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Last updated: 02/19/2009
This is an ideal Thailand itinerary for those hoping to travel extensively without breaking the bank. All of the journeys are undertaken by train, bus, or boat- keeping costs down.
Arrival in BangkokUpon your arrival in Bangkok you'll be transferred from the airport to your hotel. You'll stay in a simple lodge in the heart of Bangkok, only 10 minutes walk from lively Khao San Road. The rooms here are large with air-conditioning, and breakfast is included. Now is the perfect time to freshen up and settle in. Perhaps try an invigorating Thai fruit juice, take a quick look around the neighbourhood, and let your batteries recharge.
You'll spend today getting to know Bangkok - the City of Angels. The most important places of interest are easily reached by express boat, along the Chao Praya River. There is so much to see in Bangkok that it can difficult to know where to start. Here are a few handy hints to set you on your way...
You could begin your sight-seeing tour at the Buddhist temple of Wat Arun on the Chao Praya River and then visit the narrow streets of Chinatown. Buy a bowl of Chinese noodles and watch the world go by. You could then go shopping in Bangkok, which is abundant in silk, jewellery and clothing. If you're still a little stiff from the flight, you can drop in at the School of Massage, near Wat Po (the lying Buddha). If you take an herbal massage, you'll first be massaged and loosened up, and then gently rubbed with bundles of herbs. Bliss. This will certainly get your trip off to a very laid back start.
Bangkok - River Kwai
You'll make an early start this morning. After a bite of breakfast, you'll be collected by air-conditioned minibus and head for the River Kwai with your English-speaking guide. On the way, you'll stop for an hour at the famous floating market to watch the rowdy traders in action. After this, you'll travel to the famous âBridge over the River Kwai'. Here, you'll start your train journey over the remaining stretch of the infamous Burma Death Railway.
On arrival at the small station, a tasty lunch will be served and you'll step into a longtail boat. This boat will drift along the River Kwai, deep into the thick evergreen jungle. Just 40mins later, you'll arrive at your floating bamboo bungalows on the river. You'll have your own room with a swimming ladder and hammock. The river is safe for swimming, just be a little careful of the current. There is no electricity in these bungalows, and you'll eat an ambient dinner by the light of flickering oil lamps. Seated at long tables, you'll share the meal with your fellow travellers and discuss your experiences so far, while the jungle around you breathes with life.
River Kwai - Kanchanaburi
After a night in the midst of the jungle, you'll climb back into the boat. You'll then travel back along the river, reaching the fairytale Erawan Waterfalls an hour later (Â£6 entrance, paid locally). The waterfall cascades over seven different levels, with a staggering total height of 1500m. You'll reach the top of the falls, depending upon your walking speed, in about 1Â½ hours. Your efforts will be instantly rewarded, as you take in your enchanting location. You'll see sparkling water pools in light blue basins against a backdrop of limestone rocks, in which the water has carved out a sort of cave. You'll have a few hours of free time by the waterfall, to wander around wide-eyed or take a plunge in the shimmering pool.
The guide will then leave you at your hotel in Kanchanburi, which has a swimming pool in case you fancy a dip. You'll have enough time to visit the JEATH War Museum and the moving memorial dedicated to the victims of the infamous Burma Death Railway.
Kanchanaburi - Bangkok - Departure for Chiang Mai This morning, you can take it easy in Kanchanaburi, getting ready for the journey ahead. After a day spent entirely at your own leisure, you'll depart for Bangkok by minibus, arriving around 5pm.
From here, you'll take the overnight sleeper train to Chiang Mai- the cultural capital of the north. You'll travel in a comfortable second-class couchette, and the train has a restaurant car if you fancy dining on the rails. However, there are plenty of stalls at the station to stock up on snacks before you leave. There will many international travellers, as well as locals on this train into the northern. There promises to be an interesting mix of people on board and you'll have a chance to get to know your fellow travellers. After chatting and munching, let the train gently rock you to asleep. You'll be awoken an hour before arrival in Chiang Mai.
Arrival in Chiang Mai After a night on the tracks, you'll wake up in Chiang Mai, the gateway to the active north. You'll stay in a lovely hotel inside the city gates within walking distance of the buzzing night bazaar. Chiang Mai is a compact city, contained within a ring of walls, so it's not difficult to find your way around. The rest of the day is free for you to recover from the journey and explore this laidback city. In the evening, you can take a stroll to the wonderful night bazaar, which is usually teeming with traders. If you are thinking about having some clothes tailor-made in Thailand, this is the place to get it done. Just let them take your measurements and this evening and then, when you return from the trek, your new outfit will be waiting. Silk is the local speciality.
