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Travel through northern Thailand from Bangkok to Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai on this Classic Thailand trip. Starting in the bustling capital of Bangkok, explore the Grand Palace and the Chao Phraya River and its canals. Travel to Kanchanaburi to see Hell Fire Pass and the Bridge over the River Kwai, before exploring Ayutthaya, the ancient capital of Siam. Journey to Chiang Mai, the jewel of the north, where temples, night markets, elephants and bamboo rafts await. Explore further afield on your bicycle and gain an insight into Thai cuisine with a cooking class. Venture further north to Chiang Rai to see the Golden Triangle, the famed border area of Thailand, Laos and Myanmar (Burma), renowned for centuries as the centre of the opium trade, and meet the people of the Akha, Yao and the fascinating Padong (Karen long neck) hill tribes.
Our Classic itineraries cover the key attractions with carefully selected experiences to ensure you get the most out of your holiday. Classic itineraries include time for relaxation or for adding extra activities. Discuss itinerary options and extensions with our Asia Travel Experts.
You will meet your guide on arrival, transfer and check-in to your hotel. During the drive your guide will provide an introduction to Bangkok, answer any questions you have, and make arrangements for the following day. Enjoy free time for the remainder of the first day.
Situated on the banks of the Chao Phraya River, Bangkok, also known as the City of Angels, is a vibrant city with many and varied charms. From grand historic buildings to peaceful temples, from exciting markets to ritzy shopping malls and from towering skyscrapers to Chinese shop-houses, Bangkok is cosmopolitan and full of sharp contrasts.
Explore the streets by tuk-tuk, view the city by Skytrain or take to the water and cruise the river and its canals to experience traditional riverside life. Bangkok is never dull. Orange robed monks mingle with shoppers and businessmen, tuk-tuks weave in amongst limousines and fish is unloaded from wooden boats as the river flows through the centre of the city. In the evenings the streets are transformed into bustling markets and outdoor restaurants. The food choices are endless and range from fine dining in stylish contemporary restaurants to snacking with the locals at street hawker stalls.
Bangkok has many great restaurants, night markets and bars. Ask your guide for personal recommendations. It is also possible to unwind from your flight with a traditional Thai massage. Again your guide can advise you of options.
Itinerary Option: If you’re arriving to Bangkok in the morning, discuss additional day 1 activities with our staff.
Accompanied by your guide, enjoy a half day tour visiting two of Bangkok’s most notable landmarks, the Grand Palace and Wat Arun. Wander the peaceful grounds of Wat Arun, a Buddhist temple constructed between 1809 and 1851. Once the grand royal temple to King Rama II, Wat Arun, also referred to as the Temple of Dawn, is one of the most striking riverside landmarks of Thailand. The temple is decorated with pieces of porcelain previously used as ballast by boats coming to Bangkok from China.
Continue by boat over the river until you reach Ta Chang Pier and from there stroll to the Grand Palace or Wat Phra Kaeo. One of the most spectacular palaces in Asia, construction was begun in 1782 by King Rama I, after he moved the capital from Thonburi to Bangkok. The palace was the official residence of the Kings of Siam for 150 years and also housed the Royal Court and the administrative seat of government. Within the Grand Palace complex, Wat Phra Kaeo Royal Chapel houses the famous jade Emerald Buddha, the most revered Buddha image in Thailand, dating back to the 14th century. Thai people believe that as long as they remain keepers of the Emerald Buddha, their country will be safe.
After breakfast, leave Bangkok and head to Kanchanaburi province. The provincial capital of Kanchanaburi is set in a lush landscape on the banks of the river and framed by limestone hills.
On arrival, visit the infamous Bridge over the River Kwai and the Death Railway, built by Allied Prisoners Of War (POWs) under brutal Japanese occupation. Continue to the Second World War Cemetery, the final resting place of nearly 7,000 Australian, British and Dutch POWs who lost their lives during their incarceration and forced labour. Afterwards visit the Thai-Burma Railway Museum to gain an insight into their daily hardship experienced by the POWs.
After lunch take a historic one hour train ride through the thick jungle on the infamous Death Railway where you will be driven to your riverside hotel with a twist. If there is any sunlight left in your day, consider swimming or depending which hotel you select, hiring a canoe.
Itinerary Option: Your itinerary can be altered to include the Buddhist Monk Tiger Temple and/or the Floating Markets. Discuss options with our staff.
This morning sees us visiting Hellfire Pass, also known as Konyu Cutting, a railway cutting on the former “Death Railway” built by Allied Prisoners of War (POWs) during the Second World War. The Australian built complex consists of a memorial site located within Hellfire Pass, a Memorial Walking Trail and a museum. The museum exhibits artefacts and relates the story of the Thai-Burma Railway and the hardships and suffering endured by those men who were forced to work in such extremely harsh conditions.
