The Mekong Freestyle Pass takes you on an incredible journey. Go further off the beaten track in Laos, cruise down the Mekong river, connect with the locals at the homestay village, then marvel at Angkor Wat and explore Cambodia's intriguing history before returning to Bangkok.
"Freestyle" means flexible, and it doesn't get much more flexible than this! You'll travel with a guide and have all your transport organised for you, but you can stay as long as you like in each destination and choose your own accommodation and activities to suit your taste.
Whether you're travelling on our air-conditioned buses, by boat, train, or even tuk-tuk, all your transport is included and organised for you.
Knowledgeable Stray Guides provide invaluable support and insider insights. Travelling with a guide makes navigating Asia a stress-free experience. Guides can translate for you and book optional activities on your behalf.
These are the special off-the-beaten-track destinations on the route that make Stray stand out from the crowd. You can see them marked with a heart on the map because they're the places our travellers love.
View your itinerary and manage your travel on-the-go. Flexibility at its finest!
There will be a bed reserved for you at every Stray overnight stop. If you would like to book it, let your Stray Guide know and pay-as-you-go directly to the accommodation.
Top rated activities
There are some awesome local experiences included with your pass:
Travel on the overnight sleeper train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai.
Visit the dazzling and bizarre White Temple in Chiang Rai.
Sit back and watch the world go by on a 2-day cruise down the Mekong River.
Discover the Pak Ou caves full of thousands of Buddha statues from over hundreds of years.
Tour the city sights of Vientiane.
Learn about the secret war on Laos at the COPE Centre.
See Buddha's footprint at Wat Prabat Phonsone.
Visit That Ing Hang Stupa, a Buddist temple from the 16th century.
Swim at the base of the Tad Ngeuang waterfall, surrounded by lush coffee plantations.
Climb aboard a unique form of transport - a Bamboo Train!
Hear the sobering stories and chilling history of the Killing Fields and Tuol Sleng 21 Prison in Phnom Penh.
What we're all about...
We’ve redefined the ‘traditional tour’ to give you the flexibility and freedom you crave.
Hop-off, stay longer and explore. It’s your time, your way.
Stray are the experts in taking you off the beaten track in Southeast Asia.
We’re all about seeking out secluded destinations and one-of-a-kind experiences.
We believe we have a responsibility to make a positive impact on the communities we visit.
Supporting local operators and hiring local guides means that you can learn more about the culture and get more out of your trip.
Travel is about creating lasting connections and sharing experiences.
Stray travellers are open minded adventurers who make the most of every moment.
We'll keep you safe and stress-free, with guidance and support every step of the way.
We’ll do the organising, you come along for the ride.
Mekong - Freestyle Pass
Due to COVID-19 all Stray trips are suspended until 1 November 2020. Please check our Service Updates page for more information.
Sawadee, Sabaidee (hello) and welcome to Stray! Your adventure kicks off in the buzzing Asian metropolis of Bangkok, Thailand. If you arrive early in the day, feel free to check out the vibrant markets and ancient temples that make up only a small side of this multifaceted city. Be at our Stray Shop at 3pm to meet your Stray Guide and your new travel mates for a Welcome Meeting introduction. We’ll cover how Stray works and answer any questions you have before heading to the train station to board the overnight train to Chiang Mai. The overnight sleeper train is an experience within itself for those who have never been on one before, complete with lie flat beds and a restaurant carriage. It’s the most fun way to travel to Chiang Mai and get to know your new travel mates!
We arrive into Chiang Mai train station around midmorning. As the largest city in Northern Thailand, Chiang Mai is a popular place to hop off for many travellers and an amazing city full of endless activity options, such as Thai cooking classes, bike tours or Muay Thai kickboxing. Once a kingdom unto itself, there are over 300 Buddhist temples to discover and it is worth visiting the old walled city to see the Tapae Gate. In the evening, don’t miss browsing the famous night market to score a bargain or you can check out the lively music scene.
