See Northern Thailand and Laos, in a comprehensive trip for travellers who have two and a half weeks or more.
Feel the excitement of Bangkok, wander among ancient ruins in Ayutthaya and zipline through the jungle in Chiang Mai, before crossing the border into Laos. Take a slow boat through lush farmland and rugged mountains to a remote riverside village where you'll get to know the locals, experience village life and stay in the home of a local family. Head to the beautiful UNESCO World Heritage town of Luang Prabang and visit the spectacular Kuang Si waterfalls and bear rescue centre. Travel through mountainous terrain to Vang Vieng for tubing, cycling, kayaking or rock climbing; and visit country’s capital Vientiane. In the South of Laos you'll explore giant caves, a sacred monkey forest and chill out in the 4000 Islands before returning to Pakse for an overnight bus to Bangkok, Thailand.
Our mission is to get you off the beaten track amongst authentic local culture and our experienced crew has chosen some incredible destinations so you can see more and do more! 'Strademark' Places are the places you're less likely to find in the guide book but the ones you'll be talking about long after the adventure has ended.
- Only Stray visits a tiny, remote Lao village on the banks of the Mekong River. Experience traditional village life. Hang out with locals in their backyard, swim or play football with the kids. A very special part of the visit to this village is your opportunity to participate in a Baci (welcoming) ceremony.
- Zip through the 7km long Kong Lor Cave on an underground river! Considered a highlight of Laos, Kong Lor is not easy to get to on your own.
- Xe Champhone wetlands is that remote that sometimes our Stray buses can’t even access it and we have to jump on-board an off road truck just to get there. It’s one of the best places to see wildlife in their natural environment. Visit the Monkey Forest and feed the Rhesus Macaque monkeys.
- Don Det is an iconic Stray stop at the southernmost part of Laos. These landlocked islands (otherwise known as 4000 Islands) provides the perfect spot to kick back during the day and then party the night away.
- All transport – whether it be bus (comfortable and air conditioned private charter bus) boat, train, or even tuk-tuk!
- Local Tour Leader - Knowledgeable Local Guide to provide invaluable knowledge, support and insider insights and to assist with booking accommodation and activities at every destination.
- Reserved Accommodation – Have a bed reserved for you at every Stray overnight stop. Book through your Tour Leader and pay-as-you-go directly to the accommodation.
- Ultimate travel flexibility – pass is valid for up to 12 months from first day of travel and you can hop-on and off as much as you like.
- Ayutthaya Temples entrance free
- White Temple entrance fee
- Pak Ou Caves entrance fee
- Tham Jang Cave entrance fee
- Wat Prabat Phonsone entrance fee
- Kong Lor National Park
- Old Wat Taleow
- Hotay Pidok Library
- Tad Ngeuang Waterfall
- Wat Phou Temple entrance fee
Not included: The cost of your accommodation and optional activities is not included in a hop-on, hop-off pass. You have the flexibility to choose what suits your budget and pay-as-you-go. These can be booked via your Tour Leader.
If you would prefer a tour with accommodation and more activities included, check out the Little Mekong Flexi Tour. Get all the same great benefits + accommodation and top rated activities.
HOW DO YOU HOP ON AND OFF THE BUS?
‘Hop off’ the bus anywhere along the route, even places in between the designated stops. Either plan to hop off in advance or do it spur of the moment – it’s up to you!
To hop back on, simply book your next travel date and pickup location through Stray Mate, your online Trip Manager (you'll receive your log in once you've booked).
The buses run twice a week so the minimum amount of time you can hop off for is 3 days, but your pass is valid for up to 12 months from your first day of travel, meaning you can hop on and off as often as you like, for as long as you like, up to a year!
SHORT ON TIME?
You are not required to hop off the bus at all, you can use your pass like a tour and complete the itinerary in its ‘minimum days’. Either way you'll have a great time!
|Laos Travel Guide
Start planning your trip!
|Bangkok City Arrival Pack
Get your trip off to a hassle free start with airport transfers and 1 nights’ accommodation close to the departure location.
