Southeast Asia has long been a favored destination for adventurous travelers. This photography tour will take us to some of the most interesting and photogenic locations in the region. In ten days you will experience eye popping celebrations, traditional tribal villages, bamboo rafting down jungle rivers, ride an elephant, tour the Mekong River, photograph traditional Buddhist Monk rituals, jump off of emerald green waterfalls and more.
We begin in the Kingdom of Thailand with its irresistible combination of breathtaking natural beauty and inspiring temples. Throughout our adventure, Thailand’s warm hospitality, renowned cuisine, and its friendly people will delight and inspire you. Next it’s on to Laos for an unparalleled glimpse of traditional Southeast Asian life. From the fertile lowlands of the Mekong River valley to the fascinating French colonial town of Luang Prabang.
The primary focus of the tour is on photographic opportunities so in general we try to stay away from being too “touristy”, but with the explosive popularity of South East Asia in recent years as a tourist destination, sometimes it’s something we must just deal with. Especially when photographing popular celebrations and locations. In any case, whether you are looking for an exotic adventure tour or just want to stack your portfolio with incredible images, this tour will deliver.
INCLUDES ALL LAND/AIR/WATER TRANSPORT DURING THE TOUR, LODGING AND FOOD.
A MAX. OF EIGHT TRAVELERS ON THIS TOUR (7 SPOTS CURRENTLY AVAILABLE)
BRIEF OUTLINE: (DETAILS FURTHER DOWN PAGE)
Overnight Train to Northern Thailand
DAY 2, 3, 4
River Raft Trek
Overnight at Tribal Village
DAY 4, 5
Arrive in Chiang Mai (evening)
Loi Krathong / Yi Peng Celebrations
Various Buddhist temples
Arrival in Huay Xai
DAY 7, 8
River Boat ride up the Mekong to Laos
Arrive in Luang PhraBang – evening
DAY 9, 10
Monk Processions “Receiving Alms”
Kuang Si Waterfalls
DAY 11, 12
Fly back to Bangkok
Train to Chiang Mai:
We will meeting in the evening for dinner and getting to know each other a bit before we begin the task of travel. Around 9:00 we will make our way to the train station in downtown Bangkok to wait for our train to Chiang Mai (approx leaving time is around 11:00 pm). The train provides sleeper beds with an A/C car (note these are not private cabins) which allow you to comfortably sleep the night away. You will wake up to beautiful tropical forests and expansive rice fields passing by your window. The rest of the morning we will spend getting breakfast in the food car and shooting photos out the open air train windows. The train ride provides many opportunities for amazing photographs
Chiang Dao: Rafting Trek:
Day 1: Breakfast at Chiang Dao Nest (only included for trekkers departing from Chiang Mai)10.00am car from Chiang Dao Nest. Drive for about 1 hour, Stop off at a viewpoint and a Lisu village village en-route. Continue journey to the river where we will meet our bamboo raft(s) and rafter(s).Raft downriver for about 4 hours stopping for lunch. When we arrive at a riverside Karen Village where we will eat and sleep.
Day 2: Breakfast. Walk for 2 hours to an Elephant Camp where we will ride an elephant for about 1 hour. Have lunch before getting back onto a bamboo raft. Raft for about 4 hours, stop off en route to visit a Lahu Village. transfer back to Chiang Dao Nest/ Chiang MaiN.B. This area does get a few groups passing through, and we do not guarantee that you will not see others.
Having said that we will endeavor to go to and sleep in areas were other groups are not. The reason why other groups go here is that it is beautiful countryside and the river rafting is special. It is also a very obvious route to follow (i.e. the river).
Also you should realize that any elephant operations throughout Thailand (no matter how “non-touristic”(!?) they advertise as), require a certain level of custom to be viable.If you do see others it will not be coachloads of tourists, just intrepid adventurers like yourselves!Please note: the English spoken on this trek it will normally be very little and occasionally none at all. While they cannot speak English, they do know the way, know how to look after people and will communicate in other ways. It seems to work out ok for most people but we understand that this will not be suitable for all.