Today is free for you to explore this historically rich city or venture outside the city to discover the natural beauty of northern Thailand. Chiang Mai is the perfect base for some of Thailand's best guided hikes and treks, as well as the top spot for adventure activities like mountain biking, abseiling and whitewater rafting. This evening you can enjoy dinner at one of the many great restaurants then browse the night market, take in a ladyboy show or the Muay Thai boxing or head out for a few drinks with friends.
This morning we depart Chiang Mai to head for the Thailand-Laos border. We’ll make a stop near Chiang Rai to check out the famous and intriguing White Temple (Wat Rong Khun). Wat Rong is a unique modern Buddhist temple that features some curious statues and murals that include images from Star Wars and The Matrix, Freddie Kruger’s head hanging in the trees and a giant Predator emerging from the garden. We stop here long enough to grab a snack, stretch our legs and take a few photos before we continue on to cross the border into Laos. Once in Laos we take a short tuk-tuk ride to the small town of Houay Xai, our stop for the night.
Leaving Houay Xai you’ll board our private slow boat to cruise down the Mekong River to the tiny secluded village that will host you for an overnight homestay experience. Sit back and soak up this incredible journey as you wind your way through lush farmland, thriving jungle and rugged mountain scenery, drifting past water buffalo, locals fishing, and kids splashing in the shallows. We arrive in the village in the late afternoon. Here you will get a taste of traditional Lao village life by staying with a family in their home. Experience a special Baci (welcoming) Ceremony, try the local whiskey, and explore the village. This is a true highlight of any trip to Southeast Asia and exclusive to Stray!
See More moment: Experience a traditional Baci Ceremony performed to bring visitors to the village good luck and good health. This ancient ritual is said to protect you as you travel and is a heart-warming chance to connect across cultures.
Do More moment: Your contribution to the village funds annual projects to improve infrastructure and make a difference in this community.
We wave goodbye to the village and jump back aboard our private boat to head downriver to the famous limestone Pak Ou Caves. Pak Ou is an important pilgrimage site for Lao people, and here you will see thousands of Buddhist images that have been placed throughout the caves over hundreds of years. Back on board our boat a short trip takes us to the UNESCO World Heritage town, Luang Prabang. Luang Prabang has an old world feel that gives you the sense you’ve stepped back in time into a picturesque postcard setting. The fusion of French Colonial architecture with traditional Lao design set against a backdrop of misty mountains and lush green jungle makes this a truly majestic place.
Today is free for you to enjoy all this UNESCO World Heritage town has to offer. Luang Prabang is home to the National Palace Museum, Wat Xieng Thong (the oldest monastery in town) and plenty of other ancient Buddhist temples and sacred sites to explore. Many people take a trip to the famous Kuang Si waterfalls, where the bright turquoise spring waters looks like it’s been Photoshopped, or you can get hands on by becoming an organic rice farmer for the day on the unforgettable Rice Experience. Alternatively, you can spend the day cycling or trekking, take a cooking class, or head to the night market for a hassle-free bargaining experience and some delicious cheap local food.
It’s an early start as we head south through mountainous terrain on one of the most scenic journeys you’ll experience on the Laos travel route. Travel past hill-tribe villages, vast green valleys and rolling hills. Our journey today takes us to the little riverside town Vang Vieng, formerly known as the best place to take tubing trips down the Nam Song River to visit riverside bars and indulge in cheap booze. These days you can still go tubing, but now you get to enjoy the beauty of Vang Vieng's landscape without the sound of pounding bass in the background.
With its stunning natural scenery, Vang Vieng offers ample outdoor activities to choose from. We recommend hiring a bike to explore the town and visiting the Blue Lagoon, one of the best natural swimming holes in Laos. There are also great rock climbing and kayaking options. The fun doesn’t stop after an adventure filled day either! This evening check out one of several international restaurants for a taste of home or head to one of the bars to really get the party started.
