Discover the Kingdom of Thailand from the lively streets of the capital of Bangkok to the ancient ruins of Sukhothai and the hill tribes of Chiang Rai with a colorful mix of night markets, historic WWII sites and bathing elephants thrown in!
This morning we visit the spiritual and religious heart of the city – the striking Grand Palace. Topped by golden stupas, the complex has been the site of royal coronations and is home to the legendary Emerald Buddha. We’ll also visit the House of the Reclining Buddha, the Original Thai Massage School and the 24hr Flower Market before boarding longtail boats to explore the city’s canals. Known as khlongs, the canals enable surface water to make its way to the sea and have long been a way of getting around Bangkok. On our journey we’ll glide by curious stilted houses and gleaming temples whilst old men fish and children folic about on the waters edge.
Our boats drop us off within walking distance of Khao San Road, popular with backpackers and hippies. Late afternoon offers free time for you to enjoy the many bars, restaurants, street performers, market stalls and tailors – that will measure you up for a new suit, that line this vibrant road. Overnight – Bangkok (B)
Bangkok – Kanchanaburi. It’s an early start today as we drive 2.5hrs west of the capital to the small town of Kanchanaburi. Here we pay our respects to the thousands of Allied POWs who perished in the area under the hand of the Imperial Japanese Army. After pausing at the Allied War Cemetery we continue to the infamous ‘Bridge over the River Kwai’, immortalised by the film of the same name. You have a chance to take pictures before you board a train for a 2 hour journey that crosses the bridge before following the tracks dug by the POWs and locals some 75 years earlier.
Disembarking at Nam Tok we have a short drive to ‘Hellfire Pass’ where the POWs dug through a mountain often using only their bare hands. A fascinating museum at the entrance details the region’s history.
After our day’s sightseeing a leisurely longtail boat ride leads us to our fabulous floating jungle raft hotel. To the beauty of a hundred softly glowing lanterns and the sounds of the tropical forest and cool water flowing by we enjoy dinner and a relaxing evening on the deck. Overnight – Kanchanaburi (B, D)
Sukhothai – Lampang. This morning we explore the UNESCO-listed Sukhothai Historical Park with monuments dating back to the 13th century that illustrate the beginnings of Thai architecture. The entire complex contains 193 ruins spread over 70 sq km of land with a city wall forming a neat rectangle.
We next proceed to the city of Lampang, a sedate urban centre with elegant mansions and impressive Lanna-era temples. Wat Phra That Lampang Luang is one of the city’s finest examples of Lanna temple and after our visit we take a horse drawn cart around the old town passing the old market. For a glimpse into the opulent life of historic wealthy landlords we visit the Baan Sao Nak, a teakwood house and museum. Overnight – Lampang (B)
Lampang – Chiang Mai. After breakfast we head to the nearby Thailand Elephant Conservation Centre. Founded in 1933 the centre is home to over 50 Asian elephants in a beautiful forest and visitors can watch the daily bathing session before enjoying a ride through the forest on one of these magnificent creatures.
Bidding our new animal friends goodbye we continue north-west taking a break en route at a popular refreshment house with shopping opportunities a plenty. From here we journey on to the provincial capital of Chiang Mai, sat at the lush foothills of northern Thailand. With hundreds of sacred temples and gorgeous surrounding scenery, Chiang Mai is the perfect place to kick back for a few days. Enjoy the afternoon at leisure before visiting the bustling night market where you can sample numerous local dishes cooked right in front of you! It’s one of the country’s largest night markets so you’ll find plenty of interesting trinkets. Overnight – Chiang Mai (B)
Chiang Rai – Bangkok. The city of Chiang Rai is a great base for visiting local hill tribes and this morning we visit a Karen village where we may encounter the famous Long Neck tribe, so known for the neck rings that the women wear to elongate their necks. Continuing to the border frontier town of Mae Sai, we may have the chance to cross briefly into Myanmar and enter the Burmese town of Tachilek (optional). At Chiang Saen we stand at a viewpoint that lets us see both Myanmar and Laos. We take time to visit the Opium Museum before returning to Chiang Mai to catch our flight back to Bangkok.
On arrival in the city we transfer to our hotel arriving late in the evening – not really a problem in ‘the city that never sleeps’! Overnight – Bangkok (B)