Chiang Mai Today, you'll spend the whole day in Chiang Mai, gathering all of your energy for the impending jungle trek. You can hire a bike and take a spin around the area, to the umbrella village, the elephant orphanage, and one of the many craft workshops. We can also highly recommend a trip to Doi Suthep, a Buddhist temple and pilgrimage centre 15km outside the city. The temple sits on top of a mountain that reaches an incredible height of 1600m. From the temple, you'll have a fantastic panoramic view over Chiang Mai and the surrounding landscape.
You can spend the rest of the day lazing by the pool and enjoying all the creature comforts while you still can. After all, tomorrow you'll head into the jungle, getting right back to basicsâ¦
Chiang Mai - Jungle trek At 8am this morning, you'll leave your hotel and travel to the starting point of your trek. This will take just over 3hrs. All of your meals are included for the duration of the hike, as is your English-speaking guide. As you'll be returning to the hotel in Chiang Mai, you can leave most of your baggage behind, taking only your essentials into the jungle. On the way, you'll stop at a local market for some last minute supplies. The drive will then take you to a shimmering waterfall for a quick refreshing dip. This is not the last dip of the day. After lunch, you'll visit some naturally hot springs where you can take an impromptu steam bath. You'll then continue into the mountains by road, until you reach the starting point of the hike. The first walk takes you steeply uphill, through overgrown jungle paths for roughly two hours. You'll stay overnight in a hut in a Karen village, far away from modernity as we know it. Your guide will cook you a tasty, well-earned dinner and sleep will come easily after your active day.
Elephant trek and hill tribe visit
Today, you'll be woken by the cocks crowing and the sound of pigs foraging around the huts. After breakfast, you'll set off on the longest and hardest hike from the village to the elephant camp (roughly 4 hours). Initially, there is a gentle uphill walk, past termite hills and onto flat paddy fields surrounded by tropical vegetation. There are wild mushrooms and herbs in this area, but be sure not to try any without the guide's approval. Once you reach the bamboo and teak trees, you'll start the first stiff uphill climb. After a while, the jungle trail flattens out, finally descending into the elephant village. After your lunch, prepared by your guide, it's time to take it easy and let the elephants do the work! You'll be amazed by the way that these enormous beasts tackle the most difficult of paths. After 1Â½ hours of swaying about, you arrive at a mixed Lahu/Akha village on the riverbank, where you can cool off with a splash around. Your evening meal is prepared for you, and you'll spend the night in another simple village hut.
Bamboo rafting - Return to Chiang Mai
After breakfast this morning, you'll travel downstream for about 2 hours on a bamboo raft. The river meanders through overgrown mountainsides and bare rocks cliffs, and on the way you'll see hundreds of wild banana trees. Your rafting trip finishes in a Shan village (ethnic Thai people from the Burmese state of Shan) where you can refresh yourself and stroll around the village. After lunch you'll be taken back to Chiang Mai by minibus, which will take about two hours. At the hotel, you'll be reunited with your luggage, and the rest of the day is free for you to wander around the cultural city or belt out a few ballads at karaoke.
Chiang Mai - Ayutthaya
After breakfast, you'll have time to recover from the hike, and the chances are high that you've got sore leg muscles, so we advise that you refrain from cycling or any other kind of energetic activity today. A good tip is to try a day's Thai cookery course. It's a few hours of good fun: in the morning you go with a cook to the market to buy the ingredients and then you learn how a wonderful Thai meal is prepared and created, all of which you take part in. Walk into our local agent's office before you go on the hike, if this sounds like something you'd like to do.
Otherwise, just relax with a day in town, or by the pool. In the afternoon, you can make your way to the railway station. After stocking up on a few snacks for the trip, you'll travel south to Ayutthaya on the overnight sleeper train that leaves at 4:30pm.
This morning, your train will pull into in the royal city of Ayutthaya, a World Heritage Site. You can take a taxi or tuk-tuk to Uncle Pan's Bungalows, where you'll stay in a quirky house on stilts. Your little bungalow will have its own veranda overlooking the spacious gardens.
In the 12th century, Ayutthaya was one of the most important kingdoms in Southeast Asia- a huge network of palaces, temples, spectacular junks and royal elephants eating from gold bowls. Eventually, the city lost its power and the temples were ransacked during the war with Burma. Today, you can visit some of the mystical Khmer temple complexes strewn around the city. Wat Phra Si Samphet, Wat Mahatat and Wat Mongkol Bophit are the best known ruins. These are draped in history and heavy with mystery.
