Come and enjoy the best of all three countries: the most interesting textiles, festivals, architecture, and archeology, including UNESCO World Heritage sites.
Some serious bucket list destinations are included on this 19-night trip, such as the ancient Khmer complex of Angkor Wat, and the royal city of Luang Prabang with its golden temples!
And the textiles are superb! In all three countries we’ll meet indigo dyers and ikat weavers at work, and learn about their dyeing methods on silk and cotton. In their studios and in the markets, we’ll see stacks of stunning handwoven ikat-patterned textiles.
We’ll attend the Wax Candle Festival or Khao Phansa in Ubon Ratchathani. This exciting event showcases some of the country’s best artistry with hand-carved wax Buddha figures. Festively decorated parade floats carry scenes of life-sized wax figures in procession through the streets of Ubon Ratchathani. Floats are interspersed with groups of musicians and dancers in local festival dress.
Ubon Ratchathani also has some very unusual Buddhist wats that we will visit to see the architecture. One is shaped like a boat with ceramic life-sized oarsmen.
- See the UNESCO sites of Angkor Wat in Cambodia and the golden Buddhist temples of Luang Prabang, Laos
- Watch weavers in all three countries make fabulous hand-woven silk and cotton ikat textiles
- Attend the traditional Wax Candle festival or Khao Phansa, in little-visited NE Thailand
- Learn to weave silk or make natural dyes at the Ock Pop Tok textile center in Laos
- Make and devour a gourmet lunch in our Cambodian cooking class.
What’s Included in The Trip?
An Overview of Your Journey
From the city to heaven!
We first fly into Bangkok and spend the night near the airport to rest a bit. Next morning we fly together to the ancient royal capital, Luang Prabang, now designated a UNESCO World Heritage site. We’ll check into a comfortable hotel right next to the tranquil Mekong River. Next day, with a local licensed guide, we’ll walk around the charming and laid-back town to explore the golden wats or Buddhist temple complexes. With our Lao guide we’ll visit the most important wats and learn about the Lao version of Buddhist practices. You’ll also be able to explore this relaxed, safe and friendly town on your own. Time to soak up the tranquil, tropical ambiance!
We will spend spend an afternoon at the textile center of Ock Pop Tok where we’ll chop wood chips and extract seeds from prickly achiote pods, and learn to make several colors of natural dye. We’ll be able to watch talented silk weavers and have a gourmet lunch at their restaurant by the Mekong River. Laotian food is delicious!
We’ll take a morning to visit the excellent new Luang Prabang textile museum. And after dinner one night we’ll stroll through the nearby Night Market to check out the textiles and other crafts. The magnificently decorated golden temples, the riverside location and the tropical ambiance make Luang Prabang a delightful place to relax for our introduction to Lao culture.
Vientiane and into Thailand
After relaxing in Luang Prabang with all the golden temples, we fly south to the pleasant riverside capital, the city of Vientiane. I love to visit the enormous Salat Tao, the Morning Market for locals, with its many stalls of exquisite examples of silk weaving. We’ll also tour the innovative silk weaving studio called Lao Textiles, started by American fabric designer Carol Cassidy who helped revive Lao silk weaving. Vientiane also has fabulous wats (Buddhist temple complexes) such as the ancient wooden Wat Si Saket, with its 10,000 brass and wooden Buddha figures.
Leaving Laos, we’ll drive across the Friendship Bridge, at the Mekong River and get our passports stamped on arrival at the Thai border. Then we drive through lovely countryside to Udon Thani, home of traditional indigo ikat weaving. Most indigo dyed cloth here is woven from cotton, patterned with geometric weft ikat designs. Later we’ll see an infinite variety of silk ikat designs or as the Thai and Lao weavers say, “mat-mi” or “mud-mee” patterns.
Indigo ikat dyeing villages are our next destination. Around the town of Udon, we’ll visit friends who dye cotton threads with natural indigo. These Master dyers will show us their indigo pots and their tying and dyeing methods, as well as the weaving process. We’ll start to understand the complex ikat technique of tying off specific areas of the weft threads to resist the dye. The weavers love to show off their skills and these visits are fascinating.
