Visions of Gold: Exploring Southeast Asia’s Golden Triangle

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Total Trip:

9 Days
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Countries Visited:

Laos
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Places Visited:

Vientiane, Luang Prabang, Pakbeng, Chiang Rai
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Departure Dates:

Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.
Follow in the footsteps of invaders and explorers, colonialists and imperial guards during your customizable historical Laos and Thailand.  Your itinerary will be tailored for your discovery of natural beauty, diverse culture, and the infamous past of the Golden Triangle. Gilded stupas imitate the mountaintops that encircle Luang Prabang as elegant French villas evoke the colonial era in Vientiane. Rice paddies and coffee plantations thrive in the mixture of open fields and mountain terraces

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Day 1

Vientiane – Arrive in Laos’s Charming Capital City for an Introductory Tour

Vientiane is a sleepy capital that fills with the aroma of frangipani and tamarind in the afternoon as the waters of the Mekong River rush against the long reeds along the riverbanks.  The lingering scent of incense drifts out of the nearby temples as the French colonial architecture adds a layer of European charm to the traditional Laotian architecture that is scattered across Southeast Asia’s smallest capital city. Your flight will land at Wattay International Airport, where your private transfer will greet you upon your arrival as trees shade the boulevards that wind around the city. Cafes in Old Town set out their tables and chairs along the walkways with European style, and your accommodation is set in a renovated French villa, immersing you in luxury and inserting you into the city’s past.

Your room will overlook the garden, which is filled with colorful blossoming lotus and frangipani. For a perfect introduction into Vientiane’s heritage, your guide will lead you to the Patuxai Victory Monument, and the architecture creates a distinctive impression amidst the modest skyline of the city. Intricate images of Hindu gods wrap around the monument styled after the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. The towers adorning the top of the arch contain traditional Laotian style, turning the Western-inspired arch into a monument that is entirely Laotian. Fountains trickle along the four edges of the monument, bringing a serene soundtrack to the quiet, inviting capital city.

What's Included:

included

Accommodation

included

Transfer

included

Tour

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Day 2

Vientiane – Explore the National Museum and Notable Temples of Vientiane

In the morning, the cafes around Old Town return bring a sense of French ambiance to the tropical city with the aroma of fresh coffee and baked pain au chocolat. The gentle glow of the streetlamps fades with the returning sunlight. At breakfast, you will find colorful papaya and bright dragon fruit accompanying a traditional Laotian coffee, which blends equal parts coffee with sweetened condensed milk. Your guide will greet you after breakfast eager to lead you on an in-depth tour of the city, beginning at Pha That Luang. The thin, golden stupa soars above the city streets at more than 140 feet tall as the gilded spire shimmers in the spreading sunlight over the emerald canopy that surrounds the city.

The temple symbolizes the Buddhist religion in Laos, along with Laotian sovereignty. A high wall encircles the cloister and hides the array of Buddha images that adorn the hall. A statue of King Jayavarman VII, who converted the Khmer Empire from Hinduism to Buddhism, adorns the hall with a graceful air. Continue Wat Ong Teu, where the Siamese raised the temple in the 19th century during the Siamese-Lao war, but the original structure was erected in the 16th century. The temple complex houses the National Center of Buddhist Studies and monks of all ages are dressed in saffron-colored robes and stroll along grounds with bright yellow and red accents adorn the main hall above gilded filigree. Two snakes flank the stairwell that leads to a large bronze image of Buddha. The statue depicts the Buddha seated moments before enlightenment.

What's Included:

included

Accommodation

included

Tour

included

Breakfast

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Day 3

Luang Prabang – Fly to Luang Prabang for a Colorful, Spiritual Tour

Luang Prabang is the former Imperial capital of Laos and maintains a sense of grandeur amidst the peaceful ambiance. The waters of the Mekong and Nam Khan rivers converge around the edges of the classical city adorned by the verdant summit of Mount Phousi rising nearly 500 feet above the center of the city. In the morning, you will find the aroma of freshly baked baguettes and star fruit jam emanating from the cafes in Old Town. Your private transfer will greet you at your hotel after an early breakfast and escort you to the airport for your short flight to Luang Prabang.