Visit the beautiful Thai Islands and the home of the famous Full Moon party, Koh Phangan. Departs from 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 6pm to meet your Tour Leader and your new travel mates for a Welcome Night introduction. We’ll cover how Stray works, answer any questions you have and make sure everyone is ready for tomorrow morning’s departure. Afterwards, make the most of your first night by getting to know each other over a delicious Thai dinner and a few cold beverages on Khao San Road.
For airport transfers and accommodation close to Khao San Road add on a Bangkok Arrival Pack
Meet your Stray Tour Leader back at the Stray Bangkok Shop in the morning to depart for the UNESCO World Heritage site of Ayutthaya. We arrive mid-morning, allowing you plenty of time to explore the ‘Venice of the East’ by bike or boat. Ayutthaya is the former capital of the Siamese empire and was once a grandiose city, but many of the ancient monuments were ruined when it was attacked by an invading army. Nevertheless, it is still a fascinating historical park that offers a glimpse of bygone splendour. This afternoon we board our overnight train and head for the city of Chiang Mai.
We arrive into Chiang Mai train station between 8am – 11am. 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. There are over 300 Buddhist temples to discover, you can visit the old walled city, see the Tapae Gate or pick up a bargain at the famous night market and check out the lively music scene.
Today is free for you to explore this historically rich city or partake in one of the many adventure activities on offer. If you’re looking for a bit of adrenaline we recommend Thailand’s most popular activity, the Flight of the Gibbon. This is an amazing tree-top adventure where you’ll swing like a monkey (or gibbon) and zip, fly, climb and crawl your way through an amazing jungle playground on the longest zip-line in Southeast Asia. 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.
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 into the chilled out town of Houay Xai, our stop for the night.
Leaving Houay Xai you’ll board our private slow boat up 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, swim in the river, visit the school and help the kids with an English lesson. Play a game of football with the kids, explore the local temple, go fishing and don’t forget to try the local whiskey. This is a true highlight of any trip to Southeast Asia and exclusive to Stray!
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. Jumping 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.
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 has many 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 photo-shopped, or you can get hands on and become an organic rice farmer for the day on the Rice Experience. You can spend the day cycling or trekking to rural villages, take a cooking class, and tonight head to the night market for a hassle-free bargaining experience and some delicious cheap local food.
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 mountain hill-tribe villages, vast green valleys and rolling hills; and we’ll make a special stop at the ‘loo with a view’. Our journey today takes us to the little riverside town Vang Vieng, best known for being the spot where you can take tubing trips down the Nam Song River stopping along the way at riverside bars and enjoying the beauty of Vang Vieng's landscape as you float downstream. Upon arrival into Vang Vieng start partying or kick back and watch re-runs of old TV shows playing at the bars around town!
With its stunning natural scenery, adventurous outdoor activities and reputation for a party scene, it’s no surprise that Vang Vieng is a popular spot for travellers. The tubing experience is more sedate now than in days past, but it’s still a real highlight to float down the river soaking up the beautiful mountain surrounds. Aside from tubing, Vang Vieng offers great rock climbing and kayaking options. We also recommend visiting the Blue Lagoon, one of the best natural swimming holes in Laos. 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.
Today we cruise through to the capital of Laos, stopping at the impressive Tham Jang Cave that was once used as a bunker in the 19th century during a Chinese invasion. On arrival in Vientiane your tour leader 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.
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. Tonight you stay in the very rural and very remote Kong Lor village, surrounded by rice paddies, stunning limestone karst mountains and tobacco fields. This is a photographer’s paradise and the gateway to the famous Kong Lor Cave (Tham Kong Lor to the locals). You have free time this afternoon to venture deep into the 7km abyss by riding in a motorised canoe on an underground river through the mountain.
Today is a short travel day as we head for the small town of Thakhek on the banks of the Mekong River. Thakhek is a major trading point and border town between Thailand and Laos. It has a strong French colonial influence and is a great base for hopping off to explore the Lao jungle, limestone cliffs, pristine rivers, lakes and hidden waterfalls in the nearby Phu Hin Bun National Park.
