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Northeastern Laos Adventure

Indulge yourself in the rich culture and nature of authentic Laos from vibrant temples to lush jungle. Luang Prabang offers you plenty of chances to take great photos and enjoy great food. Head to the North for Nong Khiaw, a piece of paradise with meandering river, green mountain backdrop and local villages. Travel back in time to discover the most important war-shelter cave complexes, set in beautiful gardens backed by fabulous karst scenery. Head upriver by boat deeper into remote jungle looking for wild and endangered animals.

HIGHLIGHTS

Various activities on sites

  • Trekking to Tad Mork waterfall, 100 waterfall, and Nam ET – Phou Louey NPA
  • Boating the leisure Nam Ou River and admiring the life along the riverbanks
  • Visiting Viengxay Cave and learning about the history of Indochina secret war
  • Visiting the mysterious plain of jars and learning about its origin

Unforgettable moments

  • Admiring the life of various ethnic tribe people along the way
  • Reaching the peak of Phou Louey mountain and enjoying the untouched bio-system
  • Seeing the famous Viengxay Cave and learning about the way Pathet Laos fight against US Army
  • Admiring the mysterious plain of jars and listening to many rumors behind its origin.

Nature exploration

  • The nature of Nong Khiaw and Muang Ngoi and the life along the calming Nam Ou River
  • The virgin nature of Nam Et – Phou Louey NPA
  • The nature of Xieng Khuang & Samneua

Culture experience

  • The never-fading culture of Luang Prabang and the history of Lane Xang kingdom
  • The culture of various tribe people in the northern Laos
  • The culture of hunting village living inside Nam Et – Phou Louey NPA

Map

Detailed schedule

Day 1 - Luang Prabang - Nong Khiaw - Muang Ngoi

In the morning, we start from your hotel in Luang Prabang and transfer northbound to Nong Khiaw 

Along the way, we will take a left turn at Ban Bom onto the dirt road to Ban Na Yang (12km from the main road), which is the Thai Lue minority village. This is the very unique village with the traditional house and hand-weaving technique. 

We then continue further to Nong Khiaw and arrive there around noon.

In the afternoon, we will take another 1-hour boat trip upstream Nam Ou River to Muang Ngoi. 

Upon arrival, check in your hotel before walking to the nearby Tham Kaang, which is famous for its supernatural powers, the important worshipped place of the locals
Free for the rest of the day for your own exploration.

Overnight in Muang Ngoi

Notes

+ Luang Prabang to Nong Khiaw: 165KM - 3-hour transfer 

+ Nong Khiaw to Muang Ngoi: 1.2-hour boat trip
 

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Day 2 - Muang Ngoi - Tad Mork - Nong Khiaw

After a local breakfast, take the cruise downstream to the nearby village. Here we take some time to look around and if during a weekday pay the local school a visit to see the charming children as they take part in their classes.

After this we continue onwards to Tad Mork which is located close to the ethnic Khmu village of Ban Sop Kong, an hour trek from the river. At the waterfall we shall have time to swim and enjoy a picnic lunch.

In the afternoon, we continue the cruise to Ban Sopvan, which is home to the Tai Lue people. The village is located right next to the river, opposite the village on the riverbank is a farm which is home to many different types of animal including pigs, chickens, ducks, and buffalo. We pay them a visit so it is worthwhile bringing some food along if you would like to feed them and surely very appreciated by both the animals and the villagers.

The last part of today cruise is 30 minutes cruise down to Nong Khiaw. We arrive in Nong Khiaw by around 5:00pm just in time before darkness descends.
 

Notes

Approximate: 1-hour boat trip | 3.5-hour walk

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Day 3 - Nong Khiaw - 100 Waterfalls

Start this day of adventure with a peaceful boat ride on the Nam Ou River where you will be able to explore a small Lao village along the riverside. 

Learn about the villagers and their way of life along this Northern Laos River before beginning the '100 Waterfalls Adventure Trail'!

Walking through small streams and rice paddies, you will arrive at the bottom of the 100 Waterfalls which were only first explored in October 2008! 

For the next few hours you will see only water and jungle and hear the constant sound of clear waterfall cascades. The pools around you are very inviting for a refreshing splash.

Your guide will lead you through the cascades and prepare a local style lunch that you can enjoy on the falls surrounded by amazingly green nature. 

A small village trail on the top of the '100 Waterfalls' will lead us on our hike back down into the valley, offering wide views over the expansive Nam Ou valley.