After time to explore the site you transfer by road to the ancient Siam capital of Ayutthaya, set in central Thailand at the confluence of the Lopburi, Prasak and Chao Phraya Rivers. Ayutthaya, which was the capital of the Thai Kingdom for 417 years from the 14th to 18th centuries and a prosperous trade centre. The city was founded in 1350 by King U-Thong and in 1767 it was destroyed by the Burmese army, resulting in the collapse of the kingdom. At its height, Ayutthaya was surrounded by a 12 kilometre (7 mile) wall which was five metres thick, six metres high and boasted 99 gates, brick and clay roads and canals to transport water into the city. Nowadays the ruins of the former city are UNESCO World Heritage listed. Stroll around the ruins of Wat Pra Sri Sanphet, a former royal temple during Ayutthaya's days of glory and Wat Mahathat, where the roots of a tree surround the head of Buddha. Time permitting, explore the ruins of Wat Chai Wattanaram, a perfect example of Khmer architectural influence, Wat Na Phra Meru, the only original surviving temple and Wat Yai with a large reclining Buddha.
The day concludes with a transfer to the train station for the overnight train to Chiang Mai. Your guide will assist you onto the train and locate your assigned berth.
You will meet your guide on arrival and transfer to your hotel where you can freshen up and eat breakfast before departing for today's activities. Your guide will provide an introduction to Chiang Mai.
Located in the north of the country, Chiang Mai is the ancient walled provincial capital. It has been an important Buddhist centre since the 14th century and is home to over 300 temples. Surrounded by mountains it offers spectacular scenery for trekking on foot and by elephant, with opportunities to raft on jungle rivers and meet the colourful hill tribe minorities that inhabit the area. Many visitors come to Chiang Mai to attend meditation retreats, massage classes or yoga lessons. For those interested in handicrafts there are centres which specialise in silverwork, wood carving, pottery making and weaving. The renowned Night Bazaar comes alive in the evenings, a great place to sample the distinctive northern Thai cuisine.
Start today’s trip with a transfer to Wat Suan Dok, just outside the ancient city walls of Chiang Mai. The temple was built in the 14th century by King Keu Na of Lanna to accommodate important priests visiting from Sukhothai, as well as a place for local monks to shelter from the rain. There is a 48 metre (157 feet) high Sri Lankan style bell shaped chedi or pagoda and an open sided prayer hall. Continue to Wat Chedi Luang where the Emerald Buddha was once enshrined. This impressive temple was built between the 14th and 15th centuries and nowadays houses a replica of Thailand’s most important Buddha relic.
Wat Phra Singh, with its impressive prayer hall, is the next stop, perhaps the largest and most interesting of the temples in Chiang Mai. Built over 600 years ago, it was carefully restored in 2006 and now houses a very sacred 1,500 year old Buddha image. The prayer hall has an intricately carved front and there is a small library built on a high stone base with beautiful carvings. End the trip with a visit to Wat Phrathat on Doi Suthep Mountain, which was founded in 1383 AD, and which is probably Chiang Mai’s most well known temple. Built as a Buddhist monastery in 1383, it is still a working monastery today. Funds raised by donations support the monks and the maintenance of the temple buildings. The temple is crowned by an elaborate golden chedi and is reached by climbing the 309 steps of the Naga Serpent Staircase or by taking a cable car for a small surcharge. The climb to the top is rewarded with a superb panoramic view over the city. Return to the car park for the transfer back to Chiang Mai. The remainder of the day is free in Chiang Mai to explore or relax.
Today the focus is on elephants, Thailand’s most loved animal. Travel north of Chiang Mai to the Chiang Dao Elephant Training Camp, passing through the spectacular mountainous scenery that surrounds Chiang Mai. Arrive at the camp and watch the elephants taking their morning bath in a mountain stream, before seeing a demonstration which shows how elephants work in the jungle nearby and the kinds of tasks they undertake. Next it is time to enjoy a one hour elephant ride through the jungle that surrounds the camp, followed by lunch.
In the afternoon climb aboard the bamboo raft trip and float down the river taking in the tranquillity and beauty of the area. Set foot again on the mainland and transfer back to Chiang Mai.
Itinerary Option: Optionally upgrade to a visit to the Elephant Conservation project for the day where you spend time learning about the elephants, including bathing and feeding them.
Get off the beaten track and observe rural life on this half day cycling safari through south of Chiang Mai. Cycle along quiet roads, passing the former Lanna capital, Wiang Kum Kam, which was a fortified city built by King Mengrai and rediscovered in 1984. The city was abandoned 700 years ago due to seasonal flooding, and the capital was moved to Chiang Mai on the opposite side of the Ping River.
After exploring the ruins visit a Chinese temple and the McKean Rehabilitation Centre which previously housed a leper colony. The centre has been providing training and employment to people with leprosy for over 100 years. Skills taught include wood carving, paper and card making, punching tin and lacquer work. Cycle onwards to visit a monastery school where most of the pupils are hill tribe children.
