17 day tour
Prices available on request
A definitive tour through South East Asia’s gem – Thailand
Combining the best of the north and south, this is the definitive Thailand tour. Travel from the clamour of the capital to the serenity of steamy rainforests, from atmospheric ruins to relaxed sun-drenched islands. Tour temples in Bangkok, bargain-hunt in lively Chiang Mai and then swim, snorkel or simply kick back on the divine beaches of the southern coast. This adventure is the perfect chance to visit the many attractions and treasures of Thailand.
Why you’ll love this trip
First, work up an appetite with a leisurely cycle through the ancient Buddhas and ruined temples of Heritage-listed Sukhothai Park. Next, experience daily rural life first hand when staying in a small Thai village. Additionally, support an important animal welfare initiative and get close to incredible creatures at the Hospital of the Friends of the Asian Elephant. Also, there’s chance to pick up a new skill. Master the Thai curry and taste delicious local dishes in a Thai cooking class. After that, discover the best beaches and islands of Thailand’s east coast. Firstly, popular Ko Samui then visit laid-back Ko Tao – for a true slice of paradise. Finally, cruise to Ko Pitak for a taste of real island life. Enjoy an overnight homestay, feast on fresh seafood and interact with local fishermen. Two in-depth snorkelling trips, one in Chumphon and one in Ko Tao, give you plenty of time to explore underwater worlds brimming with coral and colourful tropical fish. Travel as the locals do on overnight sleeper trains – the best way to travel long distances, meet locals and maximise time at destinations. Experience a variety of local accommodation, from small guesthouses to beach resorts.
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Dates on request
Suggested Itinerary by Air
UK to Bangkok, Thailand
Take your UK flight to Bangkok. On arrival clear customs & immigration and then you will be transferred to your hotel.
Sa-wat dee! Welcome to Thailand. Thailand’s bustling capital, Bangkok is famous for its tuk tuks, khlong boats and street vendors serving up delicious Thai food. Bangkok has so much to offer those with time to explore. You could take a riverboat to Chinatown and explore the crowded streets, uncover the magnificent Grand Palace and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, wander down the tourist mecca of Khao San Road, or indulge in some Thai massage. After the meeting tonight, perhaps gather your fellow travellers together and tuck into some into world famous street food.
This morning, leave the current capital of Thailand and head north to one of the first ancient capitals of Siam, Sukhothai (approximately 6 hours). You’ll make a short stop midway through for a chance to stretch the legs and buy some lunch. Located on a fertile plain, Sukhothai was established in the 13th century, and the name means the ‘Dawn of Happiness’. It’s now famous for its World Heritage-listed historic park that celebrates the Golden Age of Thai civilisation. Tonight, be sure to head to the fascinating local night market and try the local dishes, like Sukhothai noodles.
After breakfast, head out to the historical ruins of Old Sukhothai, set amid beautiful lakes and gardens. The religious art and architecture of the Sukhothai era are considered to be the most classic of Thai styles, and the Sukhothai Historical Park contains the remains of 21 historic sites, with awe-inspiring Buddha images and four large ponds often filled with stunning lotus flowers in full bloom. Upon arrival at the park, hire bicycles and enjoy a few leisurely hours feeling the breeze in your hair and learning about the history of this fascinating place. Enjoy a home-cooked picnic lunch somewhere along the way, and if you have enough free time, visit a local ceramics factory.
Travel by private minivan from Sukothai to your overnight homestay (approximately 4-5 hours). On the way, stop off at the Friends of the Asian Elephant Hospital located in Lampang. This is the first elephant hospital in the world established to care for sick and abused elephants, with the aim of preserving the animals’ natural habitat and lifestyle. You’ll learn more about this important initiative and perhaps become acquainted with some of its resident pachyderm patients. Continue 1.5 hours to the warm and welcoming home of friends in a small Thai village. Accommodation is multishare and basic (there will be fold-out mattresses on the floor and shared bathrooms), but there is no better way to better understand a country and its people. In the evening, you’ll be treated to a traditional northern Thai khantohk dinner, accompanied by live music and dancing.
