Thailand is a rush for your senses: a bustling, exotic, and vivid culture that never ceases to amaze visitors. On this cultural tour, you'll visit Thailand's gilded temples, one more gorgeous than the next, in the cities of Bangkok, Ayutthaya, and Chiang Mai. Other highlights include a cruise through Bangkok's canals, an opportunity to ride an elephant through the jungle, and exciting shopping opportunities in Chiang Mai's famous night bazaar.
Continue north to the "Golden Triangle," where the borders of Thailand, Laos and Myanmar (Burma) meet, an area famous for its colorful hill tribes. Crossing the border into Laos, board a cruise boat for a 2-day trip down the Mekong River to Luang Prabang.
Laos is less developed than Thailand and offers travelers an unparalleled glimpse of traditional Southeast Asian life. In Luang Prabang, well-preserved French architecture blends with more than 30 gilded Buddhist temples to create a town rich in atmosphere and history, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Day 1 - BANGKOK
Arrive at Bangkok International Airport. Upon clearing customs and immigration, you are met by our tour guide who will greet and assist you in the arrival hall. Transfer to you hotel, where the rest of the day is at leisure. Normal check-in time at the hotel is 2:00.
The Peninsula Bangkok – 3 nights
Day 2 - BANGKOK
After breakfast, travel by long-tail speed boat on the picturesque Chao Phraya River and klongs (canals) to see the serene family houses and temples along the waterways that give this city the name “Venice of the East.” Visit the elegant Temple of Dawn, whose 79-m spire silhouette has become a symbol of Bangkok. We will stop at a neighborhood monastery to learn about Thai Buddhism and at an old wooden schoolhouse where kids delight in visitors.
After lunch, visit the Grand Palace, a lavish, awe-inspiring monument of tapering gilded spires, majestic pavilions, dazzling murals, and brilliant colors. A glorious example of Thai architecture through the ages, the Grand Palace is a feast for the senses. Housed in its own temple, the Emerald Buddha is the most sacred image of the Buddha in Thailand and is believed to guarantee the independence and prosperity of the nation.
Bangkok is a shopper’s paradise, and few visitors leave the city without a few trinkets. The itinerary can be varied to suit the desires of the guests and the time available. Points most frequently selected include a silk factory, major shopping mall, antique shops, etc. At night, enjoy a Thai Dinner at Supattra River House.
The Peninsula Bangkok (B, L, D)
Day 3 - BANGKOK-AYUTTHAYA-BANGKOK
After breakfast, depart from Bangkok by road through the countryside heading north toward Ayutthaya, the former capital of Siam. A truly fabulous kingdom for 417 years (1350-1767), it was built on what Sukhothai had begun and carried onward with remarkable flair and panache and set the standard for Bangkok. At the magnificent ruins, you can see the largest Buddha image of Phra Mongkhon Bophit.
Continue to Bang Pa-In Summer Palace of King Rama V, consisting of buildings in a quaint mixture of European and Thai architecture. You will have a chance to visit the interior of Chinese Wehat Chamrun Palace.
Cruise back to Bangkok on the Chao Phaya River aboard the luxurious Horizon Cruise (or similar). En route, observe the scenic beauty and friendliness of the canal folks as you enjoy a sumptuous lunch.
Enjoy Thai dinner with a cultural performance at Sala Rim Nam Restaurant on the opposite bank of the Chao Phraya River from the Oriental Hotel. A richly decorated traditional Thai pavilion sets the stage for an appreciation of two of the Kingdom’s most rewarding cultural experiences, Thai cuisine and classical dance.
The Peninsula Bangkok (B, L, D)
Day 4 - BANGKOK-CHIANG MAI
This morning you will be transferred to the airport for the flight to Chiang Mai. Thailand’s second largest city, Chiang Mai seems able to combine the relaxed, slow motion world of a Thai village with the facilities and sights of a big city. The rich, olorful history is still evident in the architecture that includes more than 300 wats (temples). The most significant and interesting are located within the city walls.
Near the summit of Doi Suthep, a 1600 meter peak named after the hermit Sudeva who lived on the mountain's slopes for many years, is the 600 year old temple of Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. After a drive up the mountain's winding road, the final climb is via a magnificent Naga (dragon-headed serpent) staircase of 306 steps. Inside the cloisters is an intriguing copper-plated chedi topped by a five-tier gold umbrella which contains partial relics of Lord Buddha. On a clear day, there are incomparable views over the city of Chiang Mai from the grounds of the temple.
