Leave behind the hordes of backpackers in crowded Bangkok and head into parts of Thailand that lots of travellers never see. By the time they’re up and ready to shake off last night’s hangover, you’ll be on your way to Sukhothai, a tiny city also known as the Dawn of Happiness. From there, it just keeps getting better. Sure, you’ll see the vaunted beaches of Koh Samui and the Golden Triangle, but you’ll also meet gorgeous elephants in Chiang Mai and sip tea with locals who live in the hills of Doi Mae Salong. Now THIS is Thailand.
Day 1. Bangkok
Arrival in Bangkok airport, we transfer you to your hotel.
Welcome to Bangkok, Thailand! Once you’ve hit Khao San Road, you’re officially on holiday. Spend leisure time on your own.
Overnight in Bangkok.
Day 2. Bangkok → Sukhothai
Take a six-hour local bus to Sukhothai, Also known as the ‘dawn of happiness’. That sounds like a pretty swell place to spend a day, right? Pick yourself up a pushy, and head out on a guided cycle tour of Sukhothai’s Historical Park and World Heritage-listed ancient city. Roll your bike around the temples and other archaeological relics within the area. Apparently riding a bike helps build new brain cells in the hippocampus – the bit of your brain responsible for memory. This is great, ’cause now you won’t forget all the gorgeous temples you cycle past today.
Overnight in Sukhothai.
Day 3. Sukhothai → Chiang Mai
Rise and shine for a five-hour private minivan drive to hillside Chiang Mai. Stop in at the Friends of the Asian Elephant Hospital in Lampang to meet some big-footed friends being nursed back to good health. Arrive in Chiang Mai in the late afternoon. With over 120 temples in the city centre alone, you can easily while away a few hours doing a temple run. On the other hand, if you’re all templed out, perhaps indulge in a thai massage or hit up the Night Bazaar and get haggling.
Overnight in Chiang Mai.
ADD-ON: Chiang Mai – Zipline & Cooking class
Today you’re free as a bird, maybe get flying on the Flight of the Gibbon and negotiate the zipline and canopy course within the treetops. Or take an optional excursion to the temple at the top of Doi Suthep, which offers fantastic views over the city. Perhaps spoil yourself with a traditional Thai massage or try your hand at a local cooking class. It’s totally up to you.
Day 4. Chiang Mai: Visit Golden Triangle
Doi Mae Salong is a seriously good-looking tea plantation way up in the hills of the Golden Triangle. Not only are the views incredible, you’ll also get to meet some seriously lovely hill-tribe villagers as you wander. Today travel by public bus and minivan to Doi Mae Salong via Mae Chan (approximately five hours in total). It’s the perfect place to relax and kick back for the day. Make sure you enjoy a cup of tea in a traditional Chinese teahouse overlooking the mountains. Check out the interesting market, which is full of produce and crafts made by hill tribe people. For something a little more adventurous, why not climb up the 719 steps to see the town’s Buddhist temple.
Overnight in Chiang Mai. (B,L)
Day 5. Chiang Mai → Chiang Rai
While the Golden Triangle may have gained a little unwanted notoriety in the 1920s for its opium trade, today it remains a lush, mountainous, traditional intersection of Northern Thailand, Laos and Burma.
In the morning, we take a three-hour ride in a minivan to this famous border. Pay a visit to the House of Opium Museum for a deeper insight into this area’s problematic past. Continue your travels for around two hours to Chiang Rai, where you’ll stay the night. Perhaps head to Chiang Rai’s night market, which is a great place to pick up some hill tribe handicrafts.
Overnight in Chiang Rai. (B,L)
Day 6. Chiang Mai → Chiang Mai
Like your temples creepy and kooky and quirky and weird? Good thing we’re stopping in at the White Temple this morning. Although it can be crowded with tourists, this temple is a modern wonder.
In the afternoon, take a three-and-a-half-hour public bus back to Chiang Mai and board an overnight train for Bangkok (approximately 13 hours). Soft sleeper class trains are used for the overnight journey. The compartments are multi-share with air-conditioning and bunk beds that come with sheets and a pillow. Baggage travels in the carriage with you, and there’s a food and drink service available on-board.
Overnight on train.
Day 7. Chiang Mai → Bangkok
Your train is scheduled to arrive into Bangkok in the early morning on Day 7 of the trip. The rest of the day is free to explore the city.
