 minute flight
Walking time
: 1 hour
Walking
difficulty: Easy
Meal plan:
B, L

Day 10:Don Khong - Don Khone - Don Det - Khone Phapheng - Boat to see dolphin – Veun Kham

We are excited about islands discover by boat today. We take a boat cruise to Done Khone for 3 hours. A lunch stop is made in this island. We’ll visit the old railway and Sompamit Waterfall. Afterward we cruise to Don Det and continue to Ban Nakasang. Here, we take a short tuk tuk drive to Veunkham.

We stop at Khone Phapheng Waterfall for a drink before continuing on boat cruise to see dolphin. Si Phan Don is home to the rare Irrawady dolphins, which can often be spotted at the southern tip of Don Khon, along with tow impressive waterfalls.

We spend the night at Khone Phapheng Resort. From here we can hear the sound of the waterfall.

Accommodation:Khone Phapheng Resort
Transit
: 0.5 hours by mini car / 5 hours boat
Walking time
: 1 hour
Walking
difficulty: Easy
Meal plan:
B, L

Day 11: Veunkham - Kratie, Cambodia

This morning we leave for the border. After checking out of Laos we cross the river to check into Cambodia before boarding a boat with our new Cambodian guide. The border crossing itself is of interest, it’s very rustic and locals that cross here pay the fees sometimes with vegetables to the border officials!

Down river we stop at Stung Treng for lunch. Back on board we continue down stream to Kratie possibly seeing the dolphins if we missed them the day before.

Accommodation:Santepheap Hotel
Transit
: 5 - 6 hours boat
Meal plan:
B, L

Day 12: Kratie to Phnom Penh

Today we continue in our boat to Phnom Penh and check into the comfortable Cambodiana Hotel. We pass along many villages and temples along the way and we arrive in Phnom Penh late afternoon.  There are many good restaurants to choose from in Phnom Penh.  We are only transiting in Phnom Penh but will return for a full visit before continuing by Mekong to Vietnam.

Accommodation: Overnight at your proposed Hotel from our List
Transit
: 5 - 6 hours boat
Meal plan:
B, L
 

Day 13: Phnom Penh - Siem Reap

We catch an early 8am flight to Siem Reap. On arrival, we will head out to Angkor Wat so we can explore this majestic temple throughout the morning while it is still cool and has fewer tourists. We then back to town for check-in, lunch and a nap if needed.

In the afternoon, we head to Angkor Thom, the famous walled city to see the many fascinating temples within its borders, including Bayon temple with its spectacular faces. Watch the sunset over Angkor Wat, or climb Phnom Bakheng and watch the sunset from on high.

Accommodation
: Hotel of your choice from our List
Transit
: 1 hour by mini car
Walking time
:  3 - 4 hours
Walking
difficulty: Easy
Meal plan:
B, L

Day 14: Banteay Srey - Kbal Spean - Sunset over Tonle Sap

Our journey today will be slightly north of the main Angkor complex and we are headed to Banteay Srey Temple.  From here, we then travel to Kbal Spean, an often forgotten complex and we then continue back to Siem Reap.  We are then off to Tonle Sapa boat ride to some floating villages.  If we are short of time, we’ll ascend the active temple near the lakeside for a panoramic view of the land and sunset.

Accommodation: Hotel of your choice from our List
Transit
: 4 hours by mini car / 1 hour boat
Walking time
: 2 hours
Walking
difficulty: Easy
Meal plan:
B, L

Day 15: Siem Reap - Phnom Penh - TuolSlengPrisonMuseum - Killing Fields


We will set off early to catch a 9:25am flight to Phnom Penh arriving 10:15 where we will be met by an air conditioned van and our guide. We’ll head straight out to the Tuol Sleng Prison Museum where our guide will explain the history of the Khmer Rouge and walk us through the different museum displays. We will then head out to the Killing Fields, where a memorial stupa and shallow pits remind visitors of the thousands killed under the Pol Pot Regime. Returning to town we will check into our hotel and freshen up.

The afternoon is at your leisure.  You can catch up on your travel diary or maybe reconnect to the world by email; then again, you can just relax by the river and enjoy a meal from the numerous cafes.

Accommodation: Hotel of your choice from our List
Transit
: 2 hours by mini car, 1 hour flight
Walking time
: 2 hours
Walking
difficulty: Easy
Meal plan:
B, L

Day 16: Phnom Penh City tour - Chau Doc/Vietnam

Breakfast at hotel is followed by a city tour. A visit to Phnom Penh is a very interesting experience indeed. We’ll visit the Wat Phnom, National museum, Silver Pagoda and RoyalPalace. We then break for lunch.