After breakfast, jump on some bikes and cruise around the homestay village. This is a great opportunity to see how the locals live, and you’ll make a few stops along the way to see small country industries in the area. Cycling past the rice fields and breathing in the fresh country air, with beautiful mountains in the distance, makes this morning a picture-postcard experience. Say goodbye to your new friends and travel on to Chiang Mai (approximately 45 minutes). The most vibrant city in northern Thailand, Chiang Mai has many famous temples and an interesting old city area. Renowned for dazzling beauty and extremely welcoming locals, the ‘Rose of the North’ will leave you spellbound. Chances are, you won’t want to leave. Your accommodation has both ensuite bathrooms and air conditioning, and is perfectly located right by the famous vibrant night markets.
Today you have the choice of doing a half day Thai cooking class or a half day cycling tour around Chiang Mai. If you’re a foodie, then you’ll discover some of the secrets of Thai cuisine, learn the key ingredients, how to use them, and what to use in their place if you can’t get them at home. As well as taking your own comprehensive recipe book with you after the class, you’ll feast on the fruits of your labour for lunch. If you’re feeling more active then you might want to saddle up for a half day cycling trip. After a short safety briefing and bicycle fitting, navigate the light downtown traffic as you cycle south, a pleasant ride along the green banks of the Ping River. Make a stop at a former leper colony turned rehabilitation centre, where you’ll get to know some of the daily life of the missionaries who worked here over a hundred years ago. The trip continues along various fruit orchards, cycling down small country roads and meandering around the villages on the outskirts of Chiang Mai. Here you’ll discover the real rural Thailand and encounter the Thai way of life. Explore the temple ruins of Wiang Kum Kam, the former capital of Lanna, before you cycle back to Chiang Mai.
Today is free for you to explore, but there are also a few optional activities you can join if you want. Perhaps explore the famous temple complex of Doi Suthep. Drive along a scenic, winding mountain road that ends at an impressive 300-step naga-guarded stairway (approximately 45 mins). The rewards justify the climb with one of the most beautiful temples in Thailand on display, not to mention fantastic panoramic views of the city and the opportunity to listen to hypnotic evening chanting by resident Buddhist monks. You could also join an Urban Adventure and allow yourself to be spirited away on an early morning Chiang Mai tour that puts you at the epicentre of Buddhist rituals. Learn to meditate, offer alms to monks, and make an offering at a temple. Or maybe wander markets, meet monks, cruise the river, and slurp noodles on a Mae Ping River Experience. Tonight you’ll board an overnight train for Bangkok, accommodated in air-conditioned sleeping berths (approximately 13 hours).
Your train is scheduled to arrive back in Bangkok in the early morning. Today you have a free day; you might want to consider doing an optional Urban Adventure. Or simply relax with a Thai massage. As this is a combination trip, your group leader and the composition of your group may change at this location. There will be a group meeting to discuss the next stage of your itinerary and you’re welcome to attend, as this is a great chance to meet your new fellow travellers.
You’ll start today with a visit to Wat Pho, home to the country’s largest reclining Buddha and keeper of the magic behind Thai massage. Wat Pho is one of the ‘trinity’ of Bangkok temples, located practically next door to the Grand Palace, and inside lies a 46-metre long gold-plated Buddha. Even the feet of this statue are incredible, three metres long and intricately decorated with mother of pearl. The temple grounds are equally fascinating, filled with beautifully decorated stupas, halls, and shrines. The complex is considered the first public university in the country, and is home to the world famous Wat Pho massage school, the centre of the traditional practice. The rest of the afternoon is free for optional activities, and this city has so much to offer – perhaps head next door to the magnificent Grand Palace and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, take a riverboat to Chinatown and explore the crowded streets, or travel by longtail boat down the Chao Phraya River to explore the famous ‘khlongs’ (canals) of Bangkok. Life along these canals seems a world away from the chaotic streets of the capital. Tonight you will board an overnight train southbound for Langsuan (approximately 9 hours).
Arrive on your overnight train early in the morning, at around 6 am. Try a local style breakfast in Luangsuan market before heading to the pier (approximately 20 minutes) for Koh Pitak. Take a 10-minute boat to nearby Koh Pitak, a gorgeous little island, the location of tonight’s homestay. Take an orientation walk around the village. While you’re here, you’ll see how the fisherman live and how they make their interesting fish traps. Your homestay tonight will include lunch, dinner and breakfast. Most meals will be be typical southern fare with fresh local seafood.
