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Cambodia & Laos Mekong Adventure
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Siem Reap & Angkor
We leave Bangkok and make way on the long journey to Siem Reap, Cambodia. The scenery is spectacular and once we cross the border the contrast between Thailand and Cambodia is immediate.
Angkor, the former capital of the Khmer Kingdom, is one of the wonders of the archeological world. Rediscovered at the end of the last century by French explorers, this vast ruined city is becoming one of the most popular sites in South East Asia. We spend one full day with our professional local guide visiting some of the highlights of this ancient capital, like Sunrise at the magnificent temple of Angkor Wat, the enigmatic Bayon within the walled city of Angkor Thom and Ta Prohm, also known as the 'Tomb Raider' temple.
Enjoy a traditional meal of Khmer food either at the Planeterra-supported New Hope project or in a local home. With your free time, opt to visit the Tonle Sap floating village or the Angkor Museum. Be sure to enjoy the excellent restaurants and lively nightlife here.
This morning we travel by public bus to Phnom Penh, taking in points of interest along the way. While in Phnom Penh we will witness the darker side of Cambodian history with guided visits to Choeng Ek, the site of the infamous Killing Fields and Tuol Sleng prison, the notorious Khmer Rouge prison where thousands of Cambodians perished.
Other options include taking a look at the city with visits to the Royal Palace, Silver Pagoda or the National Museum. The huge Russian Market is packed with souvenirs and all the necessities of daily life. Late afternoon is a great time to visit Wat Phnom where the sanctuary for which the city is named once stood. It is a Buddhist shrine, although a Taoist goddess resides here. Numerous monkeys dwell here, also, and it is one of the pleasure spots for residents of the city. A drink in one of the many riverside café’s watching the sunset is a fitting finale to the day.
Our hotel in Phnom Penh is located right next to the Central Market and a 10 minute walk to the riverfront.
An early departure takes us by road to Kratie. En route, we pass through Skuon (a small town famous for its delicious spiders), where it's possible to sample an eight-legged snack. It's recommended that you eat these furry arachnids as you would a crab, by cracking the body open and pulling the legs off one by one - delicious! Once in Kratie, there is the option of trying to spot rare Irrawaddy river dolphins.
Our accommodations in Kratie is located on the banks of the mighty Mekong. The hotel is centrally located within easy walking distance of the local markets and many restaurants.
Today we travel by bus to the Cambodian/Laos border.
After completing necessary border formalities, we continue our journey to Don Khong Island. Don Khong, with its rice fields, small villages and ancient wats, is wonderfully scenic and perfect for cycling. It is also famous for brewing some of the country's finest national drink, lao-lao. Very fiery, a shot of lao-lao is usually followed with a plain water chaser.
Our accommodations in Don Khong has views overlooking the Mekong River. Electricity is not 100% reliable on this island and it is not uncommon that we experience power cuts. We are very centrally located within an easy walking distance of restaurants, early morning fish markets, internet and convenience stores.
Leaving the island we travel through the beautiful province of Champasak, once the capital of the Lao kingdom and home to Wat Phu. We head to Pakse and then cross the Mekong River to visit Wat Phu with our local guide. Dating from the Angkorian period this is one of the most important and impressive archaeological sites in Laos.
While spending the night in a typical Lao village environment may not be full of comfort, it gives you a wonderful real insight into local culture and life that a hotel stay can never provide. When it comes time to sleep, mattresses are placed across the floor in central living area. Each mattress comes with a blanket, a pillow and a mosquito net. Bathroom facilities are shared. The evening meal is eaten together in one of the houses with the food provided being very simple - giving you the chance to experience typical Lao cuisine. A vegetarian option is always served and the second option is typically a pork stirfry. Your local guide will spend time explaining the local life of the people in this village.
On the afternoon of day 9 we fly from Pakse to Luang Prabang.
Here we discover the Laos Buddhist and architectural heritage. You will have the chance to visit some of the most impressive of Luang Prabang’s 32 temples including Vat Vixoun, Vat Sene, and Vat Xiengthong. Climb Phousi Hill and watch the sun set over the horizon or rise at dawn to watch the monks walk through the city collecting offerings of food from the locals.
Make sure to find the time to browse the colorful textile galleries and relax in the town’s many small cafés.
We will have an included trip to the Ethnology Museum and a trip to the stunning Kuang Si waterfall with a local guide.
We overnight three nights in Luang Prabang. Our hotel is centrally located within walking distance to Luang Prabang Night Market (Black Market in Laos).
A scenic drive through winding mountains will take us to the picturesque town of Vang Vieng. Nestled along the Nam Song river and surrounded by limestone karsts. Watch the sunset over the river as well as explore some of the many caves in the area.
Our hotel in Vang Vieng is nicely located by the Nam Song river, with spectacular sunset views.
Leaving early afternoon, a 3 hour drive takes us to one of Asia's sleepiest capital cities. Enjoy the highlights of Vientiane including Wat Sisaket (one of the city's oldest and most fascinating temples), Phat That Luang (Lao's national symbol and one of its most sacred sites), and the Morning Market (an all-day affair selling virtually everything).
We overnight in Vientiane. Our hotel is located in a peaceful corner of Vientiane within walking distance to riverside, night market, and museum.
In the late afternoon of Day 14 we will cross the "Friendship Bridge" back into Thailand to board the overnight train to Bangkok. Beds on the train are dormitory style, with bunks on two layers along the side of the train carriage. There are curtains along each bunk for privacy. Your luggage will be accessible during the journey. The train has air-conditioning and clean bedding is provided for each bunk. There are both western style and asian style toilets at the end of each carriage. Food and drinks are served on the train but you can always bring your own food from the shops and restaurants near the train station.
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