Dear Imprint Travelers,We are very excited to officially announce the 2015 Tantalizing Thailand Tour. Since we’ve continued to refine our tour year by year, we’re confident that this will be our best ever. We have changed the itinerary to add efficiency and upgraded most of our tour hotels. We have pre-booked our amazing Thai guide, Ae. Even with the upgrades and significant inflation in Thailand our price has increased only 3% annually. Even better – we have reduced the cost of the Angkor extension by $450! Additionally, the tour has been scheduled to coincide with the Chiang Mai Flower Festival AND our new Vietnam tour (Jan 19 to Feb 1, 2015). For those with time and resources who’d like to double down on their Southeast Asian adventure you can see the best of 3 fantastic countries on one trip! Please peruse the detailed itinerary below and let us know if you are thinking of joining us for this amazing adventure. Accommodation upgrades are noted throughout.
Dates: Feb 4 - 17, 2015 Cost: $3300 Single Supplement $575 14 Days - Tour begins Bangkok ends Ayuthaya Optional pre-tour Angkor extension Dates: Feb 1 - 4 Cost: $750 Single Supplement $75
To view the Imprint's Thailand Photo Gallery: Thailand
Day 1 Bangkok Introductory meeting; Klong tour; dinner cruise Bangkok is laced with hundreds of canals (klongs). A tour of these waterways is a journey into Bangkok's real life and soul, and a fantastic water-bourn photo safari. We'll see people cooking, fishing, washing dishes, swimming, making merit, and playing. We'll float past teak palaces cheek by jowl with ramshackle hovels and workaday wats. Afterward we’ll enjoy a classic Bangkok experience, a Chao Phraya dinner cruise. The illuminated spires of the Grand Palace, Wat Pho, and Wat Arun as well as modern skyscrapers and suspension bridges drift by while we enjoy a buffet dinner. It is a great introduction to the capital and Thailand. Hotel: Nuovo City Hotel (same great location, but upgraded to 4-star, boutique comfort; rooftop pool) www.nouvocityhotel.com
Day 2 Bangkok Grand Palace; Wat Pho; Tuk-Tuks We have a huge sightseeing day planned for today. The Grand Palace complex, with its flamboyant architectural style, includes Wat Phra Kaew, a wonder of gleaming stupas, statues, and bots. This is Thailand's premier sight and a fitting start to our sight-seeing. Phra Kaew is home to the country's most venerated religious object, the Emerald Buddha. The complex is surrounded by a galleried wall, displaying an electric mural series from the Ramakian, the Hindu epic of good vs. evil. Giant (18 ft) Yakshas, or mythical guardians watch over the entrances. Gilded garudas and multi-chromatic mythic warriors line the bases of chedis and other gilded statues populate the grounds. There is even a model of Angkor Wat, once part of Siam's domain. You will certainly burn through a flash card or two. Next door is Wat Pho, home to Thailand’s largest reclining Buddha and best therapeutic massage school. Pho has a more work-a-day feel than the national showpiece of Phra Kheo. Engage the monks in conversation, check out the ancient massage school "instruction" panels, drop coins in the alms bowls, or photograph Thailand's biggest collection of Buddha statues or the very whimsical guardian statues at Pho's main gates. Before departing, we'll indulge in Thai massage for the whole group. For the rest of the day we'll explore Bangkok's less accessible sights on a tuk-tuk tour - the ubiquitous Asian 3-wheel transport. Highlights include Wat Saket - the Golden Mount with panoramic city views; Rama V monument - prince Chulalonkhorn of "The King and I" fame; the flower market - blocks of fragrant and visual dazzle; Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall; Wat Benchamabophit - striking, modern, white-marble wat, and the amulet market.
