Tantalizing Thailand

Note:  While the Thailand tour is not particularly physically demanding in the typical way, the country is hot and humid, which has an enervating effect.  Additionally, at certain times during the tour we’ll be climbing in and out of boats, sometimes without a pier or dock, or climbing up ladders onto boats (snorkeling excursion), climbing up to and through a cave, riding bikes, kayaking through caves, etc.  Those activities require a reasonable level of strength and dexterity - and an adventurous spirit.  

Day 1 Chiang Mai
Introductory meeting; dinner
Welcome to Thailand!  Our tour starts late afternoon with a get-acquainted meeting followed by dinner in a local restaurant.
Hotel:  Dusit D2 Hotel (3N)

Day 2 Chiang Mai
Cooking Class; Wat Doi Suthep
This morning we kick off our Thai adventure with a cooking class.  We will shop for ingredients at the local market, learn to prepare several simple Thai dishes, and then enjoy the results for lunch.  Mid-afternoon we’ll depart for the nearby mountain temple of Doi Suthep for panoramic views and the tour’s best Buddhist connection experience. Ring the prayer bells as we ascend or take photos of the sacred Bodhi tree, the view, or giant ceremonial drums. While listening to the musical tinkling of temple bells you can receive a monk’s blessing, observe and photograph the monk’s chanting ceremony, learn your fortune from tossing joss sticks, join the ceremonial circumambulation of the stupa, or add oil to the sacred lamps (like lighting a candle in a Catholic church). Our guide will use Doi Suthep’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.

Day 3 Chiang Mai
Craft Villages; Village Homestay Visit

This is a busy, blockbuster day!  We'll begin our day with stops at several craft villages. Then it’s on to our homestay visit for a taste of rural life. We’ll take an easy countryside bike ride, visiting a local handicraft cooperative and a mushroom farm. 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 concludes with a Thai lantern ceremony.

Day 4 Sukhothai
Elephant adventures; street 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.  In the afternoon we continue on to Sukhothai.
Hotel:  Le Charme (2N)

Day 5 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 its 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 and indulge in a picnic lunch among the ruins. Your afternoon is free to relax by the pool or explore Sukhothai town, or have a Thai massage - on the tour!

Day 6 Bangkok
Klong Tour; Riverside Dinner

After breakfast we'll depart Sukhothai, heading south to Thailand's bustling capital - Bangkok.  Upon arrival we'll check into our hotel for some down time.  In the late afternoon we'll embark on a tour of the city's canals (klongs).  Bangkok is laced with hundreds of canals. A tour of these waterways is a journey into Bangkok’s heart and soul, and a fantastic water-borne photo safari. We’ll see people cooking, fishing, washing dishes, swimming, making merit, and playing. We’ll float past teak palaces side by side with ramshackle hovels and workaday wats. Afterward we’ll enjoy a classic Bangkok experience, a riverside dinner with the illuminated spires of the Grand Palace visible on the other side of the river.
Hotel:  Nuovo City Hotel (3N)

Day 7 Bangkok
Grand Palace; Wat Pho
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 Bangkok sight-seeing. Phra Kheo 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.  Next door is Wat Pho, home to Thailand’s largest reclining Buddha. Pho has a more work-a-day feel. Engage the monks in conversation, check out the ancient massage school “instruction” panels, drop coins in the alms bowls, or photograph the whimsical guardian statues at Pho’s main gates.

Day 8 Bangkok
Tuk-Tuk tour
On this morning 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, Rama V monument, the flower market, and Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall.  Your afternoon is free to explore on your own.  Visit the amulet market, Dusit Park, or Wat Traimit with its 5.5 ton solid gold Buddha statue.

