Day 1 : Arrival in Chiang Mai
Welcome to Stray! Your adventure kicks off in popular Chiang Mai, the largest city in Northern Thailand and an amazing city full of endless activity options, such as Thai cooking classes, bike tours or Muay Thai kickboxing. Once a kingdom unto itself, there are over 300 Buddhist temples to discover and it is worth visiting the old walled city to see the Tapae Gate. At 6pm you’ll meet your Tour Leader and new travel mates at the Deejai Backpackers Hostel for a Welcome Meeting introduction. We’ll cover how Stray works and answer any questions you have about the upcoming trip. Afterwards, make the most of your first night by getting to know each other over a delicious Thai dinner and a few cold beverages. Accommodation: Guesthouse located near the historic old quarter Free Inclusions: Welcome Meeting with Stray Tour Leader and group Optional Paid Activities: Elephant Nature Park, Thai cooking course, Muay Thai boxing, bike tour, trekking, kayaking, mountain biking, whitewater rafting, abseiling.
Day 2 : Chiang Mai
Today is free for you to explore this historically rich city or venture outside the city to discover the natural beauty of northern Thailand. Chiang Mai is the perfect base for some of Thailand's best guided hikes and treks, as well as the top spot for adventure activities like mountain biking, abseiling and whitewater rafting. This evening you can enjoy dinner at one of the many great restaurants then browse the night market, take in a ladyboy show or the Muay Thai boxing or head out for a few drinks with friends. Accommodation: Guesthouse located near the historic old quarter Optional Paid Activities: Elephant Nature Park, Thai cooking course, Muay Thai boxing, bike tour, trekking, kayaking, mountain biking, whitewater rafting, abseiling.
Day 3 : Chiang Mai to Houay Xai
This morning we depart Chiang Mai to head for the Thailand-Laos border. We’ll make a stop near Chiang Rai to check out the famous and intriguing White Temple (Wat Rong Khun). Wat Rong is a unique modern Buddhist temple that features some curious statues and murals that include images from Star Wars and The Matrix, Freddie Kruger’s head hanging in the trees and a giant Predator emerging from the garden. We stop here long enough to grab a snack, stretch our legs and take a few photos before we continue on to cross the border into Laos. Once in Laos we take a short tuk-tuk ride to the smalltown of Houay Xai, our stop for the night. Accommodation: Guesthouse with views across the Mekong River Free Inclusions: White Temple (Wat Rong Khun) visit Optional Paid Activities: Visit an ethnic lantern village near Chiang Rai (must hop off)
Day 4 : Houay Xai to Mekong River Homestay
Leaving Houay Xai you’ll board our private slow boat to cruise down the Mekong River to the secluded village that will host you for an overnight homestay experience. Sit back and soak up this incredible journey as you wind your way through lush farmland, thriving jungle and rugged mountain scenery, drifting past water buffalo, locals fishing, and kids splashing in the shallows. We arrive in the village in the late afternoon. Here you will get a taste of traditional Lao village life by staying with a family in their home. Experience a special Baci (welcoming) Ceremony, play a game of football with the kids, explore the local temple, go fishing and don’t forget to try the local whiskey. This is a true highlight of any trip to Southeast Asia and exclusive to Stray! Accommodation: Village stay includes accommodation in an indigenous family home, traditional Baci Ceremony, dinner, breakfast, local activities and contribution to the village fund/project
Day 5 : Mekong River Homestay to Luang Prabang
We wave goodbye to the village and jump back aboard our private boat to head downriver to the famous limestone Pak Ou Caves. Pak Ou is an important pilgrimage site for Lao people, and here you will see thousands of Buddhist images that have been placed throughout the caves over hundreds of years. Back on board our boat a short trip takes us to the UNESCO World Heritage town, Luang Prabang. Luang Prabang has an old world feel that gives you the sense you’ve stepped back in time into a picturesque postcard setting. The fusion of French Colonial architecture with traditional Lao design set against a backdrop of misty mountains and lush green jungle makes this a truly majestic place. Accommodation: Guesthouse with fan or AC private rooms close to night market Free Inclusions: Pak Ou Caves entrance
Day 6 : Luang Prabang
Today is free for you to enjoy all this UNESCO World Heritage town has to offer. Luang Prabang is home to the National Palace Museum, Wat Xieng Thong (the oldest monastery in town) and plenty of other ancient Buddhist temples and sacred sites to explore. Many people take a trip to the famous Kuang Si waterfalls, where the bright turquoise spring waters looks like it’s been Photoshopped, or you can get hands on by becoming an organic rice farmer for the day on the unforgettable Rice Experience. Alternatively, you can spend the day cycling or trekking to rural villages, take a cooking class or head to the night market for a hassle-free bargaining experience. Accommodation: Guesthouse with fan or AC private rooms close to night market Optional Paid Activities: Kuang Si Waterfall + bear sanctuary, Rice Experience, cycling, trekking, traditional cooking class, kayak the river.
