The Ancient Wonders of Laos + Cambodia
Step into a world of ancient wonders, drift down the mighty Mekong River, and let temples and jungles appear like a dream right before your eyes. Laos is a land of sweet serenity – where saffron robed monks wonder in-between tuk tuks and temples. Cambodia captures the cultural imagination; tangled pasts, bright futures, and so much mythology in-between. This experience invites intrepid explorers to discover these lost cities in sheer luxury.
Flowing Robes + French Finesse
Welcome to Luang Prabang, even the name rolls right off the tongue. Sitting peacefully beside the evocative flow of the Mekong and Khan River, the UNESCO splendour and spirit of Laos is captured in the flowing robes of golden monks, the bedazzling collection of 33 wats, and the stunning villas that dot the landscape.
Let your welcome team whisk you away to the Villa Maly Boutique Hotel. This hotel is all about heritage and luxury, evoking Art Deco ambience in a home once owned by Lao royalty adorned with a hint of French finesse. The blend of local textiles and colonial antiques flood your senses with revelry so take some time to settle into your new abode, take a siesta and spend the day soaking up the delightful surroundings.
Cycle Tours + Temples
After a beautiful breakfast on the terrace, today you can enjoy a full day cycling tour around the old French town and its sublime natural surroundings. Surrounded by hazy green mountains, tumbling waterfalls, and ornate temples, breathing in the bright air and cycling is the best way to explore. Start at the Mornging Market and traverse the local stands laden with family farmed fruit and veg. Next, cycle to the Wat Mai Monastery whose richly gilded panels tell the tale of the incarnation of the Buddha Vessentara. The former Royal Palace, and now National Museum offers a fascinating look into the rich treasures of the Lane Xang Kingdom.
The Capital of Calm
Lend your ear one last time to the gentle sound of gongs and the meditative flow of the river. Today you head to the airport for a transfer flight to Vientiane. Laos’s capital of calm was once a French trading post and hasn’t lost its lovely luster. Glittering serpent statues bake in the sun, tuk tuk drivers nap in the shade, and frangipani blooms sweetly into the afternoon air.
Check into the Ansara Hotel, a serene dream of a boutique hotel just a short stroll from the Mekong River. Hand woven silks and vintage style photographs fill the rooms and private balconies are perfect for stepping out and soaking up the scent of tamarind wafting with the evening breeze. Spend the day exploring; duck into the silk shops and sip a cold beer beside the river.
Tuk Tuk Tours and Handicrafts
A private half way walking tour will show you the golden highlights of Vientiane. A tuk tuk is the ultimate jingle jangle way to get around; from the bright clad marketplaces to the ancient temples and historic monuments. Wander down Lane Xang Avenue, buy handicrafts at the Talat Sao, and visit the Siamese style temple of Wat Sisaket. After visiting the Presidential Palace, stop close by in one of the colonial influenced bakeries for a flaky pastry and cup of coffee – thumbprints of France can be found everywhere. Weave around the temples along Setthathirath before kicking back and relaxing in your tuk tuk for a ride along the Mekong River.
The Colour of Cambodia
Touch down in Siem Reap – the gateway to the ancient glory of Angkor. But the chic town is more than just a passage – Siem Reap is a destination in its own right. From colorful Cambodian circus tricks to sizzling food tours, floating villages, temples, and yoga pavilions – get ready for a different pace in this South East Asian Kingdom.
Check into the Shinta Mani Boutique Hotel. Designed by acclaimed architect Bill Bensley, the 39-bed property is an inspired vision of Khmer motifs. Rooms are bright and elegant, the pool perfect for humid afternoons, and the spa a sanctuary of serenity for those feeling the need to unwind.
Lost Cities + Lofty Temples
Today is all about entering the myth and magic of Cambodia’s temples. The intricately carved temples are the reason many travelers make the journey to Angkor. Lofty columns soaring to the sky, heavy stone hewn to Terraces of Elephants and Terraces of Leper Kings, and gigantic stone faces set against the back drop of twisted jungle roots – nothing can prepare you for the sight. Angkor Thom is lifted straight from the reels of the Tomb Raider movie and the history that seeps through the cracks, the tales of kings, and rulers’ weaves in even more wonder.
Next Angkor Wat – the Lost City – where orange robed monks tiptoe softly through sacred grounds. Be sure to see the surreal sight of a silk cotton tree strangling the carved stones from the Ta Prohm Temple. Hear the trees shake in the deep dark forests that fringe the UNESCO site. Admire the wild lilies that bloom, take photographs from across the lake, and lose yourself in shaded secret courtyards.