Day 3 Chiang Mai Morning flight; Wat Doi Suthep This morning we’ll transfer to the airport for a flight to Chiang Mai. Mid-afternoon we’ll depart for the nearby mountain temple of Doi Suthep for panoramic views and the tour's best Buddhist connection experience. While listening to the tinkling of temple bells you can receive a monk's blessing, observe the monk’s chanting ceremony, learn your fortune from tossing joss sticks, join the circumambulation of the stupa, or add oil to the sacred lamps (like lighting a candle in a Catholic church). Our guide will use the wat's "Century Calendar Book" to teach you your birth sign, sacred animal, and ritual Buddha posture. Upon our return to Chiang Mai we'll dine riverside. Hotel: Raming Lodge Hotel (better location, smaller boutique hotel, same amenities) www.raminglodge.com
Day 4 Chiang Mai Flower Festival We've scheduled this tour to coincide with Chiang Mai's world famous flower festival. The Flower Parade is an experience you'll never forget, a veritable explosion of color and fragrance. Your afternoon and evening are free. Options include a cooking class (we'll arrange for you), Chiang Mai’s many wats and museums, adventure sports, the famous zoo (hold Koalas), a unique Moo Kata "hot pot" dinner, or shopping in the famous night bazaar. Chaing Mai is also an easy place to experience Muay Thai (Thai boxing) or Kathoey Cabaret.
Day 5 Chiang Mai Village excursion Our morning will commence with a visit to nearby craft villages. Then its on to Sankamphaeng hot springs and spa for a genuine cultural connection experience. We'll be the only non-Thais enjoying the pools and spa services. Dip your feet in the soothing therapeutic waters, cook an egg in the natural hotsprings, or have a massage. Before departing we'll have a picnic lunch of local specialties. Next is our village visit for a taste of rural life. We'll begin with an easy countryside bike ride, visiting a local handicraft cooperative, a mushroom farm, and rural wats. Later we’ll partake in a traditional Kantok dinner with our village hosts. Traditional music and a dance performance will be provided by local students. The evening will conclude with a Thai lantern ceremony.
Day 6 Sukhothai Elephant adventures; market dinner Our destination today is Sukhothai with a stop at the Elephant Conservation Center en route. The ECC cares for abused and abandoned animals. We'll arrive in time to see the elephants bathing in the river. Then demonstrations of elephant care and training, an elephant show, and finally an elephant ride through the jungle. Tonight we venture to the local street market for a famous Sukhothai noodle dinner. Hotel: Le Charm (Boutique resort 1 Km. from Sukhothai Hist. Park) www.lecharmesukhothai.com
Day 7 Sukhothai Sukhothai Historical Park This morning we’ll have a guided visit of Sukhothai, one of Thailand’s World Heritage sites. Sukhothai was Siam's first "national" capital, uniting the feudal kingdoms in the 13th century. Culture, art, and architecture flourished and today we can visit the remnants of that refined dynasty. The captivating temple ruins boast rows of columns, crumbling stupas, and many Buddhas displaying the enigmatic "Sukhothai Smile." We'll navigate the flat terrain by bicycle (or Tuk Tuk for those not wishing to peddle) and indulge in a picnic lunch among the ruins. Your afternoon is free to relax by the resort pool or explore Sukhothai town.
Day 8 Bangkok/Overnight Train Bang Pa In Palace; Wat Traimit Today is a travel day as we make our way back south to Bangkok. We'll break up the journey with a visit to Bang Pa In Palace complex with its manicured lawns, lakes, and Chinese-influenced architecture. Upon arrival in Bangkok we'll visit Wat Traimit, home to the world's most valuable religious object - a 5.5 ton solid gold Buddha statue. In the evening we'll board our overnight train south, each traveling couple enjoying a private, first-class sleeping compartment. Overnight Train – we’ve upgraded to private first-class sleeping compartments
Day 9 Khao Sok Khao Sok excursion Upon arrival in Surat Thani we'll have a local breakfast. Then its on to Chiaw Lan Lake in beautiful Khao Sok National Park. After checking in to our floating guesthouse we'll enjoy lunch together. Afternoon activities include a boat excursion on the lake surrounded by soaring limestone karsts and cliffs, a short jungle hike, a bamboo raft ride, and a visit to a cave. In addition to the tropical flora and breathtaking landscape we hope to see gibbons, flying lizards, and a variety of birdlife. But the real magic begins at dusk as moon shadow creeps across the surrounding karsts, the sky becomes illuminated by a million stars, and one hears only the sounds of the living jungle. Hotel: Pleanprai Floating Guesthouse (we’ve upgraded to the newer bungalows with raised beds)
Day 10 Koh Muk A morning's drive brings us to another natural jewel, Than Bokkoranee National Park. We'll board longtail boats and float through a karst hong (natural cave) and emerald pools surrounded by the verdant jungle. Then we continue south to Trang Province where we transfer to our island paradise getaway, Koh Muk. By-passing the now over-developed resort areas of Pukhet, Krabi, and even Koh Lanta, we'll drive further south to the relatively undeveloped Trang Islands. Its longer and more complicated to get here, but the payout is spectacular! Dinner is a seafood BBQ next to the beach. Hotel: Koh Mook Sivalai Beach Resort (same beach-side magic, with upgraded rooms & resort, arrival pier, and a pool) www.komooksivalai.com
Day 11 Koh Muk Free day Today is a full-stop break from the demands of our tour itinerary. No planned activities. You decide how you want to spend your day in this tropical paradise. Options include snorkeling, hiking, kayaking, scuba, or just relaxing by our resort pool.