Haan Hanibah: We will be staying at an amazingly beautiful guest house called Haan Hanibah in the central Chiang Mai area (old town). Most parts of the house, including the ceiling, were made of teak wood, while some parts of floor and walls were made of tropical hard wood called “Mai Daang” (Dalbergia sp). Logs over 25 feet long were used for the house’s pillars. All of the wood used came from the forest of Chiang Dao district. You’ll want to be careful in the house. The wood is so polished it’s almost dangerous walking around.
Loi Krathong / Yi Peng: Loi Krathong is a huge celebration which takes place around the country on the evening of the full moon of the 12th month in the traditional Thai lunar calendar. In the western calendar this usually falls in November. For our trip is will ocure on Novemeber 11th, but the celebration goes on all week long. Chiang Mai is a particularly good place to enjoy this festival. Street parades, music and dances, endless fireworks, and of course the amazing spectacle of tens of thousands of rice paper lanterns (known as Kongming Lanterns) floating into the sky all night long. You won’t be able to satisfy your desire to take photos of this spectacle. It’s so much fun and very cool to watch (and par-take in).
Mekong River Boat:
It is important to note that this will NOT be one of those highly over crowded boats where everyone sits on a wooden bench all day with no where to stand or relax (the boats to Laos can be very unpleasant). These boats are 34 meters long with a 420 HP engine and a steel hull for strength and safety. The boats have a capacity for 40 people in comfortable seats and benches. Each seat has an open air vista. There are coffee tables with magazines and booklets to read when you are not busy taking photos of the river’s amazing jungle vistas. The central section of these Luangsay boats have bench seats, a perfect spot for a game of cards, to share your Mekong stories, or to have lunch. Each cruise departure has both a French and English speaking guide who are able to answer your questions and point out any sights of interest along the way. On board there will be two western style toilets, one at the back of the boat and one next to the bar in the central section.
Slow Boat on the Mekong | Photo Tour from the Mekong Photography Tour on the Mekong River
Taking Photos in Thailand and Laos and MekongPhoto Tour Lodging on the Mekong River Boat trip
Day 1: Huay Xai > Pakbeng
The Luang Say boat leaves Huay Xai pier at 9.00am for a cruise down the Mekong River to Pakbeng. En route, one stop is made to observe rural life along the Mekong giving us an opportunity to photograph some of the local culture. A buffet lunch is served on board. We arrive in Pakbeng before sunset and check in at the Luang Say Lodge. Dinner on the terrace, overlooking the Mekong River.
Day 2: Pakbeng > Pak Ou > Luang Prabang
You will enjoy a full breakfast at the Lodge. (Optional: walk to Pakbeng market, where people from the surrounding village sell their goods – this can often make for some really fun photos – as most markets do). At 8.30am board the boat for the second leg of the cruise. A short stop is made to visit a hill tribe village where you can watch the traditional process of Lao whiskey production (often the whiskey is decorated with huge insects from the jungle in the liquor. Expect to see giant centipedes, spiders and cobras in your whisky bottle). Lunch will be had on board the boat as we continue down the Mekong. We then arrive at Pak Ou village at the mouth of the Nam Ou River, where you visit the Tam Thing Caves of a Thousand Buddhas. Arrival at Luang Prabang is expected before sunset.
This city was formerly the capital of a kingdom of the same name. Until the communist takeover in 1975, it was the royal capital and seat of government of the Kingdom of Laos. The city is also notable as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The main part of the city consists of four main roads located on a peninsula between the Nam Khan and Mekong rivers. The city is well known for its numerous Buddhist temples and monasteries. Every morning, hundreds of monks from the various monasteries walk through the streets collecting alms.
Wat Chom Si is One of the major landmarks in the city. It sits atop a large steep hill. This is most fun for photographing around sunset when the mountains will glow bright colors due to the jungle moisture. It also makes for a good location to practice our long exposures for city lights.
