On this cultural journey we venture into the heart of Thailand where we discover ancient sights and cruise along bustling waterways. We see the infamous 'Bridge over the River Kwai', explore ruined temples, and spend a night on a jungle raft house.
Bangkok - Explore the glittering Grand Palace complex and Wat Po, the temple of the Reclining Buddha
Sukhothai - Cycle around the historic park and stay overnight in a homestay in Nathon Chan village
Chiang Mai - Witness the excellent conservation work being done at Elephant Nature Park
Itineraries on some departure dates may differ, please select the itinerary that you wish to explore.
Arrive in Thailand's capital, the lively metropolis of Bangkok. The bustling street life of this energetic city is set to a backdrop of colourful, ornate shrines and modern glass-fronted high-rises, which jostle for position to dominate the city's skyline. It is a place where old meets new at every corner. Sample the fresh and tasty street food, haggle in the non-stop markets and take a cruise out on Chao Phraya River to witness stunning sunsets. For those arriving on time our Leader plans to meet you in the hotel reception at 6pm for the welcome meeting and for those that wish, there is the chance to go out for dinner. There are no other activities planned today, so you are free to arrive in Bangkok at any time. If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you'll need to arrive into Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK), which is 45 minutes from our hotel. Should you miss the welcome meeting, your Leader will inform you of any essential information as soon as you catch up in the lobby at 8am on day 2. Please note that if you wish to join the Optional Longtail Canal Trip today, you must arrive at the hotel by 1pm. If you are booking your own flights, we recommend giving yourself at least one hour to clear the airport. From the airport to the hotel is around one hours\ drive, so therefore the latest your flight can arrive is 10am.
Our sightseeing tour this morning is on foot and includes the Grand Palace with its stunning Emerald Buddha and Wat Po (Temple of the Reclining Buddha). The afternoon is left free, then in the evening we board the overnight train for Chiang Mai.
Chiang Mai offers a complete contrast and relief from the heat and noise of Bangkok. Its elevation is just over 300m, so the climate is most agreeable. Founded in the 13th century, it owes its prosperity mainly to the teak trade. Our sightseeing will include the famous Doi Suthep temple and an orientation walk of the old town.
This morning we head out to the Elephant Nature Park, one of the largest elephant conservation centres in Thailand. The park comprises of huge swathes of land for the elephants to roam in, along with an elephant nursery and hospital caring for sick and abandoned elephants. Its main function is for the treatment and care of rescued elephants although visitors and tourists are now admitted to assist and volunteer with the valuable conservation work. Our plan for the day will need to be flexible around the needs of the elephants, but is likely to include spending time on the viewing platform in the morning and in the afternoon we will walk down to the river with the elephants and centre's staff. Here we can witness these gentle giants as they happily splash around in the river, washing and cooling themselves down from the midday sun. There are no elephant shows or elephant riding here, the day is all about spending quality time with these beautiful creatures and observing their natural behaviours when they are with their herd.
Today we head south to Si Satchanalai the twin city to Sukhothai. Although architecturally very different, it is just as impressive in many ways with a variety of outside influences noticeable in the construction of the wats and chedis (religious memorials). The most impressive and most sacred is Wat Chang Lom. Situated in the heart of the old city it is decorated with 39 standing elephants and is unusual due to its Ceylonese-style chedi - the earliest of its kind in Thailand. After visiting the site we make our way to the small community of Natonchan, a rural village set amongst lush rice paddies where we will enjoy the warm hospitality of a homestay for the night. After being greeted by our hosts and having some time to settle into our rooms we head out to explore the village on foot. The villagers here still practice many cottage industries, and as we walk from house to house we will see how clothes are stitched on a bamboo sewing rig, cups and chopsticks are made from surrounding bamboo and ornaments are skilfully carved by local artisans. There will be plenty of opportunity to engage with the villagers whilst each of them demonstrates their craft. We return to our homestay for a sundowner and a hearty meal cooked by our hosts. The homestay in Nathon Chan is simple but clean, comfortable and homely. Rooms are twin share with mattresses on the floor, all bedding and mosquito nets are provided and there are shared western toilets and showers. Please note that larger groups may be split between two nearby homes.
