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12 Nights Essential Thailand

Destinations Covered
Bangkok - Khauchanaburi - Ayutthaya - New Sukhothai - Chiang Mai - Bangkok

Day 1 Arrival in Bangkok

On arrival at Suvarnabhumi International Airport, you will be met by our representative and assisted to the designated coach/car booked for you.

Transfer and check-in at selected hotel.

Afternoon at leisure to relax.

Bangkok is the political, economic, cultural, culinary, and spiritual capital of Thailand. The city features both old-world charm and modern convenience, at times served up in an apparently chaotic manner but always with a gracious smile. A cosmopolitan, 21st Century city of more than ten million inhabitants, Bangkok contains great variety: from exotic temples underscoring Thailand’s strong Buddhist history to modern shopping malls, which make shopping an integral part of any Bangkok holiday. Bangkok features attractions guaranteed to please visitors, whether they’re simply passing through the city or spending their entire Thailand holiday in Bangkok.

Overnight stay at the hotel.

Day 2 In Bangkok

Post breakfast, set off for full-day sightseeing tour of Bangkok, with an English-speaking guide.

Drive along the street to Bangkok’s inner-city circle, Rattanakosin Island. Visit Wat Trimitr, famous as the home of the world's largest Golden Buddha statue, which is 10 feet high, and is made up of more than 5 tons of solid gold. The origin of the Golden Buddha can be traced back to the Sukhothai period in the 12-13th Century.

At Tha Tien, take a picturesque boat ride across the Chao Phraya River to visit Wat Arun, known as the Temple of Dawn. This magnificent 79 metres high pagoda-style monument, situated just beside the Chao Phraya River, serves as one of the most outstanding landmarks in Bangkok, with spectacular view from all around.

Cross the river back to the opposite side to visit Wat Pho (the Temple of the Reclining Buddha), which is the oldest and largest temple in Bangkok, with many amazing sculptures and inscriptions. It is famous for housing the beautiful Reclining Buddha (Phra Buddhasaiyas), which is 46 metres in length and 15 metres in height. The soles of both his feet are inlaid with 108 auspicious mother-of-pearls, which represent the 108 different characters of Lord Buddha.

Located just beside Wat Pho are the Royal Grand Palace and the Emerald Buddha. Inside the palace is Wat Prakaew, the most beautiful and significant temple in Thailand, with intricate design and decoration. Pay respect to the highly revered Buddha statue: the Emerald Buddha or Phra Kaew Morakot. Nearby, walk to the Grand Palace, where you can see many magnificent royal buildings.

Continue the tour to the Vimanmek Palace (or Mansion). Formerly a royal residence built in 1900 by King Rama V, it is believed to be the world's largest teak-wood palace, with elaborate architectural style. It serves as a showcase for Thai national heritage, with 31 exhibit rooms showing the throne hall, the royal bedrooms, and the bathrooms. There are numerous displays of Thai arts wrought in ivory, silver, crystal and ceramics.

Next go to Wat Intharaviharn, which is famous for a gigantic standing Buddha statue, measuring 32 metres high and 11 metres wide and decorated with golden mosaics from Italy. This Buddha statue is said to possess miraculous powers to bestow the blessings of success to those who make honest vows.

Besides Wat Intharaviharn, you can also visit Wat Benchamabopit (the Marble Temple). This temple was built in the magnificent Thai Buddhist architectural style with white Italian marble; the interior of the temple is magnificently decorated. Within the spacious courtyard is a huge collection of bronze Buddha images in varying styles.

Later in the evening, return to the hotel.

Overnight stay at the hotel.

Day 3 Bangkok - Damnoen Saduak - Bangkok (110km/1hrs 20min)

Post breakfast, depart for full-day sightseeing tour of Damnoen Saduak Floating Market, with elephant and crocodile themed shows at Samphran, with an English-speaking guide.

Transfer from the hotel to Jetty Pier, then take a long-tailed boat ride for about 30 minutes to Damnoen Saduak Floating Market. Pass green plantations and Thai houses on both sides of the river and canals.

Damnoen Saduak, the biggest and most popular of all floating markets, is a perfect place to witness the active daily lives of local sellers and visitors, who move on numerous kinds of rowing boats. It is a fascinating cultural experience, as well as a glimpse into the local life of a bygone era.

