Laos & Thailand’s Golden Triangle

Slow Boat from Luang Prabang

Trip Scholar: Professor Philip Hirsch

Emeritus Professor of Human Geography, University of Sydney
Available to Alumni of Oxford and Cambridge, family and friends

11 day tour
Price from £3,395

Discover one of the last unspoiled corners of South East Asia on this exploration of Laos and northern Thailand. Accompanied by Human Geographer Professor Philip Hirsch, enjoy the beguiling UNESCO World Heritage city of Luang Prabang as well as rural Pak Ou and Pakbeng on a six night Mekong cruise aboard the boutique ship Mekong Sun. Continuing overland, explore the lush mountain scenery of the Golden Triangle and the Thai cities of Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai. The region’s dense jungles and mist-shrouded mountains are dotted with ethnic minority villages, including the Hmong and Akha people, facing many environmental and political challenges.

Tour highlights

  • Explore Laos, the jewel of South East Asia. Beloved by world-weary travellers for its unspoiled simplicity, experience sights and scenery only accessible by water.
  • Enjoy Luang Prabang, once Laos’ royal capital and today a delightful blend of French colonial architecture, traditional Hmong markets and golden-roofed temples.
  • Visit remote caves packed with Buddha statues and learn about the traditional lives and modern-day challenges for remote Khmu and Hmong villagers.
  • See the compact, laid back city of Chiang Rai and the historic city walls and glittering temples of Chiang Mai, the former seat of the medieval Lanna Kingdom.
  • Gain personal and academic insights from Professor Hirsch, who has lived and worked in Thailand and Laos for decades.
Laos & Thailand Golden Triangle Alumni tour - Revised version

Itinerary at a glance

Day 0:      Those taking TW’s recommended flights will fly from London to Luang Prabang overnight, via Bangkok

Day 1:      Tour starts in Luang Prabang  |  Embark Mekong Sun

Day 2:      Full day touring Luang Prabang  |  Overnight Mekong Sun

Day 3:      Start sailing upstream  |  Pak Ou Caves |  Overnight Mekong Sun

Day 4:      Visit Pakbeng  |  Overnight Mekong Sun

Day 5:      Cruise to Pak Tha   |  Overnight Mekong Sun

Day 6:      Cruise to the Thai border |  Khmu village on stilts  |  Overnight Mekong Sun

Day 7:      Disembark and visit the Golden Triangle area and Hall of Opium  |  Transfer to Chiang Rai

Day 8:      Full day visiting indigenous village  |  Overnight Chiang Rai

Day 9:      Transfer to Chang Mai   |  Old City walking tour   |   Overnight Chiang Mai

Day 10:    Full Day Tour of Chiang Mai  |  Overnight Chiang Mai

Day 11:    Tour ends.  Those taking TW’s recommended flights will take a daytime flight to London via Bangkok arriving same day

Dates and Prices
Prices are in UK£, per person, based on double occupancy

6 -17 October 2018 (7-17 Oct 2018 land only)
Cabin ClassPriceSingle SupplementOptional Flight from LondonAvailability
Main Deck Cabin (12m²) x 10£3,395£1,995£700 – £800 per personAvailable
Upper Deck Cabin (16-18m²) x 3£3,645£1,995£700 – £800 per personAvailable

Share of twin or double bedded room/main deck cabin with private bathroom, full board (except on the arrival day when only dinner is included, and on the departure day when the tour ends after breakfast), all excursions mentioned with local guides including entrance fees, expert leader.

Flights into Luang Prabang and out of Chiang Mai (see optional flights below), drinks, visa charges, travel insurance, tips to crew and guides, items of a personal nature.

Optional flights
Temple World can arrange flights from the UK to coordinate with this tour. The cost is approximately £700 – 800 per person including taxes, and we usually use Thai Airways which flies from London Heathrow via Bangkok.  Other airlines and routes are available.  We will arrange a group transfer to and from the airport to coincide with the flight arrival/departure time of our recommended flights for a small extra sum.

Making your own way there
Clients wishing to use airmiles to buy or upgrade flights, or who wish to fly from outside the UK are advised to book their own flights. The start point for the tour is LUANG PRABANG in Laos and the end point is CHIANG MAI in Thailand. You can arrive at any time of day on 8 October but check-in at the hotel is not normally until 2pm unless you have paid for early check in (we can arrange this but the hotel may charge a full extra night).

There are no activities on the first day until dinner, which is likely to be at around 7pm.

On the last day in Thailand (17 October) there are no activities after breakfast and you are free to leave whenever you want.  See our Extensions tab for ideas to extend your stay in Thailand and beyond. Check out time at the hotel is 12pm but we can arrange late checkout (fee applies) for those who wish to stay longer. Bags can be stored after checkout during the day if needed. If not taking our group transfer to the airport, we can arrange private airport transfers to co-ordinate with any flight time – please ask for a quote.

Very Important! Clients should not make any binding or non-refundable travel arrangements until their place has been confirmed on the tour and Temple World has confirmed that it is a guaranteed departure.



NHS Fit for Travel advises travellers to Laos and Thailand are usually recommended to immunise against: Diphtheria; Hepatitis A; Poliomyelitis; Tetanus; Typhoid.

