Thailand on a Shoestring
Day 1 Bangkok
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. 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.
Day 2 Bangkok (1B)
Today you have the option a one-hour long tail boat tour of Bangkok's famous klongs, or canals to the royal temple of Wat Po. Introduce yourself to Thai Buddhist culture and show you the famous reclining Buddha. Why not take some time for 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. Bangkok is a fantastic city and there is endless sightseeing to be done. Enjoy a street food crawl with the group and CEO while in Bangkok. Bring your appetites and your wallets, and the CEO will bring you to the best spots and teach you a bit about the local street food. 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: 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. To fill your free time you can chose from a large range of optional activities or stroll the city independently. 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 northern Thai dish. 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. A trip out to the countryside is available for those interested in 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. In the late afternoon you may choose 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. 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 Day 11 or 12, your CEO will let you know. We overnight in Chiang Mai. Our hotel is well 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.
Day 4-6 Hilltribe Trek (2B,2L,2D)
Day 4-6 Hilltribe Trek (3B,3L,2D) From Chiang Mai, we start a 3 day 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. We also have the opportunity to stop at the stunning Mork Fa Waterfall for a swim before lunch. Over these 3 days we will get the chance to feed and bathe an elephant 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 so make sure you have some lightweight warm clothes with you. We return back to Chiang Mai in the late afternoon of Day 6. Approx travel time: Songthaew (local bus) back to Chiang Mai: 2 hours. 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 (1B)
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 Adrenaline Theme Pack on Day 7 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)
Arrive in the early morning and giving you the chance to spend a full day in Bangkok catching up on any shopping or sightseeing you might have missed. On the evening of Day 9 board a train to Surat Thani. We spend the evening of Day 8 back 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. Please note that if you have booked the Adrenaline Theme Pack 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. On Day 9 our 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: Train Bangkok to Surat Thani: 12-13 hours
Day 10 Khao Sok National Park
Arriving in the early morning, we take a public bus to the Khao Sok National Park and settle into our simple, yet comfortable, fan cooled bungalow style rooms for an afternoon of exploration and discovery. Entrance to the National Park is not included. Khao Sok is a diverse area of natural beauty, a perfect place for people who want to hike and get out there in nature or those that just want to chill out in a hammock by the riverside watching monkeys take their afternoon bath. Khao Sok National Park covers an area of 739 sq.km. Thanks to other protected areas (Klong Saers and Khlong Nakha) next to Khao Sok, the actual protected area measures almost 4000 sq.km. The dominant forest is lowland rainforest and is about 160 million years old, which makes it older than the Amazon! Our hotel in Khao Sok is about 100 meters from the entrance to the National Park. All rooms are double or twin share with en suite bathroom. Free wifi is available. Approx travel time: Public bus to Khao Sok: 3 1/2 hours
Day 11-12 Koh Samui (2B)
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 beach 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 out-of-the-way spots for those wishing to get away from it all. Taking a public bus and ferry from Surat Thani, arrive at Koh Samui during the afternoon. The island is well known for it’s magnificent beaches and party nightlife. Take a tour of the island and it’s main sights or simply relax and enjoy the beautiful beaches. Our hotel in Koh Samui is located in South Samui. All the rooms are comfortable twin or double share rooms with en suite bathrooms. There is a pool at the hotel and free wifi is available. Approx travel time: Public bus Khao Sok National Park to Surat Thani: 3 1/2 hours Public bus Surat Thani to Don Sak pier: 1 hour Ferry to Koh Samui: 2 hours Private transfer to hotel: 30 min Note: During seasonal monsoon rains from Nov-Jan we sometimes have to alter our itinerary as ferries between the islands do not operate during heavy rain and strong waves.
Day 13-15 Koh Tao (3B)
Days 13-15 Koh Tao (B) Koh Tao, in English, is known as ‘turtle island’, some say because of its shape, others say because the waters in the area were rich with sea turtles, whereas now they have moved onto other breeding grounds. Initially the island was not inhabited and there was only the occasional fisherman from the neighboring islands looking for shelter in a storm or just taking a break before continuing their journey. In 1980s the first travelers discovered the island paradise and word spread and made it widely known and a popular backpacker destination. As a consequence, bigger, faster and safer boats were used to allow easier access to Koh Tao. During the past 10 years the reputation of Koh Tao's natural beauty, especially its marine life and coral reefs, has spread the world over and the number of paradise seekers and divers increased rapidly. It soon became one of the major dive sites in Thailand, attracting beginners and professionals alike. The island today, though still remaining a unique paradise caters for all tastes and budgets. On the afternoon of Day 15, return to the mainland to board a train back to Bangkok. Our resort is located on the beach with comfortable twin and double rooms with en suite bathrooms. There is a pool close to the beach and there is free wifi available in the lobby. Approx travel time: Day 13 Hotel to the pier: 30 min Ferry from Koh Samu to Koh Tao: 2 hours Pier on Koh Tao to hotel: 20 min Day 15 Hotel to pier: 20 min Ferry Koh Tao to mainland: 1 1/2 hours Transfer to train station: 30 min Train to Bangkok: 9-10 hours
Day 16 Bangkok
Arrive in the early morning at the train station and bid farewell to everyone. If you are departing Bangkok today please do not book any onward travel until after 3pm. 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.