Elephants & Rainforests and Samui
- Price from:
- 948 GBP /person
- 01273 322040
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- Credit Card
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Last updated: 02/19/2009
This tour is perfect if you want to esperience as much as possible, travel independently, and not spend a fortune. See the best of Thailand's jungle, rainforest and beaches in this all rounded trip.
Arrival into Bangkok
When you get into Bangkok, you'll be met in the arrivals hall and transferred to your comfortable hotel. On your way into the city, you'll see the bizarre mix of ultramodern skyscrapers with palm trees growing in between. You'll be staying in Banglamphu, a lively traveller hub packed with find restaurants, bars, guesthouses, shops and food stalls. You'll stay within easy within walking distance of bustling Khao San Road. The hotel has air-conditioned rooms and a swimming pool. After a refreshing dip in the pool, you can take your time to settle in and explore your fascinating neighbourhood.
Bangkok - Cycle Tour
Today your morning is free to explore Bangkok with its temples, pagodas and street stalls. Don't miss the Royal Palace, and the awe-inspiring temple of Wat Phra Kaew. These can both be reached easily and quickly by express boat. Remember to dress modestly - knees and shoulders must be covered. You can reach Chinatown via the Reclining Buddha at Wat Po, and gobble a quick bowl of tasty noodles.
You cycle trip begins in Chinatown at 1pm. You'll cycle along winding, narrow lanes past traditional houses in the suburbs. You'll also take a walk through a pungent food market, where locals do their everyday shopping. This community is typical of Thailand- no air conditioning, no shopping centres and no traffic jams. After this, you'll cross the Chao Phraya River in a longtail boat. Soon, you'll find yourself in a green oasis that seems a world away from the bright lights of the city. Even the most important thoroughfares here are only small paths above the khlongs (canals). You'll return from the trip around 6pm, surprised at the huge contrast between the centre and the outskirts. For dinner, you'll be taken by taxi to one of Bangkok's most colourful and quirky restaurants- Cabbages and Condoms.
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 40 minutes later, you'll arrive at your floating bamboo bungalows on the river. You'll have your own room with a swimming ladder and hammock. 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, as 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 (400 Baht, approx Â£8 entrance fee 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 waterpools 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 - Ayutthaya
Today, you'll take a minibus transfer to atmospheric Ayutthaya. This will take approximately three hours. Your friendly driver will drop you at Uncle Pan's Bungalows, where you'll stay for the night. The afternoon is free, allowing you to explore the historical city at your own pace.
Ayutthaya is a fascinatingly beautiful World Heritage Site. In the 12th century, this 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. 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 - Chiang Mai
Today, you can spend a few hours wandering wistfully amongst the mystical Khmer temples strewn around Ayutthaya. You will often find yourself completely alone with plenty of time and space to daydream in these enthralling surroundings.
At about 5pm, you'll collect your luggage from the hotel and make your way to the railway station. You'll spend the night in a couchette on the overnight sleeper train to Chiang Mai. The couchette is comfortable and there is a good restaurant car onboard for your evening meal. You'll be gently rocked to sleep by the motion of the train as it weaves its way through the hills towards Chiang Mai.
This morning you arrive in Chiang Mai, the cultural capital of the North. You'll stay in a hotel with a swimming close to the city gates. It's not difficult to find something to do in Chiang Mai- there are plenty of options available. We can highly recommend a trip to Doi Suthep, a striking Buddhist temple 15km outside the city. It sits on the top of a 1600m mountain, towering over the landscape below. From here, you'll have a fantastic panorama of Chiang Mai and the surrounding mountains. The old temple is a sacred pilgrimage site and radiates with peaceful spirituality.
In the evening, you can take a walk to the lively night bazaar. The atmosphere is usually electric, and there is a huge amount of trading going on. You'll also find massage salons, restaurants, and even karaoke bars- a little something for everyone.
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 meals are included for the duration of the hike, as is your English-speaking guide. As you'll be reeturning 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 stay
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 don't 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 - 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. We can highly recommend a evening meal next to the moat surrounding the town centre. To soothe any sugar cravings, try the divine local dessert called 'kluay buad chee'- banana in coconut milk. This is a terrific way to end your stay in the north.
Chiang Mai - Surat Thani
Today you'll take a domestic flight back down to Bangkok and a few hours later you'll begin your connecting overnight train journey to Surat Thani. You'll make your own way from Bangkok Airport to the railway station. If you like, you can have your evening meal aboard the train, and order breakfast for the following morning. Alternatively, you can make a quick pitstop at one of the food stalls and stock up on nibbles for the trip. Early in the evening someone will come along to make up the beds in your comfortable couchette.
If you would prefer to fly directly to Surathani, cutting out the overnight, just let us know. We'll check to see if there is a connecting flight available and advise you of the additional costs.
