Today is arrival day so there are no activities planned. You are free to relax, explore the city & adjust to the frantic pace and humid heat of Bangkok. Please arrive at our start point hotel before 6pm for an important group meeting where you will meet you Chief Experience Officer (CEO) and the other group members. Please look for a sign on the hotel's notice board for the time and location of your group meeting. At this meeting your CEO will ask to sight your travel insurance. After your meeting, you may choose to head out for an optional dinner to further get to know your CEO and fellow group members. We spend this evening in Bangkok. Our hotel is located in China Town, next to the central train station and MRT (Subway), and is only a short USD2 taxi ride from Khao San road and the central shopping area of Siam Square, MBK, Siam Paragon, etc. All rooms are double or twin share with air conditioning and en suite bathroom. The hotel has a small pool and wifi and computers are available at extra cost.
On Day 2 we head off on a long tail boat to explore the canals of Bangkok en route to Wat Po, home of the giant reclining Buddha. After lunch we depart by public bus to the town of Sukhothai. Located about 450km from Bangkok, the ruins of Sukhothai date back to the mid-13th century, when the site became the capital of Thailand’s first kingdom. Sukhothai is viewed as representative of 'the Golden Age' of Thai civilization. The religious art and architecture of the era are considered to be the most classic of Thai styles. The ruins contain the remains of 21 historical sites with awe-inspiring Buddha images and 4 large ponds often filled with stunning lotus flowers in full bloom. On day 3 we head out on bikes to explore the remains of this ancient royal realm, now one of Thailand's Cultural World Heritage sites. Our hotel is located approximately 3 km from Sukhothai Historical Park and has comfortable twin share rooms with air conditioning and en suite bathrooms. The hotel has a pool and free wifi in the lobby area. Approx Travel Time: Public bus from Bangkok to Sukhothai: 5 hours
We take a public bus drive to Lampang. Located approximately 100kms from Chiang Mai, Lampang was an important trade town during the Dvaravati period (around the 7th century), and was supposedly founded by the son of Queen Chama Devi of the Hariphunchai Empire (she was the first ruler of the state which was one of the important ancient towns of the Khmers). The state was eventually absorbed into the Lanna kingdom in the 13th century when King Miengrai (the founder of Chiang Rai) defeated the Khmers. The city of Lampang was an important trade centre for teak wood both domestically and internationally. During that time (1900’s), Britain still controlled Burma (who possessed great knowledge about teak), sent a large company over to Lampang to ply their trade resulting in the construction of several temples. Lampang was made the temporary capital of the Lanna kingdom between 1776 and 1791 when Chiang Mai was deserted as a result of successive wars with the Burmese. Arriving around mid day you have a free afternoon to explore Lampang. Our hotel in Lampang is situated in the city center and has comfortable twin share rooms with air conditioning and en suite bathrooms. Wifi and computers are available for use at an extra cost. Approx travel time: Public bus from Sukhothai to Lampang: 4 hours
As we drive to Chiang Rai Province we stop at the Lampang Elephant Conservation Centre where we tour the facilities of the elephant hospital and see how sick elephants are cared for. All the money raised by this centre goes towards the care of the elephants. We have the opportunity to take a ride on the back of these majestic animals, an experience which many find to be a highlight of their visit to this enchanting country. We then head onwards to Chiang Saen in the area known as the Golden Triangle, our home for 2 nights. This is an ideal base from which to explore the remote area where Myanmar, Thailand and Laos meet. Mountains form a natural border between Thailand and Myanmar, while the mighty Mekong River divides Thailand from Laos. This region has long been associated with the opium trade, although poppy fields have now given way to vegetable plots. A visit to the border town of Mae Sai on day 6 gives you the opportunity to see some local Burmese traders and pick up a few souvenirs. Pay a visit to the Opium Museum to understand the history of the region. Our hotel is located in Chiang Saen just a short distance from the Golden Triangle and 45 minutes away from Chiang Rai city. Chiang Saen is a quiet town with limited amenities. The hotel has comfortable twin share rooms with air conditioning and en suite bathrooms. There is free wifi in the hotel lobby. Approximate travel time: Private bus Lampang to Chiang Rai: 4 hours driving time.
Using a private bus, we head to Chiang Mai. Surrounded by rolling hills, Chiang Mai offers both pretty surroundings and architecture. Enclosed by a moat and crumbling walls, the old city features great cafes, shops and accommodations. An important Buddhist centre since the 14th century, Chiang Mai is home to more than 300 temples. Many visitors come here to attend meditation retreats, massage classes or yoga lessons. It is also a centre of handicraft production, with a long history of silverwork, woodcarving, pottery-making and weaving. Not to be missed is the Night Bazaar, a series of covered markets, shops and stalls that offer the best selection of handicrafts in Thailand. We arrive mid morning of day 7, and have free time to explore for the rest of the day. In the late afternoon we set off to visit the famous temple complex of Doi Suthep about a 45 minute drive from the center of the city. Doi Suthep is one of northern Thailand's most sacred temples. Our local guide explains the history of the temple to us. A naga (mystical serpent) staircase of over 300 steps leads to the temple at the top of the mountain from which there are wonderful views of the surrounding countryside. Day 8 gives you free time to catch up on shopping or maybe a cooking class before catching the overnight train back to Bangkok. Day 7 accommodation in Chiang Mai is located just outside of the Chiang Mai Gate of the old city of Chiang Mai and withing walking distance of the famous night markets. The hotel has comfortable twin / double rooms with en suite bathrooms. Day 8 accommodation is an overnight sleeper train. Beds are dormitory style, with bunks on two layers along the side of the train carriage. There are curtains along each bunk for privacy. Your luggage will be accessible during the journey. The train has air-conditioning and clean bedding is provided for each bunk. There are both western style and Asian style toilets at the end of each carriage. Food and drinks are served on the train but you can always bring your own food from the shops and restaurants in the train station. Approximate travel time: Private transport from Chiang Rai to Chiang Mai: 4 hours Train ride from Chiang Mai to Bangkok: 12-13 hours Private transport to train station: 20 min
We arrive back into Bangkok train station at approximately 8am where our tour finishes on arrival. You are free to depart from here at any time. If you are departing Bangkok today please do not book any onward travel until after 3pm, in case of delays on the train. We are able to arrange post tour accommodation for those who would like to spend a little more time in Bangkok - please ask at time of booking. We look forward to receiving your evaluation regarding this tour itinerary and your CEO's performance. We value your input into what we could improve to make this trip even better and of course love hearing about what we are already doing well! You will be sent a post tour email on your return with details on how to go on line and fill in this simple form. Thank you so much in advance. If you are considering onward travel in Thailand you might want to check out these trips. Thailand Island Hopping http://www.gadventures.com/trips/thailand-island-hopping/ATTW/2012/ or Thailand Discovery http://www.gadventures.com/trips/thailand-discovery/ATTD/2012/