Please seek professional medical advice at least 8 weeks before departure.
NHS Fit For Travel


Entry Regulations
UK passport holders require a visa for entry to Laos and Thailand.  For Laos, visas are obtained on arrival for a fee of $30 USD in cash. For Thailand, visas are given free on arrival, valid for 30 days.

Foreign Office Advice for Laos

Foreign Office advice for Thailand

Fitness Guideline

We have graded the fitness level required for participation in this tour as Easy/Moderate. Participants should be prepared to walk on uneven terrain or up steep steps without a handrail and should be able to keep up with the group when sightseeing – this means walking at a reasonable pace for 30-40 minutes or standing for 20-30 minutes without a rest.
Full fitness profile of the tour

Trip Scholar

Professor Philip Hirsch
Philip Hirsch is Emeritus Professor of Human Geography at the University of Sydney. He specialises in natural resource management, rural change and the politics of environment in Southeast Asia. Phil leads the Mekong Research Group, which carries out engaged and collaborative research on a range of natural resource governance, livelihood and development themes in the Mekong region. He has been working on and in Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia since the early 1980s. Phil is fluent in Thai and Lao, and also speaks and reads passable Vietnamese and some Khmer. Philip Hirsch has research interests in a range of natural resource management themes and their relationship with rural change and the politics of environment in Southeast Asia. He has written extensively on land, forest, water and fisheries in the Mekong region.

Lectures during our tours
All our tours are accompanied by an academic ‘trip scholar’ as well as local guides. The local guide or guides provide the day-to-day guiding on our tours, whilst the trip lecturer will give regular lectures on his/her specialist subject throughout to provide an academic overview. Lectures/talks usually last 30-40 minutes including questions and answers (if applicable). These are generally held in the evenings before dinner and attendance is optional. We don’t usually specify before travel which days the lectures will be given (for operational reasons) but guests can expect them roughly every other day as a minimum, with some lecturers giving some kind of talk or presentation more frequently.

Extension ideas


Thailand has it all with wildlife, culture, history and stunning beaches. With a huge amount of experiences on offer and places to explore, it is very hard to narrow down your options. We plan to offer a 4/5 night set guided extension to see the ancient capitals of Sukhothai and Ayutthaya which will be uploaded to the site once ready.  But there are countless areas to explore independently and we will be delighted to design an itinerary or choose a resort stay to suit you. Below are just a few ideas to inspire you:


Anantara Mai Khao Phuket Villas, Phuket

Thailand’s largest island, Phuket, has something to suit all tastes and budgets and despite what you might read, much of it remains undeveloped and as beautiful as ever.  We recommend this serene all-villa property on Phuket Beach, a haven away from the hustle and bustle of Phuket City. You can take a direct flight from Chiang Mai to Phuket in two hours making it very accessible after the main tour and easy to get to for your next destination. Enjoy the calm and clear blue waters of the sea, set sail with the Andaman winds, explore tropical fish with a snorkel and fins or take a day trip into the national park to see wild elephants.

Price from £1,092 per person for 5 nights accommodation with breakfast.




Elephant Hills Camps, Khao Sok
Elephant Hills are Thailand’s first Luxury Tented Jungle Camps, combining the camp idea of African national parks with the Thai tropical forest environment. The two camps, The Elephant Camp and the floating Rainforest Camp, are both situated in Khao Sok, part of Southern Thailand’s largest stretch of primary rainforest. Despite being tucked away in the bush, these camps are easily reachable on a direct flight from Chiang Mai to Surat Thani Airport, taking 1 hour and 50 minutes. The elephants are beautifully looked after here, with no riding permitted,  providing a very natural and rewarding wildlife experience.

Price from £443 per person for 3 night, 2 day Jungle Lake Safari Tour including all meals, transfers and excursions.





Ariyasom Villa Bangkok
Take advantage of the natural transit on our recommended flights via Bangkok and enjoy 2 or 3 nights on a vivacious city break at our recommended and beautiful boutique hotel, Ariyasom Villa, a haven from the hustle and bustle of the city. Explore the city by foot and/or local transport via boat, bicycle and trishaw or tuk tuk to experience this exuberant city to the fullest. Visit the Phra Phuttha Maha Suwana Patimakon to stare in awe at the largest golden Buddha in Thailand, weighing 5.5 tons and witness the Grand Palace, Thailand’s most important landmark.  We have a huge range of exciting guided excursions which you can add here or there or fill your time to the brim with, from cooking classes to cycling tours, or try a long-tail boat cruise along the city’s khlongs.

Price from £294 per person for 3 nights accommodation with breakfast.

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The trip was an astonishing experience providing memories that will last a lifetime. [The] lectures were fascinating and the access secured was something you simply could not get as an ordinary traveller. Mark

Congenial Companions

Our small group tours are exclusively available to alumni of Oxford and Cambridge universities and their friends and family, making for a wonderful atmosphere amongst like-minded individuals.

Expert Lecturer

All our small group alumni tours are accompanied by a university lecturer as well as local guides, with illuminating lectures given throughout the tour to enrich understanding of the destination.

To reserve a place on one of our small group alumni tours, contact us for availability then send us a signed booking form and deposit.

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