Make a stop at a small pottery village to see pottery being produced by hand. Ride along the Ping River and take in the local atmosphere that makes Chiang Mai so special. Stop at a lolly factory to try some of the famous Chiang Mai rock candy and visit a market to try local exotic fruit and other snacks. Eat lunch in a local restaurant to end the trip.
The remainder of the day is free in Chiang Mai to explore or relax.
Itinerary Option: For those that prefer not to cycle, there are many other exciting half day or full day tour options available. Discuss options with our staff.
Discover the secrets of Thai cuisine during this half day cooking class. The class introduces you to the ingredients, preparation and cooking of traditional Thai food, and helps you better appreciate the subtle flavours, textures and traditional presentation. Your chef teaches you how to use classic Thai ingredients such as basil, lemongrass, tamarind, ginger, chilli and lime. Soups, salads, curries, satays and desserts are covered during the class. Learn how to stir fry, steam and serve food the Thai way. Enjoy eating your dishes before returning to your hotel.
The remainder of the day is free in Chiang Mai to explore or relax.
An early start today for the drive from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai over winding roads with incredible scenery. Visit the Padong hill tribe people, also known as the Karen Long Neck people. This tribe moved to Thailand from the Burmese border during the 1950’s and are known for the brass rings worn around the necks of the women. Continue the journey and visit the Yao people known for their opulent attire and jewellery that is often gold gilded. The last stop on the way is to visit the Akha people who have their roots traced back to the Yunnan region of South China. They have their own religious beliefs and practices based on animism and superstition. Lunch is served on the way at a local restaurant.
Arrive in Chiang Rai in the late afternoon and check into your hotel for some free time. Chiang Rai, nestled in the mountains of northern Thailand is the gateway to the infamous Golden Triangle border region of Thailand, Myanmar (Burma) and Laos. Smaller and quieter than Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai retains the feel of a small provincial Thai capital with far fewer tourists than you may see in other provincial centres. Situated in the old kingdom of Lanna, meaning land of a million rice fields, the area around Chiang Rai is home to many ethnic minority hill tribes including the Karen (long neck), Akha, Lahu and Yao. The houses in the hill tribe villages sell handmade products, in particular textile weaving, since tourism has replaced agriculture as their main source of income.
With an abundance of restaurants and the interesting night markets, Chiang Rai has plenty to see and do. Ask your guide for personal recommendations.
Today visit the famous Golden Triangle where the borders of Thailand, Myanmar (Burma) and Laos meet. With your guide you drive through beautiful scenery arriving at the top of a hill with magnificent views across the Golden Triangle, once the heart of the opium trade. At this point, the mighty Mekong River joins with the Ruak River and forms the "triangle" with Thailand, Laos and Myanmar (Burma).
Visit the border town of Mae Sai at the northernmost point of Thailand and the perfect spot to observe the border trade. Mae Sai is one of few official land crossings between Thailand and Burma and is therefore an important trade hub. Many Burmese come over daily from Thakhilek to work or do business before returning to Burma at dusk. Burmese lacquer ware, gems, jade and other goods from Laos and Burma are sold in shops along the main street.
The remainder of the day is free in Chiang Rai to explore or relax.
Itinerary Option: For more adventure consider upgrading to the full day trip that includes a boat trip along the river and lunch.
On your last day enjoy free time until your departure transfer.
Phone now to discuss options to personalise your itinerary.
Ideas to upgrade or extend your itinerary:
All Get About Asia trips have been designed to make sure you have an unforgettable travel experience. We have developed several trip styles to cater for our diverse range of travellers. Read what your ideal Get About Asia experience might look like here.
|Standard:||from AU $2,995|
|Superior:||from AU $3,544|
|Deluxe:||from AU $5,258|
All GetAboutAsia prices are based on twin share and depend on availability and season. All our itineraries can be customised including international flights and extra nights. For questions or further information, Enquire Now!
Hotels and overnight train (1 night) each night of the itinerary (excluding your departure day). All GetAboutAsia accommodation is handpicked by us. Upgrades are available for this itinerary.
Availability of accommodation and season.
|End:||Chiang Rai, Thailand|
|Physical:||Medium (light hiking)|
"Our Get About tour of Thailand was terrific, thank you. It was a very enjoyable & pretty well-executed experience - we had an absolute ball, & we thank you very much. Your own pre-trip service & attention was most appreciated - & of course, your experience & knowledge. Highlights - Thai people & culture (Thai people - beautiful .. ie: really extraordinarily lovely, gentle, caring, friendly, helpful, etc, etc); good food; great local value (cheap!); Highlights - History / geography .. Culture - a nice cross-section of locations / activities; Ayuthaya; Chiang Rai / Chiang Mai; Elephants in wild !!!; cooking class; zipling" — Christina and Jeff, Sydney, November 2017