A comprehensive trip through Laos, for those travellers who have two weeks of more.
Join Stray in Houay Xai (northern Laos-Thai border) and take a journey by boat through lush farmland, rugged mountains and jungles to the riverside village of Ban Pak Nguey. Experience traditional village life and stay in a remote homestay in Ban Pak Nguey, marvel at the beautiful architecture, temples and many sacred sites in the UNESCO World Heritage town Luang Prabang for access to the spectacular Kuang Si waterfalls nearby.
Travel through mountainous terrain and past breathtaking views to Vang Vieng and go tubing, cycling, kayaking, rock climbing or hot air ballooning before heading to the country’s capital Vientiane to visit the city’s main sites, relax by the river at a local restaurant or shop at a night market. Visit Kong Lor, and travel by motorised canoe on the 7km river that winds its way through this spectacular cave, come face to face with Rhesus Macaque monkeys in a sacred monkey forest in Xe Champhone, and enjoy the cooler climate of Pakse in the south.
Finish in the beautiful 4000 Islands, and continue on your own to Cambodia, or take a local bus from Pakse to Ubon Ratchathani in eastern Thailand for connections to trains, buses or planes to other Thai destinations.
Stray operates an adventurous hop-on, hop-off guided bus network across New Zealand and Southeast Asia. With your pass you will enjoy comfortable private transport and a knowledgeable guide who will assist you with booking accommodation and activities. Stray has designed a route that will take you to the ‘must do’ places along with some more intriguing off the beaten track destinations. With multiple departures per week, you have the freedom to hop on and off along the route to spend time exploring the places you love. Simply book yourself on and off the bus with an easy to use online booking tool. It’s a fun, friendly, hassle free way to ensure you get more out of your travels.
Arrival in Chiang Mai
Sawadee, Sabaidee (hello) and welcome to Stray! Your adventures kicks off in popular Chiang Mai, an amazing city full of endless activity options, such as Thai cooking classes, bike tours or Muay Thai kickboxing. If you arrive early in the day feel free to visit a few of the 300 Buddhist temples in the city, the old walled city or the Tapae Gate. At 6pm you’ll meet your Tour Leader and new travel mates at the Deejai Backpackers Hostel for a Welcome Night introduction. We’ll cover how Stray works and answer any questions you have about the upcoming trip. Afterwards, make the most of your first nightby getting to know each other over a delicious Thai dinner and a few cold beverages.
Accommodation: Guesthouse located near the historic old quarter
Free Inclusions: Welcome Night meeting with Tour Leader and Stray group
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.
Accommodation: Guesthouse located near the historic old quarter
Optional Paid Activities: Thai cooking course, bike tour, Flight of the Gibbon, trekking, kayaking, mountain biking
Chiang Mai to Houay 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 into the chilled out town of Houay Xai, our stop for the night.
Accommodation: Guesthouse with views across the Mekong River
Free Inclusions: White Temple (Wat Rong Khun) visit
Optional Paid Activities: Visit an ethnic lantern village near Chiang Rai, access the Gibbon Experience from Houay Xai(must hop off for these activities).
Houay Xai to Ban Pak Nguey (Homestay)
Leaving Houay Xai you’ll board our private slow boat up the Mekong River to the secluded village of Ban Pak Nguey. 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 Ban Pak Nguey 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!
Accommodation: Village stay includes accommodationin an indigenous family home, traditional Baci Ceremony, dinner, breakfast, local activities and contribution to the village fund/project
Ban Pak Nguey 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.
Accommodation: Guesthouse with fan or AC private rooms close to night market
Free Inclusions: Pak Ou Caves entrance
Included activities in Laos:
Pak Ou Caves
Tham Jang Cave
Wat Prabat Phonsone
Kong Lor National Park
Old Wat Taleow
Turtle Lake entry donation
Hotay Pidok Library
Tad Ngeuang Waterfall
Wat Phou Temple
For all Stray passes, your guide will reserve and book your accommodation at each overnight stop but the cost is not included in your pass. Prices vary depending on location and season, but expect to pay from USD $5 for a shared room to USD $24 for a twin or double (up to USD $60 for top end private rooms in the main cities). You need to pay as you go, directly to the accommodation. Our preferred accommodation is usually in guesthouses - but in some remote stops we have homestay and camping options. You are welcome to stay at other accommodation where there are alternatives, however, we only reserve beds and pick up from our preferred accommodation. For an idea of where we stay and prices at each overnight stop, have a look at the itinerary section of your Stray pass.
You'll need to book your own accommodation at stops along the route if you hop off between overnight stops.
You don’t need to bring a sleeping bag but a sleeping bag liner/inner can be good.
We use our own mini-coaches for much of the route, which means we can go where we want and ensure safety, reliability and service. However, be prepared to take on any form of transport as you will be on buses, boats, trains and tuk tuks! Your train, bus and longboat transport is included in your pass as well as entrance fees as listed under "Activities". Your guides will help you book accommodation and additional activities, and give you commentary on the local history, wildlife and culture of the area. You can hop on and off the Stray bus anywhere en route at the recommended night stops and as often as you like, as long as you verify your trip changes online or with our reservations team.
Meals are not included in the price of the pass. Western food is sparse outside the main centers so be prepared and open minded about eating local food. At our stops we will recommend tasty restaurants but when you get into local villages and homestays be prepared to eat simple local fare, with maybe the odd wild-card ingredient (which is part of the fun). Supermarkets are not the norm, but we will point out places where you can stock up on food for the day. Depending on what you eat, you can spend USD5 - 15 a day on food. Please note vegetarian meal options may at times be limited but there is always rice, noodles and soups, and excellent fruit and vegetables are plentiful at the local markets.
PLEASE NOTE: The itinerary is seasonal and subject to change.
Top reasons to go with Stray!
- Discover Where No One Else Knows
Pioneering into the remote Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodian landscape is a daily occurrence on Stray. Some of the villages you will visit are so off the beaten track they aren’t even on the map! We also ensure you tick everything off your Southeast Asia “must-do” list - those great destinations we all know and love.
- Go Guided
One of the best things about travelling with Stray is our local and western tour leaders. They amplify your Southeast Asia experience with invaluable knowledge, support and local insight… plus they can book accommodation, activities and connections on your behalf. You won’t get this on public transport!
- Make Friends For Life
It might be a cliché, but you will meet like-minded travellers and you will make life-long friendships. Stray attracts adventurous people of all ages, with a common attitude of exploration, open-mindedness and trailblazing.
- “Stray” Safe and Stress Free
Relax in the knowledge that our experienced crew have done the hard work for you. We have worked out the best routes, times to depart and must-do inclusions. Need help with something? Our Tour Leaders are there for guidance and support. Lastly, we use our own mini-coaches for the bus travel, which means not only we can go where we want, we can ensure safety, reliability and a high quality, comfortable service.
Frequently asked questions for Stray!
- Is it a full on party bus or a nature bus?
Stray's main priority is the culture and nature. What you do in the evenings is your choice but we do have a couple of big nights out on the circuit if you're keen. It is important to respect the local culture and customs at all times.
- What is the average age of travellers on Stray?
Stray is not an age but a mind set. If you enjoy being active and meeting people you are of the right age for Stray.
- Is it ok to travel alone on Stray?
Absolutely, you will find friends and roommates and we can make your trip fun and hassle-free
- Can I hop off and hop on the bus anywhere or just at the overnight stops?
You can hop off at any place around the circuit.