Day 12 Ko Muk Andaman excursion After breakfast we’ll take a boat excursion to 3 or 4 of the most picturesque Andaman islands for a fun-in-the-sun snorkeling adventure. The day includes Ko Muk’s spectacular Emerald Cave. We swim through a 300-foot long sea cave (optional) to reach the secluded interior lagoon (actually a collapsed hong). A perfect sandy beach is surrounded by steep jungle-clad cliffs forming a perfect, round, natural chimney up to the blue sky. It is an amazing experience! We'll schedule our visit to match the tides (not accessible during high tide) and avoid the crowds.
Day 13 Ayuthaya Morning flight; Ayuthaya Historical Park A morning flight whisks us back north to Ayuthaya, Siam’s capital from the 14th to the 18th centuries. It is Thailand’s second World Heritage site and our favorite archaeological destination – a perfect ending for our tropical adventures. Upon arrival, we’ll enjoy lunch on a converted rice barge as we drift by some of Ayuthaya’s outlying ruins. Afterward we'll visit striking Phu Khao Thong, Wats Mahathat and Si Sanphet, and finish with the saffron-sashed Buddha statues of Yai Chai Mongkhon. At the end of the day we'll gather for a final Thai dinner together. Hotel: Kameo Ayuthaya www.kameocollection.com
Day 14 Tour over Our tour officially ends after breakfast. We will help with transfer arrangements to nearby Suvarnabhumi airport.
Pre-tour Cambodia Extension
We'll gather in our hotel for a get-acquainted meeting and to meet our Cambodian guide. Afterward we'll make our first visit to mighty Angkor Wat for sunset. Returning to Siem Reap we’ll indulge in a classic Cambodian feast on our first night together. Hotel: Angkor Holiday Hotel www.angkorholidayhotel.com
Day 2 Siem Reap Angkor Thom; Banteay Srie Our destination this morning is Angkor Thom, a royal city encompassing famous Bayon & Baphuan temples, the Elephants and Leper King Terraces, and the oft-photographed South Gate. The Bayon is a popular favorite with labyrinthine passages to explore and multiple towers, each with 4 enigmatic Khmer faces. The south gate may well be the most photographed destination at Angkor. Its massive "4-face" tower and "tug-of-war" warrior balustrades adorn many books and brochures. After a mid-day break we’ll head to Banteay Srie, a small but intricately carved temple complex considered to be the jewel of Khmer architecture. Additionally, the journey to and from Srie affords opportunities to see village life, stop at the interesting Land Mine Museum, or catch a sunset from atop a ruined temple.
Day 3 Siem Reap Angkor Wat; Ta Prohm Today’s highlights include photogenic Ta Prohm and world-famous Angkor Wat. Ta Prohm (made famous in the movie Tomb Raider) was left in its natural state, overwhelmed by the jungle. The roots of giant trees weave in, on, and through the temple ruins and walls of the complex. We'll take plenty of free time here for photographers to record these iconic Angkor images. Angkor Wat is the world's largest religious building and Southeast Asia's premier sight. Our guide will interpret its long bas relief galleries, distinctive corncob prangs, and concentric walls and moats: which together constitute a metaphor for the Buddhist cosmos. We’ll have lunch today at Sala Bai Restaurant. In keeping with our values of responsible tourism, we support Sala Bai where they not only provide excellent food in a charming setting, but whose purpose is training and employing underprivileged Cambodian youth. Tonight we’ll partake in a traditional dinner and enjoy a classical Khmer dance performance. www.salabai.com
[Itinerary details and hotels subject to change]
To view Imprint's Thailand Photo Gallery: Thailand
To view Imprint's Thai "Sightcasts": Sightcast