Overnight in Bangkok. (B)
Day 8. Bangkok → Surat Thani
Today explore some of Bangkok’s most famous sights, including the Grand Palace and the adjoining Temple of the Emerald Buddha (Wat Phra Kaew). Please see important information in the ‘Packing’ section of the trip notes regarding strict dress code for the Grand Palace visit. There’s nothing worse than being turned away from an attraction while all your buddies get to go ahead! Make an optional visit to the temple complex of Wat Pho, which houses the famous 46-metre-long statue of the Reclining Buddha. Enjoy a free afternoon to discover more of the city in your own time.
This evening, head south to Surat Thani on a 13-hour overnight train.
Overnight on train. (B,L)
Day 9. Surat Thani → Koh Samui
Arrive into Surat Thani this morning, continuing by public bus and ferry to Koh Samui (approximately four hours). The island of Koh Samui has been a tourist hotspot for decades, and with good reason. Swim, snorkel or relax in the waterfalls at Na Muang. Take a trip with the group around the island, visiting the 15-metre-tall Big Buddha (Wat Phra Yai). In the evening, perhaps feast on a delicious curry with the group and then join in the carnival that is Koh Samui’s famous nightlife.
Overnight in Koh Samui. (L)
Day 10. Koh Samui: Boat trip
Spend a free day today swimming, lazing in the sun or exploring Koh Samui. You may like to take an optional day tour to Ang Thong Marine National Park by either slow boat or speedboat. The park is an archipelago of over 40 islands in the Gulf of Thailand, featuring pristine beaches, jungle, mangroves and limestone mountains rising out of the sea. Take a swim at popular Koh Mae island and check out the saltwater lagoon of Thale Nai (Emerald Lake).
Alternative: For a quieter experience and some great snorkelling opportunities, head to the nearby islands of Koh Tao and Koh Nang Yuan.
Overnight in Koh Samui. (B,L)
Day 11. Koh Samui → Khao Sok
Today travel to Khao Sok National Park by songtaew, ferry and mini van. The journey will take a total of about five hours.
The park is the wettest spot in Thailand with some of the oldest jungle in the world. See loads of amazing limestone rock faces and, if you’re lucky, monkeys playing here and there. Stroll along trails past waterfalls and spend the night in a guesthouse in the jungle.
Overnight in Khao Sok. (B,L)
Day 12. Khao Sok National Park
Lucky you with all this time in the oldest evergreen rainforest in the world. Your awesome jungle guesthouse sits right outside the entrance to the park, so it’s pretty easy to take a hike along any of the numerous dirt trails that snake their way through the park. This place is paradise, especially if you love nature – if you’re super lucky there might be a glimpse of elephants, exotic Hornbills, water-loving Langur Monkeys and even the occasional tiger deep inside the park. Head for river and waterfalls and give yourself a cooling dip. Back to the guest house.
Overnight in Khao Sok. (B,L)
Day 13. Khao Sok → Ao Nang Beach
Depart by public bus from Khao Sok to the beach town of Ao Nang (approximately three hours). On arrival, settle into your hotel and hit the local beach. Swim or snorkel in the clear water, relax on the sand with a book and sip a cocktail as the sun goes down. You have plenty of free time to do as you please.
Overnight in Ao Nang. (B)
Day 14: Ao Nang Beach
This morning head out on a half-day sea kayaking trip to Ao Thalane. Transfer from your hotel in Ao Nang to Thalane Bay in a van, passing through rural villages on the way. Paddle through mangrove forests, coves and narrow karst-walled canyons, keeping an eye out for kingfishers, herons and crab-eating macaque monkeys. Be careful with your belongings, as the cheeky monkeys can steal them. After some time on the water, return to the pier and enjoy lunch at a local restaurant with a great view over the area. After lunch, transfer back to your hotel in Ao Nang. Enjoy free time for the rest of the afternoon.
Overnight in Ao Nang beach of Krabi.
Day 15: Ao Nang Beach
Enjoy a free day to relax on the beach or participate in a variety of optional activities. Perhaps unwind with a massage or cook up something delicious in a Thai cooking class. Take a tour out to some of Krabi’s naturally-formed crystal pools and hot springs, swimming in the clear waters of the Emerald Lagoon while fish nibble at your toes. You might like to take a trip out to the quiet, pristine island of Koh Hong, where you can snorkel in the shallow reefs and kayak past cliffs to a hidden salt-water lagoon.
Overnight in Ao Nang beach of Krabi. (B,L)
Day 16. Ao Nang Beach: Departure
Today your Thai adventure comes to an end.
Enjoy your leisure time until your departure. (B)
End of the journey!