Afternoon we embark the boat and head down river to Chau Doc, checking out of Cambodia and into Vietnam along the way. The boat departs at 1pm and arrives in Chau Doc at 5pm. On arrival, we check into hotel, enjoy dinner and take a walk along the riverside park where many local people come to enjoy the scenery.

Accommodation: Overnight at your proposed Hotel from our List
Transit
: 1 hour by mini car/ 4 hours by boat
Meal plan:
B, L


Day 17: Chau Doc - Long Xuyen - Can Tho 


After breakfast we head out to Long Xuyen and embark further down the Mekong. Along the way we see the unique farms where fish are bred in wooden cages suspended under floating houses on the river.  We take time to explore the Long Xuyen market, one of the most bustling floating markets in Mekong Delta with hundreds of small boats bargaining and jostling for space as owners attempt to sell their goods. We continue on again towards Can Tho where we spend the night.

Accommodation: Overnight at your proposed Hotel from our List
Transit
: 4 hours by boat
Meal plan:
B, L

Day 18: Can Tho – South China Sea – Can Tho

Today we travel along the last section of the Mekong Delta to where the fresh waters of the Mekong mix with the South China Sea.  Like the minority markets in the north of the country, the Mekong Delta is dotted with markets and we will visit one on our way to the end of the river today as well.  Our voyage along the Mekong has been a wonder and we return to Can Tho for another night.

Accommodation: Hotel of your choice from our List
Transit
:  4 – 6 hours by boat
Meal plan:
B, L

Day 19: Can Tho - Ho Chi Minh City

Rising early to the sounds of the Delta coming to life for another day, we breakfast and start our trip with a boat cruise on sparking streams along the endless waterway of Mighty Mekong River to Cai Be floating market. There will be hundreds of boats loaded with fruits, vegetables and fish jostling for trade.  Sellers advertise their wares by crying out across the waters. We visit the lush orchards and are treated to a delicious tropical fruits. Continue on to HCM city in the afternoon.

Accommodation: Hotel of your choice from our List
Transit
: 1 hour by mini car/ 4 hours by boat
Meal plan:
B, L


Day 20:  Ho Chi Minh City Tour

After breakfast at the hotel, we start a sightseeing tour to the Reunification Palace, which was once the symbol of South Vietnamese Government until end of April 1975, and some French colonial structures including the Notre Dame Cathedral – a neo-Romanesque with two 40m-high square towers tipped and the Old Central Post Office.

We break for lunch and then continue to visit Cho Lon orChina Town – a jewel box of interesting Chinese-style temples such as Thien Hau (the Protector of Mothers and Newborns and Quan Am Pagodas (the Goddess of Mercy) – the most active pagodas in Cho Lon. Emperor Jade Pagoda – one of the most spectacular and colorful pagodas in HCMC and the War Remnants Museum. We end the tour at Ben Thanh Market – a huge indoor market selling all manner of good surrounded by one of the city liveliest area.

We end our day by late afternoon. If you feel like thirsty after a long day sight seeing, the local beer Ba Ba Ba (333) is sure to satisfy!


Accommodation: Your choice of hotel from our List
Transit
: short journeys around HCM
Walking
time: 3 - 4 hours
Walking difficulty:
Easy
Meal plan:
B/L
 

Day 21: Ho Chi Minh City - Tay Ninh - Cu Chi Tunnels - Ho Chi Minh City

Today we drive west to Tay Ninh, the head quarter of one of Vietnam’s most interesting religions, Cao Daism. The Cao Dai Great Temple is one of the most striking structures in all of Asia. On arrival we attend mid-day prayer session but will not disturb the worshippers. The hall is filled of colored robes, a symbol of the curious combination of the Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism – Vietnam’s Triple Religions.

On the way back, we visit the Cu Chi Tunnels, an underground tunnel network constructed by Vietnamese fighters during the struggle for independence. The tunnels contained hospitals, accommodation, etc. and were used as a military base for the Vietcong in the American War. Cu Chi has become legendary and a place of pilgrimage for Vietnamese school children and communist party cadres.

Accommodation: Your choice of hotel from our List
Transit
: 4 hours by car
Walking
time: 2 - 3 hours
Walking difficulty:
Easy, tunnels are slightly challenging
Meal plan:
  B/L

Day 22: Ho Chi Minh City Departure

After

breakfast at the hotel, you are free until a short transfer to the airport for departure


Transit: short transfer by car
Meal plan:  B

Our trip includes

  • English speaking guide
  • Accommodation as indicated
  • Meals as indicated
  • Transfer and pickup airport
  • Transportation by car/minivan/local transport available and boat
  • Tour as indicated
  • Entrance fee

Our trip excludes

  • Domestic and international flights
  • Visa & visa arrangement
  • Meals not indicated
  • Drinking water, soft drink and alcohol
  • Tips & personal expenses

Prices: contact info@remoteasia.com