Today we cruise through to the capital of Laos. On arrival in Vientiane your Stray Guide will point out the city’s main attractions including Putaxai, Pha That Luang, That Dam, the Presidential Palace, and the COPE centre – a non-profit organisation that educates visitors and raises awareness for victims of UXO (Unexploded Ordinance) and the Secret War. After check-in at our centrally located accommodation, you are free to explore the city, get a massage, go shopping or people watch at one of the local restaurants by the river.
An early escape this morning takes us away from the crowds and south to Kong Lor in the Phu Hin Bun National Park. About an hour into the journey we visit Wat Prabat Phonsone, the ‘Buddha’s Footprint,’ a popular and important pilgrimage site for local communities. Arriving in remote Kong Lor with the afternoon sun, you’ll feel a sense of peace as you drive through the sleepy rural villages lined with crop fields and rice paddies and surrounded by stunning limestone karst mountains. Relax after the drive by popping down to the river for an afternoon swim, swinging in a hammock at your accommodation or sampling a delicious Lao meal at one of the little restaurants in the village.
Take advantage of your free day with the chance to explore the underground river that winds its way through a mountain! The must do activity here is a guided boat trip that will take you deep into the abyss of the stunning 7km long Kong Lor Cave. Discover impressive columns, stalagmites and stalactites illuminated and protruding from the limestone rock as you travel by motorboat through this colossal cave system.This area is also a photographer’s paradise and a great place to get out and go trekking or just kick back to soak up the views over a cold Beer Lao.
See More moment: Stray are the only ones who’ll take you off the beaten track to experience Kong Lor Cave - one of the natural wonders of Laos.
We’ll break up the drive today by stopping in the small town of Thakhek, where there’s time to grab some lunch before we continue south. Before arriving in Savannakhet, we’ll stop to visit the Buddhist holy site Wat Ing Hang, reportedly built in the 16th century to honour Buddha’s visit to the area and housing one of Buddha’s bones. Set on the Mekong River as a border town with neighbouring Thailand, Savannakhet historically served as a key transit and trading post and is now the largest town in Southern Laos. The best things to do are wander along the waterfront and check out the fossil collection at the odd but intriguing Dinosaur Museum, then settle in a nice riverside restaurant for dinner.
Driving south this morning we head first for Pakse, then carry on to explore the refreshingly cool climate of the Bolaven Plateau. The Plateau features a lush green landscape, fertile coffee and tea plantations, and many spectacular waterfalls, including the stunning Tad Ngeuang Waterfall where you can go for a swim. Pakse sits where the mighty Mekong River and Se Don River meet, so take advantage of the many restaurants along the riverfront for a meal served up with unbeatable river views.
From Pakse, we’ll carry on south to the backpacker mecca of Si Phan Don, otherwise known as the 4000 Islands. Here you can experience the laidback lifestyle and impressive natural beauty of Laos’s landlocked islands. The island of Don Det serves as a great base to hire a kayak or tube for floating down the river, taking a boat trip to spot rare Irrawaddy dolphins, cycling across to the neighbouring Don Khone Island to discover the remnants of the only steam engine railway in Laos, and marvelling at the thunderous Li Phi waterfall.
Say goodbye to Laos – it’s an early start for the journey into Cambodia. A short drive will bring you to the Don Kralor Border where you will complete the immigration process and continue into Cambodia. Today your destination is the small, but vibrant city of Siem Reap, best known as home to the UNESCO World Heritage listed Angkor Temple complex. Arriving in Siem Reap in the late evening there will be time to freshen up before dinner and drinks with your group along the iconic Pub Street.
After your first night on Pub Street, you’ll probably enjoy a free day to sleep in and relax at your accommodation. If you’re up for it, get out and explore more of the downtown area, which tends to be a bit quieter during the day when most visitors are out at the temple complex. You’ll find the heart of the city fairly easy to navigate by foot or bicycle. Finish the day by sampling traditional Khmer food and visiting the Angkor Night Market that’s open every night.
