On this extraordinary journey to Thailand, discover Thailand’s ancient traditions, tranquil temples, authentic cuisine, and cosmopolitan cities. Thailand has more than 30,000 Buddhist temples, and they have always been important as a social and spiritual center. On this vacation, you’ll see some of Thailand’s most famous temples and learn about this religion. You’ll even witness and participate in an almsgiving ceremony. Also learn about the way of life in Thailand when you take a boat ride through Bangkok’s canals to see the family homes and temples along the canals. Enjoy the Damnoen Saduak floating market, where goods are sold by boats, and visit the Hill Tribe Village of Akha, known for gorgeous headdresses decorated with silver coins; the White Hmong People, one of northern Thailand’s Hill Tribes; and the Padaung long-necked women, who have brass rings placed on their necks and legs as girls, thus creating the visual illusion of stretching their necks. Ride an elephant, enjoy a traditional Thai massage, and visit a tiger sanctuary. Thai food has become popular throughout the world, so be sure to taste some authentic Thai cuisine on this magnificent vacation. Exotic fruits and vegetables are especially abundant. Leave room in your suitcase, because Thailand offers great shopping—from night bazaars and boutiques to high-end mega malls—and Chiang Mai is especially famous for its high-quality handicrafts. New cultures, historical sights, amazing temples, sumptuous cuisine, and fantastic shopping—all of this and more await you on this enriching and glorious vacation!
Day #1 Arrive in Bangkok, Thailand. Welcome to Thailand’s capital city! Hotel rooms are available for mid-afternoon check-in.
Day #2 Bangkok. Today’s sightseeing starts with a BOAT RIDE through the klongs, Bangkok’s canals, to see the family homes, temples, and the way of life that give this city the nickname “Venice of the East.” Stop at Wat Arun, the TEMPLE OF THE DAWN, whose 260-foot-tall spire has become identified with Bangkok. Continue on to the GRAND PALACE, comprised of the Funeral Palace, the Reception Palace, the Throne Hall, the Coronation Hall, the Royal Guest House, and the TEMPLE OF THE EMERALD BUDDHA. Also, visit the TEMPLE OF THE RECLINING BUDDHA, the oldest and largest Buddhist temple in Bangkok. It houses more than 1,000 Buddha images, including the 49-foot-high and 151-foot-long massive Reclining Buddha. This evening, enjoy a special THAI WELCOME DINNER featuring traditional cuisine and dancers performing stories from classical Thai literature. (B,D)
Day #3 Bangkok. Excursion to Damnoen Saduak Floating Market. This morning, depart Bangkok for the [LF] DAMNOEN SADUAK FLOATING MARKET. This colorful market provides an interesting glimpse into local life. Take a longtail BOAT RIDE through the canals filled with small, flat boats expertly paddled by mature ladies who are ready to stop and bargain at a moment’s notice. The afternoon and evening are at your leisure to explore Bangkok. Perhaps join an optional tour to the Jim Thompson House and silk shop or enjoy a dinner cruise aboard a luxurious teak barge along the Chao Phraya River. (B)
Day #4 Bangkok-Kanchanaburi. A short drive this morning brings you to Kanchanaburi. Visit the THAILAND-BURMA RAILWAY CENTER, an interactive museum with eight main galleries depicting the story of the railway. A short walk takes you to the CEMETERY OF THE ALLIED PRISONERS from World War II before stopping to see the BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI. After a short stop, take a ride on the THAILAND-BURMA RAILWAY, commonly referred to as the “Death Railway.” Built by the Japanese during World War II using forced labor, approximately 25,000 of the 160,000 workers died during its construction. After lunch in a local restaurant, visit Wat Pha Luang Ta Bua, the TIGER TEMPLE, a sanctuary and conservation center for the many Indochinese tigers that are cared for by the monks. (B,L,D)
