Day 1: Arrival in Bangkok & China Town (-/-/D)
Welcome to Thailand! Sa-Waddee (in Thai)!
Someone will be waiting for you at the airport with a sign with your name on it when you arrive and transfer you to your hotel.
Bangkok is a big bustling city with so much to explore, from grand palaces and temples to a world-renowned floating market to a multitude of street vendors serving up delicious Thai food. If you choose to arrive a few days before the trip formally starts, we will be happy to provide you with some suggestions from visiting Khao San Road to indulging in a Thai massage. There is also a beautiful spa right in the hotel you are staying in.
After arrival, you’ll have some time to get settled into your hotel before meeting up with the rest of the group and Tour Leader, who will give you a briefing on everything the next two weeks have in store and answering any questions you may have. Then you will be picked up at the hotel lobby to head out and explore some of Bangkok's most famous street foods in China Town. Stroll through the small alleys while taking in the sites and smells, snacking on different food the whole way and soaking in the environment. Then you will head out for a special welcome dinner.
Day 2: Boat down the River of Kings & Temples of Bangkok (B/L/-)
You will be picked up in the hotel lobby after breakfast to begin your tour of Bangkok (at a pre-arranged time). Your tour of Bangkok begins with a walk down to the pier to board a longtail boat for a trip down the Chao Phraya River – known as the River of Kings. The name of the river perfectly reflects this part of the tour, as you will feel like royalty as you enjoy this relaxing journey taking in all of the sites. Bangkok is referred to as 'Venice of the East', as it encompasses a large network of canals, many of which have been filled in over the years and converted into roads that later turned into neighbourhoods. Such a pleasure to explore!
Then continue on to the Grand Palace. The grounds alone are so impressive, lined with gorgeous architecture that will be sure to amaze you. Your guide will be able to tell you all about the history of the palace and the most sacred Buddhist temple in Thailand, Wet Phra Kaew – considered to be the spiritual heart of the county.
Next it’s onto another stunning temple, called Wat Pho – also an icon of Buddhism in Thailand, and home to the famous gold reclining Buddha. This is also the birthplace of traditional Thai massage, and you will have an opportunity to find out how those tie together, as well as garner lots about the history and secret stories about the temples. After the tour of the temple, you will be left here to explore independently before heading back to the hotel on your own.
Today’s tour not only provides you with some of the most popular tourist destinations in Bangkok, but will also explore some lesser known ones, as seen from the eyes of a local.
• Tour of Klong by longtail boat
• Wat Pho
• The Grand Palace
Day 3: Floating Market & Kanchanaburi (B/L/-)
The Damnoen Saduak floating market is one of the most popular sites to see in Thailand – a unique market where vendors sell their goods from boats and stalls set up along the water’s edge. You’ll start your tour with a drive (by private vehicle) to the railway market, aout two hours from Bangkok. You daon’t want to sleep through this (noting the tour leaves early at 6:30AM so be sure to be one time). The railway market is so incredibly different, you have to see it to believe it. Vendors set up their goods along active railway tracks, with fresh produce, fabrics, cooking supplies and more all lined up a mere few inches from the track’s edge (and in some cases, right on top of the tracks).
Just wait to see what happens when the train comes through! Between the train schedule, your guide will lead you around the market and introduce you to traditional Thai foods, from desserts to snacks to fresh fruits. Don’t be shy — be sure to try a taste a sampling of what the market has to offer.
Next you will board a small boat to take a ride through narrow village canals, to reach the famous floating market of Damnoen Saduak. Be sure to have your camera handy, as you will be experiencing one long photo opp. Feel free to let your guide know if anything catches your eye, to stop and chat with vendors, and possiby purchase something to take home.
Then you will continue onto Kanchanaburi to check into your hotel there. The hotel is situated where the Khwae Noi and Khwae Yai rivers converge. Kanchanaburi is home to the infamous 'Bridge on the River Kwai'.
• Railway and Damnoen Saduak floating market
Day 4: Erawan Waterfalls & Bridge on the River Kwai (B/L/-)
After breakfast this morning, head to Erawan Waterfalls. These terraced falls were named after the three-headed white elephant of Hindu mythology. They cascade into a series of emerald green pools, and offer a great place to walk around and enjoy the incredible natural beauty found here. After enjoying lunch at the park, you will drive for a little over an hour to the Hellfire Pass Memorial, built to honour the Allied Prisoners of War (POWs) and Asian conscripts who died while constructing some of the most difficult stretches of the Thai-Burma Death Railway. You will be able to observe Burma (Myanmar) from a teak observation deck here, just kilometers away. You’ll also see the eponymous pass, cut through an 18 meter wall of rock, which got its name from the hellish fires used to light the work at night.
Boarding at Nam Tok station, the main terminal of the Death Railway, take a ride along the historic tracks along the Kwai Noi River and travel over the original wooden viaduct (the Bridge on the River Kwai) constructed by the allied POWs. Pass through magnificent scenery and spend a moment reflecting on those who were forced to give their lives in the process of bending this environment to man’s will. Tonight, you can explore the rows of street vendors in town and perhaps grab a drink overlooking the River Kwai.
