A hot argon plasma expansion into a low-pressure background is investigated by means of laser induced fluorescence on argon metastables. The result is a complete two-dimensional flow field of the expanding system that covers the area reaching from the nozzle of the plasma source to the shock front of the expansion. This flow field includes information on atom velocities, densities and temperatures. It consists of two different components: a fast, cool supersonically expanding one and a slow, hot component resulting from invasion of the background gas. This invading component is first present at the outside of the barrel shock and gradually invades the expansion towards the center axis. The supersonic component, dominating the first part of the expansion, shows all characteristics of rarefied hot gas flows: acceleration to twice the sonic velocity of the source, adiabatic cooling and a parallel temperature remaining higher than the perpendicular one. However, the invading component is much slower, but also hotter due to collisions in the expanding flow, and is already present before the shock front. The total flow of argon atoms is also described by computer simulations. The result shows the same behavior as the measured flow. The importance of the invading component for radical production is also demonstrated by LIF measurements on atomic oxygen that is produced from background O2 inside the expanding system.