Hidden northern Laos

Duration: 9 Days / 8 Nights
Route: Luang Prabang – Udomxay –Moungla – Ban Somjam – Moung Ngoi – Nong Khiaw
Features:

Explore the hidden villages and rustic, untainted scenery in northern Laos on this in-depth and off the beaten track odyssey from Luang Prabang. Visit little-explored villages, meet humble ethnic minority locals and explore firsthand the magic of the nort

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Day 1: Arrive Luang Prabang
Welcome to Laos! Upon arrival, meet your guide at the airport and head onward to your hotel. After check in, spend the rest of your day to explore this scenic UNESCO World Heritage site. Home to three dozen Buddhist temples, some dating back hundreds of years, Luang Prabang has a mystical allure that embodies Laos’ spiritual aura. Rustic wooden guest houses, sleepy cafes and warm local smiles are all part of this quiet town’s charm. After exploring the town on your own, head back to your hotel for an early night, and prepare for the unforgettable journey ahead.


Day 2: Luang Prabang
Today, embark on an in-depth journey to discover the daily life of Luang Prabang’s three most prominent ethnic cultures: the H’mong, Khmu and Lao Loum.


Start your journey at the home of a local H’mong family, one of many H’mong residents in Luang Prabang. Here, sit down with the family and your guide for a chat to learn about how resettlement efforts for ethnic communities like the H’mong changed the rhythm of their daily lives.


Afterwards, follow the lead of your host as he walks you through the intricacies of traditional flute making, one of the H’mong community’s most treasured traditional instruments. The traditional art of flute-making is quickly disappearing in modern Laos, but your host is both a flute enthusiast and one of the most respected flute players in the city. Listen to how the flute is played before rolling up your sleeves to make your own!
After the workshop, head out by tuk-tuk to the banks of the mighty Mekong River and travel by a small traditional boat onward to Ban Xienmene Village. This sleepy rural community is home to the Khmu and Lao Loum minority groups, and remains a testament to traditional ethnic lifestyles in Laos. Chat with a local family before learning to make Laos Sa Mou or River Weed salad with them. Sit down for a family lunch before heading back to central Luang Prabang for a city highlights excursion.


Wander the city alongside your guide and visit some of Luang Prabang’s most famous temples, including the arrestingly ornate Wat Xieng Thong and the magnificent Royal Palace. Both are prime examples of the fusion of traditional Laotian and Buddhist architecture, and remain two of the best preserved structures in the city. Then, head to the living crafts centre of Ock Pop Tok in the heart of the city. Follow along with your guide to learn about how the centre provides a place for locals to create sustainable and beautiful Laos' handicrafts and traditional artwork. After a stroll through the centre, kick back, taste the traditional Mak Tum Tea while enjoying the magnificent views over the Mekong River.


Wrap up your journey with a visit to Big Brother Mouse, an organization devoted to promoting literacy in children and young adults. This is a perfect chance to strike up a conversation with a young local learning English before heading back to your hotel.


Day 3: Luang Prabang
Rise early to the sound of the temple gong and witness Luang Prabang’s mystical early-morning ritual. As the sun just begins to rise, walk downtown through quiet streets to watch the daily procession of about 300 saffron-robed monks walking silently, collecting sticky rice and other food offered by pious locals. Almsgiving is an important religious act in Buddhism, and it must be carried out respectfully by locals and tourists alike. If you would like to be involved in the offering of food, your guide will be more than happy to show you the best way to interact with monks. Afterwards, stroll through Luang Prabang’s morning market to see the locals haggling for fresh meat, fruit and vegetables.


Later today, set off on an elephant ride through the jungle! Drive to the nearby Elephant Village, a government-approved project to promote elephant conservation and support local communities. Upon arrival, meet the camp manager and receive a short primer in elephant care and maintenance. Then climb atop an elephant for an hour-long ride along jungle paths.


Afterwards, take a short boat trip to Tad Sae Waterfall and enjoy a dip in the cool water here. After lunch by the falls, drive back to Luang Prabang, arriving at your hotel by early afternoon.


Day 4: Luang Prabang – Udomxay
After breakfast, set off from your hotel toward Udomxay, a rustic region about 300 kilometers north of Luang Prabang. Along the way, pass through lush rice paddy fields and through tiny street-side villages before making a stop at Ban Pakmong for lunch.


