Work up an appetite with a leisurely cycle through the ancient Buddhas and ruined temples of Heritage-listed Sukothai Park, then feast on a home-cooked picnic lunch. Experience daily rural life firsthand when staying with long-time Intrepid friends in a small Thai village. Support an important animal welfare initiative and get close to incredible creatures at the Chang Chill Elephant Park and the Gibbon Rehabilitation Centre. Pick up some impressive new culinary skills and taste delicious local dishes in a Thai cooking class
Combining the best of the north and south, this is the definitive Thailand tour. Travel from the clamour of the capital to the serenity of steamy rainforests; from atmospheric ruins to relaxed sun-drenched islands. Tour temples in Bangkok, bargain-hunt in lively Chiang Mai and then swim, snorkel or simply kick back on the divine beaches of the southern coast. This adventure is the perfect chance to visit the many attractions and treasures of Thailand.
Sa-wat dee! Welcome to Bangkok, Thailand's bustling capital. Bangkok is famous for its tuk tuks, khlong boats and street vendors serving up delicious Thai food. With no planned activities until your important welcome meeting at 6 pm, why not head out and explore. You could take a riverboat to Chinatown and explore the crowded streets, uncover the magnificent Grand Palace and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, wander down the tourist mecca of Khao San Road, or indulge in a Thai massage. After the meeting tonight, perhaps gather your fellow travellers together and tuck into some into world famous street food.
This morning, leave the current capital of Thailand and head north by train (approx 6 hours) and private mini van (approx 1 hour) to one of the first ancient capitals of Siam, Sukhothai. Located on a fertile plain, Sukhothai was established in the 13th century, and the name means the 'Dawn of Happiness'. It’s now famous for its World Heritage-listed historic park that celebrates the Golden Age of Thai civilisation. Tonight, be sure to head to the fascinating local night market and try the local dishes, like Sukhothai noodles.
Head out to the historical ruins of Old Sukhothai, set amid beautiful lakes and gardens. The religious art and architecture of the Sukhothai era are considered to be the most classic of Thai styles, and the Sukhothai Historical Park contains the remains of 21 historic sites, with awe-inspiring Buddha images and four large ponds often filled with stunning lotus flowers in full bloom. Upon arrival at the park, hire bicycles and enjoy a few leisurely hours feeling the breeze in your hair and learning about the history of this fascinating place. Enjoy a home-cooked picnic lunch somewhere along the way, and if you have enough free time, visit a local ceramics factory.
Travel by private minivan from Sukothai (approx 4 hours) to the warm and welcoming home of Intrepid's long-time friends in a small Thai village where you’ll spend the night. Accommodation at the homestay is multishare and basic (there will be fold-out mattresses on the floor and shared bathrooms), but there is no better way to better understand a country and its people. In the evening, you’ll be treated to a traditional northern Thai khantok dinner, accompanied by live music and dancing.
Village Homestay - Chiang Mai
In the morning, jump on some bikes and cruise around the homestay village. This is a great opportunity to see how the locals live, and you’ll make a few stops along the way to see small country industries in the area. Cycling past the rice fields and breathing in the fresh country air, with beautiful mountains in the distance, makes this morning a picture-postcard experience. Say goodbye to your new friends and travel on to Chiang Mai (approximately 45 minutes). The most vibrant city in northern Thailand, Chiang Mai has many famous temples and an interesting old city area. Renowned for dazzling beauty and extremely welcoming locals, the ‘Rose of the North’ will leave you spellbound. Chances are, you won’t want to leave. Tonight, why not head to the famous vibrant night markets!
Today you can enjoy a Thai cooking class! If you're a foodie, then you’ll discover some of the secrets of Thai cuisine, learn the key ingredients, how to use them, and what to use in their place if you can’t get them at home. As well as taking your own comprehensive recipe book with you after the class, you'll feast on the fruits of your labour for lunch. The rest of the day is free for you to explore Chiang Mai at leisure. Perhaps explore the famous temple complex of Doi Suthep. Drive along a scenic, winding mountain road that ends at an impressive 300-step naga-guarded stairway (approximately 45 mins). The rewards justify the climb with one of the most beautiful temples in Thailand on display, not to mention fantastic panoramic views of the city and the opportunity to listen to hypnotic evening chanting by resident Buddhist monks. Or maybe wander markets, meet monks, cruise the river, and slurp noodles on a Mae Ping River Experience.