Once back in the village we will have some more time to experience the daily life of the Nam Ou riverside village before heading back to Nong Khiaw (Nong Khiau) by boat.

Notes

20-minute transfer | 4-hour trek | 2-hour boat trip

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Day 4 - Nong Khiaw - Muang Hiam

Today, we will drive through the most rural and least developed part of Laos via Vieng Kham to Muang Hiam. 

These back roads are a perfect way to venture off the beaten track and explore the real Laos. We see very few other travelers, mostly rural dwellers who are just as interested in finding out about our lives as we are of theirs. 

The drive can be challenging on some parts of our journey due to poor road conditions; however the verdant and rugged mountain scenery combined with the colorful local population makes for a memorable experience. 

Arriving in Muang Hiam, we will check in the simple guesthouse to take some rest before taking a walk explore this small village. 

If time permits, we can visit the nearby hot spring, which is very popular among local people. If you wish, you can take a dip to refresh like the locals.

Overnight in Muang Hiam
 

Notes

Distance: 170KM | 4-5-hour transfer | MAPS

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Day 5 - Nam Et - Phou Louey Trekking - Day 1

Morning

The National Park’s English-speaking guide and driver will meet clients at around 8:00am at the guesthouse in Muang Hiem.

First, visit the National Park’s headquarters and Visitor Center in Muang Hiam. The guide will share a presentation of the Nam Et-Phou Louey National Park and introduce the on-the-ground efforts in protecting wildlife.

After around 1.5-hour drive along curvy roads through mountainous landscape and villages surrounding the National Park, you will arrive at Ban Nam Soy village.

From Ban Nam Soy, we will start walking along a 5 km trail overlooking agricultural fields to Ban Navene, a remote Khmu village. A village tok tok (a hand tractor used for plowing rice paddies and convertible to a transportation vehicle) might join us and give us a lift (depending on the availability).

Once in Ban Navane, meet with the village ecotourism team and guide. Enjoy late lunch in Ban Navene, hosted by the village cooking group at the village visitor center.

Afternoon

After lunch, guides will show you around the village and you will be introduced to your homestay/dinner family. Enjoy the rest of the afternoon exploring the village.

Evening-Night

You will spend the evening in the village and experience the tranquility of life in a remote, off-the-grid village with limited electricity. Dinner with the local family.

Notes

Bring pictures and maps from home and your travels to show to your homestay family.

Overnight: It’s possible to be a guest of a homestay family, or to enjoy more privacy and overnight in village visitor center. Please inform guide regarding your preferences.

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Day 6 - Nam Et - Phou Louey Trekking - Day 2

Morning

After an early breakfast and saying your goodbyes to your homestay family, we depart for the first of the two-day ascent to the peak of the Phou Louey Mountain.

The first 5 km of the trail climbs up through a mosaic of shifting agricultural fields. Your guide will explain about local agriculture, which villagers depend on for both their food and income.

Afternoon

After approximately a 2-hour walk, the trail enters the National Park. Trek through the forest for around 2 hours passing by the former ranger substation until arriving at Tad Ang Waterfall, an amazing waterfall that has bowl-like jungle infinity pool. Enjoy swimming while the village cook will prepare a lunch.

After lunch, the trail continues a gradual ascent until finally reaching the first campsite where you will stop for the night, Houay Kaneng camp. The camp is located nearby a waterfall where you can relax and refresh. Walk silently to the waterfall as you might spot some animals if you are lucky.

Evening

Follow the guide to the nearby camera trap to change the memory card. Once back at the camp see the camera trap photos and enjoy a traditional Khmu dinner by campfire prepared by the village cooks.

Night

Overnight in bamboo huts (two people per hut).

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Day 7 - Nam Et - Phou Louey Trekking - Day 3

Morning

Wake up with the first light and enjoy breakfast to the sounds of early morning bird calls.

Please be prepared to wake up early and get prepared in a timely fashion as today is the challenge day! The final climb up to the Cloud Forest and Phou Louey Peak is a very steep 5-6 hour climb (average slope +18%), followed by a very steep 4-5 hour descent (average slope -17%). The relatively short 12 km trek of today can easily take 10 hours or more!

The Phou Louey summit is a Cloud Forest, and as the name states the peak is usually covered in clouds, however, if you are lucky with good weather conditions and clear sky, you may see a breathtaking view of thick, old growth forest covering “Forever Mountain” for as far as the eye can see. Please do not pick any plants from the Phou Louey Peak area and please stay on the trail to reduce the footprints on this rare plant community.

