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Thailand and Laos Map and Itinerary

| Words by Zoe Crane | ,

Your itinerary for spending two-weeks in Thailand and Laos

A two-week Thailand and Laos itinerary will showcase Asia, with Bangkok's fizzing streets, at its most modern and, in corners of Laos, its most provincial and untouched. See our Thailand and Laos Experience tour here.

The best time to visit Thailand and Laos is November to March. However travel during the green season can also be advantageous. Brief afternoon showers rarely affect touring while lower prices (hotels and tours) and fewer international tourists can make your Thailand and Laos tour even more intimate. See our latest traveller reviews of Thailand and Laos here.

Thailand and Laos Map and ItineraryThailand and Laos Itinerary and Map

Day 1-2: Bangkok

Tuk tuk in BangkokA Bangkok Icon, tuk-tuks line the busy streets.

Bangkok is a bustling modern metropolis yet it retains its Thai charm with cultural and historic sites down hidden backstreets. The city can also be explored by canal boat past temples and palaces, as well as scenes of daily life. Stop at the Wat Arun and then see the Emerald Buddha and Grand Palace, the former residence of the much-loved King. Wat Pho is Bangkok’s oldest temple and home to the famed reclining Buddha, a whopping 46m long. Spend time wandering down Sampeng Lane in Chinatown, once infamous for its collection of opium dens and brothels; it is now a thriving marketplace. In the evening explore the night markets or sample Thailand’s world famous street-food.

Day 3-4: Kanchanaburi & The River Kawai

The Kanchanaburi region, about a 2.5 hour drive from Bangkok, is best known for the ‘Death Railway’ and its ‘Bridge over the River Kwai’- built using forced labour by POWs (prisoners of war) in WWII. Many prisoners died under horrific conditions and the Australian-commissioned museum at the infamous Hellfire Pass is a touching monument to those soldiers. From Hellfire Pass, travel by train across the infamous bridge all the way to Kanchanaburi. Just outside Kanchanaburi is Elephant World, a sanctuary for elephants that have been injured or mistreated. Dedicated to the protection and happiness of all the creatures in their care, you will not find elephants doing tricks, painting or being ridden. Instead, feed and wash the elephants in this gorgeous rural setting surrounded by forested mountains. Dotted along the river’s edge are a selection of charming resorts and restaurants.

Elephants in ThailandElephants in Thailand enjoying the peaceful valley

Day 5: Ayuthaya

Travel east to Ayuthaya (1351 to 1767), once a royal capital and part of a critical trade route between India and China making it one of the most significant cities in Asia. Destroyed in the late 18th century by invading Burmese, the new capital was located at Bangkok, where it remains. Visit some of old Ayuthaya’s more intact World Heritage-listed temples by bike to cover a larger area. When you have finished exploring this fascinating area, travel back to Bangkok for a flight to Chiang Mai in Thailand’s north.

Day 6-7: Chiang Mai

The walled city of Chiang Mai is made for walking. There are exciting discoveries around every turn, from countless temples to traditional handicraft workshops, and fabulous boutiques for unique shopping. Built in 1296 as the capital of the Lanna kingdom, it became a hub for religious worship and fine artworks, and is still known for its silverware, silk and carvings. Stop at Wat Chedi Luang to see some of the many Buddha statues and images and meet some of the local monks. Warorot market is the oldest and most famous local market in town; be sure to try some of the colourful Thai sweets.

Spend one day exploring the surrounding hills starting at the hilltop golden temple of Doi Suthep with spectacular views. Travelling about an hour and half east you can visit an authentic local village, a community initiative run by the villagers themselves. Take a village walk and discover traditional music and dancing, or watch coffee cultivation. This program also promotes environmental conservation and provides a good source of income for the villagers. In the evening walk through Chiang Mai’s enticing food markets or try your hand at the local cuisine at one of the cooking schools, then explore the night market, said to be a modern version of the bazaar created by Yunnanese hawkers.

Wat Phra Sing in Chiang Mai Wat Phra Singh, one of the many beautiful temples in Chiang Mai

Day 8: Chiang Rai

Stop on the way to Chiang Rai to see local handicrafts being made by the talented artisans of the colourful hilltribes that call this area home. Chiang Rai is the gateway to the Golden Triangle, the area where Thailand meets neighbouring Laos and Burma.

Day 9: Cruise Chiang Rai to Pakbeng

Drive to Chiang Khong on the mighty Mekong River to begin your tranquil cruise in Laos, the ‘Land of a Million Elephants.’ Watch life along the river float past as you unwind amidst picturesque scenery. After about six hours cruising, arrive at the simple market town of Pakbeng, well known for its frontier atmosphere. There is a selection of simple lodges along the river, or you can stay at Pakbeng Lodge for some off-the-beaten-track luxury. If you have an extra day, stay and visit the elephant camp across the road.

Day 10: Cruise Pakbeng to Luang Prabang

Enjoy a riverside breakfast and re-board for a full-day cruise to Luang Prabang past lush forests and quiet villages. Stop at Pak Ou caves to see literally thousands of Buddha statues and images. Finish your peaceful boat journey at World Heritage-listed Luang Prabang, a highlight of any Thailand and Laos itinerary.

Day 11-13: Wednesday Luang Prabang

Luang Prabang is a perennial traveller favourite thanks to its colonial architecture, stunning gilded temples and tranquil old-world charm. Surrounded by forested mountains it sits at the point where the Khan and Mekong Rivers meet. Cars are restricted in this World Heritage-listed town, and the town lends itself to exploring by foot or bike. Start at the National Museum, formerly the Royal residence, filled with Lao art and furniture before discovering the most exquisite of the temples. We recommend Wat Xieng, Wat Mai and Wat Pha Bhat Tai on the banks of the Mekong. To get a true feeling for life in Luang Prabang join the locals for a game of Petanque, a national pastime, before sipping sundowners by the river. A visit to Luang Prabang isn’t complete without watching the countless robed monks receiving alms in the early morning hours. Just outside of Luang Prabang is Kuang Si Falls, with its calm turquoise pool, ideal for swimming. On the way back learn about the various ethnic minorities in the area at the Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre and local markets selling items crafted by the local minority villagers

Sunset over Luang Prabang Sunset over Luang Prabang

Day 14: Vientiane

Fly from Luang Prabang to Vientiane, one of Asia’s most laid back capitals. Vientiane retains an old world atmosphere despite new developments. Start your journey at the Patuxai Monument, also known as Laos’ Arc de Triomphe, offering views over the city from the roof. Wat Sisaket is one of Vientiane’s oldest and most beautiful temples, with literally thousands of miniature Buddha statues. Across the street is Wat Haw Phra Kaew, now a museum where religious works of art are displayed. The iconic Pha That Luang is a gold covered Buddhist stupa and important national monument, and the Lao National Museum depicts the Laotian struggle for independence from France. For an interesting insight visit the COPE centre, a local organisation providing prosthetic limbs to those in need, many of whom are victims of UXOs left behind from years of conflict. The centre is interactive and informative and a visit is an uplifting experience.

The Golden Pagoda in Wat Pha The Golden Pagoda in Wat Pha, Vientiane

Insider Journeys operates a two-week Thailand and Laos Experience small group tour covering the above highlights. We can also arrange a tailor-made Thailand and Laos tour to create a bespoke trip.

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