After lunch, immerse yourself in the exciting Elephant Theme Show where you can see huge elephants performing many amazing tasks such as dancing and racing, as well as playing football and other games. Moreover, you’ll see how they were used in traditional battles. Move on to enjoy the breath-taking but delightful Crocodile Wrestling Show, where crocodile-catchers catch and play with the crocodiles.

Afterwards, return back to your hotel.

Evening at leisure to relax.

Overnight stay at the hotel.

Day 4 Bangkok - Khauchanaburi (125km/2hrs)

Post breakfast, check-out and depart for Khauchanaburi.

On arrival, check-in at the hotel.

Morning at leisure to relax.

Kanchanaburi is the capital of the Kanchanaburi Province. Located at the confluence of the Kwai Noi and Kwai Yai Rivers, Kanchanaburi lies at the source of the Mae Klong River, and these majestic bodies of water are defining characteristics of the town. WW II memorials and museums in the town are a reminder of darker times, when Japanese forces used both allied prisoners of war (POWs) and conscripted Southeast Asian labourers to build a rail route to Myanmar. The harrowing story was told in Pierre Boulle's book The Bridge over the River Kwai, and the 1957 movie based on the book. The bridge is one of the main attractions in Kanchanaburi. Roads in the guesthouse area are named after countries that were involved in the conflict.

In the late afternoon, visit the Death War Museum, and the world famous Kanhanaburi Bridge.

The Death War Museum offers a realistic depiction of prisoner of war living quarters, using photographic, pictorial and physical memorabilia dating from World War II.

Kanchanaburi Bridge, which crosses over the River Kwai, is a part of the Death Railway constructed by Allied prisoners of war. Walk around town and take pictures on the world-renowned Death Railway.

Overnight stay at the hotel.

Day 5 In Kanchanaburi

Post breakfast, morning visit to Wat Pha Luang Ta Bua.

Wat Pha Luang Ta Bua, also known as the Tiger Temple, is a rescue-centre for wild animals, and the home of wild tigers, wild pigs, deer, antelopes, water buffaloes, apes, and a handful of other animals.

The tigers are taken from their cages in the afternoon, and visitors can even touch them.

Donations can be made at the temple, and the monks continue to collect funds in order to build a larger sanctuary which would allow the tigers to live in a more natural habitat.

Important Note

  • Although the tigers appear tame, let's not forget these are still naturally wild animals. Sudden movements and too many camera flashes at one time can spook them. However, in ten years there has only been one serious attack on a visitor, who survived!
  • Young children are not allowed near the animals, and will not be allowed into the quarry where the tigers roam freely.

Take an afternoon visit to Elephant World, a sanctuary for homeless elephants. Spend time with mahouts and their animals, and enjoy am elephant ride with the elephant bathing in the Kwai River.

Overnight stay at the hotel.

Day 6 Kanchanaburi – Ayutthaya (160km/2hrs 30min)

Post breakfast, check-out and depart for Ayutthaya.

Ayutthaya, also known as Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya, is an ancient capital and a modern city. Founded in 1350, Ayutthaya became the second capital of Siam after Sukhothai. Throughout centuries, the ideal location between China, India and the Malay Archipelago made Ayutthaya the trading capital of Asia, and even the world. By 1700, Ayutthaya had become the largest city in the world, with a total of 1 million inhabitants. Merchants set sail for Ayutthaya from the Arab world, China, India, Japan, Portugal, the Netherlands and France.

Merchants from Europe proclaimed Ayutthaya to be the finest city they had ever seen. Dutch and French maps of the city show gold-laden palaces, large ceremonies and a huge float of trading vessels from all over the world.

On arrival, check-in at the hotel.

After a short break at the hotel, hop on a "Kermit" Tuk Tuk (a special type of motorized Tuk Tuk) for a visit to the historical park.

The Ayutthaya Historical Park, a Unesco World Heritage Site, comprises the ruins of temples and palaces from the ancient Ayutthaya Kingdom. Founded by King Ramathibodi I in 1350, this was the capital of the country until 1767. All this came to a quick end when the Burmese invaded Ayutthaya in 1767 and almost completely burnt the city to the ground. The city was never rebuilt, and remains today as an extensive archaeological site.

