The Perfect Circle: Luang Prabang to Pak Beng and back by road and Mekong River cruise

A Cultural Adventure Up the Mekong

The ancients reached Luang Prabangvia the Mekong river or overland through the jungle. Experience both routes to this magical place and gain a deeper appreciation for the area's natural beauty and also the isolation which has preserved its ambiance. This very special overnight trip from Luang Prabangtakes you far up the Mekong river to the village of Pak Beng. You travel one way by boat and one way by road, making a perfect circle on ancient routes that give our guests uncommon insights into Lao culture, history, natural beauty and modern life.

Luang Prabang to Pak Beng: There & back by Mekong river boat and country coads with an overnight in scenic Pak Beng

Luang Say

This Unesco World Heritage site offers a spectacular glimpse of long ago, current day, and much of the history in between. Our "Perfect Circle" takes you far beyond this historic city to villages that are rarely seen by mere tourists. You depart Luang Prabangeither by a traditional Lao riverboat, overnight in Pak Beng, and return by road the following day (or vice versa) with colorful stops along the way.

For the leg of your trip on the Mekong you will see villages perched on the shore where the inhabitants make their lives from the river. You will likely see some of them net fishing from shore or from boats along the banks. The scenery along the river is ever-changing but always spectacular. You will make a couple of stops along the way to go ashore and see life along the river first hand.

You will overnight at Pak Beng, a majestic lodge perched high on the cliffs above the Mekong. The accommodations are beautiful and the meals are delicious. Enjoy twilight as the birds sing their last songs of the day, and breakfast as the mist clears from the Mekong. You may even hear elephants trumpeting from the dense forest just across the river.

The route by road through the jungle offers much to see. The dense tropical vegetation exhibits rare beauty and there are ethnic minority villages along the way where people live much as they have for centuries (except for television and the Internet). You will visit several such a villages and meet some of their resourceful and gracious people.

What You Will See

Hmong Village

The same stops are made whether the first leg of your journey is by land or water. They include:

Tam Thing Caves. At the confluence of the Mekong and Nam Ou Rivers you visit a cave complex that attracts Buddhist pilgrims from throughout Laos. Inside you will find more than 1,500 Buddha statues left for generations by visitors.

Baw Village. This landlocked hill tribe village where you will get a taste of rural Lao life--boys fishing along the river, a charming monastery, school kids, women seated at looms and village men making the local moonshine from local rice. (Yes, you can take a bottle home with you!)

Pak Beng is the half-way point between Luang Prabangand the Thai port town of Chiang Khong, so it is the usual overnight stop for passenger ferries and boats carrying freight from Thailand or China. The town has a dusty wild west flavor with local restaurants and bars blaring Western music and a collection of ramshackle wooden buildings. You spend the night here in a lovely teakwood hotel overlooking the river.

Muang Ngeun is a village of traditional wooden architecture dating to the early eighteen century. You visit a wooden wat (temple) that dates to 1736 and another mural-adorned wat that dates to 1816.

Ban Bi Mi is known for traditional cotton growing, spinning and weaving. You will see artisans at work as they craft textile products that are an integral part of traditional Lao rural life.

Hongsa once had Laos' largest collection of elephants. Today, it produces electricity for Thailand. It sits at the edge of a large expanse of virgin forest through which you will pass. You will see breathtaking landscapes, ethnic minority villages, and perhaps some of the endangered animal species that are native to the region.

Sayaboury now has the largest elephant population in Laos. You make a stop here for a traditional home-cooked Lao lunch served overlooking the river.

Kacham Waterfall seems to be untouched and undiscovered except for the locals who enjoy relaxing there.

This program includes all meals. Lunch on the Mekong River leg is an onboard buffet on the boat and dinner your hotel in Pak Beng. Departures are NOT daily. Please contact us for schedule details. We will need to know approximate dates.

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LGBT Asian Travel by Purple Dragon

Prices and Hotels

We offer a discount on this Perfect Circle tour for guests using our all-inclusive Luang Prabangpackage. If you are taking our LP package we will substitute an alternative activity for Tam Thing Caves, which is also included in the package.

To see seasonal prices please click on the "$" button on the left. If you have questions or suggestions about the hotels we use, please email us.

Please reserve Luang Prabang visits well in advance if you want to be assured of a room in your preferred hotel. Alternative accommodation may also be available.

Purple Dragon pioneered gay travel to Laos, but everyone is welcome on our tours!

Great Program, Great Value

private airport transportation, gay-friendly accommodation (including tax meals beginning with lunch on day 1 through lunch on day 1, transportation by boat and van with guide, , admission to paces mentioned in the itinerary. Not included: airfare, local transportation to and from the starting/ending place in central Luang Prabang,  beverages, other meals, gratuities, features not specifically mentioned in the itinerary, or items of a purely personal nature.

Custom vacations are our specialty. If this travel package is not exactly what you are looking for, we may be able to modify it to make it a perfect fit.