Think of Asia and most travellers will think of Thailand. It is probably one of the most sought after destinations and it is not hard to see why as the country offers a perfect combination of ancient cities, tropical jungle, exotic foods and, of course, most famous for its lovely white sandy beaches.
An in-depth exploration of Thailand, taking in the northern territories, is an ideal alternative journey to appreciate the full culture of what Thailand can offer. Whether you are a first time visitor or returning again, travel north from Bangkok working your way overland towards the 'Golden Triangle', where Thailand borders Burma, Myanmar, and Laos visiting the many important historical sites and national parks
Start in Bangkok before heading into the jungle near Kanchanaburi. From there head north through the central region of Thailand, stopping off at Ayutthaya, Chiang Mai, and onto Pai and Mae Hong Son where you can spend time trekking around the local villages and rafting. After exploring the north of the country return south for a welcome beach stay.
Your choose of which island or beach will be dependent on the time of year you wish to travel, as Thailand's monsoon climate affects the Peninsula, with either side experiencing the rains at different times. The good thing about this is that you can find sun on a beach somewhere!
‘At-a-Glance’ Illustrative Itinerary
DAY 1: Upon arrival at Bangkok airport you will be welcomed to Thailand by your guide, and transferred to your hotel in a private chauffeur driven car. Once checked in you have the rest of the day at leisure to relax after your flight.
DAY 2: This morning set out to visit the colourful flower markets. Afterwards board a long-tailed boat to Thonburi, and its many canals, originally given Bangkok the name “Venice of the East.” Passing along the canals in the boat gives you a first-hand impression of the scenic life along Bangkok‘s waterways. Later visit one of the city's most important landmarks, the Grand Palace.
Afternoon tour of Wat Trimitr which boasts an invaluable Golden Buddha weighing some 5.5 tons of solid gold. Then continue to Chinatown for a first-hand look at old Bangkok, visit at one of the oldest teashops in the city for a cup of Chinese tea with the locals before continue to explore the bustling Talad Kao Market, where a variety of food, fresh and dry fruits, and Chinese herbs are on offer. Return to your hotel in the late afternoon.
DAY 3: This morning you will transfer to Amphawa. On the way stop off at the unique Mae Klong Market which local trains pass through 8 times a day. As the train approaches the station, many vendors hastily raise their awnings, fold up their umbrellas and pull their stalls away. The hidden railway tracks suddenly appear. After the train has passed, everything is returned to its previous position!
DAY 4: After breakfast visit Amphawa's riverside market which has the peaceful atmosphere of Thai local markets in bygone days. After the sightseeing set off on the journey by road to Kanchaburi which will take around 2 hours where on arrival you will tour the famous "Bridge over the River Kwai" and learn about the POW's before continuing on deeper into the countryside arriving late afternoon.
DAY 5: This morning you will do some light trekking around the Hellfire Pass, one of the most dramatic remnants from the Death Railway's construction during WWII before visiting the nearby museum. After lunch enjoy a long bamboo rafting experience on the river.
DAY 6: After breakfast you will set off on the 3 scenic hour drive to Ayuthaya. On arrival you will set out to explore Ayutthaya, the former capital of Thailand, to visit this UNESCO World Heritage Site where you will see the 3 ancient pagodas at Wat Si Sanphet and Wat Prananchoeng, visit the gigantic bronze statues of Wat Mongkol Borpitr and then drive over the river to visit Wat Chaiwatthanaram the Royal Monastery based on the temples at Angkor.
DAY 7: This morning continues with the exploration of the ruins of Ayutthaya, a city that flourished as a major trading centre in the heart of Asia. After the sightseeing you can relax back and enjoy a leisurely cruise watching life on the banks of the Chao Phraya River change from a rural landscape to an urban scene as you enter Bangkok.
In the afternoon you will be transferred to the domestic airport for your flight to Chiang Mai
DAY 8: Chiang Mai offers a wealth of experiences to enjoy. You have a full day at leisure to relax at your hotel and explore the fascinating town of Chiang Mai at your own pace. Alternatively you may enjoy day being trained in the ways elephant handling and management. The training includes hiking to find elephants in the bush and thereafter learning abut their behaviours and the daily health care. Mid-morning set off on a long uphill trip to visit a waterfall where you will have a picnic lunch and bathe in the water with your elephant. Later ride your elephant back to the farm for the evening feed and say farewell! Please note that this is shared with others
DAY 9: This morning you will transfer out to an isolated lodge in the Mae Taeng District to explore the remote villages in the hills around Chiang Mai.
Please note: The following itinerary follows the 2-night trekking option offered at the Lodge, and is suitable for those with a good level of fitness.
There is an alternative 2 night‘soft-adventure’ option, for those who prefer a more relaxed itinerary. Please ask for more details.
In the afternoon activities you will be driven in a pick-up truck to the starting point near Pha Mieng. From here you will set out along a series of jungle trails to the remote jungle village of Hmong Pha Mieng, Red Lahu Village of Pha Daeng, Lahu Village of Kup Kap from where you will have a spectacular view of the Mae Taeng District and Chiang Mai City. Beyond the mountain peaks to the west lies Myanmar (Burma).
During the day you will meet with inhabitants of the small hill tribes village and enjoy a picnic lunch in the forest. You will stay overnight at the Lahu Outpost, which is modelled on a traditional Lahu house.
DAY 10: Further adventures in the hill region await you today. River rafting, visit a tea plantation and take tea with a a village Sharman.
On return to Chiang Mai you can take a private cooking class for a hands-on introduction to Thai cuisine
DAY 11: An early morning departure to make the transfer from Chiang Mai to the island of your choice. Thereafter the rest of the day at leisure to relax at your hotel.
DAY 12: A day at leisure for you to relax and enjoy the facilities at your beachfront hotel. Snorkelling and diving excursions can be arranged directly through the hotel.
DAY 13: A day at leisure for you to relax and enjoy the facilities at your beachfront hotel. Snorkelling and diving excursions can be arranged directly through the hotel.
DAY 14: This morning you will be transferred back to the domestic terminal for your flight to Bangkok and onwards international flight
Photos courtesy of Bamboo Travel