This morning we make the short drive to Sukothai, and once here we plan to explore the old city by bicycle. Sukothai was the first capital of Siam; which was at the pinnacle of Thai civilisation for over 200 years up to the end of the 1400s. It then went into decline as Ayutthaya took over as the most important city in the area, and was deserted until it was discovered as a lost city in the jungle in the 19th Century. The city has now been fully excavated and it comprises 21 historical sites within the city walls and a further 70 outside. Leaving Sukhothai by bus, we continue our journey south towards Uthai Thani. Along the way we make a stop at the historical site of Kamphaengphet, a UNESCO World Heritage site and little-visited town which contains a wealth of 13th-17th century temples, statues and buildings. The ancient walled town featured as an important city under the Sukothai Kingdom by protecting it from invaders, and we will spend time exploring the old royal palace and temples before driving onto Uthai Thani.
This morning we plan a visit to a local market before boarding a traditional boat for a trip along the Sakraekrang River . As we drift down the sleepy meandering waters we get a real insight into the authentic life of the indigenous river dwellers and boat people. There's plenty of time to relax and enjoy the passing scenery. The trip ends back at Utahai Thani for lunch. We then head south by bus where we reach another of Siam's stunning ancient capitals, Ayutthaya. Situated on an island at the confluence of three rivers, the Chao Phraya, Pa Sak and Lopburi Rivers, Ayutthaya had a very strong defensive position and retained its power for over 400 years, during which time it became extremely wealthy. Now a UNESCO World Heritage site, the city is still a stunning complex of palaces, shrines, stupas and monasteries. We will include a walking tour to visit the Royal Palace and a few wats.
An early morning drive, by-passing Bangkok takes us to the River Kwai and Kanchanaburi, where we visit the war cemetery and the famous Bridge over the River Kwai. The building of the bridge and the Death Railway as it has become known, is one of the most infamous episodes of the Second World War. The Japanese built the railway to link Siam and Burma (Myanmar) using Prisoners of War between June 1942 and October 1943. It was to carry supplies to their fast expanding empire and by doing so it would cut almost 1300 miles off the sea route from Japan. The working conditions were atrocious and over 16000 allied troops lost their lives as well as an estimated 75,000 Asian forced labourers. We then take the train along part of the original route. We continue by bus to the Hellfire Pass and visit the Memorial Museum. Finally we transfer to longtail boats for a journey up the River Kwai to our Raft Houses, set in a tranquil location on the river's edge.
We spend a full day here exploring the jungle and the river both on foot and by bamboo rafts. There is the option to head out to Sai Yok National Park for a nature walk and waterfall visit.
We leave the peaceful surroundings of the Kwai Noi River this morning as we join the road and head back towards the capital. On our way back will we stop by the small town of Maeklong, home to one of the most unusual spots in Thailand. The Maeklong Railway Market was established in 1905 to better transport the fresh seafood from the nearby port to the city and surrounding provinces. The market has been built, quite literally, on top of the railway and each time the provincial train rumbles through a mind-boggling spectacle unfolds; the shades and canopies are all folded back, produce is deftly rolled away from the tracks and then train slowly passes through, mere millimetres from the surrounding markets and vendors. We plan to arrive today in time to witness this bizarre but fascinating event, with time left to look around the market and the variety of fresh produce on offer. We then continue on to Bangkok, where the rest of the afternoon has been left free for some last minute shopping or further exploration of this Asian metropolis.
The trip ends after breakfast at our hotel in Bangkok. There are no activities planned today, so you are free to depart from Bangkok at any time. If your flight is departing later in the day luggage storage facilities are available at our hotel. If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you need to depart from Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK), which is 45 minutes from our hotel. If you have time you may wish to wander through Chinatown for a different flavour of the city.
All holidays are subject to availability and prices are subject to change.