Surat Thani - Khao Sok National Park
When you arrive, you'll be met at the railway station and driven to Racha Praba Lake. Any luggage that you don't need for the lake will be taken straight to the lodge where you'll stay tomorrow. You'll need only an overnight pack for your floating cabin stay. Your Khao Sok trip includes all meals, and you'll have an English-speaking guide to lead you through the park. From the lakeside, a longtail boat will take you past spectacular rock formations that thrust up from the lake. An hour later, you'll arrive at your floating bamboo cabins in an idyllic location far from modernity as we know it. Sleeping mats, sheets, blankets, and towels will be provided. The lake is also your bath, so simply shampoo your hair and jump in! You'll have your own inflatable tube to float lazily about on the water. After lunch, you'll take a walk through the thick jungle, alongside bamboo shoots and giant trees. Then, you'll sit back and enjoy the sunset from the jetty by your floating bungalow. A wonderful dinner will be waiting for you.
This morning, you'll wake up to the exotic sounds of the jungle. Each bungalow has its own canoe, and after breakfast you'll paddle along the jungly shores in search of monkeys and other animals. Lunch will be served after your canoe trip. After lunch, you can either take a walk further into the rainforest or head for a hidden lagoon. The choice will depend largely upon the weather. From the dense greenery you'll hear the rising calls of monkeys and toucans. Later in the afternoon, you'll be taken deeper into the Khao Sok National Park by longtail boat. This will take about an hour. You'll be met on the shore and taken even further into the tropical wilderness. You'll soon come across the jungle bungalows, where the rest of your baggage awaits you. There is plenty of time to get settled into your bungalow, which has a private bathroom. There's no hot water, but in such high temperatures a hot shower will be the last thing you'll want. You can spend a while taking in your fabulously remote setting. Later you'll dine by the river, surrounded by lush mountains and the manifold sounds of the forest.
After breakfast you'll set off with your guide on a fascinating walk. You'll explore the tropical rainforest, and your guide will tell you all about the surrounding vegetation and wildlife. On the way, you'll enjoy a hearty lunch (included), served in a beautiful spot next to a river a waterfall. In the early evening, you'll return to your hut, weary but happy. On your peaceful veranda, you can mull over your experiences against a background of jungle murmurs. Find a good place to watch the sunset and make sure you have that camera handyâ¦
Khao Sok - Surat Thani - Samui
The next morning you'll check out of your little hut and emerge from the jungle. We'll arrange a transfer that will collect you from the hotel reception and drive you across to Surat Thani, we'll also arrange your ferry ticket for the short crossing to Ko Samui, leaving around 2pm. The journey across the sunny Gulf of Thailand will take around 2Â½ hours- a perfect opportunity to soak up some sun on the deck while you take in the breathtaking view. When you arrive you'll make your own way to the lovely accommodation we have arranged for you. Samui's powdery tropical beaches offer great relaxation, ideal after your busy schedule in the north.
On Ko Samui, you'll stay in a secluded bay nestling between the beaches of Lamai and Chaweng. You'll be accommodated in bungalows sitting on a beautiful ivory beach fringed by waving palm trees (see photograph). As the bay is surrounded by rocks, the beach is peaceful and hidden from the main tourist throng. This is a great place to completely unwind, stretched out in the sun with a good book and a fresh juice.
The resort also has swimming pool on the beach, so you can choose whether to splash about in the sea or the pool. Simply daydream between the palm trees, letting all of your experiences sink in. Maybe even treat yourself to a massage on the beach. Bliss.
If you start feeling restless on the beach, you can take an excursion, or hire a moped to explore the interior of the island. Behind the beaches, Ko Samui is draped in lush green vegetation and countless coconut palm plantations. There are shimmering waterfalls at Na Muang and a temple at Laem Saw. Snorkellers and divers can take advantage of the nearby Ang Thong Marine Park- 18 protected islands in a nature reserve with incredible underwater life.
Equally, the island of Ko Pha Ngan is a mere 30 minutes away. The ferry arrives and departs from the beach at Had Rin, where the famous Full Moon Parties take place. Every month, about 30,000 young people, mostly backpackers, flock to the island for this legendary party. If Full Moon has already passed, you might catch a Half Moon, New Moon, or Black Moon party. In other words, parties are not in short supply.
This is another day of total relaxation. You are completely free to do as much, or as little, as you like. Simply lie back in the sun and let all of your worries wash over you, or head inland if you are feeling active. In the evenings, take long strolls along the shimmering beach with the sand between your toes, and dine on freshly caught fish to the sound of the gently lapping waves.
Back to Bangkok
All good things must come to an end. Today, with a sigh, you'll take the boat from Ko Samui back to the mainland. When you arrive, take a tuk-tuk or songthaew (pick-up truck) to Surat Thani railway station. Then, at 9pm you'll begin your final overnight train journey will back to Bangkok.
When you arrive, you'll have the day free to do some last minute shopping before heading to the airport. At a small additional cost, we can reserve a room in a hotel for you during the day. This will give you the opportunity to freshen after the train journey, in preparation for the flight.
It is also possible to fly back to Bangkok from Ko Samui, bypassing the overnight train. Feel free to ask us about the extra costs involved.
- Inclusions -
- Transport, accommodation with breakfast, English-speaking guide, some meals as described in the daily itinerary
- Exclusions -
- International flight, drinks and extra meals, excursions and entrance fees 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.
When to go? The best time of the year for this trip is December until the end of June, when rainfall levels are at their lowest. In July and August, the weather is generally fine, but you can expect regular rainfall. The rainy season in southeast Thailand runs from September until the end of November. This is also the low season for tourism. During this period it usually rains for a couple of hours at the end of the day.
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