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Off-Grid in Thailand and Laos

Meditate with a Buddhist monk, drift down the Mekong in a private boat & learn to cook a traditional meal with a remote village hill tribe

What's Included

  • Accommodation in twin rooms
  • Max 14 travelers per group
  • Exclusively for people in their 30s & 40s
  • Arrival transfer included
  • All activities mentioned on the itinerary
  • 9 breakfasts, 5 lunches, 4 dinners
  • Experienced Pack Leader with you throughout this trip
  • Stay in hand-picked 3-5 star hotels
  • Private minibus & Mekong river cruise

Flashpackers must provide evidence that they have purchased travel insurance for the duration of their adventure. Remember, flights aren't included and prices are based on sharing a twin room. If you'd like to upgrade to a single room, you can add this during the booking process or by contacting our Customer Experience team.

About your trip

Secret waterfalls, bustling night markets and lazy days spent drifting down the Mekong; this 10-day adventure might be the antidote to modern living we all need.

First stop: Chiang Mai, where you’ll hunt down the best-kept Thai street food secrets and sip on rice whisky with new friends. You’ll travel past remote villages and snoozing water buffalo to walk up a ‘sticky’ waterfall and kayak on a placid lake. There’ll be moments of complete serenity as you float slowly down the Mekong River or sit down to meditate with a Buddhist master. And even more moments of wonder as you meet – and cook with – tribespeople living in the mountains of the Golden Triangle, and rise at dawn to watch the atmospheric alms-giving ceremony amongst Luang Prabang’s splendor.

Far from the madding crowd, this rural adventure propels you deep into the wilds of a Southeast Asia you could only imagine – perfect for escaping it all. Whatever ‘it’ is.

Ready to go?

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Welcome to Thailand

You’ve arrived in Chiang Mai, the laid-back antithesis to (beautifully) manic Bangkok. Here, you’re never too far from lush forests and waterfalls, whilst an ancient center boasts quaint markets and impressive monasteries. Having been transferred from the airport to your boutique hotel close to Chiang Mai’s ancient heart, you’ll meet your fellow travelers over a welcome drink before heading out on your first adventure: an immersive street food tour of the traditional night market. With your local Pack Leader to guide you, you’ll sample numerous local Thai delicacies, from fish ball soup and Thai sweets to (plenty of) rice whisky. Oh, and let’s not forget the edible insects. Anyone? 

Meditate with a Buddhist monk

Spend your first full day exploring Chiang Mai’s unspoiled countryside, venturing down rural roads past rice fields and remote villages. You’ll stop at the ‘sticky’ Bua Tong waterfall, where calcium deposits on the rocks make it easy to clamber up the 100-meter falls, before continuing to a nearby reservoir surrounded by pristine forest. Here, you’ll take a longtail boat across the placid water to a floating raft house here a delicious lunch awaits. Spend the afternoon swimming and kayaking immersed in the heart of nature. Back in Chiang Mai the immersive adventures continue as you visit a temple to enjoy a private guided meditation with a Thai Buddhist monk. This is the Southeast Asia you dreamt of.

Go slow in Chiang Mai

Thailand’s cultural heartland is home to a carefree community of artists and digital nomads, drawn by its beautiful old architecture and an easy-going lifestyle. It’s an easy-going lifestyle we encourage you to embrace on this free day in Chiang Mai. After your mountain adventures yesterday, you might want to simply sprawl by your hotel pool, or pop into town for its galleries and shops. Your Pack Leader will be on hand to guide you towards the very best eats, historic sites and markets. In the evening, take a stroll around the thriving Night Bazaar, home to artisan crafts and some exotic flavors.

Hill tribe immersion

This morning you’ll travel northeast through forested peaks to Chiang Rai, Chiang Mai’s charming “little sister” city. Tucked away in the Northern Thai highlands, it’s surrounded by dense jungle, paddy fields and hill tribe villages built from bamboo and banana leaves. You’ll spend a very special day visiting Hloyo Village, where you’ll meet the tribespeople and learn about their beliefs and traditional way of life in harmony with nature. You’ll visit the hand-built homes, meet local artisans and try your hand at crafting, before preparing a typical Akha meal using techniques passed down through the generations. Later, you’ll take a stroll around Chiang Rai’s Night Bazaar, where you’ll recognize hill tribe crafts for sale.