Kuang Si Waterfalls….. The falls begin in shallow pools atop a steep hillside. A small trek up the river leads you to the main fall with a 50 m cascade. The water collects in numerous turquoise blue pools as it flows downstream. The many cascades that result are typical of traversing waterfalls. Most of the pools are open to swimming (although at least one is closed as being a sacred site). Hikers are able to climb to the top of the falls.
Morning Alm Procession: Hundreds of monks walk the back streets in a long Orange line (looks like a never ending line of ants) single file carrying their bucket…. the local people come out with rice and other basic foods and as the monks walk by, the locals place a small finger pinch full of food into the bucket…. What they collect on their morning march is all the food the Monks get to eat for the day…… This daily ritual is a photographer dream come true. It resonates with culture, beauty and timelessness. (Note: we have to get up ugly early for this).
Night Time Market: The market comes to life each evening in the streets around the central park. Hundreds of tents are set up and the local’s wares are laid out on blankets. This is a wonderful places to photograph imagery of the vendors and their beautiful carvings, silver and cloths. We will also get to eat dinner from the local street vendors as they set up makeshift “restaurants” in the alleys, cooking every imaginable type of meat, vegetables, fruits and more. This is classic Laos food at it’s best.
The Grand Palace (Phra Borom Maha Ratcha Wang) is a complex of buildings in Bangkok, Thailand. It served as the official residence of the Kings of Thailand from the 18th century onward. Here we will enjoy photographing the many beautiful Thai sculptures and artworks which reside in and around the palace. Yes, this is a major tourist trap, but it simply has too many amazing photo opportunities to pass up.
Wat Pho (วัดโพธิ์), or Wat Phra Chetuphon (วัดพระเชตุพน) as it is generally known to the Thais, is mainly famous for the huge Reclining Buddha statue it houses. The highly impressive gold plated reclining Buddha is 46 meters long and 15 meters high, and is designed to illustrate the passing of the Buddha into nirvana. This is always a photographic winner for your collection.
Big Sun Photography Tours – Things You Should Know:
This is not a “Tour Bus” type tour: What do we mean by that?
We will be staying in clean, pleasant, and friendly accommodations (We will not be staying in large nor fancy hotels. And one night includs sleeping in a tribal village)
At times we will be using local transportation (that may mean the back of a pickup truck and open air Tuk-Tuks)
Often we will be eating from local places and street vendors (that means get ready to throw away all notions of “Western” food standards). But don’t worry yourself. The food we get at such places is always the most interesting and will no doubt be the meals you rave about to your friends back home.
There will be times you will have to use “squat” toilets.
Our schedule is primarily driven by our photography. As such our itinerary may change due to weather, local transportation issues, or exciting new opportunities, etc. In other words. Things may change along the way, but note that any change will be in the best interests of the group.
You must use a backpack to carry everything you need to bring. You may also carry an additional photography bag for your gear. We do not allow suitcases or additional bags on the journey, because to put it bluntly, it’s just going to slow us all down and you will regret it in the end. Often you will need both hands free when we are making our way from place to place.
Food, Accommodations and Transportation are all included as follows:
- Food Two meals a day (lunch, dinner). Breakfast is on your own simply because many people don’t bother or they simply prefer to trek out on their own in the morning.
- Accommodations: all inclusive
- Transportation: all inclusive during the tour dates, including major travel (trains, planes, boats) and minor travel (buses, etc).
This does NOT include transportation you incurred when away from the group.
This does NOT include getting to and from Bangkok Thailand from your home.
- It is highly recommended that you purchase travel insurance to cover any loss of equipment (it’s a wet humid country).
- All participants are required to take out comprehensive travel insurance as a condition of the tour. The travel insurance should cover you for medical costs associated with hospitalization, emergency travel and repatriation back to your country. Proof of adequate insurance is required as a condition of the tour. If you arrive without a policy, you will be required to purchase one prior to departing from Bangkok.
- Because this is a photo safari and not a general travel tour, our schedule may stray from “standard times”. In other words some activities are going to get you up earlier than you would like, or later. But that’s because our focus is the photos and the light. We want those good shots, right?
- Thailand / Laos Photo Tour
- November 2018 (exact date to be announced)
- Pricing to be announced.