Day 1 Arrive Bangkok
Arrive to Bangkok today where you meet your guide and drive to your hotel to settle in. The rest of the day is free for you to rest up from your long journey.
Day 2 Grand Palace & Chao Phraya
Enjoy breakfast at your hotel before an early start to arrive to Wat Pho in time to experience the monks' early morning chanting ritual at around 9. Witness this uplifting and often private experience and then set out to explore the temple grounds and the famous 45m long reclining Buddha. Continue on to Lak Muang, Bangkok's city pillar and a place not often visited by tourists. Learn about this pillar's spiritual importance to the people of Bangkok and its history.
Next visit the Grand Palace, Thailand's most important landmark. This was the official residence of the Kings of Siam (and later Thailand) from 1782 until 1925 and is still used for official state events. Explore the grandeur and majesty of the building and its throne halls this afternoon. See also the Emerald Buddha, the most revered Buddha image in all of Thailand, which according to legend was first created in 43 BC in India.
Break for a typical Thai lunch at Venice Vanich where you then board a longtail boat and explore the 'klongs', or Bangkok's maze of canals and waterways. Here you will see parts of Thai traditional life which have disappeared from most of Bangkok. Continue along the Chao Phraya river before you end the day with a visit to Wat Arun, or the Temple of Dawn before turning in for the day.
Day 3 Country Markets
After breakfast today set out on an hour and half long drive south towards the Railway Track Market, one of Asia's most unusual markets. Here vendors line and cover the railway track but as the train approaches they quickly pack their stalls to allow it to pass through. All shopping comes to a brief halt as passengers unload and board, and then the vendors simply reassemble their stalls to resume business. Meander through the wet market adjacent to the train station and learn about the fresh items for sale from your guide.
Afterwards board a long-tail boat up the Mae Klong River to Wat Bang Kung and explore the small chapel that has been completely enclosed within the roots of a banyan tree. Visit also the King Rama II Memorial Park and museum, housing art and other artifacts from the 18th century in four classical Thai architecture buildings. Explore the exhibits about Thai court life in each of the four halls.
This afternoon continue by car to the Amphawa floating market which only operates on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Unlike Bangkok's well known Damneon Saduak floating market, few foreigners visit this almost exclusively Thai market. Locals congregate to buy and sell everything from cooking pots to fresh flowers to toyrs. Vendors pack their boats and cruise around the waters looking for potential customers to wave them down from the dock to buy something. The area around the market is a lovely place to stroll, with open-air restaurants and crisscrossing bridges. Delicious meals are cooked right from the boats and include pad thai, curry and noodles, and chicken satay. Return to your hotel this evening.
Day 4 Fly Chiang Mai
Fly to Chiang Mai this morning. Upon arrival you are met by your guide and set out for a visit to Doi Suthep-Pui National Park, a recently declared National Park in 1981. Start your exploration at the observatory where you can take a short nature walk through the mixed oak and evergreen forest. Continue next to visit Wat Prathat Doi Suthep, the most famous temple in Chiang Mai. At this temple, you may receive a blessing from a monk.
Next walk to the national park headquarters where you stop briefly at the tree nursery of FORRU, a reforestation unit affiliated with the Chiang Mai University. Walk through the evergreen forest here as you learn remarkable stories of the giant fig tree and take in the tall scenery all around you.
Settle into your hotel this evening in Chiang Mai.
Day 5 Kanta Elephant Sanctuary
Be ready this morning for your shuttle pickup. Drive through the agricultural Thai countryside to the Kanta Elephant Sanctuary today, a non-profit organization located on the outskirts of Chiang Mai. The Kanta Elephant Sanctuary aims to provide a sanctuary and rescue center for these great creatures, and a rare 'retirement' where these animals no longer work for humans. Hear the personal stories of the rescued elephants as told by the park guides and learn about the problems they face in Southeast Asia and the ways the park is helping to impact positive changes.
Today you get the unique chance to help feed and bathe the elephants. After unloading and distributing fruits, you will have the chance to feed the elephants from a viewing platform. A sumptuous buffet of Asian and international dishes for yourself will follow! After lunch, walk with staff to a river that circulates the park. Enjoy a brief safety talk about how to properly bathe an elephant before plunging in to help scrub these giant creatures. If you would prefer to stay dry, stay on the shore as you witness the spectacle. Return to Chiang Mai this evening.
