Active Tour of Thailand
Departure from the chosen airport in the UK with connecting flights along the way.
On arrival in Bangkok, you pass through immigration, collect your bags and head out to the arrivals hall. Your guide waits here with an Asiatours sign, and you are driven to the hotel, where you will spend the next 2 nights.
Bangkok is both the capital of Thailand and its biggest city, with a population of about 12 million. The stretches across countless square kilometres and is located on a flat plain, with waterways criss-crossing throughout, the river Chao Phraya being by far the most important of these.
Bangkok is at once both historical and ultra-modern. It spans everything from chaos to order, from wooden houses on poles to designer skyscrapers, and there are classic attractions such as the Grand Palace and the Lying Buddha in the Wat Po Temple as well. And then there’s that unmistakeable Thai feeling that rests over it all. Bangkok is shrouded in tropical heat 24/7, and further shrouded still in the sometimes-cacophonous noise of its cars, buses and tuk-tuks.
Bangkok has countless markets stocked with everything from clothing to exotic fruit, street kitchens with spectacular food and busy businesspeople on their way from one meeting to the next. When it all seems like the world’s worst cocktail, that’s when the unmistakeable Thai atmosphere shows itself, when you see the orange-clad monks take alms walks in the early hours of dawn, mothers placing small tributes at the house temple, or when you ride in a rice barge away from the main river and see the lushness of nature along the canals. Most tourists lose their hearts here, to a city with something ineffably unique, and an arresting dynamism that leaves its mark on the population, traffic, waterways, markets and temples.
Late in the afternoon, an information meeting is held in the lobby of Hotel Narai, when our agent will tell you about Thailand, what to respect and what to be aware of. At the same time, he will answer any questions you may have and run through the tour itinerary. You will then go on a short walk, where the agent and a guide will point out cash machines, pharmacies, good places to eat, etc.
The rest of the evening is your own.
Overnight stay Narai Hotel
In the past, most daily trade in Thailand was done on and along the canals. It may therefore not be surprising that early European visitors and travelling merchants gave the city the nickname “The Venice of the East”. Today, Bangkok’s waterways, diverging from the main river Mae Nam Chao Phraya (the River of Kings), are also known as Bangkok’s “klongs”, and they remain essential to the local population. Yet the klongs possess a fantastic and utterly unique charm, and when you experience local life from the water’s edge, you will notice that construction along the banks face out, towards the water, and not in towards land.
The experiences of the day begin at what must be Bangkok and Thailand’s biggest cultural attraction, the royal Grand Palace. Built some 225 years ago, the beauty of the Grand Palace continues to defy description and must be experienced first-hand! The palace houses Thailand’s most sacred Buddha statue, made of one huge piece of shining green jade. Please note that there are special rules for attire at the royal palace.
From the Grand Palace, you proceed to Maenam Chao Phraya. Here you continue by local express boat to “old Bangkok”, Nontaburi. You arrive here 45 minutes later. At the local market, the guide finds some exotic tropical fruit for you to try. You then board a traditional long-tail boat which whisks you at high speed to Bang Yai – hold on to your hat and glasses! At Wat Bang Yai, you visit Bangkok’s second largest reclining Buddha. You experience a very different Bangkok here in Bang Yai. The streets are narrow and traffic is different.
From Bang Yai, you board another small long-tail boat with space for only four passengers. This boat takes you to another part of Bangkok, which in every possible way stands in stark contrast to central Bangkok’s dense settlement with skyscrapers and elevated road and train system. The waterways here are main artery, and Thailand’s verdant lushness can be seen at every turn.
You return to the hotel at the end of the day.
Overnight stay Narai Hotel
Today, a fascinating excursion lasting 3 days and 2 nights begins, taking you to the River Kwai, the town of Kanchanaburi and the vast jungle area surrounding it all. During World War II, a railway was built from Thailand to Myanmar (formerly Burma) under immense suffering and inhumane conditions. It took 18 months to build the 415-km railway line and during this period from 1942-43, approximately 100,000 conscripted Thais, Malayans, Chinese, Tamils and other Asians, as well as around 12,500 allied prisoners of war, lost their lives. The real-life story was later used in the famous novel “The Bridge over the River Kwai” written by Pierre Boulle and immortalised in a film.