Day #5 Kanchanaburi-Ayutthaya-Phitsanulok. Travel to the ancient capital of Ayutthaya, one of the world’s largest cities before falling to the Burmese in 1756. Visit WAT PHRA SRI SANPHET, the largest temple on the Royal Palace grounds, and WAT MONGKOL BOPHIT, featuring a giant 55-foot-tall bronze Buddha. Enjoy lunch in a local restaurant before continuing to Phitsanulok on the banks of the Nan River. Upon arrival, visit the much-venerated shrine of WAT PHRA SRI RATANA MAHATHAT, typical of ancient Thai religious architecture. This evening, enjoy dinner at your hotel, then depart by rickshaw for a fascinating visit to the [LF] NIGHT MARKET. (B,L,D)
Day #6 Phitsanulok-Sukhothai-Chiang Mai. A short drive this morning brings you to the SUKHOTHAI HISTORICAL PARK, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Admire the beautiful standing Buddha statues as you explore the ruins of temples and monasteries. Then, continue north to Chiang Mai, the “Rose of the North.” Chiang Mai has a rich cultural and agricultural heritage, and is famous for the production of high-quality handicrafts. This evening, perhaps enjoy the optional Thai family-style dinner in a local restaurant. (B,L)
Day #7 Chiang Mai. Hill Tribe Excursion. Rise early this morning to witness and participate in the [LF] ALMSGIVING CEREMONY, a very special Thai custom. Each morning before dawn, Buddhist monks don their distinctive saffron-colored robes and walk along the streets, carrying alms bowls and receiving boiled rice and condiment donations. Personally present alms to the monks and you will receive their blessings! After breakfast in the hotel, drive up a winding mountain road to visit the WHITE HMONG PEOPLE, one of northern Thailand’s HILL TRIBES. Here you will witness life in the village and visit a local school (if in session). Then, visit the temple of WAT PHRA THAT DOI SUTHEP, which offers a spectacular view of Chiang Mai and the surrounding valley. (B,L) NOTE:You will travel on rough dirt roads in a utility pick-up truck to visit the White Hmong people.
Day #8 Chiang Mai-Ban Thaton. This morning, visit an ORCHID FARM and an ELEPHANT CAMP. Here you will see skilled mahouts show how elephants have worked for centuries and you will RIDE AN ELEPHANT through the jungle. For the more adventurous, perhaps join the optional float trip on handmade bamboo rafts. Then, continue on to Ban Thaton to visit a [LF] KAREN VILLAGE, home to the PADAUNG LONG-NECKED WOMEN. Early in life, brass rings are placed on the necks and legs of the village girls. As they age and mature, additional rings are added, creating the visual illusion of stretching their necks. After a long day, enjoy a TRADITIONAL THAI MASSAGE at your hotel. (B,L,D)
Day #9 Ban Thaton-Chiang Rai. Today, enjoy a BOAT RIDE on the Kok River and visit BAAN MAI. Then, visit the [LF] HILL TRIBE VILLAGE of the AKHA, known for gorgeous headdresses decorated with silver coins. After lunch, continue on to Chiang Rai. The remainder of the day is at leisure. (B,L) NOTE:During April it may not be possible to visit the Akha tribe after the boat ride on the Kok River due to low water. Alternatively, you will take a shorter boat ride and visit Wat Thaton and then visit the Akha tribe on Day 10 before traveling to Doi Mae Salong.
Day #10 Chiang Rai. Excursion to the Golden Triangle. Today, climb narrow mountain roads with stunning views and visit several villages en route to DOI MAE SALONG, a settlement founded by Kuomintang soldiers who fled China in 1949. Continue to MAE SAI, a market town on the Myanmar border, then drive to the renowned GOLDEN TRIANGLE, where the Ruak and mighty Mekong Rivers meet. Enjoy views over Myanmar, Laos, and Thailand, and consider an optional boat trip on the Mekong River. Next, visit the HALL OF OPIUM, built to educate people on the history of opium in the area and to help combat illegal drugs. En route back to Chiang Rai, stop in CHIANG SAEN, where you can still see evidence of the original 13th-century city. This evening, your Tour Director hosts a special farewell dinner. (B,L,D)
Day #11 Chiang Rai-Bangkok. A short flight returns you to Bangkok. The rest of the day is at leisure. (B)
Day #12 Bangkok. Your tour ends with breakfast this morning. (B)