Other temple visits on this tour include Wat Jet Yot dating back to the mid 15th century and whose seven spires represent the seven weeks Buddha spent in Bodhgaya after his enlightenment. Wat Suan Dok whose large central stupa contains a Buddha relic which supposedly self-multiplied! One of these was mounted on the back of a white elephant that was allowed to wander until it chose a site on which a Wat could be built to shelter it. The elephant stopped and died at a spot on Doi Suthep, where Wat Prathat Doi Suthep was built. Wat Chiang Man, the oldest in the city, features typical northern Thai architecture with massive teak columns inside.
Tonight enjoy dinner at Le Grand Lanna. Ancient Lanna culture has been the foundation of northern Thai lifestyle for almost a thousand years. There is no better way to experience the atmosphere and ideals than at Le Grand Lanna. Modeled after the original architectural design, this teak restaurant is set in 28 acres of beautiful garden. After dinner, visit the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar. With its wide range of goods at competitive prices, this easily rivals Bangkok’s Chatuchak Market. Inside are endless stalls selling hill tribe crafts, leather goods and clothing.
Four Seasons Chiang Mai Resort – 2 nights (B, L, D)
Day 5 - CHIANG MAI
Today you have a choice of two full day excursions from Chiang Mai.
Option #1: Doi Inthanon National Park, home to the highest mountain in Thailand (2,565 meters). The park offers beautiful scenery, evergreen forests, dwarf rhododendron groves and many types of habitat. The area is popular for bird-watching, with nearly 400 species, many from North Asia including mountain hawks and Eurasian woodcocks. Other stops along the winding road include Karen hill tribe villages, Wachiratharn waterfall and the twin chedi built by the Thai Air Force to commemorate King Bhumibol and Queen Sirikit. Lunch is included.
Option #2: Visit the Chiang Dao Elephant Training Center to see the show. Enjoy an elephant ride across the Ping River and uphill for about one hour. Then your rafting adventure begins and lasts for approximately 45 minutes along the Ping River and makes a trip by oxcart. Lunch will be served. Next, travel to the orchid farm to view many species.
Four Seasons Chiang Mai Resort (B, L if on tour)
Day 6 - CHIANG MAI-CHIANG RAI
This morning, drive north to Chiang Rai through mountain scenery via Mae Ka Chan, famous for its hot springs. Around noon, arrive at the Golden Triangle and have lunch at a Anantara Resort & Spa. During your two nights stays you have the option to choose two (2) of the following activities:
1. Spa Treatment
2. Elephant and Mahout Training
3.Three Country Tour
4. Cooking Class
Dinner will be served at the resort.
Anantara Resort & Spa Golden Triangle – 2 nights (B, L, D)
Day 7 - CHIANG RAI
Today is for your second chosen resort activity.
Anantara Resort & Spa Golden Triangle – 2 nights (B, L, D)
Day 8 - CHIANG RAI-HUAY XAI-PAKBENG
Depart from the hotel early this morning to drive to Chiang Khong, located along Thailand’s border with Laos. A stop will be made at the Immigration office in Tha Buck to process your documents. Crossing by boat, you will be met by a representative of Luang Say Cruise to assist you with Laos Immigration procedures.
Heading back down to the riverbank, it is time to board your cruise boat for a two-day trip down the mighty Mekong River. A few stops are made along the way to take a closer look at village life along one of the most important lifelines of the region. Lunch will be served on board. Late in the afternoon we arrive in Pakbeng, a small river trading town, and check into your accommodation for the evening. Dinner is served at the lodge.
Luang Say Lodge is built on the shores of the Mekong in the traditional Lao style of solid wood. The lodge features 16 pavilions with a total of 19 rooms. Each has a terrace offering a fabulous view over the Mekong River and Valley with a private bathroom and fans.
Luang Say Lodge – 1 night (B, L, D)
Day 9 - PAKBENG-LUANG PRABANG
After breakfast, take a morning stroll through the Pakbeng market to view the wares that are brought to town by people from the surrounding villages. Then board the cruise boat for the second part of the journey along the tranquil Mekong River.
After lunch on board, we stop at the village of Ban Xang Hi for a lesson in how rice whiskey is made. Then it's on to Pak Ou ("Mouth of the River"), home of the famous Pak Ou caves. Overlooking the confluence of the Mekong and Ou Rivers, the area has been home to thousands of Buddha images that were placed here by local people since the 16th century, when King Setthathirat declared them a holy spot. Our voyage ends in Luang Prabang in the late afternoon. A short transfer brings you to the hotel for check-in. This evening enjoy dinner at Le Elephant, a popular restaurant for local and French cuisine and wine.
