Dates: January 13–25, 2020

Begins & Ends: Luang Prabang, Laos

Nearest Airport: Luang Prabang (LPQ)

Leaders: Jeffrey Chapman & Winslow Lockhart

Maximum Participants: 6

Tuition: $6,600

Accommodation: Included
(optional single supplement: $1,100)

Meals: Included

Payment Policy: 3 Installments
     • $500 deposit to confirm participation
     • 50% due by June 1, 2019
     • Balance due by September 1, 2019

This photographic adventure begins and ends in Luang Prabang, Laos. Tuition includes hotels (based on double occupancy; single occupancy is available with payment of a single-occupancy supplement), meals, driver and guide tips, and local group transportation for the duration of the adventure. It does not include souvenirs, bar beverages, laundry, insurance (travel, medical, cancellation), nor any personal expenses.

This adventure is suitable for all levels of photographic experience. Participants must be in good health and able to spend each day walking and carrying their own equipment.

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Tribes of Laos Within The Frame Photographic Adventure

Tribes of Laos Within The Frame Itinerary

Travelling through Laos is akin to taking a step back in time to an Asian past where the pace of life is a kind of slow-motion celebration of simple things that matter such as ancestry and continuity of tradition and working in concert with the land. As the only landlocked country in Southeast Asia, Laos has largely escaped the rapid development seen in its coastal neighbors. Heavy-handed tourism has yet to hit Laos, which first opened itself to tourism in 1989. It is a feast for the senses, a land of ancient temples where saffron-robed monks move quietly through the streets each morning in the call to alms. Vast tea plantations carpeting mountainsides, some producing tea for hundreds of years, fold into rice fields and protected forests in a lush display of the many shades of green this varied landscape can conjure. A trek into the hillside hamlets to a chorus of gibbons and exotic birds transports one to a traditional Laotian past where people are guided by forest spirits and mark the journey through life with facial tattoos.

Tribes of Laos Within The Frame focuses on the mountainous northern region where river travel is often the most expeditious means of transport through vast swaths of undeveloped land, and the landscape is alive with varied and exotic wildlife, including elephants, tigers, bears, gibbons, and a staggering 740 bird species.

Its history as a crossroads for Asia and a thriving hub for overland trade has made Laos among the most ethnically diverse countries in the region with 49 ethnic groups. We’re lucky to have the opportunity to explore and photograph villages where the inhabitants maintain a traditional way of life that is rapidly disappearing elsewhere in Southeast Asia. The Hmong, the Mon-Khmer, and other indigenous tribes comprise almost half of the nation’s population, many living in remote areas surrounded by wilderness, and about a fifth of the nation’s land is protected as habitat conservation.

As exotic as we find some of these minority groups, we will photograph these people with cultural respect and human dignity. Jeffrey and Winslow will work to foster an environment of mutual respect when we are photographing these minority groups. The photographs we create will be stronger as a result of the sincere care that will accompany our cultural curiosity.

This photographic adventure is about the passionate discovery and photography of people, place, and culture, with emphasis given to going deep not wide, and pursuing that most elusive of photographic necessities — our vision. It is appropriate for photographers of all levels, and you will be free to photograph independently or always with the assistance of one of the leaders.

Luang Prabang (Day One)

Our adventure begins in Luang Prabang, an ancient capital and a UNESCO World Heritage Site inhabited for thousands of years. It rests in a river valley at the confluence of the Mekong and Nam Khan Rivers surrounded by forested mountains and is known for its many temples, French colonial architecture, and thriving night market. This location is a combination of both urban and rural as it consists of more than 50 adjacent villages and offers an abundance of opportunities to explore the tastes, sights, and sounds of Laos.

Mekong River (Day Two)

We cruise up the Mekong enjoying the scenery and wildlife as we make our way to the Pak Ou Caves, a holy site, where thousands of gilded Buddhas of all sizes reside in caves carved into limestone cliffs. It is a site of pilgrimage and contemplation. After visiting the caves, we continue up river to the Kamu Lodge, our home for the night in private thatch-roofed canvas tents built in harmony with the landscape, including wooden furniture and private bathrooms with solar powered hot water and lighting. The Lodge provides a variety of activities commonly practiced by the locals, including fishing, archery, rice planting and gold panning (seasonal). Photographing along this picturesque spot on the Mekong is of course on our to-do list.

Pakbeng (Day Three)

Our cruise up the Mekong continues to the rural town of Pakbeng built into the steep hillside overlooking the river. Around-the-clock electricity is relatively new to this area, so be sure to bring at least a small flashlight, especially if you are a wanderer and are in the mood to explore, as power outages are fairly regular. Sunsets at this spot along the river are glorious.