From the sky, you will have a perfect view of the mountaintops that roll along the horizon and surround the city. The gilded stupas of the 33 temples in Luang Prabang tower above the trees and you will catch them in your eyes as your private transfer will greet you at Luang Prabang Airport upon your arrival and bring you to your luxurious hotel positioned on a terrace that overlooks the lush vegetation of the jungle terrain. The infinity pool will shimmer in the sunlight as a tranquil fountain trickles in the courtyard for a relaxing soundtrack to the comforts of your accommodation. Your guide will meet you in the lobby keen to introduce you to the splendors of the country’s spiritual heart.

Terracotta rooftops and swooping tiles offer a glimpse of traditional architecture beneath the shading trees, masking the unique history of conquest and recapture. To blend the cultural atmosphere with the beauty of the landscape, your guide will lead you to the top of Mount Phousi where a gilded, scaled image of a snake borders the zigzagging steps that lead to the summit. A shrine mid-way up the mountain contains a Buddha nestled into a grotto, which leads to another image of Buddha reclining in the stoic pond amongst the dense vegetation.

What's Included:

included

Accommodation

included

Transfer

included

Tour

included

Breakfast

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Day 4

Luang Prabang – View the Monk’s Procession and Visit Kuang Si Falls

Before the sun rises over the mountains, you will find yourself on the central streets of Luang Prabang as locals light incense and kneel along the walkway waiting for the morning procession of monks to begin. The monks of all ages wear saffron robes, which shine radiantly against the dim light of dawn. A bell will ring in slow, melodic rhythms as the monks pass as locals offer rice, cookies, or small alms to the monks, which account for the clerics’ single meal of the day.

The sun returns over the surrounding mountaintops bringing light over the ethereal ambiance of the city. After breakfast, your guide will lead you into the countryside to discover the stunning cascade of Kuang Si Waterfall. The dense vegetation hides the falls from view, and you can hear the soft sound of rushing water echoing through the trees. The forest opens to a view of the lower falls where bright turquoise water trundles over the wide limestone ledge.

The path will lead you farther up the hill to a swimming lagoon and a thick, sturdy vine dangles from the trees from which you can swing before splashing down in the welcoming waters. The sound of rushing water turns thunderous as you reach the upper falls and the iridescent turquoise sheen of the water will grow stronger as the whitewater of the waterfall tumbles over a series of protruding boulders along the cliff. A gentle mist will spread from the base of the falls, and the water is cold on your skin as you dip your fingers into the lagoon.

What's Included:

included

Accommodation

included

Tour

included

Breakfast

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Day 5

Luang Prabang – Enjoy a Day at Leisure to Discover Luang Prabang

In the morning, the aroma of tamarind returns to the streets of Luang Prabang, and at breakfast, you will find the citrus scent of lime accompanying the subtly sweet flavor of lychee. After your meal, the day is yours to enjoy the splendor in and around Luang Prabang. You could visit the Asiatic Black Bear at the rescue center or learn about the traditional farming techniques at an organic farm outside of the city. For an unforgettable excursion outside of the city, you can head to the Elephant Village, which was established in the early 1990s to help protect and rehabilitate the elephants of Laos. Rehabilitated elephants carry a grace and charm amidst their grand stature as fully-grown males reach a height of nearly nine feet tall.

The elephants uproot small trees and mark their path between the village and the river. You can climb aboard for a ride and find a place to sit along their sturdy neck. The elephant will feel bristly against your legs as you amble through the forest until reaching the water. Tip forward as the elephant slowly splashes into the river, sucking up water into its trunk. The elephant will begin to bath and clearly relish the refreshing cool temperature of the river. Sitting atop the huge animal as it splashes will be incredibly memorable, and the smile on your face will be impossible to stop.