Head onward up the mountains and weave through winding roads – promising stunning panoramic views of the wilderness below – before arriving at Ban Songcha, a traditional H’mong village. Originally from the south of China, learn about the lifestyles of local villagers here on a guided walk through the wooden homes and farms. Continue onward to Moung La - your final destination today - for an overnight stay at a local guesthouse.


Day 5: Moungla – Akha Trekking
After breakfast, set off on a heart-racing 4X4 drive, stopping off at a small Khamu market before continuing down a picturesque wilderness route to Ban Poung Hieng Village. From here, travel another 10 minutes to arrive at Ban Houai Chang – the gateway to Phouhipi National Park.


Set off into the pristine jungle wilderness here to visit a collection of Khamu and H’mong villages within the depths of the park, many of which rarely see “outsiders” while they carry on working their fields. After a scenic journey with plenty of photo opportunities, arrive at the Khamu-H’mong village of Ban Houa Nam Bak, a large village of around 1,600 inhabitants. Nestled close to the Nam Pung Waterfall, this is the starting point of your journey on foot toward the falls – only accessible by trekking. Along the trek, pass by incredible rock formations to which villagers have secured ropes to aid climbers in reaching the top for arresting views stretching kilometres in either direction. After your trek, return to your guesthouse for a well-earned rest.


Day 6: Moungla – Moung Kua – Ban Somjam Homestay
After a leisurely riverside breakfast, set off from your hotel for a drive toward Ban Paknamnoy and its collection of minority villages and plantations. Then, continue onward to Ban Nonsavanh – where some locals make their living producing homemade Lao whiskey – before sitting down for a tasty lunch. Afterwards, climb aboard a long tail boat and cruise downstream on the Nam Ou River toward Ban Somjam Village, passing through arresting limestone mountains along the way.


For a taste of traditional Lao lifestyles, choose to sleep in a village headman’s house, or opt for a nearby bungalow with a bit more privacy. Both sets of accommodation provide comfortable mats, pillows and mosquito nets with basic bathroom facilities. Settle in for your night within this rustic mountain village alongside the locals.


Day 7: Ban Somjam – Soft Trek to Kang Cave – Ban Na – Moung Ngoi
Today enjoy a local breakfast and explore the village. You will likely be the object of curiosity for the village children, since they rarely get the chance to interact and play with Westeners. A game of football is a great icebreaker for those physically up for it, or simply kick back to watch the village women weaving their ancient patterns on aged looms.


Finally, say goodbye to the villagers before boarding your boat for a cruise downstream with spectacular views of limestone mountain scenery. Disembark for a gentle, two-hour trek back adn forth to Ban Na for insight into the lives of lowland villagers. Along the way, stop and visit Tam Kang Cave which once served as a home for locals during the Indochina War. Opt for a dip to cool off in the blue lagoon pool within the cave – you can ask your guide to borrow towels from the local hotels – before heading back your hotel for a leisurely afternoon exploring surrounding Ban Moung Ngoi or on the banks of the Ou River.


Day 8: Moung Ngoi – Nong Khiaw – Pak Ou Cave – Luang Prabang
Settle in for breakfast on a terrace overlooking the Ou River before a short, one-hour cruise downstream to Nongkhiaw. Head out for a guided walk to Pha Thor Cave, former government offices and a local hospital used during the Indochina War, before driving back to Ban Pak Ou for lunch at the confluence of the Mekong and Ou rivers. Finally, take a local long tail boat back to Pak Ou Cave and a short drive back to Luang Prabang. After arrival, check into your hotel and spend the rest of your evening at leisure.


Day 9: Luang Prabang – Depart
Meet your guide at your hotel and transfer to the airport for your flight.

Day 1: Arrive Luang Prabang

Day 2: Luang Prabang

Day 3: Luang Prabang

Day 4: Luang Prabang – Udomxay

Day 5: Moungla – Akha Trekking

Day 6: Moungla – Moung Kua – Ban Somjam Homestay

Day 7: Ban Somjam – Soft Trek to Kang Cave – Ban Na – Moung Ngoi

Day 8: Moung Ngoi – Nong Khiaw – Pak Ou Cave – Luang Prabang

Day 9: Luang Prabang – Depart

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