Travel in a loop north from Bangkok exploring northern Thailand, Laos and Cambodia before returning to Bangkok on this comprehensive trip for travellers with four weeks or more. Click here to see the route!
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Whether it be our air-conditioned buses, boat, train, or even tuk-tuk - you can hop-on hop-off anywhere along the route.
Knowledgeable local guides to provide invaluable support and insider insights and to assist with booking accommodation and activities at every destination.
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.
12 month travel pass
Your pass is valid for 12 months from the first day of travel.
There are some awesome activities and entrance fees included with your pass:
- 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 fee
- Old Wat Taleow
- Tad Ngeuang Waterfall
- Wat Phou Temple entrance fee
- S21 Prison entrance fee
- Phnom Penh Killing Fields
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.
Is this trip right for you?
✓ Do you want to explore with a group of like-minded travellers?
✓ Do you want to explore Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia at your own pace?
✓ Do you want to immerse yourself in local culture?
✓ Do you want to visit some of those harder to reach, remote destinations?
✓ Do you want the flexibility to stay longer in certain places?
The Mekong Freestyle Pass is a great choice for you!
If you would prefer a tour with accommodation and more activities included, check out the Mekong Freestyle Tour! Get all the same great benefits + accommodation and top-rated activities.
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.
- Immerse yourself in real Cambodian village life when we stay in a rural village 20mins from Battambang.
Get inspired and start planning your trip!
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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 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.
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.
Say goodbye to Laos – it’s an early start for the journey into Cambodia. A short drive will bring you to the Don Kralor Border where you will complete the immigration process and continue into Cambodia. Today your destination is the provincial town of Siem Reap, home to the UNESCO World Heritage listed Angkor Temple complex. Arriving in Siem Reap in the late evening there will be time to freshen up before dinner and drinks along the iconic Pub Street.
After your first night on Pub Street, you’ll probably enjoy a free day to sleep in or get out and explore more of the downtown area during the day. In the evening you have the option to attend the unforgettably unique Phare Circus, a locally run non-profit troupe that provides disadvantaged young people from the community with a place to learn the skills needed to earn their livings as professional performing artists. Prepare to be amazed by how these talented young artists share authentic modern and folk Cambodian stories through an energetic display of acrobatic feats, music and dance.
You get a second full free day in Siem Reap because you simply cannot visit without seeing the highly recommended UNESCO World Heritage Angkor temples. Ranked at the top of many ultimate travel bucket lists (including Lonely Planet’s), the awe-inspiring ancient city of Angkor is the largest temple complex in the world. You can easily spend a full day at the site and still only see a small portion of this dramatic architectural wonder, but make sure you check out the famous Angkor Wat and Ta Prohm, which most people recognise from Angelina Jolie’s Tomb Raider movie.
Today we depart Siem Reap early enough to arrive in Battambang for a late lunch. After lunch we'll take a ride on the Bamboo Train, a rail system that was built by the French and destroyed by the Khmer Rouge, but is still used by the locals as a simple form of transport. Next we'll visit a whiskey making village and learn about the local tipple, before checking out a village where they make a staple (but smelly) ingredient in most Khmer and Southeast Asian cuisine - fish sauce! Tonight we'll stay in another little village outside Battambang, located in the picturesque countryside. You'll stay in a Cambodian family's home, and experience rural community life. You can wander through the village and nearby rice paddies, and finish the day by enjoying a delicious traditional meal with your host family.
A full day of travel takes us from the countryside to the largest seaside town on the Cambodian coast. Sihanoukville has recently undergone rapid development and substantial change. What used to be Cambodia’s premier beach location is now a hive of construction and so some people prefer to spend less time in Sihanoukville, opting to explore the nearby Cambodian Islands instead. We arrive late in the day so we’ll settle in to a guesthouse in Otres beach, take a look around and find a nice spot for a cold beer and some local khmer cuisine. With the Angkor Brewery up on the hill behind Sihanoukville, the beer here is some of the freshest in Cambodia!
Today you could take a ferry out to explore the neighboring islands of Koh Rong or Koh Rong Samloen. Go for the day or stay the night, there are accommodation options available on both islands. Koh Rong is a popular backpacker party island while Koh Rong Samloen boasts peaceful, white sand beaches with a more relaxing vibe. “Speed Ferry Cambodia” departs from Sihanoukville pier multiple times a day. The Cambodian islands feel like castaway paradise, the perfect spot to swim and relax on the beach and watch the rainbow of colours cast by another stunning sunset. If you’re staying in Sihanoukville, you could hire a bike and explore the area, hire a Stand Up Paddle Board (SUP) or a sailing catamaran from Otres Beach.