Afternoon

After 6.5km climb (5-6 hours), enjoy lunch nearby the summit. At the summit additional camera trap will be opened to change memory cards. Phou Louey is known for its abundance of wildlife, and so the chance to see some great camera trap photos of different species is quite high. Together with the guide view the wildlife camera trap images.

After enjoying the wonders of the cloud forest, the trail descends down to Tad Loy camp, which is 5.5km (4-5 hours) from the top.

Arrival to the camp in late afternoon. Enjoy free time to relax and bath in the nearby river.

Evening – Dinner

Enjoy a traditional Khmu dinner prepared by the village cook and porters.

Enjoy the dinner at the campfire and the wild outback of Nam Et-Phou Louey. Your guides may tell you some Khmu folktales and stories about dragons, wildlife and ghosts.

Night

Overnight in bamboo huts (two people per hut).

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Day 8 - Nam Et - Phou Louey Trekking - Day 4

Wake up early and before breakfast walk up to a nearby mountain to check for wildlife photos on camera traps set there, bird watch, and possibly have the opportunity to hear the calls of the rare Northern White-Cheeked Gibbons.

After returning back to the campsite, enjoy breakfast. Today you will trek from the foothills of Phou Louey Mountain across the rugged and mountainous landscape to The Nests campsite located nearby the Poung Nied saltlick and the wildlife observation tower.

The route traverses some beautiful forest and landscapes and trench remains from the war. The trek is approximately 12km and takes around 7hours with a steep ascent to the top of Phou Phamai Mountain Pass (Elev. 1’500m) followed by a gradual descent down to the camp.

The top of Phou Phamai Mountain Pass offers great view over the National Park. Enjoy a picnic lunch with a view.

Afternoon

You will arrive at The Nests camp in the mid-afternoon and will be shown to your accommodation – the hanging spherical “Nest”. Enjoy free time to relax, bath in the nearby river and enjoy the nature.

Dinner

Enjoy traditional Khmu dinner prepared by the village cooking group at around 6-7 PM. Dinner is eaten at the camp and is not allowed at the observation tower.

Evening

After dinner, you will receive a briefing about wildlife viewing at the Poung Nied salt lick – one of the largest salt licks in the National Park. The guides will inform tourists about the species of animals they may see and explain the rules and expectations for spotlighting.

It’s important to follow the introduced rules, such as: no talking, no eating at the salt lick observation tower. We will stay at the observation tower for a few hours (depending on your curiosity and patience) until no later than 11:30 pm.

The most common animals that you might spot include Sambar and barking deer (AKA muntjak) and various species of civets, although, if lucky, you may see also other protected animals such as bears, dhole, several species of wild cats and others.

Please wear warm clothes as it can be quite cold in the late evening/night time.

Night

Overnight in The Nests (two people per Nest).

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Day 9 - Nam Et - Phou Louey Trekking - Day 5

Morning

Early morning before breakfast, your guide will offer you two options:

First option, wake up at 6:00 AM walk back to the nearby salt lick to identify different wildlife tracks. Spend approximately an hour in the observation platform, as morning is a great time for bird watching. After, follow the guide to check the camera traps.

Second option, wake up early morning at 5:30 and walk for 20 minutes up the mountain to try your luck to listed to the calls of the critically endangered Northern White Cheeked Gibbons.  Enjoy sunrise and birdwatching from a small viewpoint platform in a tree. At 6:30 follow the guide to check the camera traps.

Once back to the camp, enjoy breakfast and view wildlife camera trap photos taken by the camera trap during the previous night.

Twelve surrounding villages involved in this project receive monetary bonuses in the form of a village development fund based on the number and type of wildlife, and wildlife proof identified and viewed in the camera traps. (This fee is included in the tour price.)

Afternoon – Trek from The Nests to Ban Nam Poung Village

Your final day of trekking takes you along a 7.5 km forest path. Pass by the ranger substation and trek through thick jungle and mixed deciduous forest. The local guide will show you medicinal plants and spot animal tracks along the way.

The trek has a couple moderate ascents before descending into agriculture fields. At the edge of the forest and fields, enjoy a picnic lunch. From here a tok tok (a small tractor used for plowing rice paddies and convertible to a vehicle for transportation) will pick you up and take you through the village rice and corn fields for about 5km to Ban Nam Poung Village, an ethnic Khmu Village, situated on the edge of the national park boundary.