Today you depart Siem Reap early enough to arrive in Battambang for a late lunch. After lunch, we’ll visit a whiskey making village and learn about the local tipple, before checking out a village where they make a staple (but smelly) ingredient in most Khmer and Southeast Asian cuisine - fish sauce! Tonight, we’ll stay in another little village, outside of Battambang, located in the picturesque countryside. You’ll stay in a Cambodian family’s home, experiencing rural community life. You can wander through the village and nearby rice paddies and finish the day by enjoying a delicious traditional meal with your host family.
See More moment: Immerse yourself in real Cambodian village life. Take the opportunity to interact with the locals, enjoy a traditional Khmer banquet and try a local favourite tipple: snake blood whisky (if you dare!).
Do More moment: By getting off the beaten track and visiting this tiny village you’re contributing to the economy and making a difference in the lives of the local families.
After waving goodbye to your hosts we’ll head into the city of Battambang. Despite being the second largest city in Cambodia, Battambang manages to avoid an overly touristy vibe, allowing you to experience a more local side of urban Cambodian life. Wander through the central market alongside the river and grab a coffee at one of the cafes. On the way back to Siem Reap we’ll stop to take a ride on the Bamboo Train, a rail system that was built by the French and destroyed by the Khmer Rouge, but is still used by the locals as a simple form of transport. Tonight is up to you, but we recommend finishing the day with the unforgettably unique Phare Circus, a locally run non-profit troupe that provides disadvantaged young people from the community with a place to learn the skills needed to earn their livings as professional performing artists.
See More moment: In the Cambodian countryside, a unique form of transport is still used by the locals to get around: a bamboo train! Take a ride on it and experience it for yourself.
You get a second full free day in Siem Reap because you simply cannot visit without seeing the highly recommended UNESCO World Heritage Angkor temples. Ranked at the top of many ultimate travel bucket lists (including Lonely Planet’s), the awe-inspiring ancient city of Angkor is the largest temple complex in the world. You can easily spend a full day at the site and still only see a small portion of this dramatic architectural wonder, but to hit the biggest highlights and embrace your inner Tomb Raider, make sure you check out the famous Angkor Wat and Ta Prohm.
Next up, we head for the bustling Cambodian capital Phnom Penh. With an edgy blend of harrowing history and modern development, Phnom Penh is incredibly important place for a number of political, economic and cultural reasons. You’re free this afternoon to get your first taste of this energizing capital city. Set out to explore the Royal Palace, Silver Pagoda and Wat Phnom, take a river cruise, shop for souvenirs at the huge Russian Market or see a living art performance at the National Museum.
Today, Cambodia’s history is bought to life with a tour of two of the most infamous attractions: the Khmer Rouge’s Killing Fields and the Tuol Sleng S21 Prison. While it is a very sobering experience to learn more about the country’s harsh recent history and the atrocities of the Khmer Rouge, these are among the most recommended things to do in Phnom Penh. Afterwards, an afternoon drive brings us to the little riverside town of Kampot, where there is an option to take a leisurely boat cruise on the Kampot River. You’ll be encouraged to sit back and reflect on your day with a refreshing cool beverage and absorb the spectacular views of Bokor National Park and Elephant Mountain as the sun sets over the calm waters.
You have a full free day to explore quaint Kampot. Visit the fascinating salt and pepper farms, go cycling or trek in the Bokor National Park or take a day trip to nearby Koh Tunsay (Rabbit Island) for some beach time. Tonight, we recommend sampling the exceptional regional seafood dishes at one of the many restaurants on the riverfront –the fried shrimp with green pepper corns is an absolute must try!
After a relaxing morning in Kampot, we return to Phnom Penh, where you’ll have the evening free. For something different, why not join the locals at dusk for an aerobic workout along the riverfront. Here you’ll find local ladies garbed in Western-style pyjamas, getting their groove on to Khmer techno music in order to burn a few calories. It may not be your most coordinated moment but will be good for a giggle (even if you’re just laughing at yourself)!