La Residence Phou Vao – 3 nights (B, D)
Day 10 - LUANG PRABANG
Today you will visit some of Luang Prabang’s priceless monuments on a walking tour around the old city, now under UNESCO protection as a World Heritage Site. Wat Xieng Thong, renowned as the most beautiful of Luang Prabang’s temples, is the first stop. Next, visit Wat Visoun, the site of impressive Thad Makmo Stupa. The rounded dome is stylistically more Sinhalese than Lao. Then it's off to the National Museum, once a king's palace. Displayed inside is a lovely collection of personal artifacts of the royal family, including photos, musical instruments and many gifts received from the dignitaries of foreign countries, giving insight into the rich past of this nation.
Phou Si Hillstands right in the center of this small city. Climb its 350 steps to enjoy commanding views for many miles in each direction. Wat Phu Si sits atop the mountain, alongside the skeletons of anti-aircraft guns, remnants of the Indochina war. Continue on to visit Wat Mai. Built in 1796, the five-tiered roof of the wooden Sim (chapel) epitomizes the graceful Luang Prabang architectural style.
The remainder of the afternoon is free to explore on your own or just relax.
La Residence Phou Vao (B)
Day 11 - LUANG PRABANG
If you do not mind an early start this morning, rise at dawn to witness the spectacle of “Alms Giving” whereby local monks and novices move silently through the streets accepting offerings of food from local villagers. Return to the hotel for breakfast.
After breakfast, drive by private car with your guide up to the Tad Khuang Si waterfall. The falls cascade over many calcified tiers and down several hundred feet into a series of cool, turquoise pools. The water has a clear blue-green tint due to the high mineral content. You can climb the stairs and look down from various viewpoints on the way to the top. Enjoy a picnic lunch and a refreshing dip.
On the return journey, stop at Ban Phanom, a local village specializing in Lao weaving. Famed for the production of local textiles on ancient wooden looms, this village was once the base for crafting silks for the Royal Palace.
Return to Luang Prabang, where the remainder of the day is at leisure. As it is the last night in Laos, try a traditional Lao BBQ “sin daht” at the Nam Dong restaurant. You are given the raw ingredients to cook a steaming “hot pot BBQ” at your own table. It is a lot of fun and very delicious!
La Residence Phou Vao (B, L, D)
Day 12 - LUANG PRABANG
After breakfast at your hotel, the morning is at leisure until you are transferred to Luang Prabang airport.
*** THIS IS A PROPOSAL ONLY AND IS SUBJECT TO AVAILABILITY AT THE TIME OF CONFIRMATION. WE ARE NOT HOLDING ANY SPACES FOR THIS ITINERARY AT THIS TIME. ***
Depart any day! Contact an iExplore Adventure Consultant for details.
|Dates||1 passenger||2 pax||3-4 pax||single supplement|
|Jan 1- Feb 29, 2012||10699||6599||6399||2466|
|Mar 1-31, 2012||10099||6399||5999||2299|
|April 1-20, 2012; July 1- Aug 31, 2012||9699||5999||5639||2049|
|May 1-June 30, 2012; Sept 1-30, 2012||9099||5639||5639||2049|
|Oct 1-31, 2012||9899||6099||5799||2099|
** The Luang Say Cruise operates on fixed departure dates:
|Arrival in Bangkok:||During the travel period of:|
|Mon/Thurs/Fri/Sun||Jan 1-April 23, 2012|
|Mon/Fri||April 24- Sept 21, 2012|
|Mon/Thurs/Fri/Sun||Sept 22- Oct 22, 2012|
- Accommodations as specified in the itinerary with breakfast daily
- Sightseeing by local English-speaking guides
- Accommodations as mentioned or equivalent
- Airfare in economy class: Bangkok to Chiang Mai
- Boat tickets as per the program
- Ground transportation by private A/C vehicle
- Sightseeing admission fees
- Choice of one of two optional tours in Chiang Mai
- International airfare and airport departure taxes
- Outbound flight from Luang Prabang on the last day
- Holiday surcharges
- Meals other than those indicated
- Drinks at meal times
- Items a personal nature (e.g. laundry, telephone, mini bar etc.)
- Gratuities to guides and drivers
- ravel Insurance
- Visa fees for Laos
All prices are in US dollars and do not include international airfare, unless otherwise noted.
Prices displayed are based on the lowest season base price and assume double occupancy. Prices are shown in U.S. dollars and may or may not include administrative fees, taxes, meals, airfare (where applicable) and Single Supplements. Cancellation penalties, blackout dates and other restrictions may apply.