Once in the village your village guides will bid you goodbye and you will be transferred back to Muang Hiam by private truck or van. We will be back in Muang Hiem in the afternoon.

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Day 10 - Muang Hiam - Samneua

After breakfast, we have ample time to take some rest before hopping in the car again and transfer to Samneua.

Along the way, we will visit the standing stones at Hin Tang archeological site. Almost as mysterious as Xieng Khuang's more famous jars, this unique, unfenced collection of standing stones is thought to be at least 1500 years old. Spindly stones up to 3m tall are interspersed with disks that formerly covered funerary sites. With some over a metre in diameter, these 'families' of stones do have a certain magic, and the place is now a Unesco World Heritage Site.

We will arrive in Samneua around noon time to have a short tour around this sleeping mountainous city. The tour 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.

Free for the rest of the day. Overnight in Samneua
 

Notes

Distance: 181KM | 4.5-hour transfer | MAPS

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Day 11 - Samneua - Vieng Xai - Samneua

After breakfast, drive to Viengxay (approximately 1 hour) where you can explore this traditional town and the surrounding beautiful landscape of limestone peaks and forests.

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

We return to Samneua in the late afternoon

Overnight in Sam Neua
 

Notes

Distance: 30KM per way | 45-minute transfer per way | MAPS

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Day 12 - Samneua - Xieng Khuang

After breakfast your guide and private car will meet you at your hotel and you will start the journey by car to Xieng Khouang, taking approximately 7 hours. Along the way enjoy the beautiful scenery and see local village life. 

Xieng Khouang is a town that has been totally rebuilt after it was destroyed during the secret war in Laos. The town is now located 30 km away from where it was originally. 

Along the way, we will make a stop at Muang Kham, to visit the town and also the hot spring if you wish 

Upon arrival, check in your hotel in town.

Overnight in Xieng Khouang
 

Notes

Distance: 235KM | 6-7-hour transfer | MAPS

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Day 13 - Xieng Khuang - Exploration

Early morning, we visit the Central Market of Phonsavanh to watch the different hill tribe people barter and exchange merchandises. 

After breakfast at the hotel, enjoy a half day trip to Muang Khoune, the old provincial capital that was not been destroyed by the American bombings during the secret war. 

Muang Khoun is home to unique sitting giant Buddha as well of some old pagodas that lies in ruins. The foundation and columns of Wat Pia Wat are still standing and close to this site, there is also an old 30m stupa constructed in the Lan Xang/Lanna period. 

In the afternoon, visit the thought-provoking UXO Information Centre, run by British organisation MAG (Mines Advisory Group) that's been helping to clear Laos' unexploded ordnance since 1994. 

The centre's information displays underline the enormity of the bomb drops, and there are also examples of (defused) UXO to ponder.

Xieng Khuang is famous for its mysterious Plain of Jars, a huge archaeological complex littered with mysterious 2000 years old stone jars sized from 70cm up to 3 or 4 meters. 

You have time today to visit the plain of jars Site 1, the biggest and closest to town that opened for tourists.

Spend the rest of the day wander around the small town of Xieng Khuang to admire the life of local people.

Then return to Xieng Khouang and overnight.

Notes

Attention: The Plain of Jars has been heavily bombed during the war and you have to respect all the signs and stay along the defined trails due to bombs, UXO and landmines. 

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Day 14 - Xieng Khuang - Luang Prabang

After breakfast depart to Luang Prabang via the windy zigzagging mountain paths, enjoying the splendid natural scenery of the mountains, the forest and landscape. 

The roads are well paved along the way for a smooth journey; we pass some stunning landscape scenery with a mixture of steep terraced fields and hill villages, we take a few photo stops at some small hill tribe village en route. 

Each hill tribe village in Laos has a different feel, some are more prosperous than others but all have plenty of life. 

We will make a shot stop at Ban Phoudam village, where we can see the two hill tribe minorities of H’Mong and Khamu living in harmony, before driving to the photo stop at Ban Kiew Nya for the panoramic view prior to reaching Luang Prabang. 