Say goodbye to your hosts and travel back to the mainland on a short boat trip. Then make the journey to Chumphon by private minivan (approximately 1.5 hours) and check into your resort. Your accommodation is beautifully located, right on the beachfront at Thung Wua Lan Beach (located about 16 kilometres away from the main town). You’ll join the rest of the group to travel to a local lookout point, Khao Matsee, to take in some nice views and perhaps grab a cup of coffee. Back at the beach, spend free time stolling along the white sands of this pristine, uncrowded strip of coast.
Embark on a full-day snorkelling adventure. You will start at around 9 am and finish up at around 3 pm. The trip covers three different snorkelling spots, which gives you a nice variety of underwater scenery. See how many different kinds of tropical fish you can spot. The snorkelling will take place in the open water, so there will be no beach stops. Lunch is included, and you will arrive back at base at around 5 pm.
Hop from one beach paradise to another, travelling to Ko Tao. The ferry takes around 2 hours, and you’ll arrive on Ko Tao mid-afternoon. Famous for its spectacular coral reefs, the delightful little island of Ko Tao is popular not only among divers but also those looking for beautiful palm-fringed beaches such as Sairee. Here you can relax or perhaps take up some optional diving. Cooking classes, aromatherapy sessions or local spa visits are also great options. Ko Tao also has a small but lively nightlife for those interested in dancing and socialising on the beach or in bars.
Today you’ll experience the beautiful underwater world that surrounds Ko Tao with an exploratory snorkelling trip. With coral and fish a plenty and the remote chance of seeing timid reef sharks amongst mesmerising coral formations, Ko Tao is undeniably one of the jewels in southern Thailand’s crown. Sail south from Mae Haad Pier, navigating around the southern tip of the island until you reach Shark Island. You might see the occasional leopard shark. Drop by Luek Bay for one of the best swimming beaches on the island with fish-filled reefs on either side, then stop at Hin Wong Bay for lunch aboard the boat – an idyllic spot where palm trees line the sheltered inlet. The shallow waters of Muang Bay are filled with colourful fish to swim by, and then stop at Nang Yuan Island. You can pay the small entrance fee to this privately owned island and take a short hike up to a viewpoint, relax on the beach, snorkel through schools of parrotfish, or chill out on the boat.
Jump on another boat today and cruise over to Ko Samui (approximately 2.5 hours). The island is certainly a brasher, more vibrant extrovert compared to its sister islands. If a little modern pizazz is what you’re after with your dose of sunshine exotica, look no further – this island offers a little something for everyone. Known simply as Samui by locals, Thailand’s third largest island is rich with white sandy beaches, coral reefs and coconut trees. There’s also the Big Buddha, waterfalls, markets, temples, a mummified monk, great shopping opportunities, Michelin star restaurants, luxury spas, and a lively nightlife. Today you can take an optional sightseeing tour around the island or brush up on your cooking techniques with a Thai cooking class.
It’s up to you what you want to do today, but if you feel like being more active, take an optional day trip to Ang Thong Marine National Park, an idyllic archipelago of around 40 islands (many uninhabited). If you choose this option you’ll take a speedboat to the Marine Park, with the island of Ko Wao or Ko Tai Plow as your first stop – here you can snorkel in the turquoise waters filled with ever changing colours of coral and fish. Sail around the steep limestone cliff islands and stop near an inland saltwater lagoon called Emerald Lake (Talay Nai), which is fed by an underground cave. Take a short walk up pathways and a wooden staircase to reach a magnificent hilltop lake viewpoint. Enjoy lunch on the island that houses the park headquarters, then chill out on the beach, climb up for a panorama of the Marine Park, and get out on to the bay for some kayaking. You’ll head back to Ko Samui in mid-afternoon. If you prefer to stay on land perhaps check out the Samui Elephant Sanctuary and observe these gentle giants as they roam, socialise, bathe and enjoy a peaceful life that they so deserve. Maybe join you the rest of your group for a drink to celebrate the end of this east coast Thailand beach adventure tonight.