You will be picked up at the hotel early in the morning to avoid the worst traffic out of Bangkok. If you do not wish to carry all your luggage with you, you can leave it safely in the hotel until you return to Bangkok and just bring a rucksack for the next two nights.
From Bangkok, you drive to Kanchanaburi, where you visit the War Museum, the war cemetery and the bridge over the River Kwai, albeit a somewhat younger version. Late morning, you arrive at Hintok River Camp, where you check in and then eat breakfast.
In the afternoon, you head for Hell Fire Pass, one of the hardest places on the route to build the railway, where the work took place around the clock. You walk from Hell Fire Pass to Hintok Station. From here, the tour heads back to Hintok River Camp, where you can enjoy the area and optional activities such as a bike ride to a nearby weaving village or farm.
Overnight stay Hin Tok River Camp
You wake up to the sounds of the jungle and the river and start the day by cycling to the nearby temple to give alms to the monks by placing food in their bowls. Afterwards, you cycle back to Hintok River Camp, where a hearty breakfast awaits you.
You check out and board a longtail boat and sail to River Kwai Jungle Rafts, a flotel or raft hotel on the Kwai itself. The landscape and the lushness along the river are almost indescribable – in several places, you will see 20-metre-high bamboo, as thick as a thigh at the base.
You visit a nearby ethnic Mon village, where the lifestyle has not changed much over time.
The afternoon is at your disposal. You can choose to relax at the flotel or enjoy some of the activity options.
Overnight stay River Kwai Jungle Rafts
You have morning at your disposal before sailing up the river to the quay where lunch awaits you. You then ride along a stretch of the Death Railway in some of the historic train carriages. The tour takes you along a raised stretch over the terrain built of teak. After the train ride, a bus takes you back to Bangkok, where you arrive between 6 and 7 pm.
Overnight stay Narai Hotel
After breakfast, you are picked up at the hotel and driven to the starting line for today’s cycling tour. Once the bicycles have been adjusted, and you have received your mandatory bicycle helmet, your guide tells you about the route, which is about 25 km long and which will proceed at a calm tempo over level terrain. The route starts inside the city, but once you cross the river, you begin to cycle along small roads and paths, through temples, gardens and jungles – there is no traffic here.
It’s hard to fathom, but there are many pockets of green, lush jungle in Bangkok. Across the Maenam Chao Phraya river, there is a fantastic location, known as Bang Kra Jao to the locals, and this untouched corner of Bangkok can only be reached by boat. When you cross the river to Bang Kra Jao, the experience is like sailing into another age and world. You sail into green, untamed vegetation, with banana trees, waterfalls, ferns and bamboo as thick as thighs. You learn about the tropical flowers and fruit on the way. There are small villages here where you can meet cheerful villagers, as well as a local mother who stands there with her child in her arm, happily waving at you. You also cycle past gorgeous temples, schools, and some floating markets that are rarely reached by tourists. Occasionally, you can make out Bangkok’s skyline in the background, and it seems almost like a prop, something utterly surreal. On the way, you make a stop at one of the most important temples in the area, which was built more than 250 years ago, during the Ayutthaya period.
After this fantastic and exciting cycling tour, which stands in stark contrast to the Bangkok you left that morning, you are driven back to the hotel, where you can take a bath and pack everything before you are again picked up and driven to Bangkok train station, where you will take the night train to Chiang Mai.
Travelling by train in a different country is always an experience. You meet many exciting people, and it is often a very common form of transport for the country’s inhabitants in Asia. This is very much the case in Thailand. The train carriages themselves are very clean and comfortable. A couchette consists of a number of screened off compartments – so not a cabin as such. When you want to sleep, the conductor comes along and changes your seat to a bed and pulls a curtain around you for privacy. All couchettes come with sheets and pillow cases in clean, freshly washed cotton and a washed, sealed blanket. There is luggage storage in your couchette.
If you become hungry on board, you can order food from the waiter/waitress who passes through the train. Another option is to bring your own food, or to eat at one of the restaurants at the train station before departure, which is often cheaper.
The train leaves Bangkok at 7.35 pm
Overnight stay Sleeper seat on the night train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai
You arrive in Chiang Mai at 08.40 am and are met by your guide at the main exit. You are driven to the hotel, where you will spend the next 4 nights.
