Thailand is often called the ‘Land of Smiles’, but it could also be known as the ‘Land of the Family’ given the importance of family, and children in particular, in Thai culture. For instance, you are expected to give your seat up for young children as well as the elderly? This devotion to family, coupled with the warmth of the people and fantastic food, makes Thailand the perfect destination for a family holiday.
From the hustle and bustle of Bangkok to the rich historical and cultural diversity of northern Thailand, this journey has much to offer everyone. The Thai Elephant Conservation Centre allows you to get up close to these majestic beasts. Chiang Mai provides an insight into both the Thai and the hill tribe people of the area with their varied history, culture and customs. The Night Bazaar in Chiang Mai represents a veritable shopper’s paradise. The impressive stupas of Ayuthaya and Sukhothai, the former capitals of the Siamese Kingdom, reflect these cities’ glorious pasts. To the west of Bangkok is Kanchanaburi and the River Kwai, a tranquil region that was the stage for dramatic events in the Second World War. But the biggest highlight of your trip is sure to be the people you meet - the level of hospitality extended to visitors will amaze you and ensure that your first visit will not be your last.
Day 1 - Bangkok
Arrive in Bangkok where you are transferred to your comfortable and centrally located hotel. A pre-trip briefing is held in the evening, to meet the other members of your group and discuss the trip itinerary. Please check for a Welcome Notice on the hotel noticeboard located near the hotel lifts which will provide your tour leader's name and the exact time and location of your Welcome Meeting. Until this meeting we encourage you to get out and discover the delights that Bangkok has to offer, including trying some of Thailand’s famous cuisine. After the group meeting in the evening we may adjourn to a nearby restaurant and enjoy a meal together (this is optional and at your own expense). The rest of the evening is free - perhaps a visit to the bustling night markets of Bangkok.
Day 2 - Bangkok - Kanchanaburi
In the morning we discover the sights of Bangkok. We visit the Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha), a must for first-time travellers to Bangkok. We also visit Wat Po, home of the famous Reclining Buddha. (When visiting temples and palaces in Thailand, please dress conservatively in order to respect the local culture). We then depart Bangkok and make our way to Kanchanaburi on our private minibus (approximately 2 ½ hours). A tour here takes us to explore the sights in town, including the infamous Bridge over the River Kwai, the sobering Kanchanaburi War Cemetery and the JEATH War Museum. Following this, we check into our idyllic and peaceful accommodation, set in the countryside on the banks of the River Kwai Noi on the outskirts of town. This evening you can relax by the pool and soak up the peaceful country atmosphere.
Day 3 - Kanchanaburi Region
We explore the beautiful countryside whilst driving out to the infamous Hellfire Pass, where we visit the fascinating museum that chronicles the events of World War II. Nearby, we get to view a section of the infamous Burma Railway. From here we continue to Erawan National Park, where we have time to relax in the cool blue waters of the pools beneath the beautiful seven-tiered waterfall. If you are feeling energetic, you can also trek along the jungle trail to the top of the falls.
Day 4 - Ayuthaya - Ban Koh Kerd
We then head to Ayuthaya (approximately 4-5 hours). Situated 90 kilometres north of Bangkok, was the capital of Siam from 1350 to 1767 AD. In its prime, it was one of the largest and most glamorous cities in the world and the capital city of the, then, huge Siamese empire, which included large parts of Laos, Cambodia and Burma. Following a siege of nearly two years, the city suffered total destruction at the hands of the Burmese. We board our private rice barge for a two-hour lunch cruise around this ancient city and its major temples. After our cruise, we head to Ban Koh Kerd, where we spend a night in a traditional Thai teak house. We are privileged to be guests where we will experience life from a Thai perspective. During your stay you have the opportunity to learn more about life in a Thai village. A highlight is giving alms to the monks in the morning with our hosts, an activity that takes place in every villages, towns and cities throughout Thailand. There is a sharp contrast between the creature comforts you are used to at home and village life. This is an experience which will see you richly rewarded with an insight that few tourists get. The accommodation is basic; however it enables you to experience a slice of the lifestyle of our gracious Thai hosts.
Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner
Day 5 - Sukhothai
After an early morning wake-up call to offer alms to the monks, we embark on a long drive to Sukhothai (approximately 5-6 hours). Our journey takes us through the central plains of Thailand – the major rice-producing region of the country. We pass townships such as Uthai Thani and Nakhon Sawan before reaching our destination. Most of these towns see very few foreign tourists. Tonight we stay in a comfortable hotel situated between the new town and the archaeological site. The hotel here has a pool, which you can enjoy as a respite from the tropical heat.