• Erawan National Park & Falls
• Hellfire Pass Memorial Museum
• Historical train ride
Day 5: Ayutthaya’s Historical Park (B/L/-)
Head from Kanchanaburi to Ayutthaya in a private minivan this morning (taking approximately 4 hours), arriving just in time for lunch. In the afternoon, head with your tour leader to the Historical Park, which is rich in ancient temples, historical ruins and Buddha statues. You will visit the site and explore temples that include Wat Yai Chai Mongkol, Wat Maha That, and Wat Panun Choeng. Between the 14th and 18th centuries, Ayutthaya was considered the second capital of the Siamese Kingdom and grew to be one of the largest cosmopolitan urban centres in the world. You will be able to see its historic grandeur on full display today.
• Ayutthaya Historical Park
Day 6: Travel to Sukhothai (B/L/-)
Today will involve a lot of travel, but offer no shortage of beauty to take in along the way. Take a traditional songthaew from your accommodation to the train station, then board a day train to Phitsanuloke (approximately 5 hours). From there, take a 1.5-hour minivan to Sukhothai, the historic capital of Siam, stopping off at Wat Yai Phitsanuloke along the way. Once you arrive at your beautiful resort, spend some time in the open air and perhaps have a swim in the onsite pool!
• Wat Yai Phitsanuloke
Day 7: Sukhothai Historical Park & Thai Cooking Class (B/L/D)
Located on a fertile plain, Sukhothai was established in the 13th century as one of the first ancient capitals of Siam, and the name means the 'Dawn of Happiness'. It’s now famous for its World Heritage-listed Historic Park that celebrates the Golden Age of Thai civilization. Head out to the historical ruins of Old Sukhothai, set amid beautiful lakes and gardens. The religious art and architecture of the Sukhothai era are considered to be the most classic of Thai styles, and the Sukhothai Historical Park contains the remains of 21 historic sites, with striking Buddha images and four large ponds often filled with stunning lotus flowers in full bloom.
Upon arrival at the park, take an electronic tuk tuk through the park and enjoy a few leisurely hours feeling the breeze in your hair and learning about the history of this fascinating place. Enjoy a delicious lunch at the end of your ride. Have some free time this afternoon before heading to a local house for a Thai cooking class. You’ll learn some traditional food from the Sukhothai region such as chili pastes and fragrant curries, spicy soups, steamed fish cake and Thai custard. Your host will help you prepare these dishes and will assist you in making a delicious spread to share at the end.
• Sukhothai Historical Park by Electronic Tuk Tuk
• Thai Cooking Class
Day 8: Hmong Hilltribe Meal & Cultural Performance (B/-/D)
Drive north by minivan to the Hmong Hilltribe Lodge in a picturesque hilly countryside (the trip takes approximately 4.5 hours). Cradled in the scenic valley of the Suthep-Pui mountain range and surrounded by stunning natural landscapes of jungle and mountains, the Hmong Lodge offers a unique and tranquil experience. It's a great escape from the hustle and bustle of busy tourist spots. Be sure to pack a sweater as the weather is fairly cool year-round due to the lofty mountain location. The Hmong are an ethnic minority in Thailand who originated in the south of China. Today they comprise the second largest hilltribe group in Thailand. After a barbecue dinner in the lodge's open-air dining area, the day concludes with a cultural performance by the Hmong people. You'll gain an insight into the traditional lifestyle of the tribe, with a wedding ceremony enactment, shamanic ritual and makong (cotton ball) throwing.
• Hmong Hilltribe Lodge - Traditional meal & cultural performance
Day 9: Chiang Mai & Doi Suthep (B/-/D)
This morning after breakfast, you will bid farewell to your kind Hmong hosts and travel by private vehicle to Chiang Mai (approximately 1.5 hours). The most vibrant city in northern Thailand, Chiang Mai has many famous temples and an interesting old city area. Renowned for dazzling beauty and extremely welcoming locals, the ‘Rose of the North’ will leave you spellbound. Chances are, you won’t want to leave. In the late afternoon, embark on a scenic, winding drive up a mountain (approximately 45 minutes) to one of the country's most stunning temple complexes, Doi Suthep, where a 300-step naga-guarded stairway will lead you to the temples. The climb is well worth the effort! The hypnotic atmosphere of chanting Buddhist monks and sweeping views of the city make this a memorable experience. Your tour leader can help you to arrange optional activities for your free time today – you can get active with a bicycle tour to discover the city and surrounding countryside from a different perspective, indulge in a Thai massage or a spa treatment, or just read a book by the pool. Afterwards, check out the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar, full of local handicrafts and fabulous Northern street food dishes.
• Doi Suthep temple complex
• Chiang Mai Night Bazaar
Day 10: Chang Chill Elephant Sanctuary (B/L/-)
After breakfast this morning, travel from Chiang Mai city to Chang Chill, to learn about its past, present and future as a place for elephants to thrive. You will be provided an overview of the day’s activities as well as safety instructions before following local guides into the forest to observe (from a safe distance) the magical site of elephants grazing and socializing with each other. In the elephant area, guests will be able to ask questions of the knowledgeable guides, who will be able to tell them lots of interesting facts about elephant conservation, behavior, biology, and lifestyle.