In the afternoon, you will be picked up at the hotel and driven to the Nong Hoi Market, where fresh ingredients are purchased for the Baan Hongnual Cookery School and you learn about the different herbs, spices, vegetables and meat products. You are driven on to the Cookery School, located 15 minutes outside Chiang Mai. This is a cookery school with deep roots in the Lanna tradition. Over the next four hours, you will be given a brief introduction to Thai cooking with everything from spices to the cutting of fruit. You will learn which spices are good for your health in different areas, and it all takes place in a pleasant, warm and helpful atmosphere, which are important elements of the Lanna tradition. After the introduction, it’s your turn. Each participant is given his or her own area, and the chef demonstrates what you have to do. The cookery school
rounds off by you enjoying the dinner that you have helped create.
Overnight stay Duangtawan Hotel
Today, the tour continues to one of Northern Thailand’s beautiful and deeply sacred temples, Wat Prathat Doi Suthep, 15 km outside of Chiang Mai. It is a stunning golden pagoda containing relics of Buddha. You drive along an incredibly scenic road through the mountain landscape to the Doi Pui National Park. From here, you climb the 300 steps to the pagoda, which was built in 1383. From the temple, there is a beautiful view over Chiang Mai city. Please note that there is a special dress code at Doi Suthep.
In the afternoon, you go on a cycling trip, where you experience Chiang Mai off the beaten path. The route is about 25 km long, and proceeds at a calm pace over level terrain. The route starts inside the city, but once you cross the river, you begin to cycle along small roads along small villages and settlements.
You start by cycling past the Baan Padad Tai village along the Ping river, before crossing the Koh Klang bridge. The first stop is the Wat Koh Klang temple, where the guide tells you its exciting history.
The tour continues to the McKean Rehabilitation Center, which was founded in 1908. The centre is a leprosy rehabilitation clinic, where lepers could come if they had been ostracised from their families and society. Although there was no effective treatment for the illness, the founder James McKean requested permission to establish the centre so that patients would have a place to live. To this day, there are still people marked by this terrible disease who seek treatment and rehabilitation here. The centre has a small workshop, where they make beautiful post cards and wood carvings, which are available to buy at their small souvenir shop.
You cycle on to a local farmer, who grows organic fruits and vegetables. Here you rest a short while and are offered fresh fruit from the plantation, rejuvenating you for the rest of the tour. You may be so lucky that you cycle past a street vendor who sells popular Thai desserts; fried bananas and “kanom kai hong”, which are known as swan eggs and have a taste similar to doughnuts.
The cycling tour continues to the area’s gorgeous temples and ruins, and you experience Wat Changkam, Wat E-Kang, Wat That Khao, and more. The guide talks about them on the way, and he really knows his history!
The last stop on the tour is the lost city of Wiang Kun Kam, which is of great cultural and historical importance. This was the original capital of the Lanna empire, which was founded by King Mangrai. After a massive flood, the city disappeared without a trace, and the king moved the capital to Chiang Mai. Many believed that Wiang Kun Kam was simply an old wives’ tale, as the city was buried at a depth of 1-4-metres for over 200 years. It wasn’t until 1984 that the ruin was rediscovered and excavations began.
Afterwards, you cycle back to the beginning of the cycling trip and are driven back to the hotel.
At 18:00 this evening you are picked up at the hotel lobby for an information meeting at the “Trekkers’ Camp” Here you meet your trekking guide and the other trek participants, and you get some practical information on the tour. You must bring a photocopy of your passport for your guide, to use with the authorities to get your trekking permission. It’s a good idea to bring a sarong for your trek.
Overnight stay Duangtawan Hotel
For the next 3 days, you will be trekking through the jungle in the mountains of Mae Taeng. While you hike through the incredible nature of the rolling mountains, you will encounter several ethnic minorities in their own villages, and you will learn about their lifestyle, language, and overall way of life.
The mountains on this tour are most reminiscent of large, soft hills, with no jagged cliffs in sight. You pass through both dense jungle and more open forest landscapes, as well as the villagers’ own fields. The path goes up and down, and from the hilltops, there is an excellent view of the mountains. Around the villages there are pigs in enclosures, while in the hills you may pass watering holes and water buffalo – or more likely, you will simply see a few birds.
Temperatures vary from season to season – it’s hot during the day all year round, between 30° C and 40° C, but in the hottest months, from March to May, the temperature can go as high as 43° C. The dense jungle is humid and there is no breeze; though you will get some breeze when you climb the hilltops. During the 3 winter months from December to February, it can get cold at night. The route is at its most challenging in the rainy season, when the paths can get quite muddy. In total, you hike about 15 km over the course of 3 days.