Khon Kaen, Land of Silk
On our way south, we’ll go by Khon Kaen and Chaiyaphum to visit silk producing villages nearby and to see the famous silk ikat museum. The museum has an astounding collection of multicolored handwoven silk examples, many with tiny 1/8″ patterns that were tied into the weft threads before dyeing.
Then we’ll continue to Ubon Ratchathani, site of the Wax Candle Festival or Khao Phansa; see article explanation below. The golden wax figures and decorations that adorn the floats are very labor-intensive. Typically monks and lay people work on the floats until the very last minute when it is scheduled to roll onto the parade route We will arrive a day or two in advance so we can watch the final decoration and assembly of the figures – and we can even make merit by trimming some of the yellow wax decorations for the figures!
Angkor Wat Complex and Siem Reap
From Ubon, we’ll head across the southern border into Cambodia, to Siem Reap, to see the fabulous Angkor temple complex. Considered the most important archaeological site in South-East Asia, it contains the magnificent carved stone temples of different capitals of the Khmer Empire, from the 9th to the 15th century. This UNESCO World Heritage site is a superb temple complex, with sophisticated wall carvings. We’ll go from temple to temple in tuk-tuks, then explore each one. Many have steps to climb but it’s always possible to appreciate a temple from outside. A professional guide will explain the most stunning sites.
Siem Reap is a pleasant town, easy to explore on foot. It has great restaurants, good markets and shops with interesting crafts. While visiting Angkor Wat temples and the surrounding sights, we’ll stay five nights in a lovely hotel in Siem Reap.
Some of our hotels…
Luang Prabang Hotel
Beautiful and peaceful riverside hotel with comfortable rooms; breakfast served on the terrace overlooking the Mekong. Gorgeous Wat Xieng Thong is our immediate neighbor and we can walk into town in 5 minutes.
Siem Reap Hotel
Pretty hotel in a tropical setting, with airy rooms and pleasant pool. The location is convenient; we are within walking distance to the Night Market and many of Siem Reap’s excellent restaurants.
Additional Details & Experiences
Previous Adventures in Thailand, Laos and Cambodia
I have been to Thailand, India, Mali, Turkey, Cambodia, Laos and Bolivia with Cynthia. Every trip has been a wonderful adventure. She has personal contacts all over the world who add to each trip's story.She is very knowledgeable about all things textile. Each trip has always had great company and great food.Kathy P – Los Angeles, CA
- Tour begins July 8 with a night at the Novotel hotel near the Bangkok airport. The next day July 9 we fly to Luang Prabang. The trip ends in BKK on July 27 after the flight from Siem Reap.
- Included THREE group flights: From BKK to Luang Prabang (LPQ) and south to Vientiane, Laos (VTE) and from Siem Reap (REP) to Bangkok at the end.
- Connect to home flights on July 27.
- 19 nights in comfortable A/C hotels – charming boutique hotels, and a modern one in Bangkok
- All meals except two lunches and two dinners on days when the group is “on their own.”
- All soft drinks and bottled water with meals.
- We will have bottles of water in the van for day trips
- All land travel by private van with professional driver
- Three days of entrance tickets to Angkor Wat
- Transportation in the Angkor Wat Park and English-speaking licensed guide for 2 days. (Another day w/ guide is optional on your own; you’ll have tickets to enter the site for 3 days.)
- Tips for Luang Prabang and Angkor guides
- Entrances to temples, archaeological and museum sites on the itinerary
- Cambodian cooking class in Siem Reap; your choice of dishes to make.
- Phare Acrobatic show and dinner
- Dates: July 8 – 26, 2024
- Fly Home Date: July 27, 2024
- Deposit: $500
- Tour Cost: 19 Nights From $5,295
- Single Supplement: $750
More about flights later. You can search for flights to Bangkok on orbitz.com or expedia.com, or talk to a travel agent who can help with your itinerary.
Connect to home flights on July 27. Please plan to depart Bangkok (BKK) sometime in the afternoon of July 27. We will need get the arrival time for the flight to BKK from Siem Reap BEFORE you buy your international tickets. More about these plans later.
Thailand doesn’t require a Visa for travelers from most countries; check for yours. Both Laos and Cambodia issue easy visas upon arrival – whether at the airport or at the land border when we cross. These cost around $35 each and you will need to bring 2 passport-size photos.