Day 6 - Sukhothai – Lampang
Sukhothai, historically known as the ‘Dawn of Happiness', was Thailand's first capital. Some of the finest Thai antiques, Buddha images and ceramic pieces date from this period. We have an early start and visit the Sukhothai ruins. Here, we ride bicycles, which is a great way to explore the archaeological park. After the decline of Sukhothai, the site remained deserted for centuries. The first major restoration began in 1979 and the Visitors’ Centre displays the original layout of the city. In the afternoon, we travel by private mini-van to Lampang (approximately 4-5 hours), former centre of the teakwood trade. The chicken is the symbol of the province and can be seen everywhere. Legend has it that the god Indra was concerned that people wouldn’t get up in time to offer alms to the Lord Buddha, who was arriving the following day, so he descended on the province in the form of a chicken and started crowing to ensure everyone woke in time! In the late afternoon we visit Wat Phra That Lampang Luang. Built in Lanna style, it is arguably one of the most beautiful temples in northern Thailand. Your tour leader can teach you how to ‘tum bon’ (make merit), which ultimately should assist you in returning, in your next life, one step closer to enlightenment. Following our spiritual experience, we continue on to the Lampang Elephant Conservation Centre where we spend the night in their homestay and learn more about the fantastic work that is done at the centre.
Day 7 - Lampang – Chiang Mai
Another early start so that we may walk out to the surrounding forest with the Mahouts (elephant handlers). Here, we collect the elephants from their overnight grazing and escort them back to the centre. After breakfast, we have the opportunity to watch the elephants bathing and then watch a show that demonstrates the skills that have made elephants such an integral part of the Thai logging trade. It is also a great chance to get close to these magnificent animals. After lunch it’s an hour’s drive to Chiang Mai, a walled city surrounded by a moat with the impressive backdrop of Doi Suthep - a 1676-metre peak that offers impressive views of the surrounding countryside. Near the summit is a famous temple – Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. The evening presents you with a fantastic opportunity to explore the famous Night Bazaar, a shopper’s paradise! The combination of the local Lanna handicrafts and the traditional wares of the hill tribe people on offer ensures that you will not leave empty-handed!
Day 8 - Chiang Dao - Chiang Mai
We catch a private mini-bus and drive for an hour and a half into the northern hill region around Chiang Dao. An elephant ride through the forest delivers us the hilltribe villages where we then trek around the area, visiting Palong, Karen, Lisu and Akha people. Meeting these colourful people gives you an insight into their unique lifestyle and customs.
Day 9 - Chang Mai
A day to enjoy the more relaxed ambience of the ‘Rose of the North’, as Chiang Mai is sometimes called (the literal translation is actually ‘new city’). Thai cuisine is one of the world's best and most interesting, and we can arrange a Thai cooking class for those interested (not included in tour cost). The day is free to enjoy your own exploration. There are many old temples situated in the inner city area, including Wat Phra Singh, Wat Chiang Man and Wat Chedi Luang. In fact, there are over 300 temples in this venerable city. Alternatively, you can relax by the hotel pool and cool off in the heat of the day. Chiang Mai also has a very large zoo that is set in pleasant surroundings and is home to some rare giant pandas from China. Your local tour leader will be able to provide assistance regarding optional activities to fill your day. Tonight is your last chance to hit the Night Bazaar in Chiang Mai.
Day 10 - Fly to Bangkok, drive to Koh Samet
Today we transfer to Chiang Mai airport for our return flight to Bangkok. Upon arrival in Bangkok, we will be transferred to the tropical island of Koh Samet, approximately four hours from Bangkok. Firstly, we drive to the village of Ban Phe (approximately 4 hours) and from here it’s a 30-minute ferry ride across to the island.
Day 11-12 - Koh Samet
Two full days to soak up the sun and the tropical atmosphere of Koh Samet – time to relax and unwind. Your tour leaders on hand for your stay on the island and can assist in arranging optional activities.
Day 13 - Bangkok
Today we will transfer back to Bangkok by road (approximately 4 hour). Our final night is an opportunity to head out as a group for a final dinner. The afternoon is free for any final shopping or sightseeing that you wish to do or, alternatively, you can just relax by the hotel pool.
Day 14 - Bangkok
The tour ends after breakfast in Bangkok. A transfer to the airport is not included; however, your tour leader will be on hand to advise you as to the options available.