Day 7 : Luang Prabang to Vang Vieng
It’s an early start as we head south through mountainous terrain on one of the most scenic journeys you’ll experience on the Laos travel route. Travel past hill-tribe villages, vast green valleys and rolling hills. Our journey today takes us to the little riverside town Vang Vieng, formerly known as the best place to take tubing trips down the Nam Song River to visit riverside bars and indulge in cheap booze. These days you can still go tubing, but now you get to enjoy the beauty of Vang Vieng's landscape without the sound of pounding bass in the background. Accommodation: Family run guesthouse in the centre of the action Optional Paid Activities: River tubing, cycling, kayaking, rock climbing, caving, visit the Blue Lagoon.
Day 8 : Vang Vieng
With its stunning natural scenery, Vang Vieng offers ample outdoor activities to choose from. We recommend hiring a bike to explore the town and visiting the Blue Lagoon, one of the best natural swimming holes in Laos. There are also great rock climbing and kayaking options. The fun doesn’t stop after an adventure filled day either! This evening check out one of several international restaurants for a taste of home or head to one of the bars to really get the party started. Accommodation: Family run guesthouse in the centre of the action Optional Paid Activities: River tubing, cycling, kayaking, rock climbing, caving, visit the Blue Lagoon.
Day 9 : Vang Vieng to Vientiane
Today we cruise through to the capital of Laos. On arrival in Vientiane your Tour Leader will point out the city’s main attractions including Putaxai, Pha That Luang, That Dam, the Presidential Palace, and the COPE centre – a non-profit organisation that educates visitors and raises awareness for victims of UXO (Unexploded Ordinance) and the Secret War. After check-in at our centrally located accommodation, you are free to explore the city, get a massage, go shopping or people watch at one of the local restaurants by the river. Accommodation: Hotel with modern facilities including WIFI Free Inclusions: City highlights of Vientiane with your Tour Leader, COPE centre
Day 10 : Vientiane to Kong Lor
An early escape this morning takes us away from the crowds and south to Kong Lor in the Phu Hin Bun National Park. About an hour into the journey we visit Wat Prabat Phonsone, the ‘Buddha’s Footprint,’ a popular and important pilgrimage site for local communities. Arriving in remote Kong Lor with the afternoon sun, you’ll feel a sense of peace as you drive through the sleepy rural villages lined with crop fields and rice paddies and surrounded by stunning limestone karst mountains. Relax after the drive by popping down to the river for an afternoon swim, swinging in a hammock at your accommodation or sampling a delicious Lao meal at one of the little restaurants in the village. Accommodation: Comfortable garden view bungalows with spectacular views and a short drive from the cave Free Inclusions: Wat Prabat Phonsone
Day 11 : Kong Lor
Take advantage of your free day with the chance to explore the underground river that winds its way through a mountain! The must do activity here is a guided boat trip that will take you deep into the abyss of the stunning 7km long Kong Lor Cave. Discover impressive columns, stalagmites and stalactites illuminated and protruding from the limestone rock as you travel by motorboat through this colossal cave system. This area is also a photographer’s paradise and a great place to get out and go trekking or just kick back to soak up the views over a cold Beer Lao. Accommodation: Comfortable garden view bungalows with spectacular views and a short drive from the cave Optional Paid Activities: Guided Kong Lor Cave boat trip
Day 12 : Kong Lor to Savannakhet
We’ll break up the drive today by stopping in the small town of Thakhek, where there’s time to grab some lunch before we continue south. Before arriving in Savannakhet, we’ll stop to visit the Buddhist holy site Wat Ing Hang, reportedly built in the 16th century to honour Buddha’s visit to the area and housing one of Buddha’s bones. Set on the Mekong River as a border town with neighbouring Thailand, Savannakhet historically served as a key transit and trading post and is now the largest town in Southern Laos. The best things to do are wander along the waterfront and check out the fossil collection at the odd but intriguing Dinosaur Museum, then settle in a nice riverside restaurant for dinner. Accommodation: Comfortable hotel Free Inclusions: Wat Ing Hang Temple
Day 13 : Savannakhet to Pakse
Driving south this morning we head first for Pakse, then carry on to explore the refreshingly cool climate of the Bolaven Plateau. The Plateau features a lush green landscape, fertile coffee and tea plantations, and many spectacular waterfalls, including the stunning Tad Ngeuang Waterfall where you can go for a swim. Pakse sits where the mighty Mekong River and Se Don River meet, so take advantage of the many restaurants along the riverfront for a meal served up with unbeatable river views. Accommodation: Guesthouse with fan or air-conditioned rooms in the centre of town Free Inclusions: Bolaven Plateau, Tad Ngeuang Waterfall entry
Day 14 : Pakse to Don Det (4000 Islands)
From Pakse, we’ll carry on south to the backpacker mecca of Si Phan Don, otherwise known as the 4000 Islands. Here you can experience the laidback lifestyle and impressive natural beauty of Laos’s landlocked islands. The island of Don Det serves as a great base to hire a kayak or tube for floating down the river, taking a boat trip to spot rare Irrawaddy dolphins, cycling across to the neighbouring Don Khone Island to discover the remnants of the only steam engine railway in Laos, and marvelling at the thunderous Li Phi waterfall. This is where your great Stray adventure officially comes to an end – we hope you had a blast! Accommodation: Rustic style guesthouse Optional Paid Activities: Bicycle or tube hire, boat trip to spot Irrawaddy dolphins, fishing