What’s Not Included
- International round-trip airfare to Bangkok
- Driver tip (count on about $75 total per person)
- Your visas upon arrival [Laos USD $35 and Cambodia USD $40] at the airport or at the border when we enter
- Alcoholic beverages
- Several meals are ‘on your own’ per the itinerary
Frequently Asked Questions
What information will I receive after registering?
Once you sign up for a trip, we will e-mail a general itinerary, lists of Suggested Reading, what to take, cultural considerations, weather charts, etc.
How can I get a detailed itinerary for a tour?
A day-to-day itinerary will be sent once you sign up for a trip. If you need specific information about the flow of the trip and the pace of the specific activities, before committing to the trip, get in touch with your questions and we will be happy to fill you in.
What sort of clothing should I bring?
When you sign up for a tour, you’ll receive detailed lists of what to bring to your destination, as well as weather info, to more easily coordinate your wardrobe with the heat or cold.
We will also include suggestions for appropriate clothing for dressing in conservative countries. Basically you’ll need modest clothes that cover your shoulders and legs. Be comfortable, in light cool clothes you would wear to go out in the USA. Shorts and short pants are not appropriate for tourists, men nor women. Thai women wear dresses and skirts with blouses. Please keep your legs covered to below your knee.
Light cotton clothing, like long, loose pants and blouses with short sleeves, is perfect. Skirts at least knee-length are also comfortable with a nice T-shirt. Long dresses with short sleeves are also practical. Sleeveless tops are not considered in good taste for visiting temples and homes. Slip-off shoes will be easier to slide on and off when we visit a temple where we must be without shoes. We’ll send out a more complete list of What to Take at a later date, including the luggage size limits.
Are laundry services available?
Most hotels have a laundry service and prefer that you don’t wash clothes in the bathroom sinks. If there is no laundry service, and you don’t want to wash your jeans and wait a day or two for them to dry, asking at the hotel desk is a good place to start.
Please note that it is considered demeaning to wash someone else’s underpants, so we ask that you wash your own underpants. Hang them to dry discreetly in the bathroom.
What is the COVID situation?
Since the COVID situation in this part of the world is changing rapidly and daily, we’ll keep you updated regularly until departure with the latest info. Thailand has done well with their vaccination campaign and the rate continues to improve. Masks are worn in all indoor venues such as museums, and Customs & Immigration still require proof of vaccination to enter the country.
Laos and Cambodia have similar parameters. In all three countries we will most often be outdoors or in hotels that have strict disinfection protocol. Everywhere places that deal with visitors/travelers are very conscious of COVID prevention procedures.
Do I need any vaccinations or immunizations?
This varies with each country. Make an appointment with your travel doctor and take your tours itinerary with you. Some areas of certain countries require malaria pills and others do not; same with Yellow Fever and others such as Cholera and Typhoid. He or she will have all the latest requirements at hand. A rural visit to a farm may require extra precautions, for example. We will send you the links to the CDC.gov information pages for your specific destination so that you can ask questions.
You should be current on all your typical childhood and international travel shots such as Polio and Tetanus. Some countries now demand proof of vaccination against COVID. Behind the Scenes Adventures requires you to have two COVID vaccinations. We recommend you have a booster as well.
How much physical activity is involved during the trip?
You should be able to stand and stroll around markets and museums for several hours at a time. Most indoor venues such as our hotels, restaurants and museums have air-conditioning. Most days will involve some walking around towns on paved streets, but the sidewalks are sometimes broken and rutted. We’ll take our van or taxis for any long distances out to see the Buddhist temples and wats, or archeological sites.
The days involving the most exercise (at your own pace) will be at the Angkor Wat temple complex. These extensive and glorious ruins involve lots of walking, usually along hard dirt pathways. Closed toe shoes with good tread are important for climbing slippery stone stairs and walking in the jungle. There will always be the possibility of moving slowly in the heat and taking frequent breaks for cold water and iced teas. Bring a collapsible walking stick if you think you might need one.
What will the weather be like?