The trip can be completed by anyone in normal health conditions without any impaired mobility. You will carry your own bags during the trek, and we recommend you follow the packing list in our practical information. At the start of the trekking tour, you receive a life jacket that you will be taking along as well. The life jacket will be used for the rafting trip on the third day of the trek.
You spend the night in the mountain villages in a primitive, dormitory-like rooms. There’s no air conditioning, no Western-style toilets, no Western-style bathrooms, no Wi-Fi, no power – there is a bathroom and a mattress with a pillow and blanket on the floor and a mosquito net – and basically nothing else. And that’s exactly what makes for such a great experience for a few nights – the villagers live like this their entire lives!
Please note that local conditions in the mountains and the villages may cause the trek to be different than as described, so other, similar villages will be visited instead.
The guide picks you up at the hotel and you drive from Chiang Mai to a colourful and exotic local market in the mountains. This is where the various mountain tribes meet, and buy and sell their wares, typically fruit and vegetables. From here you drive to the Mok Fah waterfall, where you have a chance to take a refreshing dip in the water before you have lunch at a Karen village. After lunch, you drive for half an hour to Huay Nam Dung National Park The trek starts here. You walk for about 2 hours to reach the Karen village Baan Mae Jok, where you spend the night. Dinner is prepared and served here under very simple conditions. You sleep in a very simple hut, just as the villagers themselves do.
Overnight stay a village hut, in the mountains near Mae Tang
You wake to the sounds of the village and enjoy a quiet morning. After breakfast, you trek for 3 to 4 hours to Baan Khao Laam, another Karen village, where you will spend the coming night. The Karen are the largest ethnic minority in Thailand, and they’re famous for their knowledge of elephants. This afternoon you will go around the village to see how they live and spend their time here. You will also have the option of helping the locals feed and bathe the elephants in the river.
Overnight stay a village hut, in the mountains near Mae Tang
Today an exciting rafting trip on the Taeng river awaits. The rafting trip lasts 3 to 4 hours, and we recommend you wear your bathing suit, as you will definitely get wet. On the way, you stop at a Shan village and possibly also a Lahu village; both the Shan and the Lahu are ethnic minorities here in Northern Thailand, and are considered to be “mountain tribes”. The rafting trip concludes in a Shan village, from which the tour returns by car to Chiang Mai, where the hotel’s modern facilities, e.g. its bathtub and toilet, await you. The experience you had will be with you for life.
Overnight stay Duangtawan Hotel
You are picked up at the hotel and driven to Chiang Mai Airport – a drive of around 25 minutes. From here, you fly via Bangkok on to the UK with connecting flights along the way.
Per person in a double room: £420
Per child under 12: £395
Single room surcharge: £190
Koh Samui is located in the Gulf of Thailand and at 228.7 km2 is Thailand’s third largest island.
Up until the 1970s, Samui was little more than an unknown islandwith beautiful scenery and coconut plantations. There were no roads, and the only way of getting to and from the island was by the coconut cargo boat. That was how a group of backpackers experienced the unspoilt island, which they later wrote an article about in a travel guide. Other globe-trotting backpackers soon caught on about this hidden paradise, and little bamboo huts were built along the beaches. Over the next two decades, Samui underwent rapid development, with roads built, ferry routes opened and hotels constructed. In 1989, the first flight route to and from the island opened. After that, tourists began flocking to Samui, and more hotels and resorts were built. To maintain the idyllic bounty island vibe of the place, the government decided that no buildings should be higher than the coconut palms. Today, Samui has grown to become one of Thailand’s most visited and popular islands, attracting some 2 million tourists every year. The most famous beach on the island is Chaweng Beach, which stretches for 7 km along the east coast of Samui. Here, you will find fine sandy beaches, turquoise-blue waters and swaying coconut palms.
Chaweng is known for its vibrant centre with restaurants, cafés, nightlife and excellent shopping.
On this beach holiday extension, you will stay in the southern part of Chaweng, which is called Chaweng Noi. Chaweng Noi is considered to be the most idyllic part of Chaweng, where relaxation and tranquillity are the order of the day. And when you need a little more life around you, you can either take the hotel shuttle bus, a taxi or walk into lively Chaweng, located 2 km away.
