- Traveling with GEEO
- Educator Resources
- About Us
- Traveling with GEEO
- Educator Resources
- About Us
On this program, you will travel to the dynamic capitals of Thailand (Bangkok), Laos (Vientiane) and Vietnam (Hanoi). This trip spends a large portion of its time in the hidden gem that is Laos. Lesser known than its neighbors Laos was once known as the Land of A Million Elephants. You’ll have the opportunity to visit amazing Buddhist temples and bustling night markets, cruise on the Mekong River, explore majestic caves and endless rice fields, swim under cascading waterfalls and kayak below gorgeous karst mountains.
For this program, GEEO will be partnering with the National Resource Center for Southeast Asian Studies at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Accompanying the trip will be Jessica Hill Riggs, their academic programs specialist. She holds a dual master’s degree in Southeast Asian Studies and Public Policy from the University of Michigan. Her research interests center on the role of civil society organizations in creating social change in Myanmar and Thailand. Her work has specifically focused on issues of Buddhist social activism and environmentalism, human trafficking prevention, and community-based development. She will share some of her knowledge with the participants and lead discussions on how to bring these travel experiences into the classroom.
Today is arrival day so there are no activities planned. You are free to relax, explore the city & adjust to the frantic pace and humid heat of Bangkok. Please arrive at our start point hotel before 6 pm for an important group meeting where you will meet your tour leader and the other group members. Please look for a sign on the hotel's notice board for the time and location of your group meeting. At this meeting, your tour leader will ask to see your travel insurance, check that you have a visa for Vietnam and complete some other paperwork. Please note that you MUST arrive on tour with either your Vietnam visa or the completed paperwork for your Vietnam visa on arrival. Please refer to the visa information section of these trip notes for more information on obtaining your Vietnamese visa. After your meeting, you may choose to head out for an optional dinner to further get to know your tour leader and fellow group members. We spend this evening in Bangkok. Our hotel is located in Chinatown, next to the central train station and MRT (Subway), and is only a short taxi ride from Khao San Road and the central shopping area of Siam Square, MBK, Siam Paragon, etc.
Enjoy a one-hour long-tail boat tour of Bangkok's famous klongs, or canals. Our boat trip finishes at the Royal Temple of Wat Po. Our included guide will introduce you to Thai Buddhist culture and show you the famous reclining Buddha. When your guided tour ends there will still be time for some afternoon shopping, a visit to the Grand Palace or a stroll through the backpacker area. We will meet back at the hotel within easy walking distance to the train station where we board our overnight train to Chiang Mai. Tonight's accommodation is an overnight sleeper train. Beds are dormitory-style, with bunks on two layers along the side of the train carriage. There are curtains along each bunk for privacy. Your luggage will be accessible during the journey. The train has air-conditioning and clean bedding is provided for each bunk. There are both Western-style and Asian style toilets at the end of each carriage. Food and drinks are served on the train but you can always bring your own food from the shops and restaurants in the train station. Approximate travel time: 12-13 hours on overnight train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. Please Note: Due to disruptions of Thai trains in the north during the monsoon season, we may end up needing to use alternative transport.
We arrive in the early morning and have free time to explore for the rest of the day. To fill your free time you can choose from a large range of optional activities or stroll the city independently. Surrounded by rolling hills, Chiang Mai is the cultural center of Thailand. Enclosed by a moat and crumbling walls, the old city features great cafes, shops, and over 300 temples. Many visitors come here to attend cooking courses, massage classes or yoga lessons. It is also a mecca of handicraft production, with a long history of silverwork, woodcarving, pottery-making, and weaving. The fun does not end when the sun goes down because Chiang Mai has a wonderful night bazaar. The bazaar is a series of covered markets, shops, and stalls that offer the best selection of handicrafts in Thailand.
En route to Chiang Khong we visit Wat Rong Khun - the dazzling White Temple. This unconventional Buddhist temple was designed by prominent Thai painter-turned-architect Chalermchai Kositpipat. Be wowed by the temple’s contemporary exterior made up of a mosaic of mirrors. View the interior walls that have pop culture and sci-fi influence. Find murals of Batman, Superman, Predator, and The Matrix. We spend one night in Chiang Khong, a small border town that is a part of the trade route between Laos and Thailand. Wander the local food market or sit back and enjoy the slow pace of life as we spend our last evening in Thailand. Approximate travel time: 5 hours by private transport.
