Thailand’s ancient palaces, colourful floating markets and serene jungle rivers vie for a visitors’ attention.
Today you will depart on your scheduled flight to Bangkok.
You arrive in Bangkok today. Transfer to your hotel, where you will stay for three nights. Bangkok is a sprawling, exciting city situated on the Chao Praya River, 30 miles north of the Gulf of Thailand. It is a charming and fascinating amalgam of floating markets, street stalls, noisy nightlife and exotic restaurants, where saffron-robed Buddhist monks mingle with locals and tourists alike, illustrating the rich heritage of the devout culture practised here. Enjoy dinner at your hotel this evening.
Start your day in true Thai style with a visit to Lumpini Park, where you can enjoy a Tai Chi lesson. This combination of meditation and martial arts involves slow, graceful movements and is believed by its followers to have both health and mental wellbeing benefits. Lumpini Park is one of the few open public spaces in Bangkok, and away from the busy streets of the city it is a real haven, boasting a stunning artificial lake, beautiful sculptures and delightful gardens.
You will take breakfast back at your hotel before departing on an included half-day sightseeing tour of Bangkok visiting the famous temples of the Grand Palace - one of the most beautiful examples of any ancient Siamese Court, where the kings of Bangkok resided. Here you will see palaces for all different occasions as well as the exquisite Emerald Buddha Temple.
This afternoon you can choose to relax or explore at your own pace. Alternatively, join our optional excursion to the famous Rose Garden, where many aspects of Thai culture are on display, including Thai boxing, folk dancing and monks’ ordination ceremonies. You’ll also get to see working elephants.
This evening you will dine at an authentic Thai Restaurant where you can sample the aromatic flavours of a variety of typical Thai dishes. After dinner, sit back and enjoy the elegant movements of classical Thai dancers.
Spend this morning at leisure – your hotel has a swimming pool and well equipped fitness centre with steam room and sauna; it’s also well placed if you fancy a spot of shopping. Alternatively, join us on our optional half-day excursion to the up-country floating market at Damnern Saduak, where you will see the local farmers’ traditional houses and watch as they buy and sell their fresh produce. From 8am each day, hundreds of vendor boats piled high with fruits such as mangoes, papayas, grapes and coconuts fill the canal – it really is quite a spectacle.
This afternoon we include a visit to Wat Po, home to the incredible Reclining Buddha. It is no wonder that this is the largest Wat (temple) in Bangkok with this enormous 45-metre-long, gold-plated Buddha in residence. The impressive statue lies on its side, its feet beautifully decorated with mother-of-pearl and featuring 108 signs of Buddhist cosmology. Later, you’ll also pay a visit to Wat Traimit – the temple of the Golden Buddha.
This morning you will leave Bangkok and head to Kanchanaburi. Your explorations start with a visit to the interactive Thailand-Burma Railway Centre which explains not only the history of the railway but the significance of the nearby cemeteries, one of which you will visit. After visiting the immaculately kept Kanchanaburi War Cemetery, we include a stop at the infamous black cast iron bridge that spans the River Kwai.
After lunch, you’ll take the journey to your next hotel, which really is something rather special. You’ll board a long tail boat and travel through spectacular jungle scenery until you reach your destination - a simple jungle raft floating on the river. You are guaranteed a peaceful time here as you go back-to-basics and the bustle of everyday life is replaced by the chatter of birds, the breeze in the tropical forest canopy and the rush of the river running beneath you. Your surroundings are softly illuminated come night time by simple oil lamps, making dinner and your overnight stay a most memorable experience. Please note that accommodation on the raft is charming, yet basic in style, and without electricity.
Breakfast this morning is served on the restaurant raft and then there is time for you to soak up the natural beauty of the area before you depart for Ayutthaya. This city was the capital of Siam from 1350 to 1767 and is home to the magnificent ruins of historic temples such as Wat Sri Sanpetch and Wat Yai Chai Mongkol. After an included tour, transfer to your hotel for an overnight stay.
Your journey continues after breakfast this morning as you leave Ayutthaya and travel on to Uthai Thani. You will see beautiful scenery and bamboo floating houses pass by as you are served lunch on a short cruise on the Sakae Krang River. After lunch you will visit Wat Tha Soong. Originally Wat Chan and a small temple on the river, its history has seen it abandoned and then renovated, to include a glittering main shrine hall where the walls, pillars and the ceiling are adorned with mirrored mosaics. From here, you will proceed to Phitsanuloke where overnight accommodation has been arranged.
This morning’s drive will take you from Phitsanuloke to Chiang Rai with a brief stop in the ancient capital of Siam, Sukhothai. After lunch your journey continues with a drive through jungle-clad mountains to Chiang Rai, where you arrive in the early evening after a long yet extremely rewarding day. You will stay here for the next two nights.
A morning of exploration is yours as we introduce you to some of the villages which are home to the tribes of this mountainous area. You will also visit Mae Sai, the most northerly point of Thailand, which is located on the border with Burma. During the afternoon a short stop will be made at the ancient ruined city of Chiang Saen. An optional boat ride on the Mekong River is also available for those of you keen to explore further.
After a morning departure for the drive to Chiang Mai, where you will stay for the next two nights, you will be treated to a unique experience – lunch served in the serene surroundings of northern Thailand overlooking picturesque paddy fields.
More highlights are on the agenda after lunch with a drive to the Doi Suthep Temple, home to a holy relic of the Lord Buddha and considered by many to be the most sacred wat in northern Thailand.
We have left today free so you can spend your time relaxing. However, you might choose to join our superb optional full-day excursion to Mae Sa elephant camp, an orchid farm and a handicraft village. At the camp you will see a demonstration of working elephants and have the opportunity to ride one of these charming creatures. After this wonderful experience you will visit a large orchid nursery and butterfly farm as well as a local handicraft village, for which Chiang Mai is famous. Here you can watch as items are expertly crafted in silk, paper and lacquerware and purchase souvenirs to take home.
Your holiday comes to an end today as you transfer to the airport for your flight back to the UK via Bangkok. As you will be flying westwards your arrival is later the same day.