Day 6 Lanna Family Cooking Class
After breakfast this morning you are picked up from your hotel and drive to a local home belonging to the Raunkaew-Yanon family. This traditional Lanna family arrived in the area (possibly on the back of an elephant) almost 150 years ago! They carry on many ancient traditions of the Lanna people including building their homes from teak wood and maintaining natural surroundings in a way rarely seen today in Chiang Mai. Learn today from the family about their culture and way of life. See the architecture of a traditional Thai house and rice barn and perhaps watch them demonstrate weaving a small bamboo basket or rolling a traditional cigar.
Today you get the unique opportunity to join them in cooking a traditional recipe with Northern Thai flavors from standard dishes. Gather your ingredients from the family orchard filled with a variety of fruit such as banana, mango, coconut and from the garden with planted with herbs. Enjoy your meal and the opportunity to get to know this family as their house guest for the day. Return to your hotel this afternoon and enjoy the rest of the evening free to explore on your own.
Day 7 Fly Phuket
Today pack up and head back to the airport for your flight south to Phuket, the country's largest island. Upon arrival you are met at the airport and transfer to your hotel by the beach.
Day 8 Phuket Old Town
Early this morning you are picked up and head to the Phuket Old Town for a morning cultural walking tour. Discover the local lifestyle today with visits to sites such as a local shrine and the 'oldest herb shop' in town. Here you learn about the traditional medicinal use of various herbs. Walk along the historic Chinese shop houses along the streets of Thalang and Soi Romanee and visit the old style barber shop. When hunger rises, try some of the Muslim influenced roti or Chinese food that first introduced by the Hokkien immigrants in the 19th century. Some sections of Phuket town look like they are still caught in the 1950s with old printing shops, sarong and cloth Indian sellers and hardware stores. The town offers a nostalgic feeling that should be experienced before modern times change it. After about 3 hours of walking, drive back to your hotel and enjoy a free afternoon relaxing on the beach.
Day 9 Lanlay Home Stay
This morning pack up and transfer to the Lanlay home stay, your new home for the next two nights. Head towards Laem Sak, a little peninsula near the town of Ao Luek and the perfect base from which to explore the Thanbok Khoranee National Park. The area also boasts stunning karst islands just off the coast in the Andaman Sea.
Arrive to Lanlay where you are greeted by Khun Carren, whose home is run more life an inn with the warmth of a family welcome. Each room is beautifully appointed and spotlessly clean. Settle in and enjoy conversing with the family on the terrace this evening. Dinner is served in late afternoon and will include some traditional Southern Thai dishes which often include spices and curries, or simple dishes for kids or those who are a little less adventurous.
Day 10 Thanbok Khoranee National Park
- 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Wake up this morning to the sounds of chirping birds in nearby trees. Enjoy a home cooked breakfast before setting out to visit the caves and rivers in this region. Visit first Thanbok Khoranee National Park where some natural pools allow for swimming and short hikes through the parks jungle trails are possible. Opt as well to set out in kayaks along the rivers and paddle under cave formations as you explore the park.
Return to Lanlay later this afternoon and enjoy dinner with the family.
Day 11 Krabi
After breakfast this morning say your good-byes to the family and head towards the pier for a trip to the bay and the islands. Explore today the islands off the coast of Krabi in a long trail boat. Massive karst formations seem to spring out of the ocean floor offering a sharp contrast against the blue waters of the Andaman Sea. Today enjoy the water, rest on the beach of a small island, and swim in the azure waters. Onward to Krabi and settle into your hotel.
Day 12 Free day at the beach
Enjoy the day free to relax and explore as you like today. Activities in the area include kayaking, sailing, and snorkeling. Or explore inland with trekking to waterfalls or caves or try your hand at rock climbing at Railay beach. Krabi is one of the best locations for rock climbing in Thailand. The day is yours to do as you like.
Day 13 Return Home
Drive to the Krabi airport for your flight back to Bangkok and your connecting international flight home.