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 is available at extra cost.
Enjoy a one-hour long tail boat tour of Bangkok's famous klongs, or canals. Our boat trip finishes at the Royal Temple of Wat Po. Our included guide will introduce you to Thai Buddhist culture and show you the famous reclining Buddha. When your guided tour ends there will still be time for some afternoon shopping, a visit to Grand Palace or a stroll through the backpacker area. We will meet back at the hotel within easy walking distance to the train station where we board our overnight train to Chiang Mai. Tonight's 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. Approx travel time: Bangkok to Chiang Mai by sleeper train: 12-13 hours.
We arrive in the early morning and have free time to explore Chiang Mai. To fill your free time you can chose from a large range of optional activities or stroll the city independently. Surrounded by rolling hills, Chiang Mai is the cultural center of Thailand. Enclosed by a moat and crumbling walls, the old city features great cafes, shops and over 300 temples. Many visitors come here to attend cooking courses, massage classes or yoga lessons. It is also a mecca of handicraft production, with a long history of silverwork, woodcarving, pottery-making and weaving. Late afternoon we set off in private transport to visit the temple complex, Doi Suthep. Here we can delve deeper into Thai Buddhist culture and we may be fortunate enough to witness the chanting of the monks. Our hotel is located within walking distance to Chiang Mai Night Bazaar and other city destinations. All rooms are double or twin share with air conditioning and en suite bathroom. Free wifi is available. Approx travel time: Chang Mai to Doi Suthep temple: 45 mins each way.
From Chiang Mai, we start a 3-day/3-night hilltribe trek where we visit various hilltribe minority groups, each with their own language, clothing and religion. Enroute we stop for a local market tour for last minute supplies and your CEO will explain fruits and quirky market food. Over the 3 days we will get the chance to ride an elephant (approx 45mins) and test our rafting skills while bamboo rafting*. We walk approximately 4-5 hours each day along sloping hills and valleys. We leave our big packs in storage and take an overnight bag. Each person is required to be able to carry their own pack as our porters will be carrying food and water supplies. Accommodation is group share, where you will be sleeping on the floor of the village huts. Toilet and washing facilities are very basic in most of the villages so be prepared to rough it for a few days. During the trek simple food is provided for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It can be cold during the evenings (especially from December to February) so make sure you have some warm clothes with you. It is possible to rent trekking gear in Chiang Mai before the trek in case you have forgotten to pack something vital. Please note that trekking times are highly dependent on each groups level of fitness. The path that we follow may be changed to suit the groups fitness level or the weather during rainy season. *During the rainy season we may not be able to Bamboo raft because of high and dangerous water levels.
We return to Chiang Mai on Day 7 with free time for further exploration of the second largest city in Thailand. Take the afternoon to have a traditional Thai massage at the women's prison rehabilitation centre, or even venture out on a trip to the countryside for excursions riding elephants or cruising down a stream on a bamboo raft. The fun does not end when the sun goes down, as the night bazaaar opens. The bazaar is a series of covered markets, shops and stalls that offer the best selection of handicrafts in Thailand. Accommodation on the night of Day 8 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. Approx travel time: Overnight train from Chiang Mai to Ayutthaya: 10 hours.
Ayutthaya served as Thailand’s capital from the 14th to 18th centuries, when it ranked as one of the most magnificent cities in the world. Late in the 17th century its population reached one million, and foreign visitors wrote awestruck accounts of its size and splendour. Located 86km north of Bangkok, the ruins of this World Heritage Site include various pagodas and Buddha images. We arrive into this spectacular town early in the morning and transfer to our hotel by local songthaew. Once we have checked in, had some breakfast and cleaned up we will visit the Historical Park and look at the wonders of this ancient capital city. Our accommodation this evening is double / twin share with air conditioning and an en suite bathroom. This hotel has free wifi available. The hotel is very centrally located within an easy distance of the Historical Site.
Traveling by local bus to Kanchanaburi, the evening of day 10 sees us staying on basic raft accommodation. The rooms are quite small and contain a double mattress in each room. Groups of over 8 people will be divided onto 2 raft houses. On day 11 we visit Erawan National Park. The park contains the waterfalls of the same name (seven tiers of blue clear water with little fish that nibble at your feet), is well worth a visit. You can see Erawan, the 3 headed elephant that carries the Hindu God Indra, when you reach level seven (use your imagination!). Situated alongside the River Kwai Yai amongst limestone hills, Kanchanaburi (golden city) is most famous (or infamous) for the death railway that was constructed during WWII using prisoners of war and Asian labor. The bridge on the River Kwai, the war cemetery, Thai Burma war museum all make up the major attractions of this town. Many veterans and descendants of the POW’s return here to honor those that died during the construction of the railroad. Around 100,000 Asian laborers and 16,000 POW’s died during its construction with the track only running for about 20 months. Kanchanaburi province itself is the third largest province in Thailand and possesses some of the best preserved natural sites in Thailand – partly due to the fact that it is still sparsely populated. Our hotel on day 11 is located on the banks of the River Kwai. Our rooms here are all double / twin share with air conditioning and an en suite bathroom. The hotel also has a swimming pool to help unwind after a long days sightseeing. Approx travel time: Local bus from Ayutthaya to Kanchanaburi: 3 hours. Bus to Erawan National Park: 1.5 hours.
We have free time this morning until we board the local a/c bus for our journey back to Bangkok arriving with time to catch up on any last minute shopping. The tour ends upon arrival and your Chief Experience Officer (CEO) will help you arrange any transport or transfers that you need. Please do not organise any onward travel for earlier then 3pm. We look forward to receiving your evaluation regarding this tour itinerary and your CEOs 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 in line and fill in this simple form. Thank you so much in advance. Approx travel time: Kanchanaburi to Bangkok by public bus: 2 hours