CHIANG RAI GLORY

Your day starts with a samlor (three-wheeled rickshaw) ride to explore Chiang Rai’s quiet streets. Travelling at a slower pace, you’ll be able to soak up the sights and sounds. After visiting the landmark gold monument to King Mengrai founder of the city you’ll continue by samlor to Wat Phra Kaew temple, with its beautiful brass Buddha, and the fascinating Hilltribe Museum for its colourful ethnic displays. Next, you’ll travel by road to the Disney-like temple of Wat Rong Khun with its unusual kanok architecture. After a traditional Thai lunch overlooking the Kok River, it’s back on the road to the Golden Triangle, where the borders of Laos, Myanmar and Thailand converge. You’ll visit the world-class Hall of Opium museum to learn about the opium trade, before a relaxed evening at your hotel overlooking Laos.

Boat down the Mekong

Today you cross the border and embark on a languorous two-day boat trip down the Mekong, stopping off at a village overnight. Forget WiFi or crowds, and lose yourself to the gentle put-put of the slow boat, as you drink in the beautiful Laotian terrain. You’ll pass mountain gorges, tropical forest and sandbanks lined by narrow fishing vessels in the Land of a Million Elephants (you may even spot one of these wonderful creatures, too). Make the most of the solitude to get stuck into a book and unwind. You may also want to take part in our simple cooking demonstration, where you’ll learn how to make some basic Lao dishes. In the evening, you’ll dock at the small village of Pakbeng, where the Mekong and Beng rivers meet. There’ll be time to visit the local market and enjoy drinks by the river, before dinner at your hotel.

Sacred caves & Luang Prabang

It’s back to the serenity of the river today, with a few more hours more boating on the Mekong. You’ll stop en route at Pak Ou, to explore the magnificent Tam Ting caves. Accessed by a rambling staircase cut into craggy limestone cliffs, the caves and are filled with thousands of Buddha statues. Back on board, you’ll enjoy a delicious lunch before gliding into the ancient town of Luang Prabang. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, this former royal capital is all about the charm. Expect French colonial buildings framed by pink bougainvillea trees, and monks in bright saffron robes strolling between gilded temples. Take a gentle amble around town and make like the locals with a friendly game of petanque. For dinner, we recommend tucking into a traditional Lao BBQ, where you can grill your own meat over sizzling coal-filled blocks.

Farm like a local

A day of exploring beckons, and you’ll be up at sunrise to witness the alms-giving ceremony, a sacred tradition in Buddhist culture. It’s an extraordinary sight to see hundreds of barefoot monks walk in silence, meditating as they collect their daily alms from devotees across the city. Next, you’ll head to a community-run rice farm to spend a few hands-on hours learning how to plant and grow sticky rice, the ubiquitous dish of Laos. You can even try your hand at ploughing the rice paddies with a mud-loving water buffalo (be sure to bring a change of clothes). After a rice-based lunch (naturally), your group will transfer to the beautiful Kuang Si Waterfall for a refreshing dip. Finish the day with a private Baci ceremony hosted by the local community, followed by a special dinner washed down with a round of Beerlao.

Sunset cruising

A free day stretches ahead today and the delights of Luang Prabang beckon. Start with a lazy cappuccino at your hotel, before hiring bikes to pedal around this supremely pretty town. Stop to pick up some rice lollipops from the morning market, or order a fresh lychee juice from one of the cafés down by the river. Love temples? Check out the ornate Wat Mai palace, and the 16th-century Wat Xieng Thong with its famous ‘tree of life’ mosaic. Or climb the 355 steps up Mount Phousi, for 360-degree views of the town. Late afternoon, there’s a final treat in store with a sunset cruise along the Mekong. You’ll board a private boat and toast your fellow Flashpackers with delicious fresh cocktails as you drift into the fading sun. Your farewell dinner is in a top riverside restaurant where you’ll taste some of Laos’ finest cuisine the perfect end to your Flash Pack adventure.

