Day 1 – Arrive in Bangkok, Thailand. Welcome to Thailand’s capital city! Hotel rooms are available for mid-afternoon check-in.
Day 2 – Bangkok. Today’s sightseeing starts with a BOAT RIDE through the klongs, Bangkok’s canals, to see family homes, temples, and the way of life that gives this city the nickname “Venice of the East.” Stop at Wat Arun, the TEMPLE OF THE DAWN, whose 260-foot-tall spire has become identified with Bangkok. Continue on to the GRAND PALACE, comprised of the Funeral Palace, the Reception Palace, the Throne Hall, the Coronation Hall, the Royal Guest House, and the TEMPLE OF THE EMERALD BUDDHA. Last stop is at the TEMPLE OF THE RECLINING BUDDHA, the oldest and largest Buddhist temple in Bangkok. It houses more than 1,000 Buddha images, including the 49-foot-high and 151-foot long massive Reclining Buddha. This evening, enjoy a special THAI WELCOME DINNER featuring traditional cuisine and dancers performing stories from classical Thai literature.
Day 3 – Bangkok. Today is at your leisure to explore Bangkok. Perhaps join an optional tour to the Jim Thompson House and silk shop or enjoy a dinner cruise aboard a luxurious teak barge along the Chao Phraya River. Your Tour Director will have plenty of recommendations.
Day 4 – Bangkok – Excursion to Damnoen Saduak Floating Market – Chiang Rai. This morning, travel to DAMNOEN SADUAK FLOATING MARKET. This colorful market provides an interesting glimpse into local life. Take a longtail BOAT RIDE through the canals filled with small, flat boats expertly paddled by mature ladies who are ready to stop and bargain at a moment’s notice. Later, fly to Chiang Rai.
Day 5 – Chiang Rai. Excursion to the Golden Triangle. Today, climb narrow mountain roads with stunning views and visit several villages en route to DOI MAE SALONG, a settlement founded by Kuomintang soldiers who fled China in 1949. Continue to MAE SAI, a market town on the Myanmar border, then drive to the renowned GOLDEN TRIANGLE, where the Ruak and mighty Mekong Rivers meet. Enjoy views over Myanmar, Laos, and Thailand, and consider an optional boat trip on the Mekong River. Next, visit the HALL OF OPIUM, built to educate people on the history of opium in the area and to help combat illegal drugs. En route back to Chiang Rai, stop in CHIANG SAEN, where you can still see evidence of the original 13th-century city. Tonight, take a TRISHAW RIDE and WALKING TOUR through the local NIGHT BAZAAR.
Day 6 – Chiang Rai – Hill Tribe Visits – Ban Thaton. This morning you have some free time in Chiang Rai before taking a BOAT RIDE on the Kok River. Then, drive to visit several HILL TRIBE VILLAGES. The AKHA are known for gorgeous headdresses decorated with silver coins and the LAHU are skilled hunters and masters of herbal medicine. Continue on to a KAREN VILLAGE, home to the PADAUNG LONG-NECKED WOMEN. Early in life, brass rings are placed on the necks and legs of the village girls. As they age and mature, additional rings are added, creating the visual illusion of stretching their necks.You will also visit the LISU, who like to settle high in the mountains.
Day 7 – Ban Thaton – Chiang Mai. A short drive this morning brings you to Chiang Mai, Thailand’s second largest city. For lunch, participate in a THAI COOKING CLASS, where you will learn how to make several local dishes. The afternoon is at your leisure. After a long day, enjoy a TRADITIONAL THAI MASSAGE at your hotel.
Day 8 – Chiang Mai. Rise early this morning to witness and participate in the ALMSGIVING CEREMONY, a very special Thai custom. Each morning before dawn, Buddhist monks don their distinctive saffron-colored robes and walk along the streets, carrying alms bowls and receiving boiled rice and condiment donations. Personally present alms to the monks, and you will receive their blessings! After breakfast in the hotel, drive up a winding mountain road to visit the WHITE HMONG PEOPLE, another of northern Thailand’s unique hill tribes. Here you will witness life in the village and visit a local school (if in session). Then, visit the temple of WAT PHRA THAT DOI SUTHEP, which offers a spectacular view of Chiang Mai and the surrounding valley.
NOTE: You will travel on rough dirt roads in a utility pick-up truck to visit the White Hmong people.
Day 9 – Chiang Mai. This morning, visit an ORCHID FARM and an ELEPHANT CAMP. Here you will see skilled mahouts show how elephants have worked for centuries and you will RIDE AN ELEPHANT through the jungle. For the more adventurous, perhaps join the optional float trip on handmade bamboo rafts. You have time this afternoon for independent exploration. Tonight, join your traveling companions for a KHANTOKE DINNER & SHOW, featuring local cuisine and traditional music and dance celebrating the Lanna Kingdom, which ruled northern Thailand from the 13th to the 18th centuries.
Day 10 – Chiang Mai – Siem Reap, Cambodia. Today, fly via Bangkok to Siem Reap, your base for exploring the temples of Angkor.
Day 11 – Siem Reap. This morning, start your sightseeing of the TEMPLES OF ANGKOR. Constructed between the 9th and 13th centuries, the temples were built around the Khmer interpretations of Indian religious and political beliefs that ultimately evolved from Hinduism to Buddhism. The complex architectural grandeur of the Angkor temples is arguably unmatched among ancient ruins anywhere in the world. First, visit the best preserved and most famous of all the temples, ANGKOR WAT, honoring the Hindu god Vishnu. Featuring five trademark towers and stunning bas reliefs, it has become a symbol of Cambodia. Next stop is ANGKOR THOM to see the BAYON TEMPLE. One of the few Buddhist temples in Angkor, it features some 200 striking faces carved in 54 towers and impressive bas reliefs. The rest of the afternoon is at leisure. This evening, witness one of the world’s most amazing experiences: sunset at Angkor Wat!
Day 12 – Siem Reap. Today, continue your sightseeing of the Angkor temples. Visit BANTEAY SREI, a unique temple dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva that was built on a small scale from red sandstone, which can be carved like wood. Unlike the other temples, TA PROHM has been left relatively untouched. Surrounded by jungle, tree roots grow over and through the ruin walls, and you will experience the temple with the same wonder as the early explorers who discovered it. This afternoon, enjoy a CRUISE on Tonle Sap (Great Lake), where you will see a floating village and get a glimpse of life on the water. This evening is at your leisure to explore charming Siem Reap.
Day 13 – Siem Reap – Phuket, Thailand. Today, fly via Bangkok to Phuket. The rest of the day is at leisure.
Day 14 – Phuket. This morning, a sightseeing tour takes you around Phuket Island. Visit PHUKET TOWN with its Malacca-style houses and bustling markets before stopping to admire one of Phuket’s most famous temples. The remainder of the day is at your leisure.
Day 15 – Phuket. Today, enjoy a full day at your leisure to explore Phuket, enjoy beach activities, or simply relax.
Day 16 – Phuket – Bangkok. Today, fly to Bangkok. The rest of the day is at leisure.
Day 17 – Bangkok. Your tour ends with breakfast this morning.