Muang La (Day Four)

Early risers will want to visit the morning market where the hill tribes and local villagers meet to buy and exchange goods. After breakfast, we head into the wilderness. We have the opportunity to enjoy and photograph the vistas, local rural life, agricultural plantations, and animal life as we make our way to Muang La. We pass through the provincial capital Oudomxay, an important trading hub, as we head toward our resort for the next few nights, the Muang La Lodge built next to a natural hot spring.

Phongsavan, Long Ya, & Wat Hoytinphabath (Day Five)

Today’s excursion finds us hiking through the lush vegetation of northern Laos. We arrive in the village of Phongsavan where our foot trail begins. We follow along mountain streams to rice fields and learn about edible plants in the forest that supplement the local villagers’ diet while enjoying the beautiful scenery and local wildlife as we cross bamboo bridges on our way to the village of Long Ya. After time in the village, we will head to the hidden monastery, Wat Hoytinphabath, where a 35m (114.8 feet) reclining Buddha is housed, and a central temple contains the footprints of Buddha embedded in stone.

Returning to the Muang La Resort in the afternoon, we are free to explore and enjoy the facilities at the resort at our leisure.

Ikhos & Ban Tauser (Day Six)

A full day excursion into the mountains via off-road vehicles to reach remote villages well off the beaten path of foreigners will keep us busy during the daylight hours. Beginning with an isolated Ikhos village where the ancestry is traced to Tibet and Yunnan and ancient customs practiced centuries ago are still very much a part of daily life. After enjoying a meal at this scenic spot perched on the side of a mountain we will continue to the Hmong village of Ban Tauser. The Hmong originated in the Yellow River region of China and the steppes of Tibet and maintain their ancestral dress including colorful embroidery and ornate trim. After a full day of adventuring and photographing, we will return to the resort to recoup, enjoy our evening meal, and maybe relax in the hot spring.

Phongsaly (Day Seven)

Today we depart for Phongslay, the capital of the northernmost province in Laos in close proximity to both China and Vietnam. Along the way, we’ll enjoy postcard-worthy scenery of banana plantations, the local fauna, and the colorful rural setting. This is a fairly relaxed travel day through scenic mountainous terrain, and we will stop at spots of interest to photograph and explore as whim dictates. Arriving in Phongslay by late afternoon, we will have time to do a bit of exploring through the narrow streets of the city with its traditional Chinese architecture before our evening meal, including a visit to the Wat Keo where the monks can often be seen playing football in the evening.

Ban Bakanoy & Ban Sala Ab (Day Eight)

Today we enjoy an excursion to Ban Bakanoy to sample the celebrated green Lao whiskey. The journey takes us through bamboo forests and scenic vistas. Brief legs of this day trip are on buses with locals, and after visiting Ban Bakanoy and enjoying lunch, we continue up the mountain (moderate hiking) to visit Ban Sala Ab, an Oma hill tribe village, and still a bit farther up the mountain to reach a scenic spot with panoramic views of the surrounding terrain.

Ban Khounsoukluang & Ban Sailom (Day Nine)

A day of moderate hiking to villages near Phongsaly. We will travel past tea plantations and striking mountain scenery on our way to Ban Khounsoulnoy, Ban Khounsoukluang and Ban Sailom. This day on foot will allow us to meet and interact with locals as they go about their daily activities. No photographing from windows on tour buses for us. We will likely see workers on the tea plantations harvesting the tea as well as more whiskey making and whatever else of interest crosses our path. Our route for the day is planned but the day is mostly devoted to serendipity.

Ban Komaen & Muang Khua (Day Ten)

Tea is integral to daily life in Laos, and today we visit a 400-year-old tea plantation about thirty minutes from Phongslay in the village of Ban Komaen where it is believed some of the oldest tea trees in the world are still producing tea leaves. We continue on to Muang Khua, our home for the night on the banks of the Nam Ou River near the Vietnamese border.

Nong Khiaw (Day Eleven)

A leisurely trip down the Nam Ou River on a private long-tail boat, perhaps the most scenic river journey in Laos, is the plan for today as we move toward our destination for the night, Nong Khiaw. We pass hillside villages on the banks of the Nam Ou and enjoy a picnic lunch as we take in the sights and sounds of river life. Arriving in Nong Khiaw in the late afternoon, we have time to get settled in our accommodations, and those of us still feeling adventurous can hike up Phou Pha Deang mountain, about a two-hour hike to the top of a dramatic limestone peak overlooking the lush river valley. The views are worth the hike.

Luang Prabang (Day Twelve)

We return to Luang Prabang, where we have the day to explore at our leisure those spots missed earlier in the trip and to revisit favorite sights and locations we’d like to experience again before departing the next day.

Luang Prabang (Day Thirteen)

We will spend our final morning exploring Luang Prabang one last time, enjoying the company of new friends, and planning our next adventures before saying our goodbyes and heading home.

Although this represents the photographic adventure’s planned itinerary, it is subject to change at the discretion of the adventure leaders.

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