Farewell, Laos

Flashpackers, it’s time to say goodbye. Your guide can help you to arrange your transfer to the airport. If this has sparked a love for Southeast Asia, why not look to Vietnam and Cambodia?

Our Favorite Hotels

Here's a taste of the hotels we sometimes use on this adventure. The hotels you'll stay in for your departure will be shared with you one month before you go.

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Sanctuary Luang Prabang Resort

Nestled in tropical gardens, between the Mekong and Nam Khan rivers, this central boutique hotel has been constructed around three historic royal buildings. Rooms are large and airy with private terraces, plus there’s a sit-out terrace overlooking the lotus pond. 

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Sanctuary Pakbeng, Pakbeng

A boutique lodge on the banks of the Mekong in a remote part of Northern Laos. Kick back by the pool with its panoramic views and watch the coming and goings of river boats as traditional rural life unfolds around you.

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Chiang Khong Teak Garden, Chiang Khong

In a prime position, right by the riverfront, this is Chiang Khong’s smartest hotel. Rooms feature a harmonious fusion of traditional Lanna and contemporary decor, plus there’s a riverside pool perfect for sundowners.  

Important Notes

Which airports do I need to fly in and out of? Plus airport code

Fly into Chiang Mai International Airport (CNX) in Thailand, and out of Luang Prabang International Airport (LPQ) in Laos.

What time do I need to arrive (in time for the welcome meeting)?

Before 1 pm ideally. The welcome meeting and dinner will be at 5 pm starting at the hotel, which is approximately 30 minutes away from the airport.

What time should my flight depart on the last day?

There are no activities planned for the last day, so leave any time you wish. Your final hotel is approximately 15 minutes away from the airport. 

Are airport transfers included?

If you arrive on Day 1 of your adventure, or you book pre-tour accommodation with us, your airport arrival transfer will be included. If you book alternative pre-tour accommodation or are arriving by another mode of transport you must arrange your own arrival transfer.

Arrival transfers are private to Flash Pack and will be in groups depending on flight times. Sometimes this means waiting in the airport for a short while until other flights have arrived.

We don’t offer a departure transfer as Flashpackers leave at different times of the day and many stay for extra nights. However, your Pack Leader will offer you support with finding a local taxi.

Are tips included?

Please note that tips are not included in the cost of this adventure. Suggested amounts per person are:

  • Pack Leader: 15 USD per day
  • Driver: 4-5 USD per day
  • Local tips: your Pack Leader will be able to advise on how much to tip local guides, porters, waiters, etc. Some Pack Leaders will collect a tipping kitty at the welcome meeting to take care of local tips.

However, all tips are at your discretion depending on what you feel comfortable with.

Do I need a visa?

Thailand
You do not need a visa if you’re visiting as a tourist from the EU, UK, USA, Australia or Canada for up to 30 days. Please check with your local consulate if the country you are travelling from requires a visa. 

Laos
Most nationalities will require a visa to enter Laos which will be issued on arrival for 30 days. A passport size photo is required and will cost approx $40 (cash only). 

We recommend that you have at least six months validity remaining on your passport and can show a return ticket.

Additionally, be aware that airlines will now only allow boarding of flights to and from Laos if you have two blank pages in your passport.

What level of fitness do I need for this trip?

There are no particularly strenuous activities on this tour, so a moderate level of fitness is fine. 

What standard of accommodation should I expect?

Our accommodation at Pakbeng in Laos is basic and not up to Flash Pack’s usual standards – but options are limited in this remote region and we only stay there one night.

Will this itinerary change?

Please be aware that the itinerary, activities and hotels are subject to change. These changes can happen with little notice due to availability, poor weather, seasonal changes, or other circumstances beyond our control. From time to time we may also make changes to your itinerary to try out new ideas and keep things fresh.

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