The wonders of the Mekong River are hidden beneath its stunning waters and set along its remarkable riverbanks, where sensational history and tremendous landscapes combine during your 15-day Thailand, Cambodia, and Laos tour. From unrivaled temples to lush islands, splendid waterfalls to inspiring caves, you can journey along the famed river in comfort, as you travel through a different world surrounding the unrivaled waterway, making everyday a new adventure.
Bangkok – Before the Mekong
Welcome to Southeast Asia and the capital city of Thailand, Bangkok. The metropolis is wide-reaching filled with the diversity of a global community, from its neighbors to the far corners of the world. The cityscape stretches into the sky and spreads beyond the horizons, hidden within the shine of the skyline or behind the hills in the distance. The beauty of the city goes beyond its grandeur, hidden within the pockets of its history, where the traditions and culture of Thailand come alive. Along Banglampoo you can find the treasures of the quiet city, filled with cultural identity; the scent of fresh noodles comes from secret restaurants within the apartment buildings. Local bands squeeze into tiny cafes and entertain passersby and loungers. The endless energy of Khaosan Road is close but the steadfast history of Banglampoo persists.
Siem Reap – Rising Above the River
The morning sun rises over the cityscape shining on skyscrapers and riverbanks. The scent of fresh pineapple and oranges sweeps through the streets. Transfer to the airport where you will quickly find yourself within the spreading jungle city of Siem Reap, Cambodia. The city is known mostly for its proximity to the fabled temple complex of Angkor Wat. Off of the main road, the city is calm and charming, where the old relics and traditions continue outside of the shadows of the bustling street.
In the afternoon you will see the majestic temple of Angkor Wat, the largest religious building in the world, stretching over two miles from end to end. The incredible building is a small piece of a religious complex that reaches a distance of 30 miles at the farthest points. The jungle has tangled in and around much of the stone structures that were once forgotten by the world, but Angkor Wat continues to allure and fascinate visitors. Its open plaza is lush, displaying a small pond where lilies blossom a vivacious white. Enormous reliefs sweep across the outer cloister of the temple, decorated with stories. Five spires rise above the basic structure, looking like stone beehives dispersed within the sky. The afternoon sun glistens off of the dark structure. The jungle air is thick and warm. You catch the aroma of delicate incense drifting through the halls. The remainder of the temple complex is at your whim; follow your guide through the splendid history of the ancient city, where the jungle continues to loom.
Siem Reap – Reclaimed and Remembered
The dawn is still an hour or so away and you find yourself in the darkness of the early morning zipping through the streets of Siem Reap to watch the sunrise over the grandiose temple complex. For a hidden treat, instead of following the large crowds that storm Angkor Wat hoping to watch the gilded sunrise, you can head for the jungle-clad temple of Ta Prohm. As the periwinkle dawn drapes over the trees you will walk along the entryway, the stones riddled with morning dew, as the gates look ominous in the lack of morning light. As the sun rises and you journey deeper into the temple, the stones are cool on your fingers, the air is perfumed with fresh trees and wet boulders; you take one look inside of the temple and find the majestic sight of a large tree rising from atop and over the portico, its gnarled and impressive roots reaching into the ground. The intricately carved walls display designs and religious characters overrun with moss. No matter how opulent or impressive a structure might be, the power of the earth to overtake it is imposing, offering sensational beauty to an already splendid place.
Phnom Penh – To Capital Fame
The dense trees on the outskirts of Angkor Wat are compelling, offering color and life to a stone city that was once forgotten in time. The splendor of Angkor Wat remains and the morning brings you to the airport for your transport where you will find yourself along the gentle riverbanks of the capital city Phnom Penh. The country’s French colonial past is alive in the cafes that line the Mekong River. There is a collected sense of identity within the variety of collected cultures in the city, from the scent of French pastries that fill the air, to the once large community of Chinese fisherman. Phnom Penh, like all of Cambodia, continues to heal from the wounds of the Khmer Rouge in the 1970s; however, the city’s history, modernity, and people have kept its beauty thriving.
One of the most spectacular architectural sights of Phnom Penh is the Royal Palace, which is located within the center of the city. The elegant style disguises the fact that the palace wasn’t constructed until 1866 and has been the official home to Cambodia’s king ever since. The wedding cake base is topped with pillars that reach to the pagoda-style rooftops and thinning spires. The manicured grounds create a grander view of the palace, focusing the stunning visual on the residence.