We cross the river border today to Laos by small local boats to Ban Houay Xai and Lao Immigration. Once we have completed the immigration process we take a songthaew (local bus) to our traditional slow boat. As we travel down the Mekong River you slowly adjust to the relaxed pace of life in Laos. A predominantly mountainous country, we have unsurpassable views of the riverside villages, the tropical jungle, and the mountains. Our private boat is reasonably comfortable and spacious. A toilet is available onboard. Fruits, tea and coffee, are provided free of charge for you to enjoy. Other drinks, such as water and soft drinks are all available for purchase on the boat. We overnight in Muang Pakbèng village, a stopover for local traders heading to Luang Prabang. For travelers, the town offers an interesting vibe and a good introduction to Laos. Our guesthouse is located some 200 meters from the pier. Approximate travel time: 30 minutes by private vehicle, 8-10 hours by riverboat depending on river conditions.
Continue down the Mekong for most of the day. We approach Luang Prabang in the late afternoon. Before arriving, we will make a stop outside of town at the Pak Ou caves. This dramatic cave houses thousands of Buddha statues and images and is considered an important spiritual sight by many Lao people. After our visit, we re-board the boat and continue to Luang Prabang, arriving around 5 pm. Located at the confluence of the Nam Khan and Mekong Rivers, Luang Prabang is one of the loveliest towns in the whole of Southeast Asia. Approximate travel time: 8-10 hours by boat depending on river conditions.
The center of the UNESCO world heritage listed town is quite small and is accessible either on foot or by bicycle. You can visit the most impressive of Luang Prabang’s 32 temples including Vat Vixoun, Vat Sene, and Vat Xiengthong. You can pack a picnic to eat on Phousi Hill and watch the sunset over the horizon or rise at dawn to watch the monks walk through the city collecting offerings of food from the locals. Take an afternoon to browse the many textile galleries and relax and enjoy a local coffee in one of the town's cafes. We take a tour of the Traditional Arts and Ethnology Center - a great chance to learn more about the dress and customs of the local people. We also make a half-day trip out to the stunning Kuang Si waterfalls. Don't forget your swimsuit. During our stay, we will enjoy a traditional Lao meal in a local home partaking in a traditional Buddhist ceremony and enjoying some Lao delicacies. We also visit Ock Pop Tock "East Meets West" Living Crafts Center on the banks of the Mekong River to learn from the artisans about Lao handicrafts and the importance of woven textiles in Laos culture.
Enjoy a free day exploring all Luang Prabang has to offer. Options include cooking classes, temple visits, massages, night market shopping, bike riding, and hiking.
Today we embark on a scenic drive through winding mountains to a small village to experience a local homestay. Enjoy traditional Laotian food while getting to know your host family. Here, your local guide will explain the life of the people in this village. Typically, the group is divided into 2 or more homes in close proximity to each other. Mattresses are placed across the floor in the central living area for sleeping. Each mattress will also include a blanket, pillow and a mosquito net. Bathroom facilities are shared. The evening meal is eaten together in one of the houses. The food will be very simple and an excellent opportunity to experience typical Lao cuisine. A vegetarian option will be available. Approximate travel time: 7 hours on a winding mountain road by private transport.
Move to a hotel in Vang Vieng for the night, an ideal location for exploring the limestone karst vistas of the surrounding countryside by bicycle or kayak. There is also the option to go caving.
A drive out of the mountains takes us to one of Asia's sleepiest capital cities. Enjoy the highlights of Vientiane including Wat Sisaket, one of the city's oldest and most fascinating temples and Phat That Luang, Lao's national symbol and one of her most sacred sites. For those who like to shop, don't miss the Morning Market, which, incidentally, is open all day! Approximate travel time: 3 hours by private transport.
A short flight on day 12 takes us away from quiet Laos and into the bustling city of Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam. A leisurely walk through the Old Quarter perhaps followed by a traditional Vietnamese meal is the perfect way to start your visit to this diverse country. We spend two nights in Hanoi. Our hotel is located in the Old Quarter. Approximate travel time: 1.5 by plane, 45 mins by private vehicle.
Today we visit the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, his Presidential Palace and House on Stilts. The Mausoleum houses the embalmed body of Ho Chi Minh, the founding father of unified Vietnam. During the afternoon you will have free time to explore this beautiful city. Visit the Tran Quoc Pagoda, the Temple of Literature, the Museum of Ethnology, or just take a walk through Hanoi's Old Quarter – a virtual maze of fascinating streets, each one traditionally devoted to a different product or industry. Late afternoon or early evening, we attend a performance of Vietnam's famous water puppets before sampling one of Hanoi's amazing eating venues. Ask your tour leader to tell you more about the local Northern delicacies.
Depart at any time. Want more adventure? Book two or more GEEO trips in the same year and receive a discount! GEEO will give you 10% off of the lesser value program(s) (up to 3 programs). If you don’t see a program that interests you that pairs with this trip, but still would like to extend your time abroad, let us know. We will work with you to find a non-teacher trip from our tour operator’s much larger catalog. Even better, if you are an educator we can still offer you a discounted price on the trip you choose!