You will receive weather and temperature information with your pre-departure info. We will be traveling of necessity (for the festival) during the hot and humid June-August tropical rainy season, at least in Cambodia and Laos. Thailand is warm and humid with less rain during this season. Don’t be too alarmed, the hotels and most restaurants are air-conditioned. There are distinct advantages to traveling during this “rainy” season: the monsoon rains cool the hot, humid air, and there are fewer tourists.
Across most of the country, the rain is fairly predictable, usually occurring in the afternoon or at night. And the afternoon rains usually last no more than a couple of hours making them fairly easy to plan around, especially if you are visiting the Angkor temples. In fact, the temples are at their aesthetic best during the wet season because the stones are dark and gleaming and the tropical foliage of the surrounding jungle is clean and shiny. Some people bring a little personal battery-operated fan which helps.
Meals & Accommodations
What sort of hotels will we be staying in?
Before we depart, we will send you a list of all hotels with contact information in case someone at home needs to contact you. They are all pretty, tropical, and comfortable, with air conditioning, and sometimes a small pool.
What sort of food will we be eating?
Starting with breakfast, the three countries have excellent choices of coffees and pastries. Siem Reap and Luang Prabang especially have numerous amazing coffee shops that are spotless and airy, and serve the best coffees, with crispy, fresh croisssants or other breakfast foods.
When you arrive, we’ll give you a list of easy translations and common dishes to order for lunches and dinners. Food in all three countries that we will visit is superb, with lots of variety, and many unusual but delicious ingredients. On our trips, we are careful to patronize known, clean, and friendly local restaurants and cafes. Local cuisine specialties are integral to our travel experiences and are unique to the regions we’re visiting, so we want you to be able to taste as many traditional and typical dishes and condiments as possible. Our driver, Chai, loves to eat and helps choose the best combinations.
Sticky rice or Khao Niaw is eaten everywhere in Thailand and Laos, usually with delicious stir-fried vegetable and coconut milk dishes. There are many cold or room-temp salads such as Laab, or minced meat/chicken seasoned with lime juice and chili, crispy rice salad, or Green Papaya Salad which you will find delicious if it’s not too blazing-spicy. Steamed fish with coconut milk in banana leaves is superb, often served with noodles or sticky rice. Deep-fried tofu and grilled chicken (gai yang) are common items. Pad Thai and Pad See-Ew Gai are traditional and delicious (but common and simple) Thai dishes, consisting of rice noodles, vegetables, spices, and egg and/or chicken pieces. Sticky rice and fresh mango is one of the most common desserts too.
Will I be able to accommodate my dietary needs?
If you have any special dietary, health, or nutrition issues, restrictions, etc, there is no guarantee that Behind the Scenes Adventures will be able to accommodate your special diets in foreign countries. Please contact us before departure, and bring sufficient alternative foods. Travelers with severe peanut allergies cannot be accepted. Vegan diets are possible but with much less variety than at home. Vegetarian diets are often fairly easy to accommodate, but also with less variety than what is available at home.
The cuisine of all three countries includes many delicious vegetable, noodle and rice dishes. Simple fruits are often served for dessert. Much of the time, you will be free to order the vegetarian dish that you want; sometimes the guide will order family-style so we can share and you can taste different items.
Flights & Travel
Will I need a visa for connecting countries?
It is very rare to need a visa for a connection if you stay in the Transit area. This will be regulated by the connecting country and the airline will send information as to this requirement.
What are the requirements for my passport to be valid?
Your passport needs to have one blank page for your visa, although, with an E-Visa, you will have just a piece of paper to show, and don’t need room for anything except Immigration stamps in your passport.
Your passport must remain valid (not expired) for 6 months after you enter each country.
Will I be met at the airport?
Yes! Cynthia, an assistant or a driver will meet you with a sign with your name and/or Behind the Scenes Adventures. They will have your flight schedule and know you will need time to pick up your luggage. Wait for them in the terminal, right outside the Arrivals area, and don’t go with any other drivers that don’t have your name on a placard.
What is the best airline to fly to the country?
Basically you will need to get to Bangkok, but because of COVID, the flight rules have changed. We will send information about suggested flights at a date closer to departure. Typically United flights partner with ANA, for some good pricing. Japan Airlines also has excellent prices to Bangkok from the US West Coast.