Phnom Penh – Cityscape and Riverbanks
The morning rises over the Mekong River giving a shimmer to the rushing waterway. The day is yours to tour through the variety of wonders at your leisure, from the fabulous National Museum that displays the ancient history of the country to strolling along the riverside beauty of the Quay. The cobblestone esplanade is lined with luxurious hotels and decadent restaurants, where the scent of fresh noodles and aromatic mint mix with the freshwater of the Mekong. A lovely breeze flows through the street and the crowds from the riverside are friendly and unimposing.
Close to the Royal Palace is the National Museum, which has been billed as an “archeologist’s dream,” due to the extensive number of ancient ruins found throughout the country, including a sensational collection of artifacts dating back to the beginnings of Angkor in the 9th century. Rugged stones displaying delicate faces are prominent, never losing their appeal, while the central courtyard is serene, holding a large pond, chockfull of vibrant lilies. The manicured garden helps keep the architecture the focal showpiece, where the sloping roofs and soft spires help to create a peaceful and luxurious atmosphere.
Stung Treng – Surprising Waters
Outside of the bustle of Cambodia’s capital city is a different world, filled with wonder that could have never been imagined, no more so than in the relaxed and peaceful riverside town of Kratie. French colonial architecture continues to line the main street of the city, where the balconies and large windows line the extent of the upper floors. The scent of freshly grilled fish drifts along the main road. In the afternoon sun, you can watch the Mekong glisten, seeing a collection of bobbing animals in the distance. Along the bustle of the town, the water is quiet and calm. Your guide points out the nodding animals once more; they are the Irrawaddy River Dolphins. Their coloration is gray that shifts to a slate blue, while they lack the prominent snout that many think of when considering the variety of their marine family, with more of a melon-like head. The dolphins are shy, communicating through clicks and buzzing, but have had a tremendous relationship with local fishermen. As you continue onward towards Stung Treng the majesty of the dolphins will continue.
Si Phan Don – Around 4,000 Islands
At the southernmost tip of Laos lie the 4,000 Islands, where some of the most stunning scenery stretches along the Mekong River. Arrive in Si Phan Don where the water softly laps at the beaches, the air is cool and calm, and the breeze brushes through the vivacious marshland beside the riverbanks. Homes made from bamboo and woven grass decorate the islands, elevated slightly to offer reprieve from the rising river during the rainy season. Whether relaxing beside the shores of the river where the cool water lazily floats past or journeying to the rapids down river to traverse the cascading whitewater, there is endless majesty to the landscape of Laos. Visit Tat Somphamit Waterfall, where the Mekong cascades down the dark rocks, the cool water color becoming a rush of white as it pools, swirls, and tumbles over the vast crags. The air is filled with mist and the powerful sound of the river. You can see rope bridges littering the distant sky above. The mountains roll over the horizon. From the water to the plains, the mountains to the long-tail boats that drift by the islands, there is no end to the majestic atmosphere.
Champasak – Tremendous Landscapes, Sensational Sights
Arrive in Champasak, where the old splendor of a kingdom’s capital is hidden beneath the charm of what feels like a village. Just outside of the city are the Khmer ruins of Wat Phu, a UNESCO World Heritage site since 2001. The ruins themselves date back to the 11th century. The ruins sit beside the sprawling jungle where mountains rise in the close background like witnesses of history. The stones of the entry path are strewn about, rolled from rising tree roots that now line the walkway like guardians. Two pavilions, thought to once be worshipping halls, continue to stand in stunning condition despite having no roofs. Behind the Women’s Pavilion is a stretch of road that was once connected to the Royal Road, leading the long way to Angkor Wat. Although the site is not as big as Angkor, it is elegant in its placement, surroundings, and structure, where the greenery adds to the luster of the ancient city, and the history comes alive right before your eyes.
Luang Prabang – The Jungle Jewel
Today you will arrive in the Jewel of Laos, Luang Prabang. The city is surrounded by the lush landscape that the country is famous for, vibrant mountains and sprawling jungle. The charm of Luang Prabang sits, not only within its surroundings, but also within the quiet quality of the city, where the scent of fresh French pastries is never far away, a gilded temple spire can often be seen in the short distance, and the people are eager to smile.