Following the elephants through the forest, past their drinking and bathing area, you will arrive at a rest station for some traditional Thai refreshments (including Anchan, lemongrass tea, and roselle juice). The rest station is above a mud pit, where you can enjoy your refreshments while watching the elephants bathe and play below. Lunch time is also at an observation desk where you can enjoy your lunch while observing these beautiful giant animals.
After lunch, you will head down to the river to learn more about what elephants eat, offering a chance to sit and observe as the elephants approach and search for the treats that have been set out for them! Later you will have the opportunity to visit a medicinal garden, to learn about the many natural remedies growing to heal elephants and people alike.
This will be a day you will never forget.
• Chang Chill Elephant Sanctuary Visit
Day 11: Visit Chiang Mai’s Artisans (B/L/-)
Start off your Mae On Tai tour riding 45 minutes to Baan Ontai Village to meet with a local artisan and learn the basics of bamboo weaving. You will have an opportunity to make something with your own design, with the help of your new bamboo weaving friend. Next, check out the processes behind cotton weaving, pottery and natural tie-dying from a local expert before making our way to a workshop that showcases the works of local artists. There will be shopping opportunities at every turn.
Next you will stop at an historical temple from the Chiang Saen Kingdom, dating back 600 years. The area is surrounded by ancient kilne sites and lush forest. Holy water is next with a visit to the natural springs that locals believe can heal the sick. Be sure to fill up your bottle. Then walk around an organic farm where you will enjoy a delicious Thai lunch using ingredients sourced from the farm. Return to Chiang Mai by early afternoon. A late check-out from the hotel will be available for you to repack and freshen up before the overnight train back to Bangkok.
You will have a comfortable, air-conditioned sleeping birth (bunk beds with sheets and pillows provided) for the overnight train journey to Bangkok (approx. 13hrs), with food and drink service available on board.
• Mae On Tai Handicraft Day Trip
Day 12: Bangkok to Huan Hin (B/-/-)
Arrive into Bangkok around 6 am this morning. Transfer to a local hotel to access facilities as needed, and enjoy some breakfast. No need to really freshen up, when you are only hours away from hitting the beaches of Huan Hin.
Your journey south will take approximately 3 hours, and then you have two full days to just relax on the beaches independently and in total comfort at your beautiful seaside accommodations, right on the beach.
Spend your time in this beautiful coastal spot exploring the numerous white sandy beaches by day and indulging in amazing food by night. Your hotel is not far from the sophisticated city that has many urban offerings, but this is unlikely to draw your attention from the gorgeous beach and blue-green waters. Hua Hin was once a sleepy fishing village before Thai royalty made it their beachside getaway in the 1920s. Hin Beach is the main strip – grab a coconut, settle in and be sure to sample the delicious thom kha (spicy seafood soup).
Included Transfer (without guide)
• Transfer from Bangkok to Hua Hin
Important Note: Although you will be set up with transportation to and from your hotel in Hua Hin, your tour leader will no longer be accompanying you for these last days on the beach, to allow for greater independence, and to keep the tour price down - however, please let us know if you would like us to extend their services, as that can likely be arranged with enough advance warning.
Day 13: Beaches of Hua Hin (B/-/)
This day is free for you to take it wherever your heart desires. With a big infinity pool just outside your room and the ocean summersaulting distance away, you pick. You may also opt to explore Hua Hin.
Our top recommendation if looking to do some exploring on your own is the half-day Hua-Hin Adventure Tour, during which you would drive north to see the Maruka Tayawan Palace (Palace of love & hope) designed by King Rama VI and completed in 1924. Spend time walking around the beautiful teakwood palace, now restored to its former glory. Then continue south through Hua-Hin to visit Khao Takieb (monkey mountain) in a monastery and place of sanctuary for Thai people. You will be able to see the wild monkeys that give this famous mountain its nickname. The last visit is the King pavilion at Hua Hin railway station. (Pick up @13:30; Drop off @18:00). Note that a photo/copy of your passport and a mask or face shield is required for every traveler.
Another option you may want to look at is a Thai cooking class that starts with shopping around Hua Hin’s local fresh markets. This will be an excellent opportunity to gather information on all those exotic Thai ingredients as well as a glimpse to the Thai daily life style. When you are done shopping for the ingredients, you will head to the chef’s kitchen (3km north) to discuss the menu and start the fun of cooking together. You will be taught some Thai cooking tips and be shows the importance of natural fresh ingredients for a guaranteed original Thai taste. Then the moment of truth: tasting your own creation and for everyone else to appreciate your culinary talents. Bon appetite.
The two options above are not included in the itinerary, but can be arranged at the time of booking.
Day 14: A Little More Beach Time & Return to Bangkok (B/-/-)
Enjoy morning at the beach and breakfast then return by minivan to Suvarnabhumi Airport. There are no activities planned for the final day. Check out time is at 12:00 noon. Your airport transfer in Bangkok is included (on a group basis).
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