Later in the afternoon, enjoy a leisurely long-tailed boat ride to Bang Pa in Summer Palace and explore the majestic royal mansions. Continue to Wat Nivet Thammmpravat, one of the most distinctive Buddhist temples with its remarkable Gothic-style architecture and stained glass windows.

Overnight stay at the hotel.

Day 7 Ayutthaya - Uthai Thani - Phitsanulok - New Sukhothai (360km/12hrs)

Post breakfast, check-out and depart for Uthai Thani.

Uthai Thani is a town on the right bank of the Sakae Krang River. It is the capital of the Uthai Thani Province. Due to the verdant nature of the area, Uthai Thani provides refuge for Thailand’s endangered wildlife species.

Visit Wat Tha Sung (Glass Temple), an old temple from the Ayutthaya period, which was renovated by the monk, Luang Pho Yai. Two older structures are located on one side of the temple grounds, and several newer buildings have been built on the other side. The two old chapels are beautifully decorated inside. Luang Pho Ruesi Lingdam is responsible for making it the most famous and beautiful temple in Uthai Thani Province. He built Phra Ubosot Mai (an elaborately decorated ordination hall), and Thong Kam (a beautiful golden castle). The building gets its nickname, “The Glass Temple”, due to its shiny glass walls and columns, which reflect the light. The ceiling also has a mirror which makes the room seem much bigger than it really is.

Continue journey North to  Phitsanulok and visit Wat Mahathat, which features Thailand’s most beautiful Buddha image: Phra Puttachinnarat.

Phitsanulok is one of the oldest cities in the country, and was founded over 600 years ago. It is now home to a major Royal Thai army base. It is best known as the birthplace of King Naresuan, who freed the country from Burmese domination in the late 16th Century, and is also the birthplace of his brother and successor, King Ekathosarot (Sanphet III). On the banks of the Nan River, the city was originally a small Khmer outpost known as Song Kwae, before the Khwae Noi River changed its course in the 11th Century.

Wat Mahathat/Phra Si Rattana Mathat, was founded in 1357 by King Lithai of the Sukhothai Kingdom. The temple is famous for its golden Buddha statue named Phra Buddha Chinnarat, which is considered by many to be the most beautiful Buddha statue in Thailand, and is one of the most highly revered statues in the country; this makes the temple an important pilgrimage site for Thai Buddhists.

Afterwards, resume journey to Sukhothai.

On arrival, check-in at the hotel.

Sukhothai was an early kingdom in the area around the city New Sukhothai. The old capital is now 12 km outside of New Sukhothai, in Tambon Mueang Kao. The old capital is in ruins, and has been designated as a Unesco World Heritage Historical Park.

Overnight stay at the hotel.

Day 8 New Sokhothai - Lampang - Chiang Mai (260km/5hrs)

Post breakfast, check-out and depart for Chiangmai, en-route visiting Sokhothai Historical Park and Wat Phra That Lampang.

Sukhothai Historical Park, a Unesco World Heritage Site, comprises temple ruins and royal palaces of ancient Sukhothai, capital of the Sukhothai Kingdom in the 13th and 14th centuries. The park is maintained by the Fine Arts Department of Thailand with help from UNESCO.

Continue journey to Lampang and visit Wat Phra That Lampang.

Lampang is the third largest town in Northern Thailand, and is the capital of Lampang Province. It is famous for lumbering elephants, the elegant mansions of former lumber barons, and impressive (and in many cases, timber-based) Lanna-era temples.

Wat Phra That Lampang Luang is one of the most highly revered temples – and best example of Lanna style architecture – in Thailand. The temple is fortified, situated at the top of a hill and surrounded by high brick walls. The temple compound houses several interesting religious structures. Apart from the chedi and the main viharn, there are half a dozen other principal structures. Among these is Viharn Nam Tam, which is thought to be the oldest surviving wooden religious building in Thailand. The fame of the site, and its preservation throughout the centuries, is largely due to the belief that the historical Buddha visited here about 2,500 years ago and donated a lock of his hair, which is now enshrined in the chedi.

Afterwards resume journey to Chiang Mai.

On arrival, check-in at the hotel.

Chiang Mai, or “Nop Buri Nakorn Pink”, is the former capital of the Lanna Kingdom. It is an area famous for nature, cold weather, and diverse culture. Being a hub of several ancient realms, for centuries Chiang Mai has been a centre for the exchange of knowledge, religious ideas, architectural styles, and commerce.