Near the banks of Nam Khan River you will find the Elephant Village Sanctuary, where the goal of the project is to provide a peaceful sanctuary for Laotian elephants. Take the opportunity to get close to the elegant mammal, brought out of harms way, most notably from the logging industry around northern Laos, where the elephants were rescued from harsh work and given refuge in the jungle where they can recover. They can often be found relaxing in the river, bathing in the rush of water with graceful precision even in their size. Their large gray bodies and small ears give tremendous scale to the surrounding mountains.
Luang Prabang – Cave of Wonders
Your days in Luang Prabang are yours for the taking, exploring what you’d like, how you’d like, at breakneck speed, or a leisurely stroll. Whether speeding through the temples within the city, up to the fabulous panorama of Mount Phousi or gliding down the river to the Pak Ou Caves, there is a never-ending array of sites to see and things to do that will make you wish you had more time. At the mouth of Pak Ou, the limestone drips like melted ice from the cliff above. A stairway guides you beneath the dangling stones and into the cave, the damp and fragrant musk of history apparent. A popular pilgrimage for locals and visitors alike, the cave rises about 50 feet above the water and is filled with thousands of Buddha icons of various shapes and sizes, each one carved out of a particular type of wood. You can hear the soft rush of the river outside from within the mouth of the cave. There is exquisiteness in the simplicity of the site, even though, when you look again, nothing about it seems simple at all.
Luang Prabang – Cascading Appeal
Journey into the jovial trees outside of the city where the jungle becomes a deeper reality. The scent of fresh dew and damp earth wafts between the bark. There is a vibrant trickle in the distance. You follow the footpath and arrive at the bottom pool of Kuang Si Waterfall. The falls cascade over 150 feet down into a series of hypnotic azure pools. One of the most popular attractions in the area, the whitewater does not detract from the coloration of the falls but instead enhances it. Locals and visitors dip into the cold water at the lowest pool, where they can feel the rush of tumbling waterfall over them as the effervescent jungle looks on.
Vang Vieng – Rolling on a River
Today you will journey to the charming town of Vang Vieng where the limestone karsts rise over the open fields and the mountains roll along the horizon in the distance. There is an everlasting green to the countryside, where the river fluctuates with the rains but the jungle and grasslands seem to maintain their vivacity daily. In the now sleepy town you can discover the charm of its streets at your own pace. Much of Vang Vieng’s charm isn’t located in the quaint streets, but on the river that borders the city. One of the most relaxing and also unique experiences you can have is inner tubing down the Nam Song River. Let yourself laze in comfort, floating along the riverbanks with the lush fields and wooden huts lining the waterway. Tilt your head back, look into the sky, and see the tremendous greenery that climbs to the steep limestone slopes giving a blend of plushness and earth looming over the homes.
Vientiane – A Capital Welcome
Once you arrive in Vientiane, the capital of Laos, it is easy to see the difference between the nation’s largest city and the smaller towns that speckled throughout the countryside. The sweet and buttery fragrance of baguettes is alluring. The streets are pristine in the mid-morning mist. For a fabulous introduction to the city you can visit the wondrous Buddha Park, where more than 200 religious statues are on display, including a reclining Buddha over 120 feet high. Built in 1958, the park intersperses spectacular artistry within the open greenery of the landscape. The heavy stone faces range between images of Buddha to Hindu gods and demons as well. The aroma of fried bananas is nearby; you can practically hear people snacking on the sweet and savory dish. Circling the detailed stone figures you can see the intricacies of each face, arm, and hand, where the reclining Buddha looks as though He has lain into the earth ready for rest.
Vientiane – The Sweetness of Vientiane
Another day in Laos’s capital allows you more time to see the incredible sites of the city. An eternal glimmer seems to emanate from the Great Stupa, the national symbol, which is also the most sacred monument in Laos. The exterior resembles a fortress, surrounded by high walls. However, its interior houses two temples, along with the main stupa, the top of which is decorated with gold leaf and climbs over 145 feet in the air. The structure in its most current form was built in the 16th century over an earlier Khmer ruin. The doors are gilded and lacquered with red. The lesser stupas are pointed while a fantastic array of Buddha images and flowers fill the temples.