This is what Stray is all about: getting totally off the beaten track! We head into the Xe Champhone wetlands - an area so remote that occasionally our Stray buses can't access it, so we have to jump on board an off-road truck. Today we’ll stop at Old Wat Taleow, a beautiful temple that was bombed during the Secret War and somehow the golden Buddha inside remained undamaged.Next stop is the 200-year-old Hotay Pidok Buddhist library, a fascinating stilt structure that’s home to thousands of Sanskrit scriptures and bamboo tablets. Before heading for our guesthouse in the small village of Ban Keng Kok we stop at Monkey Forest. On arrival, grab some bananas and venture into the forest to get up close with curious and friendly wild rhesus macaque monkeys.
Driving south this morning we head for the bright lights of Pakse. From here, you can check out 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. For those who want to experience a little adventure, Pakse is a great place to hop off the bus and experience the unforgettable Tree Top Explorer adventure. This amazing experience includes a trek through the jungle, tree house accommodation, wildlife spotting, thundering waterfalls, and a zip-line system that will have you flying through the tree-tops.
An early start takes us to the UNESCO World Heritage site of Wat Phou, an ancient Khmer temple and the former capital of the Khmer empire before the Angkor Wat. We allow time to explore the site and climb up to the mountain top temple for some spectacular views over the man-made reservoir. We’ll then head south to the backpacker mecca of Si Phan Don, Don Det, otherwise known as the 4000 Islands. Here you can experience the laidback lifestyle and natural beauty of Laos’ landlocked islands. Take a leisurely tubing trip down the Mekong River, float past locals fishing and people lounging on their bamboo riverside verandas. Take a boat trip to spot rare Irrawaddy dolphins; or cycle across to the neighbouring Don Khone Island to discover the remaining remnants of the only steam engine railway in Laos and marvel at the thunderous Li Phi waterfall.
We leave Don Det early by local mini-van towards Pakse and then on to the Thai border and Ubon Ratchathani, where you board the overnight bus.
This sector is unguided. If you'd like more detailed information click here.
Your Stray journey finishes when you arrive in Bangkok in the early morning.
Starts: Bangkok - or anywhere on the travel loop and finish where you started! Just let us know upon booking.
Days: Monday or Friday
Time: 6pm at the Stray Bangkok Travel Shop
Arrival in Bangkok
|Stray Shop - 162 Soi Rambutri, Tanao Road (Welcome Night)||18:00||18:00|
Bangkok to Chiang Mai (via Ayutthaya)
|Bangkok - 162 Soi Rambutri, Tanao Road (Arrive)||09:30||09:30|
|Bangkok - 162 Soi Rambutri, Tanao Road (Depart)||10:00||10:00|
|Ayutthaya (Arrive)||12:00 PM||12:00 PM|
|Ayutthaya - Good Luck Guesthouse (Depart)||17:00||17:00|
|Ayutthaya Train Station (Depart)||19:45||19:45|
Arrive in Chiang Mai
|Chiang Mai (Arrive)||08:15||08:15|
|Chiang Mai (Free Day)||Free||Free|
Chiang Mai to Houay Xai
|Chiang Mai - Hugnur Hostel (Depart)||09:00||09:00|
|Chiang Rai - Bus Terminal 2 (Phaholayotin Rd) (Depart)||12:15||12:15|
|Thai Border (Depart)||14:30||14:30|
|Houay Xai (Laos Border) (Arrive)||16:00||16:00|
Houay Xai to Mekong River Homestay
|Houay Xai (Laos Border) - Oudomphone Hotel 2 (Depart)||08:00||08:00|
|Homestay Village (Arrive)||16:30||16:30|
Mekong River Homestay to Luang Prabang
|Homestay Village - Boat Landing (Depart)||08:00||08:00|
|Pak Ou Caves (Depart)||14:00||14:00|
|Luang Prabang (Arrive)||16:00||16:00|
|Luang Prabang (Free Day)||Free||Free|
Luang Prabang to Vang Vieng
|Luang Prabang - Arham Corner Guesthouse & Sports B (Depart)||08:00||08:00|
|Vang Vieng (Arrive)||14:30||14:30|
|Vang Vieng (Free Day)||Free||Free|
Vang Vieng to Vientiane
|Vang Vieng - Seng Aloun Guesthouse (Depart)||09:00||09:00|
Vientiane to Kong Lor (7km Cave)