Overnight in Luang Prabang
 

Notes

Tip: Before having dinner, we recommend heading to Lao Red Cross to enjoy a traditional Lao massage, which will help you recover from the exploration in the last some days. (Not included – payable on spot)

Distance: 265KM | 7-8 hour transfer | MAPS

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Day 15 - Luang Prabang - Departure

You are free to stroll around the town for your own exploration before taking the departure flight

Tip: we recommend joining a morning Yoga class at Luang Prabang Yoga, which will take about 1 hour starting at 07:30AM at Utopia Bar & Restaurant before returning to your hotel for breakfast. Class fee is KIP40,000/person ~ $5 (payable on spot in KIP only – pre-reservation not accepted). Note: you need to come on time if you are interested. In case you come late, you are not allowed to join. Here is the class schedule & pricing

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PLACES TO VISIT IN Laos
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The ancient capital of Lane Xang Kingdom

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The combination of some must-see experience and the cruise tour along the mighty rivers

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Easy excursion combined with week-long beach break

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Laos BLOG ARTICLES

Though opened to tourism since the last 20 years, Laos still has many hidden places or gems that are waiting for the curious explorers. 

Xe Champhone Loop is one of the places.

Early September 2022, we made an Educ tour here, under the operation of Tetraktys Organization to explore the loop, which was an effort to promote the area to the international tourists.

We were impressed with what we saw and learnt here. The area is full of interesting nature spots, traditional culture, and hospitable hosts.

Below is everything you need to know about the area.

Stay tuned!

...more

The romance of train travel is alive and well in Laos. The recently-completed high-speed railway that stretches from Vientiane, through Laos, and into southern China is operating ‘full steam’ ahead. 

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Luang Prabang will celebrate the boat racing festival (Boun Souang Heua) in Namkhan River during Buddhist Lent Period, on August 26th, 2022.

A notice issued by Luang Prabang provincial office says that Luang Prabang will arrange Boun Hor Khaopadapdin, an annual festival held to feed spirits with home-made parcels of food, and the boat racing activities along Namkhan River. 

The province intends to promote the traditional festival and practices in hopes of attracting more domestic and foreign tourists, generating revenue for locals.

Traditional racing boats are made of a single tree and can accommodate up to fifty rowers.

The boats are considered sacred, are cleaned, and are given offerings which are believed to bring victory to the team.

In the downtown heart of Luang Prabang, there will also be gatherings and markets.

The festival will be held on August 26th, 2022, the same day with Boun Khao Padapdine.

Covid-19 put a stop to traditional customs and festivals for almost three years, but now that the measurements have been relaxed, tourist destinations in Laos expect to recommence festivities and offer hope for travelers.

...more

How long to spend in Laos may seem like a ridiculous question to address, but if you have plenty of time and aren’t sure how much to dedicate, this blog will definitely help you out. 

How long can you stay in Laos? 

Well, as long as you like! From 7 days to a month, there are various ways you can travel across Laos and uncover its secrets. Advising an ideal trip length for Laos is a bit of a complex challenge, as it depends on several factors such as the places you wish to visit, the activities you plan to join, or if you want to combine Laos with its neighbor countries. 

Stay tuned! We are going to sort all these things out including the step-by-step guide to create the best itinerary in Laos.

...more

The Rocket Festival (Boun Bang Fai) is a merit-making ceremony traditionally practiced by ethnic Lao people near the beginning of the wet season in numerous villages and municipalities, in the regions of Northeastern Thailand and Laos. Celebrations typically include preliminary music and dance performances, competitive processions of floats, dancers and musicians on the second day, and culminating on the third day in competitive firings of home-made rockets. Local participants and sponsors use the occasion to enhance their social prestige, as is customary in traditional Buddhist folk festivals throughout Southeast Asia.

The festival in Thailand also includes special programs and specific local patterns like Bung Fai (Parade dance) and a Beautiful Bung Fai float such as Yasothon the third weekend of May, and continues Suwannaphum District, Roi Et on the first weekend of June, Phanom Phrai District Roi Et during the full moon of the seventh month in Lunar year's calendar each year. The Bung Fai festival is not only found in Isan or Northeasthern Thailand and North Thailand and Laos, but also in Amphoe Sukhirin, Narathiwat.

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A report from Andy Jarosz from BBC Travel about his day trekking to the remote 100 waterfalls in Nong Khiaw 10 years ago (in 2012). The experience that you cannot miss when visiting the area. Check out the details as below so that you have some ideas of what to expect.

In the last four years, the rural village of Nong Khiaw has seen a steady stream of adventure travellers who want to experience the 10km trek before it disappears.

Strictly speaking, the name of the 100 Waterfalls Trek in northern Laos is misleading, since it is impossible to say how many waterfalls tumble through the thick jungle along the steady 10km ascent, with each one tumbling immediately into the next.

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