Bangkok – Depart to Home
In the morning you will watch the daily mist rise from the streets of Vientiane, where the cool air starts to mix with the coming warmth of the day and disappears into the daylight. The sweet scent of buttery croissants and hot chocolate emanates from the French bakeries. After breakfast you will return to the bustling city of Bangkok, Thailand, where you can recall the treasures of the city as if it were a lifetime ago. Eventually you will continue your journey home; your vacation along the Mekong has come to a luxurious and stunning end. However, there will always be more jeweled sights to see in Southeast Asia; you could always sit back, relax, and stay a while longer.
- Experience the endless wonders that hover along the banks of the Mekong River
- Discover the tremendous history and breathtaking architecture of Angkor Wat
- Traverse the troubled past of Cambodia, along with the remarkable ancient history of the Khmer, within Phnom Penh
- Journey through the Mekong in search of Irrawaddy River Dolphins
- Witness the remarkable cascading beauty of Kuang Si Falls
- Float through Nam Song River beside the unparalleled landscape of Vang Vieng
- Luxuriate amongst a series of tropical islands set within the Mekong River in 4,000 Islands
- See the tremendous Buddha images placed within Pak Ou Caves, overlooking the rushing water
The famed Mekong River traverses the hills and countryside giving you the opportunity to adventure along its course on this 15-day vacation meant for everyone that has ever wanted to travel through time, journeying beyond the years of modernity and into the landscapes and history that has shaped the spectacular sites and people of Thailand, Cambodia, and Laos. Whether exploring the temples of Angkor or drifting down the Nam Song River in an inner tube, the splendor of Southeast Asia is right in front of your eyes, ready for you to take that step into adventure.
Your journey begins in Bangkok, the capital city of Thailand where the skyscrapers are as illustrious as the gilded temples. The quiet streets are mythological, present and wondrous for all those that believe enough in their whereabouts to find them. You will quickly settle into the metropolis before venturing to Siem Reap, Cambodia where the city is surrounded by the lush jungle and the endless majesty of Angkor Wat. Explore the ancient city on a guided tour, where the grandeur of the temple and the entire religious complex is yours to explore; from decorated reliefs to towering spires, your days within the trees scouring the jungle for unearthed temples will be nothing less than magical. Arrive in Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia, where the colonial architecture gives a charming touch to the country’s largest city. Your time along the Mekong starts where the waterway has been a revered highway for city for centuries. Journeying up river brings you to Kratie, a large town, or small city, known for its remaining French architecture and the focused pod of River Dolphins that tend to linger near the harbor.
Once in Laos you will find yourself within the wondrous area of 4,000 Islands, where the Mekong has rushed and washed over the landscape for millennia creating thousands of islands, large and small, within a centralized area. From waterfalls to rolling mountains, whitewater rapids to stunning temples, you can relax in a hammock by the quiet rush of the river or visit the mountainside remains of Khmer relics. Once in Luang Prabang you will venture into the second largest city in Laos, where the jungle feels like it has crept into the city streets in absolute artistry. The Jewel of Laos shines beneath the mountain summits and lush trees, where elephants can rehabilitate, temples can sparkle and every morning monks ask for alms. Behind the charming streets of Vang Vieng you can float down the river in relaxed style while the landscape sprouts around you. Traverse the streets of Vientiane, Laos’s capital city, where the French bakeries continue to produce remarkable fresh baked goods, the beauty of the culture and the country continue to shine in the art and along the streets, and the oldest stupa in Laos practically glows. Upon your return to Bangkok you journey through Southeast Asia will finish; however, the adventure doesn’t have to end.
$2,995 per person (excluding international flights)
Your Zicasso trip is fully customizable, and this sample itinerary is a starting place for your travel plans. Actual costs are dynamic, and your selection of accommodations and activities, your season of travel, and other such variables will bring this budget guideline up or down. Throughout your planning experience with your Zicasso specialist, your itinerary is designed around your budget. You can book your trip when you are satisfied with every detail. Planning your trip with a Zicasso travel specialist is a free service.
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Your final trip cost will vary based on your selected accommodations, activities, meals, and other trip elements that you opt to include.
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