|Vientiane - Mixay Paradise Guesthouse (Depart)||08:00||08:00|
|Kong Lor (Arrive)||15:00||15:00|
Kong Lor to Thakhek
|Kong Lor - Thong Dam Bungalow (Depart)||11:00||11:00|
Thakek to Xe Champhone
|Thakhek - Mekong Hotel (Depart)||07:30||07:30|
|Ban Lak 35 (Depart)||09:00||09:00|
|Xe Champhone (Arrive)||17:30||17:30|
Xe Champhone to Pakse
|Xe Champhone - Phonethavy Guesthouse (Depart)||08:00||08:00|
|Ban Khongxedon (Depart)||11:30||11:30|
Pakse to Don Det (4000 Islands)
|Pakse - Royal Pakse Hotel (Depart)||07:30||07:30|
|Champasak - Wat Phou (Depart)||10:30||10:30|
|Ban Nakasang - Pier (Depart)||14:00||14:00|
|Don Det (Arrive)||14:30||14:30|
Don Det to Bangkok (Express Day)
|Don Det - Boat Landing (Depart)||08:30||08:30|
|Ban Nakasong (Pier) (Depart)||08:45||08:45|
|Laos - Thai Border (Depart)||17:30||17:30|
|Ubon Ratchathani (Depart)||20:00||20:00|
Arrival Day: Bangkok
|Bangkok (Arrival next morning)||06:00||06:00|
How It Works
- Come with the benefits of travelling with a group and a tour leader, but give you total flexibility to do what you want, when you want!
- Include transport (buses, minivans, trains, boats, tuk-tuks - the whole Southeast Asia experience!)
- Are valid for 12months of travel.
- Give you total freedom to hop on and off the bus at destinations along the way
- Take you to unique, off the beaten track places that you might not find on your own. We call these places, STRADEMARK places.
- Are easy and hassle-free.
- Are guided by an awesome, English-speaking local Tour Leader
- Do not include activities and accommodation giving you the flexibility to choose what suits you, as you go. Your Tour Leader is happy to help make bookings and offer suggestions.
HOW DO YOU HOP ON AND OFF THE BUS?
‘Hop off’ the bus anywhere along the route, even places in between the designated stops. Either plan to hop off in advance or do it spur of the moment – it’s up to you!
To hop back on, simply book your next travel date and pickup location through Stray Mate, your online Trip Manager (you'll receive log in info after you've booked).
The buses run on a regular timetable with two departures a week so you can plan ahead too.
Your pass is valid for up to 12 months from your first day of travel, meaning you can hop on and off as often as you like for up to a year!
Short on time?
WHAT ABOUT ACCOMMODATION?
Accommodation is not included with your travel pass, giving you the flexibility to stay where you like, however, at all of Stray's overnight stops along the route, you'll have a bed reserved at our preferred accommodation. Simply confirm that you would like a bed with your Tour Leader and pay on arrival. It's that easy.
Stray's preferred accommodation is a mix of family-run guesthouses, hostels, homestays and hotels. The option of a shared or private room is usually available.If you choose to hop-off and stay a few nights, it is your responsibility to book those extra nights in. If you want to book your own accommodation in each destination, you're welcome to do that too, just note that the Stray bus only picks up and drops off at the Stray preferred Accommodation.
WHAT ACTIVITIES CAN I DO?Along the way we stop to see and do cool things which are included with your trip but you might also want to do some extra activities too! There are over 100+ activities on offer! Whether you are a hiker, a biker, a water baby, a foodie or an adrenaline junkie you can start getting inspired by checking out the list of activities on offer.
WHO TRAVELS WITH STRAY?
Our travellers are an energetic outgoing crowd who share a common objective: to have a great time exploring Asia! Most are aged between 18 - 35 although we have no maximum age because we believe age doesn't matter - it's more about having a thirst for adventure! We get a wide range of nationalities from all over the world with the majority from UK, Europe and America. 75% of our travellers are travelling solo and some travel as part of a couple or group of friends.