Northern Laos Photography Tour
Photographic passage through time in a land of ancient cultures. This trip runs Vientiane to Luang Prabang.
Northern Laos is a cultural treasure of immense photographic charm, a unique piece of South-East Asia where diverse ethnic groups have been sheltered from tourism. On this photography tour we will visit mist shrouded mountain villages, float down the Mekong on private river boats and explore the beauty of Buddhist monks in the town of Luang Prabang. September is the end of the monsoon season when the landscape is lush and at its most beautiful, a prime time for photography.
You will have the expert guidance of professional photographer Paul Wager, who has adopted Laos as his home, plus a local guide to bring our group closer to the culture. This tour offers boundless opportunity for stunning photography in an area only recently opened to the world. Like all Grasshopper Adventures Photography Tours the maximum size of the group is restricted to 8 people, because small groups are great groups.
- Visit ethnic villages of the Hmong, Khmu, Lanten, Yao, Tai Lu
- 4WD access to remote mountain Akha villages
- Cruise the Nam Tha and visit ethnic villages through the Namha National Protected Area
- Saffron robed monks of Luang Prabang collecting Alms
- Private riverboat cruise down the Mekong River from Huay Xai to Luang Prabang
- Mist cloaked mountain villages
- Golden temples and French colonial architecture of UNESCO World Heritage Listed Luang Prabang
- Village of Nong Kiaw on the beautiful Nam Ou (river)
- Farmers toiling in the rice fields
- Sunsets on the Mekong River
Day 1 | Vientiane
The adventure begins in Vientiane where we will meet the group. A walk to the local markets where the pace is lively with throngs of vendors will give us an opportunity to discuss photography techniques and have a taste of the Laos culture. This evening we will get better acquainted during a group dinner and savor traditional Lao food.
Day 2 | Luang Namtha
We start the day with a walk to Wat Si Saket the oldest temple to survive the Siam–Lao war. Age has lent character and beauty to a unique temple boasting almost 7000 Buddha statues. We take a midday flight to Luang Namtha to begin our discovery of the remote Lao ethnic groups and to develop our photographic skills. This afternoon we drive to Ban Nam Dee, a Lanten village where ancient traditions dictate life. We end the day with sunset photography over the rice fields.
Day 3 | Luang Namtha - Muang Sing
An early start will see us on the road between Luang Namtha and Muang Sing, situated on the Chinese border, where for centuries ethnic groups have been migrating. We will visit villages along the picturesque route starting with an Hmong village where the people are welcoming and generous. This is the ideal location to develop portraiture techniques using the environment of a small village with bamboo houses and happy, gentle people. As we proceed we will meet the villagers from the different minorities and see the differing cultures.
Day 4 | Luang Namtha - Ban Nam Yang
Our 4 wheel drive will take us into the mountains adjoining the Namha National Protected Area along a slippery track to a remote Akha village, so keep a good hold of your camera during the drive. The Akha wear elaborate hand made headdress and jewelry and live at the top of their mountain home which has sweeping vistas of the valley below. The Akha of Ban Nam Yang has limited western visitors and can be shy so patience is a virtue when trying to secure that treasured photograph. We will have a picnic lunch in the mountains and this evening talk about processing digital images.
Day 5 | Namtha (River)
Today we will catch on of the local boats and cruise down the Namtha (river) visiting Ban Mai (Black Tai), Ban Sope Dute (Lanten) and Ban Sopsim (Khmu) who live along the edge of the Namha National Protected Area. The villagers use the river as their only highway and are only accessible during the monsoon season when the rivers are high. We will enjoy a picnic lunch on the banks of the river after an exhilarating morning and have a leisurely return by bus to Luang Namtha.
Day 6 | Huay Xai
We will head to Huay Xai this morning through the Namha National Protected Area stopping at the Kaorao caves and the Kao Vieng ruins, all that's left of one of the first civilizations to settle the area. The rest of the day is free to explore Huay Xai on the border with Thailand.
Days 7-8 | Pak Beng
A leisurely cruise down the Mekong River on our own private riverboat will see us pass fishing villages, cliffs and forest and occasionally, if were lucky, elephants working along the banks. This is a perfect time to fire up the laptops and review photos, discuss technique or simply relax and take in the scenery. Lunch is catered onboard. We continue our journey down the Mekong River after having a restful night in Pak Beng until we arrive at the UNESCO World Heritage Listed Town of Luang Prabang. If Luang Namtha is the Lao gem of ethnic diversity then the former royal seat of the kingdom of a million elephants is the Lao gem of cultured beauty.
Days 9-10 | Luang Prabang
A very early start today to photograph the flow of saffron past the many temples in the streets of Luang Prabang as the monks collects alms. We pass from the mystic to the functional with a walk through the local market to see the produce being frenetically sought and bought before sitting down to a French style breakfast. Free time is planned for the rest of the day to photograph your own impressions of the town, focusing on golden temples or the French colonial architecture. In the evening we will gather on the banks of the Mekong River to watch fishermen, farmers and a colourful sunset. The following day we take a drive up into the mist shrouded mountains behind Luang Prabang to discover Khamu and Hmong ethnic groups farming dramatically steep mountain sides. We'll also seek out magnificent vistas of the mountains and valleys of Luang Prabang Province.
Days 11-12 | Nong Kiaw
Today we drive to the riverside town of Nong Kiaw on the Nam Ou (river). Nong Kiaw is a rustic town with a bridge stretching across the river and is a launching point to head down the Nam Ou (river). We will be here for the night and get to see the village in the late afternoon light. The next morning we jump on a local boat and head down the Nam Ou with some of the most beautiful riverscapes to be seen in Laos. We will visit villages and a school along the journey. We will also visit caves and Sop Kong waterfall, a beautiful walk which takes us through mountains and rice fields, where we can have a swim and a picnic lunch.
Day 13 | Luang Prabang
We return to Luang Prabang for the last day of activities. We have a workshop session on how to organize a set shoot and utilize available light for environmental portraiture. We have one more sunset to enjoy and a farewell dinner to celebrate our journey.
Day 14 | Luang Prabang
Hotel checkout is for 12 noon, and your transfer to the airport is included.
Facts and Information
Accompanying photographer, internal flights, airport transfers, all permits and entrance fees, driver, bus and boats for private touring, local guides, accommodation and all meals. We even shout a few beers and wine - all you have to do is book a flight into Vientiane and out of Luang Prabang.
Minimum of 3, maximum of just 8 people.
11 nights in 3 star hotel or better, 3 nights in local guesthouses
All breakfasts, lunches and dinners.
Read Paul's Bio
See some of Paul's award winning photographs
Digital SLR or Compact Digital
Adventurous, fun and usually comfortable
Feedback and Reviews
"Paul - a man of great patience - spent time with me and taught me how to get the most from my camera. My composition skills had improved greatly and I came home with a wonderful portfolio to show my family and friends. As a teacher Paul is right up there with great communication skills. As a tour guide Paul is very organized, very, very knowledgeable about the Minority village peoples and their different ways of living, he knows all the great spots to shoot sunsets and sunrises, where to shoot the Monks first thing in the morning as they collect their alms. Would I go away on another tour with Paul Wager.........YES most definitely."
- Lesley, January 2011
"Having the opportunity to rub elbows with Paul not only improved my photography, but left me deeply inspired. His patient and amiable personality allowed me to ask the most beginner of all beginners' questions, which in turn allowed me to grow and build confidence in my skills. To that, I am grateful."
- Kristen, November 2010