What's Included:

included

Accommodation

included

Tour

included

Breakfast

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Day 6

Pakbeng – Relish a Luxury Cruise along the Mekong River to Pakbeng

In the morning, you will savor the retellings of the stories shared during the Garavek show, which explains the legends upon which Luang Prabang was built. A musician playing the traditional khene, which is made of bamboo with two rows of bamboo reeds, accompanies the storyteller as the tales of how the city shape the spiritual ambiance of the temples, landscape, and rivers. You will then make your way to the shores of the Mekong to board a luxury boat bound for the northern village of Pakbeng. The boat will offer spectacular views of the karsts, cliffs, and passing forests as you pass villages in which people make mulberry paper and weave baskets and carve elegant reliefs that depict daily life in Laos.

Your boat will dock first at the Pak Ou Caves where the limestone cliffs soar above the riverbanks. The caverns have offered a place of worship to local villages and passersby for more than a millennium, and the cliff reaches a height of 50 feet above the rushing water. A stairway leads to the lower cave, which is filled with thousands of Buddha statues of varying sizes. Some of the statues glow with gilded embellishments while more modest statues are carved out of wood. A prayer altar inside sits beneath the dangling stalactites that resemble a spectacular sparkling chandelier. Before returning to Luang Prabang, you will stop at Ban Xang Hai, a village known for their whiskey production.

What's Included:

included

Accommodation

included

Transfer

included

Tour

included

Breakfast

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Day 7

Chiang Rai – Continue to the Thai Border to Traverse Lovely Chiang Rai

Wake up to a stunning view of the Mekong River just outside of your luxury accommodation. The aroma of banana pancakes drifts beneath the scent of frangipani as it blossoms along the hills. The lush jungle canopy textures the mountain ridges before they dive into the rushing water. Long boats and ferries return to the current to travel downstream while restaurants in town serve fresh-baked baguettes and coffee from beans harvested in the highlands of Laos. Travel over the bridge with your guide to reach a traditional village in the morning, and the traditional wooden architecture frames the main unpaved road that leads to Wat Si Bun Yuen.

The wooden roof was built in the early 19th century to protect the icon of Buddha. Murals wrap around the ceremonial hall that depicts lessons and legends of the great teacher that have been passed down through the generations. Continue to the village of Ban Bi Mi for insight into the traditional cotton weaving in the countryside, and then wander through the lanes between the wooden homes to find women working at their looms. They will weave the cotton into beautiful and vibrant textiles known for their elaborate, colorful embellishments. The villagers practice a combination of Buddhism and Animism, embodied in the small shrines located around the huts that are dedicated to the spirits of the river and the mountain.

What's Included:

included

Accommodation

included

Transfer

included

Tour

included

Breakfast

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Day 8

Chiang Rai – View the Golden Triangle with a Northern Thailand Excursion

The gorgeous city of Chiang Rai, Thailand touches the border of Laos and Myanmar, nestled into the bends of the Mekong and ridges of the dramatic mountains on the horizon. Rice patties and vegetable fields sweep across the flatlands and floodplains as limestone karsts rise in the west and reach over into eastern Laos. You will find the familiar saffron hues of monks’ robes decorating the street as Chiang Rai is considered the capital of the north, yet it retains a relaxed ambiance amidst the gorgeous landscape. The city was founded during the La-Thai Lanna Kingdom of the 13th century and remained an independent kingdom until the late 18th century.

Your guide will meet you after a delightful breakfast of exotic fruits and fresh coffee, keen to introduce you to the treasures of the city as symbolized in the temple of Phra Kaew. Legend states that lightning hit the stupa in the 15th century to reveal the great emerald Buddha. A replica made of jade now decorates the interior of the temple and is surrounded by lush gardens and bamboo strands. After viewing the glistening treasure of northern Thailand, your guide will escort you to the fabulous panorama of the Golden Triangle, the meeting point between Laos, Thailand, and Myanmar along the confluence of the Mekong and Ruak Rivers.  A stunning gilded Buddha statue reflects the name of the Golden Triangle and glistens in the sunlight atop a treasure ship shaped like a serpent.