Drift Down the Mighty Mekong
After breakfast, its time to leave the land behind and catch a glimpse of Cambodia from a different angle. A three-day cruise down the mighty and majestic Mekong River gifts you rural rarities, close encounters, fabled lost cities, and hidden wonders.
The Jahan Serenity is a beautiful vessel to carry you on this journey, with her steam sauna and pool deck, decadent dining hall, and Raj of India Lounge. Stay in a Superior Stateroom where a butler will draw you a scented whirlpool bath and a private balcony allows you to watch Cambodia float by.
This afternoon, visit the Tonle Sap Lake and depending on the season you can visit the stilt village of Kampong Phluk and let the local children take you on a tour of the flooded forest. Later that evening enjoy your first dinner on the sundeck watching the sky tinge with pink.
Floating Schools + Leafy Jungles
Set sail for Kampong Chhnang, watch the wetlands, floating homes and fish farms pass before your eyes as you drink in the spectacular scenery that makes up the Kampong Chhang province. Board the motorboat for an excursion to the Heritage Line floating school, the local children adore guests and the chance to interact and share English is an adorable highlight of the day.
This afternoon meander down the Mekong, into the dark heart of the leafy jungle. Sit out on your balcony with a cool drink, peeking through splayed palm leaves for sights of wild birds and secret communities.
Harvests + Hilltop Pagoda’s
Wake up early, before the sun has lifted her own sleepy head from the depths of the Mekong River and prepare for an evocative excursion to the temple of Wat Hanchey. The hilltop pagoda dates all the way back to the 8th century and offers some of the very best views of the Mekong in the whole of Cambodia. Ancient Sanskrit can be found etched on the door and animal statues and strange fruit are left as alms. Local monks will perform a traveler blessing to send you on your way.
This afternoon visit Cheung Kok Eco Village, where local villagers will teach you about harvesting rice and sugar palm. Peruse the selection of handicrafts in the tiny shop, safe in the knowledge that all profits from tourism go straight back into building these rural communities.
Palatial Spires + Pungent Spices
This morning, wake early to savour the sight of the Phnom Penh’s promenade coming into sight. Enjoy one last lingering breakfast on deck before stepping into the fascinating frenzy of the city. The capital of Cambodia can be overwhelming at first glance; a land of glimmering palatial spires, pungent spices, whizzing motorbikes, and the constant chatter of a city that has risen like a phoenix from the ashes of war.
Check into Raffles Hotel Le Royal along a quiet, tree-lined boulevard and a fusion of styles from colonial, Khmer and Art Deco. Walk down elegant corridors lined with history into intimate rooms oozing traditional style and just the calming and charming haven you need in a city like Phnom Penh.
Enjoy an evening of leisure, exploring the city at will. Dine at one of the cosmopolitan restaurants that line the riverside, sip a sundowner at one of the many rooftop bars, and take a wobbly tuk tuk home to your hotel.
Painful Pasts + Bright Futures
Some atrocities need to be looked at in the eye, and The Killing Fields is one of those places. The peaceful rural setting just outside the capital may not whisper immediately of death and fear, but this is the spot where thousands of people were slaughtered and buried in mass graves under the fierce regime of Pol Pot.
Take your time at this site before heading to the Museum of Genocide to turn another page in the book of Cambodia’s heart-breaking past. The former high school shifted to become a Khmer Rouge interrogation facility in 1975 – from the thousands who passed through their doors, only seven lived to tell the tale.
After a day immersed in the bitter history, return to the capital with new eyes. Relax with a cold local beer brewed from rice, chat with the friendly locals, and if you are feeling brave – try one of the fried tarantula specialties.
Farewell to Cambodia
This morning after one final experience of Cambodia’s famed fluffy pastries, it’s time to take a private transfer back to the airport for your onward journey.
8 nights' hotel accommodation, 3 nights' cruise, meals as specified by travel agent, private transfers, Venture Far Experiences (Tuk Tuk City Tour of Luang Prabang, Vientiane Walking Tour, Full Day Tour of Angkor Wat + Angkor Thom Tour, Killing Fields + Tuol Sleng), internal economy flights from Luang Prabang to Vientiane + Vientiane to Pakse.
Be enchanted by scenes of shimmering rice paddies, emerald green seas + limestone mountains that are a backdrop for romantic images of gilded temples, colonial architecture + saffron robed monks where a lasting impression will be the people + their stories.
Indulge in local cuisines, take temple trails through ancient kingdoms, wander lantern lit lanes in old merchant towns + slow down the pace cruising down the rivers of the Mekong or Ayeyarwady, where time seems to have stood still.
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