Thailand & Laos Adventures
Why choose O.A.R.S. for an adventure vacation in Southeast Asia?
A visit to Thailand, Laos and Cambodia is full of adventure from every perspective: from the dense jungle to the vibrant temples and metropolitan cities, Southeast Asia features more beauty and culture than one could experience in a lifetime. Recently, the incredible whitewater rafting in Thailand has become accessible, as many rivers were pioneered only a few years ago—and these rivers offer a new and exciting way to explore the depths of the jungle.
On this O.A.R.S. adventure, we’ll visit the rural villages hidden amongst the dense jungle and explore the metropolitan cities of Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Luang Prabang—concrete jungles, in their own right. We’ll find temples and religious or royal monuments in every corner of the country, full of bright colors and intricate decorations. Thailand is renowned for a wealth of statues featuring Buddha, from the small Buddha figurines in homes to the stunning gold- and pearl-decorated reclining Buddha at Wat Po.
In addition to the incredible urban areas, there are lush jungles and exciting rivers throughout the Indochina Peninsula. On the Nam Wa, our adventure is a trifecta of jungle, waterfalls, and Class IV whitewater rafting. Along the Nam Xeuang, we’ll have the opportunity to speak with the inhabitants of remote rural villages, where you might learn about their unique culture. Finally, we’ll spend an afternoon in search of the elusive Irrawaddy dolphins in the maze-like Four Thousand Islands region of the Mekong River.
For more than 40 years, O.A.R.S. has provided exceptional adventures to travelers of all ages and abilities; our foremost goal is to create trips full of adventure and life-long memories. With our extensive travel experience, we take the guesswork and headaches out of international travel, thus allowing you to enjoy your vacation to its fullest extent. For our World Rivers series, we’ve partnered with long-time O.A.R.S. partner and co-founder of Sobek Expeditions, John Yost. John organized the first descents of many of the most renowned whitewater rivers of the world and he will personally escort all of our World Rivers adventures. Additionally, we believe it is a fundamental part of adventure-tourism to work with local guides while at the same time bringing our wealth of experience to the table. These local tour guides share their personal experiences as well as general information about the area and our like-minded partners in Thailand, Laos and Cambodia realize they are accountable to O.A.R.S. high standards, so you can rest assured you will be in be in good hands. We hope you can join us for a once-in-a-lifetime adventure in Southeast Asia.
Southeast Asia: Thailand, Laos and Cambodia
Located on the Indochina Peninsula, Southeast Asia is made up of seven countries: Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia (also the largest archipelago in the world). While this region is a famous destination for adventurers, the countries of Thailand, Laos and Cambodia are particularly well-known for their rich environment and cultural history. In this exceptional O.A.R.S. adventure, we aim to immerse travelers in the heart of Thailand and Laos, with an optional 2-day extension to Cambodia.
History and Cultural Heritage
Humans have inhabited Southeast Asia for more than 40,000 years, though there’s limited knowledge about the Indochina Peninsula until Indian merchants became common in the 2nd Century BCE. The most well-understood ancient civilization is the Khmer empire, which reigned over much of the Indochina peninsula between the 9th and 15th centuries.
Over the years, different religions have become popular in Southeast Asia. In the early history of Indochina, most people followed animist traditions, which were later replaced by Hinduism. In the first century, many people began following Theravada Buddhism, which is the oldest surviving branch of Buddhism today. Islamic influences became apparent between the 12th and 15th centuries, which greatly shaped the culture, religion, and politics of Southeast Asia. Today, Islam is the most commonly practiced religion in Southeast Asia.
The different religions and monarchies are represented in the stunning and elaborate architecture of temples and royal palaces throughout Southeast Asia. A commonly seen figure is that of Buddha in various states of repose. In the Wat Po temple in Bangkok, for example, the majestic reclining Buddha measures 152-feet long and is exquisitely decorated in gold leaf and mother-of-pearl illustrations. In Cambodia, you’ll find the famous city of temples known as Angkor Wat. These sacred temples, built by the Khmer empire, were lost to the jungle for many centuries before being re-discovered by the French Explorer Henri Mouhot. Today, Angkor Wat is known as the largest religious monument in the world.
An Environment as Diverse as the Culture
The majority of the Indochina Peninsula is located just south of China and in the heart of the tropics. The monsoon climate leaves summers hot, wet and humid, while winters are warm and arid. The fertile environment yields a diverse variety of wildlife, including Orangutans, Asian Elephants and the Sumatran Rhinoceros. Tigers are also present, though they are critically endangered throughout Southeast Asia.
Towards the northern parts of Thailand and Laos, the climate of Southeast Asia becomes more temperate as the land rises in elevation, leaving the dense jungle behind. From these mountains, some of the greatest whitewater in the Eastern World is born: the Nam Wa passes through the highlands of Thailand, with numerous waterfalls and jungle gorges for the curious to explore along the river.
As the land becomes flat and the rivers more gentle, the Mekong River spreads out into a maze-like system of channels in the Four Thousand Islands region. Here, you can relax on a unique island full of native and French colonial buildings. Remember to keep your eye out for the playful Irrawaddy dolphins, which only inhabit a small portion of this river. In this region, you’ll also find Cambodia’s famous Tonle Sap (Great Lake), where the flow of water changes directions twice a year based on the season.