Ko Samui – UK
This wonderful Thailand beach adventure comes to an end today. Transfer to Phuket for your flight home.
Tour operated and hotels selected by Intrepid Travel.
When To Go:
High Season (Nov–Mar) is a cool and dry season that follows the monsoons, meaning the landscape is lush and temperatures are comfortable. Western Christmas and New Year’s holidays bring crowds and inflated rates. Shoulder Season (Apr–Jun, Sep & Oct); April to June is generally very hot and dry, with an average Bangkok temperature of 30°C. Sea breezes in coastal areas provide natural air-con. September and October are ideal for the north and the gulf coast. Low Season (Jul–Oct); Monsoon season ranges from afternoon showers to major flooding. Rain is usually in short, intense bursts. Some islands shut down; boat service is limited during stormy weather. Be flexible with travel plans.
Things To Know:
Thais are generally very understanding and hospitable, but there are some important taboos and social conventions.
- Monarchy It is a criminal offence to disrespect the royal family; treat objects depicting the king (like money) with respect.
- Temples Wear clothing that covers to your knees and elbows. Remove all footwear before entering. Sit with your feet tucked behind you, so they are not facing the Buddha image. Women should never touch a monk or a monk’s belongings; step out of the way on footpaths and don’t sit next to them on public transport.
- Modesty At the beach, avoid public nudity or topless sunbathing. Cover-up going to and from the beach.
- Body language Avoid touching anyone on the head and be careful where you point your feet; they’re the lowest part of the body literally and metaphorically.
- Saving face The best way to win over the Thais is to smile – visible anger or arguing is embarrassing.
Thai history begins as a story of migrants heading into a frontier land claimed by distant empires for trade, forced labour and patronage. Eventually the country fused a national identity around language, religion and monarchy. The kings resist colonisation from the expansionist Western powers on its border only to cede their absolute grip on the country when challenged from forces within. Since the transition to a constitutional monarchy in 1932, the military predominantly rules the country with a few democratic hiccups in between.
Health and Insurance
Health risks and the quality of medical facilities vary depending on where and how you travel in Thailand. The majority of cities and popular tourist areas have adequate, and even excellent, medical care. However, travel to remote rural areas can expose you to some health risks and less adequate medical care.
Health Insurance; even if you’re fit and healthy, don’t travel without health insurance – accidents do happen. You may require extra cover for adventure activities such as rock climbing or diving, as well as scooter/motorcycle riding. If your health insurance doesn’t cover you for medical expenses abroad, ensure you get specific travel insurance. Most hospitals require an upfront guarantee of payment (from yourself or your insurer) prior to admission. Enquire before your trip about payment of medical charges and retain all documentation (medical reports, invoices etc) for claim purposes.
Vaccinations; the only vaccine required by international regulations is yellow fever. Proof of vaccination will only be required if you have visited a country in the yellow-fever zone within the six days prior to entering Thailand. If you are travelling to Thailand from Africa or South America you should check to see if you require proof of vaccination. You should arrange your vaccines six to eight weeks prior to departure through a specialised travel-medicine clinic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (www.cdc.gov) has a traveller’s health section that contains recommendations for vaccinations.
Currency: Thai Baht, Primary Language: Thai, Primary Religion: Buddhist, Population: 68.4 million, Time Zone: GMT +7 hours
For visitors from most countries, including the UK, visas are generally not required for stays of up to 30 days.
For more information please visit the link below:
Tour will run with a minimum of 12 passengers. Smaller groups may be accommodated. Picture is for illustrative purposes only. Greatdays Holidays Limited has an ATOL licence (4279) and all of our air package tours are protected under this licence. In the unlikely event of our insolvency, the Civil Aviation Authority will ensure that you are not stranded abroad and will arrange to refund any monies you have paid to us for an advance booking. All the flights and flight-inclusive holidays on this email are financially protected by the ATOL scheme. When you pay you will be supplied with an ATOL Certificate. Please ask for it and check to ensure that everything you booked (flights, hotels and other services) is listed on it. Please see our booking conditions for further information or for more information about financial protection and the ATOL Certificate go to: www.atol.org.uk/ATOLCertificate
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