Southeast Asia on a Shoestring
Day 1 Bangkok
Travellers will be arriving at all times today so there are no activities arranged. Please try to arrive by 6pm for an important group meeting where you can meet the Chief Experience Officer (CEO) and the other group members. You have the day free to relax and adjust to the frenetic pace and humid heat of Bangkok. As congested and hectic as it is, Bangkok has plenty of appeal. With towering skyscrapers pressed up against Chinese shop-houses and brand-new Mercedes squeezing past vendors with pushcarts, this is a city of distinct contrasts. Culture fiends will delight in the dazzling Grand Palace and the city’s countless pagodas, while shoppers could spend weeks sifting through Bangkok’s malls and open-air markets. Entertainment ranges from highbrow (classical Thai music concerts) to low (transvestite revues) with everything in between. Dining options are equally varied. Whether you’re eating French cuisine in a plush hotel restaurant or sampling fried crickets on the side of the road, prepare to have all of your senses engaged. This is the place to eat, drink and be merry.
Day 2 Bangkok (1B)
On Day 2 you have free time to enjoy Bangkok. Why not visit to Wat Po, home of the giant reclining Buddha, the Grand Palace or perhaps check out Khao San Road, Bangkok's famous backpacker strip. Your Chief Experience Officer (CEO) can arrange a longtail boat to explore the back canals or you could explore the gorgeous traditional teak house which was the former home of silk magnate, Jim Thompson. In the late afternoon, we head off to the railway station and board our sleeper 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. Note: Due to disruptions of Thai trains in the north during the monsoon season, trips running July through October may be upgraded to a flight and extra hotel night in Bangkok. Approx travel time: Bangkok to Chiang Mai by sleeper train is 12-13 hours.
Day 3 Chiang Mai
We arrive in the early morning and have free time to explore for the rest of the day. In the early evening, we can arrange an optional visit to the famous temple complex of Doi Suthep, about a 45 minute drive from the center of the city. Surrounded by rolling hills, Chiang Mai offers both pretty surroundings and old style 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. Note: if you have pre-booked the Thai Culinary Theme Pack your cooking class will be in Chiang Mai today or Day 7 and in Samui on Days 12-13, your CEO will let you know.
Day 4-6 Hilltribe Trek (3B,2L,2D)
From Chiang Mai, we commence our 3 day hilltribe trek where we will visit various hilltribe minority groups, each with their own language, clothing and religion. Enroute we'll stop at a local market tour for last minute supplies where your CEO will explain fruits and quirky market food. We also have the opportunity to stop at the stunning Mork Fa Waterfall for a refresh before for lunch and commencing our trekking. Over the next 3 days we will have 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 communal, 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 so make sure you have some lightweight warm clothes with you. It is possible to rent trekking gear including sleeping bags for winter use in Chiang Mai before the trek. We return back to Chiang Mai in the late afternoon of Day 6. 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.
Day 7 Chiang Mai
We have more time in Chiang Mai today to explore the city before we catch our overnight train back to Bangkok. Try some of the things you did not get the chance to do the first time. Hire a bicycle and see more of the city, or take a cooking class and learn about Thai cuisine. Please note that if you have booked the Northern Thai Adventure Bundle you will be picked up at 9:00 am for a half day cycling around Chiang Mai. A guided ride will take you to ancient temples, a local pottery workshop, bakery, Leper's colony and elementary school. Tonight's accommodation is an overnight sleeper train. Bunks 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 is stored beside you. 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, with wash basins. Food and drinks are available on the train, but you may choose to bring your own snacks from the shop and restaurants around the train station. Please note: Due to disruptions of Thai trains in the north during the monsoon season, trips running July through October may be upgraded to a flight and extra hotel night in Chiang Mai instead of the overnight train. Approx travel time: Chiang Mai to Bangkok by sleeper train: 12-13 hours.
Day 8-9 Bangkok (1B)
Bangkok is a fantastic city and there is endless sightseeing to be done. Please note that if you have booked the Northern Thai Adventure Bundle on Day 9 you will need to make your own way to Sukhumvit Soi 1, Ariyasom Villa hotel for your transfer at 9:30am to the Flight of the Gibbons. (directions on voucher). Suggested time to leave your hotel is 8:30am. Enjoy the thrill of ziplining over the Thai jungle for 3 kilometers before heading back to your hotel for 17:00. Undoubtedly the best way to get around Bangkok is by water taxi, as the streets are often crazy with traffic. From the Chao Phraya River you have an excellent view of this vast metropolis. Perhaps take a longtail boat to explore the canals of Bangkok. The life that goes on along these canals seems like a different world. We also recommend visiting Wat Pho, home of the reclining Buddha. You can have a traditional Thai massage either here, at a school that teaches massage within the temple, or choose somewhere near the hotel - this is highly recommended! In the evening of Day 9 we catch an overnight sleeper train to Surat Thani in the south of Thailand (approx 12 hours). Please note that this is a combination trip and some of your group members and/or leader may change on Day 8.