Today, you’ll have a pretty special time visiting the ChiangChill elephant experience. Take a 1.5-hour drive out of Chiang Mai to ChiangChill, where you’ll begin to learn how this organisation supports the protection, conservation and lifestyle of free roaming elephants in the region. You’ll observe the daily patterns of these jungle giants from a safe distance, seeing how they graze and socialise with their other friends. The expert local guides will be able to give you a ‘live lecture’ on the elephants themselves, its sustainable tourism practices and conservation efforts in the area. Enjoy some refreshments nearby the elephant’s mud pit but be careful not to get a spray! Be treated to some lunch in a riverside sala (pavilion) alongside your giant friends, who will be enjoying a meal too. Return to Chiang Mai where the rest of the time is at leisure.
Today you will fly from Chiang Mai to Bangkok and then transfer to your hotel in Bangkok. Please note you will be unaccompanied on this flight. You will have the afternoon free to check out fast-paced and fascinating Bangkok. As this is a combination trip, your group leader and the composition of your group may change at this location. There will be a group meeting to discuss the next stage of your itinerary and you're welcome to attend, as this is a great chance to meet your new fellow travellers.
You’ll start today with a visit to Wat Arun – Temple of the Dawn. Named after the Indian God of Dawn – Aruna, this impressive landmark of Bangkok sits on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River. The rest of the afternoon is free for optional activities, and this city has so much to offer – perhaps head next door to the magnificent Grand Palace and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha or Wat Pho, home to the country's largest reclining Buddha and keeper of the magic behind Thai massage. You may want to take a riverboat to Chinatown and explore the crowded streets, or travel by longtail boat down the Chao Phraya River to explore the famous 'khlongs' (canals) of Bangkok. Life along these canals seems a world away from the chaotic streets of the capital. Tonight, board an overnight train southbound for Surat Thani (approximately 13 hours).
Arrive into Surat Thani this morning and continue by bus (approximately 2.5 hours) to the resort town of Ao Nang in Krabi Province. Ao Nang has a main street with open-air restaurants, shops that light up the sidewalk and bars perfect for kicking back with a beer. It’s also in a great position to hop on longtail boats to places like Railay Beach and the idyllic islands surrounding the bay. There's plenty of free time to relax on the beautiful beaches and get into the spirit of southern Thailand. You also might want to take advantage of some of the optional activities on offer, like a cycling trip that takes you on back country tracks, gets you close to local culture, and rewards you with a lovely afternoon dip in a beautiful waterfall. Otherwise, consider a relaxing massage on the beach (no kidding), or just sit back with a good book and a cool cocktail to watch the sun slip beneath the horizon. This is living.
This morning, head on an included sea kayaking trip to the mangrove forest of Ao Thalane. About halfway along the coast between Than Bok Khoranee and Krabi town is a bay of mangroves that might just be the most beautiful bay in Thailand. Surrounded by towering karst formations and many small offshore islands, move slowly through the bays and canyons that are like passageways, discover inlets, caves and hidden lagoons, and check out the local wildlife up-close – keep an eye out for the birds overhead and monkeys in the trees. If you have time today, you might want to explore the beautiful underwater world around Ao Nang with some scuba diving, which includes three dives. Or, learn about one of the most important parts of Thai culture with a cooking class. Tonight, why not grab some travel pals and stroll down the main drag to find a seafood restaurant.
Ko Yao Yai
Get ready to hop on island time today. Transfer by vehicle and ferry to Ko Yao Yai (approximately 2 hours). Set in the heart of Phang Nga Bay, the chilled-out island of Ko Yao Yai is a great place to relax away from the tourist trail and soak up all its natural wonder. Jump in a traditional songthaew to a local Thai village, and meet up with the locals who will show you how to make a traditional dessert of the region. Called Mor Khao Mor Kaeng Ling (‘Monkey Pot’), this small packaged dessert is made out of Nepenthes – a small pitcher plant – and then stuffed with sweet sticky rice and coconut milk. After tasting your creations and having a good old chat, continue on to a close by reforestation area, where a local guide will talk you through how the community has planted fruit trees to preserve their environment. Take an easy walk with the guide around the area, then head back in the village for a stroll and a home cooked lunch of typical southern style cuisine – hot and spicy! Continue to tonight’s beach resort for a relaxing afternoon.