What's Included:

included

Accommodation

included

Tour

included

Breakfast

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Day 9

Chiang Rai – Depart for Home

The aroma of clay emanates from the tranquil doorway of the pottery studio in Doy Din Daeng as the morning rises. Adobe huts house artists working in private galleries to craft decorative pieces and the scent of rich coffee drifts through the store of Doi Chang, named after the mountain on which Thailand’s top-quality Arabica coffee beans are cultivated. The ornate reliefs in Wat Klang Wiang shine at the heart of the city’s traditional religious houses with customary Lanna architectural style while gilded filigree contrasts with the crimson façade as the elephant regalia guards the octagonal base on all sides. Your private transfer will greet you at your hotel when you are ready, and escort you to Chiang Rai International Airport for your flight home.

What's Included:

included

Transfer

included

Breakfast

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Trip Highlights

  • Enjoy the unique experience of meeting rehabilitated Asiatic elephants with a ride through the jungle terrain to the riverbanks
  • Take a luxury excursion on the Mekong River to view the marvelous shrines adorned with thousands of Buddha icons in the Pak Ou Caves
  • Discover the enchanting natural swimming lagoons and turquoise waters of Kuang Si Falls
  • Follow the gilded and decorated stairs that lead to the top of Mount Phousi in Luang Prabang for insight into the historical temples and a panoramic city view
  • Experience the ethereal ambiance and silent charm of the monk’s morning procession in Luang Prabang
  • Visit a traditional Laotian village in the countryside to meet the women known for crafting delicate and intricate cotton textiles
  • Witness the confluence of the Mekong and Ruak Rivers where Myanmar, Thailand, and Laos meet, which is referred to as the Golden Triangle
  • View the opulent temples of Chiang Rai to find gilded filigree, elaborate murals, and a Buddha crafted completely out of jade
  • Delight in private panoramas, lavish accommodations, and unique experiences across Laos and Northern Thailand 
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Detailed Description

Cross borders to visit with hill tribes, and then view ancient gilded temples during your 9-day itinerary to Laos and Thailand. Your historical adventure will begin with your arrival in Vientiane, the capital of Laos. Your private transfer will greet you upon your arrival at Wattay International Airport, and you will then make your way into the city to settle into the comforts of your five-star hotel situated inside a renovated French villa. Your introductory tour of the city will bring you to the Victory Monument for your first view of Laotian architecture in the sleepy city.

Wake the next day, and your guide will greet you after breakfast and leads you on an in-depth tour of Vientiane’s past and present beginning at the National Museum and winding through the collection of elaborate temples. The next day, you will have a morning flight to Luang Prabang, the Imperial city in the north. Your private transfer will escort you from the airport to your five-star hotel that will offer a generous view of the mountains. Relish a private tour of the city that will lead you along a trail that connects the 33 temples and on upwards to the summit of Mount Phousi. Witness the morning procession of monks the morning at dawn before venturing to Kuang Si Falls for a relaxing time spent along the shores of a turquoise lagoon.

The next day will be at your leisure to relax in Luang Prabang, visit local villages, or venture to the elephant village to meet the renowned elephants of the country once considered sacred amongst mountains and rivers. Board a luxury riverboat the next day to travel up the Mekong River, and then stop to view the Pak Ou Caves and visit with a village known for producing Laotian whiskey en route to Pakbeng. Enjoy your evening in a luxurious accommodation that overlooks the shores of the Mekong.

The next morning, your private transfer will guide you through the countryside to meet villagers known for their weaving expertise and for their traditional, rural life. You will reach Chiang Mai in the evening and relax in the luxuries of the inviting capital of Northern Thailand. Explore the temples and culture of Chiang Rai the next day before arriving at the banks of the Mekong and Ruak Rivers, home to the Golden Triangle where Myanmar, Laos, and Thailand meet. Conclude as your private transfer will greet you at your hotel and escort you to Chiang Rai for your flight home. 

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Starting Price

$N/A per person (excluding international flights)

This trip is customizable for your private travel.
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What's Included

  • Accommodations
  • In-country transportation
  • Some or all guided tours and activities (dependent on season)
  • Expert trip planning
  • 24x7 support during your trip
The starting price is based on travel during the low season for a minimum of two travelers staying in shared 3-star accommodations. Please inquire for a custom trip quote based on your travel preferences and travel dates.

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