Busabout Thai and Laos Adventure
The Land of Smiles combined with the Land of Mystery.
Is there a friendlier country in the world than Thailand? If there is I’m yet to find it. I recommend Thailand if you’re a first time traveller, especially to Asia. Compared to other Asian countries it’s relatively easy to find your way around however navigating the language is always a tricky obstacle. Thailand offers something for everyone – beautiful beaches, ridiculous shopping, untamed jungles, exotic animals, a rich culture and oh so many 7/11’s.
Then when you cross the border into Laos your head will spin as we enter old Asia. This is South East Asia as it used to exist; with unpowered villages, the traditional alms-giving to monks and off the beaten track attractions. Plus Laos has an interesting history that I’m afraid most of the Western world is naive to – did you know that Laos is the most bombed country in the world? I’m a sucker for grungy Asia and it doesn’t take long to find the hidden beauty within Laos.
Below is the trip details for Busabout Asia’s tour of Thailand and Laos. This adventure includes:
- 14 night’s accommodation in 2 and 3 star hotels,
- 13 breakfasts, 2 lunches and 1 dinner,
- All transport between destinations (train and private bus)
- A local guided tour of Ayutthaya and a local guide in Laos
- Entrance to Pak Ou caves in Laos
- Plus a fantastic Western Busabout guide. It could be me leading you!
I can get you a great deal on your Busabout tour if you book through me. So shoot me an email (email@example.com) with the trip you want to go on and I’ll let you know what hot deal I can do for you! Or if you have any other questions about the trips. Don’t forget to check out the official Busabout website too.
Start your trip in the steamy metropolis that is Bangkok, home to 8 million people and 8 million 7/11s. Here you’ll witness a sharp contrast of culture: expansive, high end malls; hidden shrines; bustling street food carts and well attended temples. My perfect day is to get the local ferry up the Chao Phraya river to the Grand Palace, where you’ll see the Emerald Buddha, and Wat Pho, home to the Reclining Buddha. Hop on a tuktuk to Chinatown for some tasty seafood lunch before escaping the afternoon heat in one of the many air conditioned malls (visit Paragon if you’re cashed up). Catch the sunset with a cold Singha at the Sky Tower bar then keep the party going at the backpacker hot spot in Khao San Road.
Explore Thailand’s history with a walk through the crumbling ruins of Ayutthaya. Once the biggest city in the world, Ayutthaya is a shell of its former self but you can easily imagine what it would have looked like as you wander through the ancient wats. Highlights include the Buddha head that’s been overgrown in Wat Mahathat and the former royal palace Wat Phra Si Sanphet, where you can re-enact the opening scene from the Mortal Kombat film. When you’re all templed out hop on an overnight train to Chiang Mai.
You know all those annoying grey nomads who tell you “you should’ve been here 20 years ago when it was just us and a hammock! Now it’s ruined by all the tourists and developments”. Well, you’ll be able to say that about Pai. It’s a backpacker haven that’s only just getting discovered. Chill out in this laidback town and do a fruit shake crawl from zen cafe to zen cafe. If you’re feeling energetic go for a scenic highland trek amongst local crops that finishes at a refreshing waterfall (how good is that!). You’ll leave Pai with plans to come back.
Trekking in Pai
After sitting on a train and bus it’s time to get out and stretch your legs. And there’s no better way to do this than with an idyllic trek among the Thai Highlands, after all, that’s why so many people visit this area. We start off with our chirpy guides who can speak the native dialect of the villages we pass by. They are extremely knowledgeable of the area and will point out which plants can be eaten and which can help you if you’re ill. They’re also pretty handy with a slingshot and will show you the special Tarzan vine swing. After 4 or 5 hours of trekking we reach our goal – a magnificent three-tiered waterfall that’s perfect for washing away all the sweat. A trek in Pai makes your well-deserved sunset beer taste even more delicious.
Chiang Mai is known as the Rose of the North for good reason. It’s the culture capital of Thailand and there is plenty of creative activities to get involved in. Walk around the bustling streets within the Old Town and explore the evening markets, where you can buy plenty of hill tribe handicrafts. For the best views of the city walk up the 300 steps to the top of Doi Suthep mountain. Then reward yourself with an iced mocha at the Meowmath Cat Cafe. When you’re feeling hungry don’t just sample the delicious Thai cuisine, learn to cook it! A Thai cooking class is essential if you want to bring your adventures home with you. At night you can tick off two things from your Thailand bucket list – watch ripped men and women duke it out in a Muay Thai match (then offer each other prayers afterwards) and be pleasantly confused by an energetic ladyboy cabaret show. Everyone leaves Chiang Mai smiling.Email me now to get a great deal on this trip!
Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai
Everyone loves elephants and there is no better way to get up close and personal with them than at the Elephant Nature Park. The aim of the park is to provide sanctuary for elephants that have been abused or experienced a traumatic accident, such as stepping on a landmine. Here you’ll get to learn how the trainers care for the elephants, the elephants’ personal stories and how you can contribute to their wellbeing (Like don’t ride them! Their backs cannot support the weight of a human). This is a world class tourist attraction and you get to interact with these gigantic creatures as you would a dog in a backyard. My highlights were bathing the elephants with buckets of water and hearing them trumpet in appreciation.
Often overlooked for the busier Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai is definitely more than just a stopover town for crossing into Laos. Outside of town, visit the trippy Rhong Khun (White Temple), a Thai artists contemporary take on a Buddhist temple. In Chiang Rai, immerse yourself in an authentic Thai city and do your final chores: get a massage, enjoy a fish spa, drink your last fruit shake. Don’t forget to pick up US dollars and visa photos that are essential for getting into Laos.
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The sleepy little riverside town of Pakbeng is primarily used as a stopover point for travellers getting to Luang Prabang, but I’ve got a headful of memories from Pakbeng because we always seem to always make the most of our stay here. In Pakbeng you’ll get to sample your first Beerlao over the mighty Mekong river as the red sun sets, and maybe later you’ll move on to some of the local rice whiskey, laolao. And enjoy the strange delicacies within the authentic fresh food market (spicy wood, buffalo tail, tamarinds). In the morning, wake up early and dine on the included buffet breakfast while watching elephants go for their morning swim.
Luang Prabang is well deserving of its UNESCO World Heritage status. It’s a very chic city of 50,000 people that has been largely influenced by the French colonials. Munch on baguette sandwiches and crepes as you pass by the intricate architecture of the city. At dusk walk up Mount Phu Si and applaud the shimmering sun slip behind the green mountains, and as you walk back down you may even be stopped by a monk for a chat in English. Keep the conversation going by waking up early to give alms to the monks – it’s their daily food supply and sure to bring on good karma. And for a bit of refreshment be sure to catch a ride to the Kuang Si waterfalls, a picturesque 17-tiered set of waterfalls with the most unreal of blue waters.
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Living Land Farm
The national dish of Laos is sticky rice and it literally brings people together. While we often take rice for granted, it’s quite fascinating to learn how it ends up on your dinner plate. The Living Land Farm is edutainment at its finest. The friendly guides take you through each of the 15 stages in rice production, from being knee deep in mud while you till the fields with a buffalo to whacking the rice husks from the freshly-cropped plants. At the end of it all is a rice buffet where you sample all the different ways rice is used in Laos: fried with coconut milk, popped like rice bubbles, fermented into wine (my favourite). It’s definitely an experience that will stick in your mind (sorry).
As you pull into Phonsavan prepare yourself for two forces of human achievement. On one hand you’ll see the ancient and mysterious Plain of Jars, massive rocks that have been carved into jars by a race of giants, or so the local legend goes. It really is Laos’ Stonehenge. On the other hand you’ll be surrounded by the atrocities performed during the Secret War and the awful legacy that was left behind by the CIAs bombing campaign. Although at times hard to swallow, it is also important to understand this little-known period of history.
One of my favourite towns in Laos is the backpacker hotspot of Vang Vieng. During the day get involved in many of the adventure activities that draws people in. There’s kayaking, tubing, rock climbing, swimming, caves to explore and blue lagoons to dive into. All of this is set against the beautiful natural karst mountains. And when night time comes the party people come out to play. Although it has cleaned up its notoriously dangerous partying ways, it is still possible to let your hair down in this town where happy hour means free shots.
We’ve managed to roll most of the must do activities into one big trip in Vang Vieng. Begin with a refreshing dip in the Nam Song river (perfect for those feeling a little seedy from last night) as your guides prepare your kayaks. Then leisurely paddle into town, stopping many times along the way to hike up to mountain view points, feast on a bbq lunch, navigate your way into the elephant cave and quench your thirst with a mulberry shake. Highlights for me were sharing the river with a herd of buffalo (who were up to their necks in water) and getting a little burst of adrenalin as you kayaked down small rapids.
It’s the last stop on our adventure together and you may well forget you’re in Laos. The capital city is full of big buildings and busy streets as people work to develop the national economy. Walk through the streets and you’ll come upon hidden restaurants of all ethnicities (Japanese, Mexican, Indian, Korean, French, Australian). In the evening it’s time to work off all the good food by taking part in a heart pumping outdoor aerobics class – get involved, don’t be shy! As your body cools down wander through the night markets and buy any last minute souvenirs before choosing a riverside barbecue bar to reminisce about your travels.
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