This morning you’ll be picked up from your accommodation for the (unguided) return journey to Siem Reap. As it’s your final evening in Cambodia, it’s a good chance to do some last minute souvenir shopping at the night market or get a massage, enjoy some Khmer food, and relax.
You’ll be picked up from your accommodation in the morning and transferred to the bus station. You will be driven to the border town of Poipet to process through Thai immigration before the final leg to Bangkok. Expect to arrive at the Mochit bus station in Bangkok in the late afternoon. We hope you had a blast on your Stray adventure!
*If you would like to be picked up from the Mochit Bus Station and have a final night’s accommodation in Bangkok included and organised for you, please add on the 1n Bangkok Arrival Pack.
Mekong - Freestyle Pass
Need to Know
Due to COVID-19 all Stray trips are suspended until 1 November 2020. A new timetable will be available 1 August 2020. Please check our Service Updates page for more information.
Some key details...
- Transport - All transport is included - you'll travel by bus (mostly private, air-conditioned buses with 24 seats), minivans, trains (Thailand only), boats (Laos only) and tuk-tuks.
- Guides - Stray employs local Guides to ensure you get more out of your trip. Hear the local stories, try their food recommendations, get insider tips and advice. Guides change from country to country so you'll have several different Guides throughout your journey - they're all absolute legends!
- Hopping on/off - You don't have to complete the Mekong in 26 days, take your time and go with the flow! You can hop-off at any destination along the route and spend more time there, then hop back on with the next group that is coming through. You can travel with Stray for up to 12months. Where we recommend hopping off
- Booking Buses - It's really easy to manage your trip online using the Stray Mate trip management portal. You'll receive log in details in your Booking Confirmation email. If you're on a short timeframe, we recommend booking all your buses in advance.
- Travelling without hopping off - You don't need to hop off if you're short on time - you can travel in the number of days in the itinerary. There are non-travel days throughout the route so you will not be travelling everyday however we recommend allowing extra time to hop off.
- Departures - Buses run twice a week so the minimum amount of time you can hop off for is 3 days. Use the timetable to plan your trip.
- Accommodation - Accommodation is not included - we have preferred accommodation options at each overnight stop and a bed reserved for you. You can book this through your guide, or you can opt to book your own. Stray's preferred accommodation is simple and budget friendly.
- Activities - You can book optional activities through your Stray Guide.
- Visas - You are responsible for obtaining any visas you require for the countries you are travelling in. Visa requirements vary depending on where you’re coming from and where you going, so we recommend that you contact the appropriate embassy in your country of origin.
- Travel Insurance - You must have a travel insurance policy to cover you for the entire time you are travelling with Stray. You will be asked for your policy details prior to starting travel.
- Stray Travellers - Our travellers are from all over the world, are energetic, adventurous and mainly aged between 20-35. You'll have people who have booked Freestyle Passes and Tours in your group, as the route is exactly the same, it's just the inclusions that are different.
- Group Size - Max 18, Average 9
- Unguided sectors - This trip includes unguided border crossings as our local guides stay in their country of origin. Crossing the borders can be a bit of an adventure but your guide will provide support and tell you what to expect. You can also find information about the day in Stray Mate. Your new guide will be waiting to welcome you, on the other side.
- Book with confidence - You can start travel anytime within 18 months of booking and you can change your start date as many times as you like. Once you start travelling, you can use your Freestyle Pass for up to 12 months.
- Payment Options - If you'd like to secure your place on the trip, but are a little bit short on cash, you can reserve a seat with a 20% deposit. You then have up to 6 months to pay it off - too easy! Better yet - there's no admin fee. You can make payments when it suits you using our Extra Payments page. You just need to have paid for your trip in full 14 days before you start.
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