Highlights of Thailand
Today is the day you set off from your selected airport in the UK with connecting flights along the way.
You arrive at Bangkok’s International Airport, go through immigration and then pick up your luggage. Your guide is waiting for you in the arrivals hall, holding up an Asiatours sign. You are driven to the hotel where you will be staying the next two nights.
Late in the afternoon, awelcome meeting is held in the lobby of Hotel Narai, where 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
You will be picked up at the hotel and driven to Thailand’s biggest cultural attraction, the Grand Palace. Built some 225 years ago, the sumptuous palace still possesses an indescribable beauty that is best 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 royal palace, you walk down to the Mae Nam Chao Phraya River, where you take the local express boat to Nontaburi, arriving 45 minutes later. At the local market, the guide finds exotic tropical fruits and local snacks for your to sample. You then board a long-tail boat which whisks you at high speed to Bang Yai – hold on to your hats and glasses! At Wat Bang Yai, you visit Bangkok’s second largest reclining Buddha. It’s a very different Bangkok you experience here in Bang Yai – the streets are narrow and the traffic is different.
From Bang Yai, you board a small long-tail boat seating up to four people, which takes you along the canals. Today, the network of waterways in Bangkok, from the main river Mae Nam Chao Phraya (the River of the Kings), is also known as Bangkok’s “klongs”. In ancient times, most of the daily trading in Thailand took place on and along the canals, to such an extent that early European traders and visitors dubbed the city “the Venice of the East”.
The canals remain very important to the locals to this day and possesses a wonderful and unique charm. You experience local life from the water as you sail past postmen and traders. You will also see that the buildings along the banks face out towards the water and not in towards land. This part of Bangkok stands in stark contrast to central Bangkok’s dense settlement with skyscrapers and elevated road and train system. The waterways here are main arteries, 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 Hellfire Pass, one of the hardest places on the route to build the railway, where the work took place around the clock. You walk from Hellfire 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 take 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
You have the day at your disposal until late afternoon when you are driven to the train station. Here, you board the night train to Chiang Mai in northern Thailand, the second largest city in the country.
Travelling by train in another country is always a wonderful 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 eat before departure at one of the restaurants at the station or to bring your own, 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 be spending the next four 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 cookery school and you learn about the different herbs, spices, vegetables and meat products. You continue to the Baan Hongnual Cookery School, which is 15 minutes outside Chiang Mai. It 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, you start at one of north Thailand’s beautiful and very sacred temples, Wat Prathat Doi Suthep, 15 km outside 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.
After lunch, you drive to Chiang Mai’s largest market, Talat Warorot, which is a 2-minute walk from the city’s night market. Here, you can buy everything between heaven and earth, from fresh and dried fruit to shoes and clothes.
On your way back to the hotel, you visit two of Chiang Mai’s important temples, Wat Chedi Luang and Wat Phra Sing.
The rest of the day is your own.
Overnight stay Duangtawan Hotel
Today, a different and unforgettable visit awaits you – a visit to Elephant Care, around a 90-minute drive from Chiang Mai. As the name suggests, this is a place that takes good care of elephants and strives to let them live as naturally as possible. This is neither a circus, a show, nor an elephant camp. Elephant painting, riding and chains are prohibited here. You are not here to be entertained, but to gain an insight into the elephants’ daily lives and get right up close to these huge, intelligent creatures.
You are picked up at the hotel and driven to the village of Baan Meung Kud, north of Chiang Mai. On your arrival, you are given a set of clothes to resemble a traditional mahout. Before you meet the elephants, you have to go out and harvest food, which may be sugar cane, bananas or grass, depending on the season. After picking the food, you meet the elephants and are allowed to feed them. The guide tells you about their daily routines and habits. You also learn how to communicate with them and to read their body language.
After a delicious lunch, it’s time for the elephants to have a small snack, consisting of sticky balls of rice mixed with salt. Elephants love food, and are said to sleep just 3 hours a day and eat for the remaining 21 hours!
One of the highlights is when the elephants do down to cool down and be washed. This is not done with traditional sponges and soap, but with a piece of wood found only in northern Thailand called “keau saba”. When the wood is beaten well, it becomes soft and can be used as a sponge. The magic happens when the wood comes into contact with water and a kind of soap is extracted. The elephants love to be scrubbed and romp about playfully in the water with you.
When the sun is at its highest in the sky, you go for a walk in the woods with the elephants, where they find food themselves. After that, it is unfortunately time to say goodbye to both the elephants and the mahouts and head back to the hotel where the rest of the day is your own.
Remember to bring swimwear and dry clothes with you on this trip.
Overnight stay Duangtawan Hotel
You are picked up at the hotel after breakfast and driven north to the tribal village of Baan Tong Hill, where you gain a good and interesting insight into how the different mountain tribes live, including Lahu, Hmong, White Karen and Padaung (Long Neck), who are known for the brass rings around their necks. The women receive their first ring at the age of 5. Today it is tradition. In the past, the women did it to protect themselves from tiger attacks in the Myanmar mountain area on the border with Thailand. The village is surrounded by scenic rice fields, and the tribes live on both sides of the village in their wooden houses, where the women wearing traditional costumes display their handmade jewellery, wooden figures and woven rugs, which you have the opportunity to buy. Feel free to talk to them and learn about their history and fascinating culture.
You continue to Elephant Poo Poo Paper Park, a relatively new and unique attraction in Chiang Mai where you see all phases in the production of paper, which is made from the excrement of elephants, horses and cows, etc. The tour through the lush garden takes you through eight different pavilions, explaining each step of the fascinating, environmentally friendly process. Feel free to roll up your sleeves and help make your own piece of paper.
Lunch is served at a butterfly and orchid farm, where you can see more than 50 different colourful orchids. After lunch, you head for the Araksa tea plantation, which specialises in the high quality black tea, Assam. Here you will learn about the different processes and methods, and you are allowed to go out into the plantation and pick tea leaves with a bamboo basket on your back. The visit rounds off with a steaming cup of tea and a Thai snack.
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 back 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