Arrive in Bangkok and get to grips with this awesome city. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where it will take place. If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have these ready for your leader. If you arrive early perhaps take a riverboat to Chinatown and explore the crowded streets, or head to the magnificent Grand Palace. As one of the world’s largest marketplaces, Chatuchak Market is also a great place to visit.
Start the morning with a sightseeing walk led by your leader, checking out the local scene away from the normal tourist trail. Stop for some local snacks, see some cool street art and stroll through many back streets to see how many people live and work in these small suburbs of Bangkok. Finish in the Chinatown area and the rest of the day is yours to do what you like: shop and haggle for bargains or check out Chinatown. Head north to Chiang Mai in the evening on an overnight train (approximately 13 hours), sleeping in an air conditioned berth. Multi-share compartments are air conditioned and have bunk beds with sheets and a pillow provided. Your baggage travels in the carriage with you. There's also a food and drink service available on board (they don't let you go thirsty here).
Arrive in Chiang Mai in the morning. The day is yours – see how many activities you can pack into two days. There are over 120 temples in the city centre alone. You can set off on an excursion to the top of Doi Suthep. There's a few hundred steps to climb, but the views are well worth it. Maybe treat yourself to a traditional Thai massage, or even partake in a cooking class so you can impress your friends in the kitchen when you get home. The night bazaar is a great chance to practice those ever-important bargaining skills.
Another day, another chance to get your fill of awesome Chiang Mai. You might like to take part in one of our Urban Adventures, such as the 'Mind and Soul' or 'Mae Ping River Experience' day tours. To really get the blood pumping, head to the Flight of the Gibbon and negotiate the zipline and canopy course within the treetops.
Take a public bus from Chiang Mai to Chiang Khong via Chiang Rai (approx 6.5 hours). Explore this quiet town that sits on the Thai side of the Thai-Lao border. Wat Phra Kaew and Wat Luang are both well worth a visit while you are here. Perhaps rent a bicycle to explore the surrounding countryside and the banks of the Mekong. Your accommodation tonight is a basic guesthouse.
This morning you will complete border formalities at Huay Xai before boarding a slow boat for a trip down the Mekong River (approximately 7 hours). This is where the real relaxtion starts, as you ease into proper holiday mode. Read a book, play cards, swap travel stories or just watch the amazing scenery pass by. Arrive in Pakbeng late in the afternoon and have a wander around this colourful village. This place is at the junction of the Mekong and Beng rivers. Remember, 'nam' means 'river', so if you say 'Nam Beng River', you're saying 'river' too many times.
Continue on the private slow boat, stopping to stretch your legs and explore the Pak Ou Caves, which contain hundreds of Buddha statues. Arrive in Luang Prabang in the evening and wander the streets of ‘the best preserved city in South East Asia’ (it's the local government that started using this phrase, but it has caught on for a reason). Get a load of those French villas. And that sunset over the Mekong... damn.
Enjoy free time for optional activities today. There are many on offer. A trip to Kuang Si Falls is highly recommended if you feel like a swim in nature (and when you see these waterfalls, you probably will). Or visit a Buddhist temple. Afterwards, we think you deserve a rest. Find a herbal steamroom or maybe play some pentanque with the locals (it's a bit like boules). Don’t expect them to go easy on you.
Enjoy some free time. Whether it's cruising around town or heading to those waterfalls that an Instagram filter couldn't even make more pretty, this is another day in paradise. By now you may have discovered the delicious (and amazingly inexpensive) night market food, which is always a great excuse to mingle with locals and dine with other travellers. For lunch, before the market opens, you might want to try some delicious noodle soup at one of the top-notch French cafes along the main drag. If you feel like learning, drop in to the Traditional Arts & Ethnology Centre.
Transfer in a private minivan to the village of Vang Vieng (approximately 6–7 hours). This beautifully located adventure gateway lies on a bend in the Nam Song (that's a river, remember). Take in the views of mountains, rivers and big limestone cliffs that are so close you'll feel like you could reach out and touch them. Cross the river and explore the huge caves that line the West Bank. There will be plenty of time to make your own discoveries.
Spend your day checking out the caves, lagoons and forests as you please. There are more outdoor activities on offer here than you could poke a stick at, so just ask your leader for a recommendation. A solid option is Tham Jang. It's a short trip from town, and has a cool spot to swim if you're not game to enter the cave itself. If you are game, rent a torch and let the exploring begin (season depending).
Finish up in Laos’ classy capital of Vientiane by catching a public bus from Vang Vieng (about 5 hours). Swap your instant coffee for a latte and white rice for a baguette before snapping a few pics at Wat Sri Saket. Your tour leader will show you around this chic, French-influenced city. Celebrate your time in Laos with your new travel mates over an optional group dinner tonight.
Transfer to the airport and catch a quick flight to Phnom Penh, (please note you will be unescorted on this flight.) Settle into your hotel and then take the afternoon to check out this busy city. The best way to get into the groove of Phnom Penh is to eat its food, so start with a nom banh chok from a local street vendor.
As this is a combination trip, your group leader and the composition of your group may change at this location. There will be a group meeting to discuss the next stage of your itinerary and you're welcome to attend, as this is a great chance to meet your new fellow travellers.
This day begins with a cyclo sightseeing tour of Phnom Penh, a mix of romantic Indochina charm, poverty, modern development, friendly locals and cheeky tuk-tuk drivers. After this we recommend taking an optional visit to learn more about the country's history and the Khmer Rouge atrocities at the Choeung Ek Killing Fields and the infamous Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. The rest of the day is free to explore the city. If you're in the mood for some shopping then check out the Psar Thmei (Central Market), located in an old French colonial building, for clothing or sarongs. Otherwise maybe stop by the temple of Wat Phnom, the National Museum, Royal Palace or the French Quarter. Tonight’s dinner is a real treat, as you'll enjoy a home-cooked meal in a local family's home.
Today you’ll leave Phnom Penh behind and hop on a public bus (the most exciting of all buses) to Siem Reap (approximately 7 hours), your base for exploring Angkor. Before the temple-fest tomorrow, take an orientation walk around the town with your leader and then enjoy some free time to sample local snacks, haggle for souvenirs at the market or get a pedicure from thousands of tiny fish.
It’s time for the main event with a whole day to enjoy a guided tour around the unforgettable temple complex of Angkor. The temples were built 800 to 1,000 years ago when the Khmer empire was the number one power in South-East Asia. The temples are thought to represent the cosmic world and are about balance and symmetry – simply put, the carvings and designs here are mind-blowing and boggling. The main cluster of temples is close to Siem Reap so you'll have loads of time to get to the best of this archaeological site, visiting highlights like the South Gate of Angkor Thom, the many faces of Bayon, the Elephant Terrace, the terrace of the Leper King, the jungle-covered Ta Prohm and, of course, Angkor Wat. Finish the day with a seriously photo-worthy sunset over the temples.
Today’s a free day in Siem Reap, giving you the chance to kick back and just wander around the town, visiting its market, shops and restaurants, or to otherwise join one of the many optional activities on offer. If you’re still hungry for temples then maybe visit the rose-coloured Banteay Srei, considered to be the best preserved of all of Cambodia’s temples. If you want to see more of local rural life then take a trip into the countryside with a local site guide or maybe a boat ride on Tonle Sap Lake, passing the floating fishing villages there. If you want to get more active then join the Angkor zip line adventure and get your heart pumping as you fly like a bird through the jungle.
Time to say goodbye and thanks to Cambodia as your adventure comes to an end. You can depart at any time on this day after you check out