Asia - Thailand & Laos Freestyle Pass- 17 days
Where you'll be going.............
Day 1 - Bangkok
- Sawadee, Sabaidee (hello) and welcome to Stray! Your adventure kicks off in the buzzing Asian metropolis of Bangkok, Thailand. If you arrive early in the day, feel free to check out the vibrant markets and ancient temples that make up only a small side of this multifaceted city. Be at our Stray Shop at 3pm to meet your Stray Guide and your new travel mates for a Welcome Meeting introduction. We’ll cover how Stray works and answer any questions you have before heading to the train station to board the overnight train to Chiang Mai. The overnight sleeper train is an experience within itself for those who have never been on one before, complete with lie flat beds and a restaurant carriage. It’s the most fun way to travel to Chiang Mai and get to know your new travel mates!
- Overnight sleeper train to Chiang Mai
- Welcome Meeting with your Stray Guide and group
Day 2 - Arrive in Chiang Mai
- We arrive into Chiang Mai train station around midmorning. As the largest city in Northern Thailand, Chiang Mai is a popular place to hop off for many travellers 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. In the evening, don’t miss browsing the famous night market to score a bargain or you can check out the lively music scene.
Day 3 - 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.
Day 4 - Chiang Mai to Huay 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 small town of Houay Xai, our stop for the night.
- White Temple (Wat Rong Khun) visit
Day 5 - Huay Xai to Mekong River Homestay
- Leaving Houay Xai you’ll board our private slow boat to cruise down the Mekong River to the tiny 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, try the local whiskey, and explore the village. This is a true highlight of any trip to Southeast Asia and exclusive to Stray!
- See More moment: Experience a traditional Baci Ceremony performed to bring visitors to the village good luck and good health. This ancient ritual is said to protect you as you travel and is a heart-warming chance to connect across cultures.
- Do More moment: Your contribution to the village funds annual projects to improve infrastructure and make a difference in this community.
Day 6 - 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.
- Pak Ou Caves entrance
Day 7 - 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, take a cooking class, or head to the night market for a hassle-free bargaining experience and some delicious cheap local food.
Day 8 - 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.
Day 9 - 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.
Day 10 - Vang Vieng to Vientiane
- Today we cruise through to the capital of Laos. On arrival in Vientiane your Stray Guide 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.
- City highlights of Vientiane with your Stray Guide, COPE centre
Day 11 - 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.
- Wat Prabat Phonsone (Buddha's Footprint)
Day 12 - 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.
- See More moment: Stray are the only ones who’ll take you off the beaten track to experience Kong Lor Cave - one of the natural wonders of Laos
Day 13 - 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.
- Wat Ing Hang Temple
Day 14 - 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.
- Bolaven Plateau, Tad Ngeuang Waterfall entry fee
Day 15 - 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.
Day 16 - Don Det to Bangkok (Express Day)
- Say goodbye to Laos – it’s an early start when we leave Don Det by local mini-van towards Pakse and then carry on to the Thai border and Ubon Ratchathani, where you board the overnight bus back to Bangkok.
- Overnight bus to Bangkok
Day 17 - Bangkok (Arrival Day)
- Your Stray journey officially finishes when you arrive back in Bangkok in the early morning. We hope you had a blast on your Stray adventure!
What's Included.......... The Essentials
- All Transport
- Local Stray Guide
- Access to Strademark
- Straymate - Trip Manager Portal
- Reserved Accommodation
These add-on activities can be purchased with your driver, Stray recommends you do at least 1-2 paid activities a day!
- Thai cooking course, Muay Thai boxing, trekking, kayaking, mountain biking - Chiang Mai
- Elephant Nature Park, Thai cooking course, Muay Thai boxing, trekking, kayaking, or get the adrenaline pumping with whitewater rafting, abseiling or mountain biking! - Chiang Mai
- Visit an ethnic lantern village near Chiang Rai (must hop off for this activity). - Chiang Mai
- Village stay includes accommodation in an indigenous family home, traditional Baci Ceremony, dinner, breakfast, local activities and contribution to the village fund/project ($17 USD) - Huay Xai
- Kuang Si Waterfall + bear sanctuary, Rice Experience, traditional cooking class, cycling, trekking or kayak the river. - Luang Prabang
- River tubing, cycling, kayaking, rock climbing, caving, visit the Blue Lagoon. - Luang Prabang
- River tubing, cycling, kayaking, rock climbing, caving, visit the Blue Lagoon. - Vang Vieng
- Guided Kong Lor Cave boat trip - Kong Lor
- Bicycle or tube hire, boat trip to spot Irrawaddy dolphins, fishing - Pakse
Need To Know.........
- Transport - All transport is included - you'll travel by bus (mostly private, air-conditioned buses with 24 seats), minivans, trains (Thailand only), boats (Laos only) and tuk-tuks.
- Guides - Stray employs local Guides to ensure you get more out of your trip. Hear the local stories, try their food recommendations, get insider tips and advice. If you hop on and off you'll have several different Guides throughout your journey - they're all absolute legends!
- Hopping on/off - You don't have to complete the Little Mekong in 17 days, take your time and go with the flow! You can hop-off at any destination along the route and spend more time there, then hop back on with the next group that is coming through. Where we recommend hopping off
- Booking Buses - It's really easy to manage your trip online using the Stray Mate trip management portal. You'll receive log in details in your Booking Confirmation email. If you're on a short timeframe, we recommend booking all your buses in advance.
- Travelling without hopping off - You don't need to hop off if you're short on time - you can travel in the number of days in the itinerary. There are non-travel days throughout the route so you will not be travelling everyday however we recommend allowing extra time to hop off.
- Departures - Buses run twice a week so the minimum amount of time you can hop off for is 3 days. Use the timetable to plan your trip.
- Accommodation - Accommodation is not included - we have preferred accommodation options at each overnight stop and a bed reserved for you. You can book this through your guide, or you can opt to book your own. Stray's preferred accommodation is simple and budget friendly.
- Activities - You can book optional activities through your Stray Guide.
- Visas - You are responsible for obtaining any visas you require for the countries you are travelling in. Visa requirements vary depending on where you’re coming from and where you going, so we recommend that you contact the appropriate embassy in your country of origin.
- Travel Insurance - You must have a travel insurance policy to cover you for the entire time you are travelling with Stray. You will be asked for your policy details prior to starting travel.
- Stray Travellers - Our travellers are from all over the world, are energetic, adventurous and mainly aged between 20-35. You'll have people who have booked Freestyle Passes and Tours in your group, as the route is exactly the same, it's just the inclusions that are different.
- Group Size - Max 18, Average 9
- Unguided sectors - This trip includes an unguided border crossing from Laos back to Bangkok, Thailand as our local guides stay in their country of origin. Crossing the borders can be a bit of an adventure but your guide will provide support and tell you what to expect. You can also find information about the day in Stray Mate.