Day 9 Ayuthaya
Ayuthaya Historical Park
After breakfast we'll travel 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. We'll visit a Wat or two, before boarding a converted rice barge for lunch. Relax while some of Ayuthaya’s prime sights drift gently by.  In the afternoon we’ll visit Wats Mahathat and Si Sanphet, and finish with the saffron-sashed Buddha statues of Yai Chai Mongkhon.
Hotel:  Kantary Hotel (1N)

Day 10 Khao Sok
Khao Sok excursion

An early morning flight jets us south to Surat Thani (included). Then it’s 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 and the peaceful silence of the surrounding wilderness creates a magical ambiance.
Hotel:  Pleanprai Floating Guesthouse (1N)

Day 11 Trang - Koh Ngai
Tharn Bokkaranee

A morning’s drive brings us to another natural jewel, Tharn Bokkoranee National Park. We’ll board kayaks and paddle through karst hongs (natural caves) and emerald pools surrounded by the verdant mangrove jungle. After lunch we continue south, by-passing over-developed resort areas to relatively undeveloped Trang Province.  It’s longer and more complicated to get here, but the payout is spectacular!  After our night on the lake we'll splurge on a bit more comfort at our Andaman island resort.
Hotel:   Thapwarin Resort - Koh Ngai (3N)

Day 12 Trang - Koh Ngai
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 the pool or beach.

Day 13 Trang - Koh Ngai
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. Our private boat will take us to pristine beaches and past dramatic karst islands. The day includes Ko Muk’s spectacular Emerald Cave. We swim through a 300-foot long sea cave 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 and avoid the biggest crowds.

Day 14 Tour over
Our tour officially ends after a mid-morning flight back to Bangkok (flight included; Bangkok's Don Muang airport). We will help with transfer arrangements into the city or to nearby Suvarnabhumi international airport.

Pre-tour Cambodia Extension

Day 1 Siem Reap  2/21
Welcome Meeting
For those extending to Angkor, we’ll gather around mid-afternoon for a short briefing in our hotel lobby. The day concludes with a classic Cambodian dinner 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 their purpose is training and employing underprivileged Cambodian youth.
Hotel:  Angkor Holiday Hotel (3N)

Day 2 Siem Reap  2/22
Angkor Wat; Banteay Srie
Our destination this morning is Angkor Wat, the jewel in the great Angkor crown, 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. Lunch is Khmer style in a local restaurant in the forest.  In the afternoon 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.

Day 3 Siem Reap  2/23
Ta Prohm; Angkor Thom
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. After a mid-day break we’ll visit 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. Tonight we’ll indulge in a traditional dinner while enjoying classical Khmer dance.

Day 4/Day 1 Thailand tour - Chiang Mai  2/24
After breakfast we’ll be transferred to the Siem Reap airport for our flight to Chiang Mai (included). For go-getters, your Angkor pass is still valid this morning if you’d like to photograph the sunrise at Angkor Wat.

[Itinerary details & hotels subject to change]

What’s Included:
13 nights accommodation (16 with extension) All breakfasts, 6 dinners, and 5 lunches (+2 dinner, 1 lunch with extension); All tour transport by train, bus, minivan, songthaew, boat, and airplane; All tips for guides, drivers, group meals, and hotel staff; Full-time services of a professional tour director and a Thai escort; All entrances: Grand Palace; Wat Pho; Ayuthaya Historical Park; Wat Doi Suthep; Sukhothai National Historical Park; Khao Sok National Park; Elephant Conservation Center; Other included activities: Chao Phraya riverside dinner; Bangkok canals tour; Thai massage; village homestay visit, bicycle tour, dinner entertainment; elephant ride; elephant show; rice barge excursion of Ayuthaya; Cheow Lan lake/jungle/cave excursion; Andaman snorkeling excursion, Emerald Cave; Bangkok tuk-tuk tour; Angkor Archeological Park (3-day pass; extension); Khmer music/dance performance (extension)

Important exceptions:
Tour participants are responsible for the cost of drinks, free-time sightseeing & meals, shopping, Cambodian visa (extension; $32), and expenses of a personal nature.  See our Terms and Conditions for important details regarding everything listed above.