Day 10-11 Koh Phangan
Following our early morning train arrival we transfer to the port and board our ferry for our journey out to the spectacular Gulf islands. Options for snorkeling, hiking, visit waterfalls or simply chilling out. With everything from yoga and meditation courses, natural beauty, waterfalls and its famous Full Moon Parties, Koh Pha Ngan has something for everyone.
Day 12-13 Koh Samui
Please note that if you have booked the Culinary Theme Pack you will be picked up from your hotel and transferred to your cooking lesson where you will learn a traditional southern Thai dish. Lying off of Thailand’s east coast in the Gulf of Thailand, Koh Samui offers everything you could possibly want in a tropical retreat: white sandy beaches, coconut palms, fresh seafood and warm, clear waters. With an area of 247 square kilometers, Koh Samui is the largest island in an archipelago of around 80 islands. Like Phuket, Koh Samui attracts many visitors but still has plenty of 'off-the-beaten-track' spots for those wishing to get away from it all.
Day 14 Penang
You will have an early start from Koh Samui today. Take the option of a bicycle-rickshaw to meander through the streets and lanes of Georgetown. You can also see colourful bazaars, bargain at the night markets or visit numerous Chinese temples. If time allows, a visit to the Butterfly Farm on the north of the island offers a great insight into Malaysia's fascinating insects, Penang has something to offer everyone. Food is also a treat here, with an impressive variety from Chinese to Malay and Indian. Don't miss the waterfront night market that serves up excellent local food. Approx travel times: Boat and private bus from Koh Samui to Satun: 6.5 hours (not including border crossing) Private bus from Satun to Penang: 4.5 hours
Day 15-16 Cameron Highlands
This morning we head for the hills (approx. 6 hours). The Cameron Highlands hill station is one of Malaysia's most famous. Established in 1885 by William Cameron, a British surveyor, the hill station is famous for its tea plantations and strawberry farms. The drive takes us from the flat lowlands through to mountainous terrain. In your free time you may want to take a walk along one of the many well marked trails, visit the tea plantations or just relax and enjoy the cooler temperatures!
Day 17-18 Kuala Lumpur
Arriving in Kuala Lumpur in the afternoon after a 5 hour bus journey, we have ample time to see the city's impressive architecture and experience the fascinating cultural mix that gives this city such a uniquely cosmopolitan feel. You might like to head out of town to visit the famous Batu Caves or the Orang Asli Museum, north of town. The evening is best spent at the night market sampling the different cuisine, some of the best in South East Asia and bargain hunting among the stalls of Chinatowns night market. How about starting the day with a visit the Petronas Towers,the tallest twin towers in the world.
Day 19 Melaka
A bus journey (approx. 3 hours) takes us to the old port town of Melaka where we can wander the narrow streets and absorb the atmosphere of this historically important town. With the beginning of trade with China in the early 15th Century, Melaka rapidly became the most important trading port in South East Asia. Chinese traders were followed by those from India. With them came Islam and soon the Melaka sultans ruled the largest empire in Malaysia's history. Successively the Portuguese, Dutch and British arrived in search of trading wealth. While the effects of recent economic growth are apparent, Melaka remains one of Malaysia's premier destinations. The streets of Chinatown are lined with Peranakan (Straits Chinese) shophouses offering their traditional cuisine, Nyonya. There are temples, churches and mosques, museums and forts to explore.
Day 20 Singapore
In the morning we take a 4-5 hour bus journey to the Straits of Johore and onto the island of Singapore. Tonight you could visit the world famous night safari, take in a harbour cruise around Boat Quay or sample some mouth watering local food at one of the many hawker street stands. Whilst Singapore has few areas untouched by modernization, wandering the streets of Little India and Chinatown is a great way to see the old parts of the city.
Day 21 Singapore (1B)
You are free to depart at any time today. 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 in line and fill in this simple form. Thank you so much in advance.