Explore the best of central and northern Thailand on this active trip designed for those looking for easy paced adventure. Hike to jungle waterfalls and enjoy wildlife spotting opportunities. Visit renowned temples and historic places and connect with local people in rural and urban settings. Tour a local winery, help bathe rescued elephants, and bike through the stunning Chiang Rai countryside on this active two week Thailand trip.
Visit Koh Kret and learn about the culture and lifestyle of the Mon people
Hike through the dry evergreen forest of Khao Yai National Park
Enjoy lunch and a tour at PB Valley Winery
Help feed and bathe rescued elephants at the Elephant Nature Park
This morning you are picked up by your guide and taken to Wat Sanum Nua, Pakkret. Here you board a ferry for a short ride on the Chao Phraya River to Koh Kret, a small island community in the river. This man made island is the result of a channel that was cut to shorten the river trip about 300 years ago. Koh Kret’s inhabitants are mainly Mon (originally tribes who dominated central Thailand between the 6th and 10th centuries) and have retained a distinct identity in their flavor of Buddhism and their pottery.
Next set out on a bicycle tour around the island to visit temples, kilns and other pottery shops. The island is also well known for various Thai desserts and snacks which are available for purchase to sample as you go. On weekends a busy market near the pier is often frequented by Thai tourists and you can spend some time exploring that. Next embark on a small boat trip around the island with a stop at the Masjid Mosque. Return to Bangkok this afternoon.
Day 3: Mae Klong Railway Market | Ride the Burma Railway
Rise early this morning as you are picked up and driven to the old fishing port of Samut Songkram. Visit the Mae Klong 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.
Continue on to Kanchanaburi town. Board the train to Namtok over the famous Burma Railway whcih was constructed in WWII under Japanese orders. After lunch at Sommai Restaurant take a boat to the Float House, your hotel this evening.
After breakfast this morning, return by boat and drive to Erawan Waterfall, located in one of Thailand's most famous national parks. Spend a couple of hours at this waterfall. Opt to walk all the way up to the top of the falls, or take a swim in the crystal clear water at one of its many levels. After a simple Thai lunch at the falls head back to Kanchanaburi. Visit the bridge over River Kwai, the war cemetery and the interesting Thailand Burma Railway Centre today before setting back out to your hotel by boat.
Day 5: Ayutthaya | Onward to Khao Yai National Park
This morning you go to visit Ayutthaya World Heritage Site. Visit the highlights of this historic place, including Wihan Phra Mongkhon Bopit, Wat Phra Si Sanphet and the Ancient Palace.This morning early transfer to Ayutthaya World Heritage Site. Visit also Wat na Phra Main and Wat Mahathat before you return to your hotel for a rest. Mid afternoon you are picked up and set out to visit Khao Yai National Park. Here you visit a Buddhist cave temple and watch millions of wrinkle lipped bats flying around and forming a snake-like stream in the sky. Get a good look of the National Park from a viewpoint before returning to your hotel.
Set out this morning for the National Park again and stop along the way to explore the visitor's center. Go hiking today through the dry evergreen forest where gibbons, monkeys, and hornbills are often spotted. Next drive up to Haew Suwat waterfall to enjoy lunch and nature. This afternoon drive to the second highest mountain in the park to obtain a fantastic view of the park. Later this evening you get a glimpse of the park on a nocturnal wildlife spotting safari. Many of the park's numerous but elusive wild cats are active at night including the civet and leopard.
Meet your private guide this morning and a Park Ranger as you head out to try and spot more wildlife. Enjoy lunch at the PB Valley winery, situated on the edge of the National Park. Traditionally the grapes for winemaking had been grown between the 30th and 50th parallels only. Thailand has pioneered wine production in a narrow band in the North hemisphere between the 14th and 18th parallels. Years of research, testing, and development have opened up new frontiers in viticulture which has resulted in 'New Latitude Wines'.
This winery sits amidst a lush 800-acre plantation. Now into its 16th year of operation, the winery has become the center for Thailand's premium wines as its only fully accredited wine maker. Enjoy lunch and a tour of the vineyard and winery followed by wine tasting. After lunch, enjoy a tour of the vineyard and the winery, followed by wine tasting. Return to your hotel late in the afternoon for free time the rest of the day.
Today transfer back to Bangkok and catch a flight to Chiang Mai. Chiang Mai is the largest and most culturally significant city in northern Thailand. It's name means 'new capital' and was first founded in 1296. Settle in to your hotel today and enjoy the rest of the day free to explore.
Be ready this morning for your shuttle pickup. Drive through the agricultural Thai countryside to the Elephant Nature Park today, a non-profit organization located on the outskirts of Chiang Mai. The Elephant Nature Park 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.
Early this morning set out with your guide and for a sunrise 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. Cycling up Doi Suthep mountain has become a popular traditional with the locals and you may see quite a few cyclists at this early hour. Arrive to the temple before crowds arrive. Climb the 300 step staircase or take a cable car up to enjoy the views. 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. Enjoy a picnic lunch at the headquarters before continuing on to the Hmong village Doi Pui. This village has grown into a key tourist attraction in recent years. Despite the growth, it still offers a glimpse into how Thailand's tribes live. The villagers wear traditional Hmong clothes and sell handicrafts. They live in traditional homes and the views from the village are spectacular. Enjoy some time here and next visit Montatarn Waterfall are your way back this afternoon.
This morning drive on to Chiang Rai, a land of outstanding beauty with many remote hill tribes and exotic wildlife to be seen. Explore what is known as the 'golden triangle', or the former center of the world's opium trade.
On the way to Chiang Rai, stop at the Wat Rong Khun Temple, which differs from so many others in Thailand in that it is designed entirely in white and white glass. After lunch at a local restaurant, transfer to your hotel and enjoy the rest of your afternoon free.
Drive just outside the city this morning for your safety briefing and bicycle fitting. Start cycling your way through small villages and rice fields and as the group follows the Lao River downstream. The bicycle ride is pleasant with a lot of green vegetation and rural landscapes offering a glimpse of Thai life for the locals. Cycle past various fruit orchards, rice fields, rubber plantations and teak trees. Stop to visit the amazing white temple (Wat Rong Khun) and enjoy lunch at a local restaurant near the temple. After lunch drive back to your hotel early afternoon and enjoy the rest of the day free.
Day 13: Return Home
Return to Bangkok today to connect with your international flight home.
The trip might have been the absolute best of our lifetime (thus far). We particularly want to commend our guide Peter in the Guilin area-he was so incredibly attentive, energetic, enthusiastic-and absolutely dedicated to ensuring that our meals were 100% vegetarian.