Today you could take a day trip on a boat from Otres Beach to explore some of the little islands off shore, go snorkelling and enjoy some island beach time. If you’ve been staying over on the islands, make sure you come back to the mainland by late afternoon to stay the night in Otres Beach as we depart early the next morning.
A 3 hour drive brings us to the little riverside town of Kampot where you will have a free afternoon to visit the salt and pepper farms, go cycling or trek in the Bokor National Park. There is an option to take a leisurely boat cruise on the Kampot River: a relaxing boat trip where you’ll just sit back, enjoy a cool beverage and absorb the spectacular views of Bokor National Park and Elephant Mountain as the sun sets over the river. Tonight we recommend sampling the exceptional seafood at one of the many restaurants on the riverfront – try the fried shrimp with green pepper corns, it’s delish!
From Kampot we head inland for the bustling Cambodian capital Phnom Penh, stopping for lunch before we take an afternoon tour of the infamous Khmer Rouge S21 Prison and Killing Fields. While it is a very sobering experience to learn more about Cambodia’s harsh recent history, it is one of the most recommended things to do in Phnom Penh. This evening you are free to walk around and discover the many sights of this energetic city or get out and mingle with the locals while watching the sun set over the Mekong River.
This morning we leave bustling Phnom Penh, and make an express return to Siem Reap with your Tour Leader on a public bus. Why not take this opportunity to visit some of the minor sites or visit nearby villages in and around Siem Reap, relax and grab a massage in a local spa, do some shopping or just spend time chilling at your guesthouse.
It’s time to say good-bye to Cambodia – the trip from Siem Reap to Bangkok is an unguided public bus connection which your Tour Leader will organise for you. To return to Bangkok you will be driven to the border town of Poipet to process through Thai immigration before the last drive on to Bangkok. Expect to arrive at the bus station in the evening. We hope you had a blast on your Stray adventure!
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 - Khamfong Sihavong 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 Siem Reap (Express Day)
|Don Det - Lebijou Guesthouse (Depart)||07:30||07:30|
|Ban Nakasang - Pier (Depart)||08:00||08:00|
|Don Kralor - Cambodia Border Immigration Building (Depart)||08:45||08:45|
|Siem Reap (Arrive)||18:00||18:00|
Siem Reap - Day 1
|Siem Reap (Free Day)||Free||Free|
Siem Reap – Day 2
|Siem Reap (Free Day)||Free||Free|
Siem Reap to Battambang (Homestay)
|Siem Reap - White Rabbit Hostel (Depart)||09:00||09:00|
|Battambang - Homestay (Arrive)||15:30||15:30|
Battambang to Sihanoukville
|Battambang - Homestay (Depart)||07:00||07:00|
Sihanoukville - Day 1
|Sihanoukville (Free Day)||Free||Free|
Sihanoukville – Day 2
|Sihanoukville (Free Day)||Free||Free|
Sihanoukville to Kampot
|Sihanoukville - Jully Anna Guesthouse Otres 2 (Depart)||08:00||08:00|
Kampot to Phnom Penh
|Kampot - Ny Ny Guesthouse (Depart)||08:00||08:00|
|Phnom Penh (Arrive)||12:00pm||12:00pm|
Phnom Penh to Siem Reap
|Phnom Penh (Depart)||08:00||08:00|
|Siem Reap (Arrive)||15:00||15:00|
Siem Reap to Bangkok (Express Day)
|Siem Reap (Depart)||08:00||08:00|
Need to Know
Some key details...
- 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 Tour Leaders to ensure you get more out of your trip. Hear the local stories, try their food recommendations, get insider tips and advice. Tour Leaders change from country to country so you'll have several different Tour Leaders throughout your journey if you're traveling multiple countries and if you hop on and off the bus - they're all absolute legends!
- Validity - This Freestyle Pass is valid for 12 months from your first day of travel and can be travelled once.
- Hopping on/off - Hop on and off as much as you like along the travel route. The buses run twice a week so the minimum amount of time you can hop off for is 3 days.
- Minimum Days - You don't need to hop off if you're short on time - you can travel your pass in the "Minimum Days". 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. Use the timetable to plan your trip.
- Booking Buses - Use Stray Mate (trip manager website) to book buses - 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.
- Accommodation - Accommodation is not included - we have preferred accommodation options at each overnight stop and you can book this through your Tour Leader, or you can opt to book your own. Stray's preferred accommodation is simple and budget friendly.
- Activities - Activities are not included - your Tour Leader can provide recommendations and assist with booking.
- 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 - Some trips may include one or two unguided sectors as our Local Tour Leaders stay in their country of origin and bid you farewell to continue your journey with a new Tour Leader in the next country you're travelling to. Crossing the borders can be a bit of an adventure but your Tour Leader will tell you what to expect. In Stray Mate Trip Manager you can read the itinerary for each of these days to ensure your unguided sectors go smoothly.