Ayutthaya - Bangkok - Ko Phangan You will have a little more free time this morning to explore the evocative temples of Ayutthaya. Sometimes you will find yourself completely alone amongst the impressive ruins, a perfect place to daydream. After lunch, you'll collect your luggage from the hotel and make your way to the train station and arrange your own tickets back to Bangkok for your next overnight rail adventure. We'll arrange your comfortable second-class couchette aboard the air conditioned sleeper train down to Surat Thani. This is where the ferry to Ko Phangan departs from.
Ko Phangan When you arrive on Ko Pha Ngan, you'll be dropped off at Had Rin beach, famous for its Full Moon parties. Your accommodation is located on quiet Thong Nai Pan beach with a tropical rainforest backdrop, far from the backpacker throng. The resort is right on the beach, with a swimming pool of its own. If you like, you can coincide your visit to Ko Pha Ngan with the full moon, giving you the opportunity to join the legendary party. If you let us know in advance, we can book you a hotel on the beach at Had Rin. However, if you opt to stay on Had Rin over full moon, don't expect to get much sleep. The party really does last all night.
Ko Phangan Ko Pha Ngan is an ideal spot to do absolutely nothing. Sway above ivory sands in a hammock slung between two palm trees and sip on a cold beer. Read quietly while you laze on the beach, taking refreshing dips in the azure waters whenever you need to cool off. Play some football with the locals on the beach as the sun goes down. In the evenings, lie on the beach after a tasty meal of freshly caught fish, counting the stars in the clear night sky. This is island life at its most laid back- enjoy it while you can.
Ko Pha Ngan - Ko Tao
After breakfast you'll head for the ferry port and buy a ferry ticket (approx Â£1) across to the island of Ko Tao. The crossing takes about two to three hours- a perfect opportunity to soak up some sun on deck. Just don't forget the sun cream.
You'll be met at the pier on Ko Tao and transferred to your beautiful resort on a golden beach, with a wonderful infinity pool. This is the time to totally unwind and let all of your travelling adventures sink in. The rest of the day is completely free.
Ko Tao There is a diving school next to your hotel where you can book an introductory scuba dive. Or if you are hesitant about taking a plunge, you can take a snorkelling trip out to a dazzling coral reef. This trip will take you to Nang Yuan, a tiny island off Ko Tao, which is made up of three rocks joined together by sparkling white beaches. Or you can just order a freshly made fruit cocktail and snooze in the sun, or a barefoot stroll along the beach to a candlelit restaurant for your evenings meal.
Ko Tao - BangkokAll good things must come to an end, and your wonderful Thailand holiday is no exception. After breakfast you'll make your way to the ferry port and arrange your ticket across to Chumphon. Once you arrive back on the mainland you'll make you own way to Chumphon railway station, where we'll have arranged your reservation and tickets for seat aboard the comfortable train back to Bangkok which departs around 12:45 and arrives into Bangkok at 9pm. Once you arrive in the rail station, take a tuk tuk to your centrally located lodge which we'll have arranged for you.
Bangkok - UKFor a small charge we can arrange for you to keep your room on in Bangkok for the day, so you can leave your bags and have a shower before you leave, or you can check out and leave your bags with reception. The rest of the though day is yours to spend as you wish until it's time to leave for the airport to catch your flight home. On Saturdays and Sundays you can visit the worlds largest market Chatuchak, otherwise there are the huge megastores at Siam Square and Mabunkhrong in the centre of Bangkok for last minute shopping. Flights to the UK usually leave Bangkok mid to late afternoon, and fly back overnight.
- Inclusions -
- Transport, accommodation with breakfast, guide, some meals as described in the daily itinerary
- Exclusions -
- International flights, drinks and extra meals, excursions and entrances not listed in the daily itinerary
- Extras -
- This is not a group tour and can be tailor made to create your perfect trip. We can play around with your itinerary until we get it just right.
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Important Notice : Avoiding Fraud
It's rare, but some helpful hints to watch out for with regards to fraud:
- It is important to NEVER wire funds or use/employ other fund transfer mechanisms such as western union: Always use a credit card to protect yourself against fraud. If owners pressure you into providing a deposit or refuse to accept credit cards, there is a high probability that this is a scam.
- If at all suspicious of fraud, ask to see their website, or any other literature they can provide or send to you. Ask them for contact details for guests who have previously stayed on their property insisting on telephone numbers. Be suspicious of emails that originate from free email services (yahoo, hotmail, gmail, etc)
- Research the property thoroughly on the internet to see if there is any history or mention of scams associated with the property.