The most popular sights on Samui are the 12-metre tall, gilded Buddhist statue, the mummified monk, the 18-metre Namuang waterfall and the island’s local markets.
The population of Samui is a mix of Thai, Chinese, Lao and Burmese people, so you will also see temples, churches and mosques.
Thanks to the mixed population, the local eateries represent a variety of different and exciting food cultures.
Don’t do yourself out of a stay on this beautiful coconut island.
Overnight stay The Fair House Beach Resort & Hotel
Per person in a double room: + £420
Per child u/12 years: + £385
Single room surcharge: + £245
Cha Am is a small, quiet town, 27 km north of Hua Hin and 175 km south of Bangkok. The resort is not lined with lively bars and various shops as in many other holiday resorts, so you can simply enjoy the peace and quiet and laid back atmosphere on the long, child-friendly, sandy beach, where various water sports activities are also available.
15 km outside Cha Am lies the Greek-inspired Santorini Park with its iconic whitewashed houses with blue doors and shutters. The park functions both as an amusement park and outdoor shopping centre with shops, eateries and art.
If you need a little more life around you, you can visit Hua Hin, which is a 20-minute drive away. Along the beach, you can explore the small stalls that stand side by side restaurants serving tasty dishes and freshly caught fish and seafood. Hua Hin is especially well-known for its night market close to the train station, which is open every Wednesday. Here, you can buy everything between heaven and earth, from food to clothing and electronics.
It is also possible to book exciting excursions at the hotel.
Overnight stay Veranda Resort & Spa
Per person in a double room: + £520
Per child u/12 years: + £485
Single room surcharge: + £190
Khao Lak is a 1 hour and 45-minute drive from Phuket airport. Despite the relatively short distance from the lively Phuket, Khao Lak is an entirely different world. Here you will find both calm and adventure.
Khao Lak consists of several connected beach areas that together comprise this gorgeous holiday paradise, with blue oceans on one side and lush rainforest on the other. You stay near Nang Thong Beach, the most popular area in Khao Lak. Here you can find souvenir shops, excursion arrangements, diving shops and restaurants serving fish, shellfish and delectable Thai dishes.
During your stay, you can look forward to some beautiful and relaxing days by the beach or by the hotel pool. If you would like to be active, take a hike in the nearby Khao Lak-Lam Ru National Park, or a diving/snorkelling trip to one of the best diving spots in the world; the Similan Islands, which are 1 hour and 15 minutes away by speedboat. These 9 islands have been named a national park, and are home to an impressive marine life with vividly colourful fish, whale sharks, sea turtles and skates, as well as untouched nature, alabaster beaches and crystal-clear water.
If you want an adventure, take a trip to Khao Sok National Park, about 65 km from Khao Lak. The park is comprised of a 739-square km area, and its rainforest is one of the oldest in the world. Khao Sok is a “must-see”, and is perhaps the most beautiful of Thailand’s national parks. Here you can see the exciting animal life of the park, and admire its gorgeous nature, which consists of the Cheow Lan Lake, the Sok River, deep valleys and limestone cliffs.
Here is a selection of optional tours for the Khao Sok National Park:
Overnight stay Centara Seaview Resort
Per person in a double room: + £425
Per child u/12 years: + £375
Single room surcharge: + £240
Rayong is 215 km south of Bangkok, and a 20-minute drive from the small fishing village of Ban Phe. Rayong is synonymous with calm and relaxation – here you can laze about on the long, child-friendly beach, Wang Kaew, or unwind at the hotel’s giant pool and its attached sandy beach while you think back on all the fantastic experiences you’ve had throughout your tour.
Take the free shuttle bus from the hotel, or hail a taxi, to Ban Phe, where you can take a stroll along the promenade. Here you can also meet local Thai people as they enjoy their picnic baskets in the shade of the trees. You can also go exploring around the many booths around the pier, where you can buy souvenirs, clothes, snacks, and much more. From here you can take a boat to the popular island Koh Samet, famous for its white sandy beaches and snorkelling. The hotel is also helpful, and offers exciting excursions in the area to places such as the lush national parks, idyllic waterfalls and limestone caves.
In the afternoon, you can take a walk along the beach and enjoy the sounds of the ocean in the beautiful sunset.
Overnight stay Marriott Resort & Spa