Overnight stay at the hotel.

Day 9 In Chiang Mai

Post a late breakfast, proceed for cruise on Mae Ping River.

Board a long-tail boat and enjoy a 30 minute cruise along the rural Mae Ping River. Along the river banks you will see traditional wooden houses and modern residences. Afterwards visit the Waroros Fresh Food Market and experience the Northern Thai life style. From the market, take a rickshaw ride along Tapae Road past city walls, and along Rajdamnern Road to Wat Phra Singh.

In the afternoon, explore ancient Chiang Mai, including its old city walls, gates, moat and markets. Visit Wat Suan Dok, where the ashes of Chiang Mai’s royal family are interred, and the historic Jed Yot temple. Drive up the mountain by "songtaew" along a rough dirt road to the Chang Khien Coffee Research Project, where you can enjoy a cup of the local ‘Arabica’ while surrounded by fabulous gardens of flowers. Continue to the white Hmong village of Chang Khien, where the 800 inhabitants still wear their traditional hill-tribe clothes and practice their 500 year old culture. Finish the tour at Wat Prathat Doi Suthep, the temple on the mountain, and the most sacred in North Thailand. Your English-speaking guide will explain the story of the temple and the white elephant, and lead you around the impressive chedi to show its beautiful murals. After a private blessing ceremony, witness the magical evening chanting of the monks.

Overnight stay at the hotel.

Day 10 Chiang Mai - Chiang Dao Elephant Camp - Chiang Mai (60km/1hr 20min)

Post breakfast, half-day visit to Chiang Dao Elephant Camp.

Drive to Chiang Dao Elephant Camp to see the elephants taking their morning baths and demonstrating their skills at pushing and pulling logs. Take an elephant ride along Ping River, surrounded by lush green forest, for approximately 1 hour, to a Lisu hill tribe village.

After lunch, relax on a bamboo raft floating along the river, and continue to take in the peace and tranquillity. After the rafting journey, drive a bit farther up North to the  Chiang Dao Caves  and take a walk around. See a multitude of fish swimming in the beautiful ponds just outside the cave. Explore the caves, and the temple that lies within. There are many Buddha statues, stalactites and stalagmites, and other various features.

Afterwards, return to the hotel.

Overnight stay at the hotel.

Day 11 In Chiang Mai

Post breakfast, morning at leisure to relax.

In the afternoon, visit the Three Kings Monument, followed by the Chiang Mai City Arts and Culture Centre, located in an old building of elegant architectural design built in 1927. Standing on the location of a former royal hall, the building was used as the central administrative office of the Phayap administrative unit of Siam, and later as the provincial hall of Chiang Mai.

Note

  • Chiang Mai City Arts and Culture Centre is closed on Monday and during Songkran festival.
  • Open from Tuesday – Sunday: 8:30 – 17:00 hrs.

Later, discover the lost city of Wiang Kum Kam, "The Underground Empire", which is of the greatest cultural and historical significance. Following a massive flood, the city of Wiang Kum Kam vanished without a trace. For over 200 years, Wiang Kum Kam was a lost civilization buried under layers of earth. Explore the main ancient ruined temples: Wiang Kum Kam, Wat Chedi Liam, Wat Phraya Meng Rai, Wat Kan Thom, and Koo Paa Dom.

Overnight stay at the hotel.

Day 12 Chiang Mai - Golden Triangle - Chiang Mai (200km/4hrs)

Post an early breakfast, depart for a full-day visit to the Golden Triangle in Chiang Rai province, en-route visiting hot water springs and Wat Rong Khun.

After pick-up from the hotel, the first stop is Maekhajan Hot Springs, a good spot for a morning cup of coffee, then head up towards the stunning Wat Rong Khun, often called “The White Temple” due to its dazzling white surfaces, inlaid with mirrored glass.

Resume journey to the Golden Triangle: the meeting points of Thailand, Burma and Loas. Take a boat trip on the mighty Mekong River, between the three countries’ borders, eventually making a stop on a small Lao Island in the middle of the Mekong, for a glimpse at Laos’s life style.

Afterwards proceed to Mae Sai, the Thai town bordering with Myanmar. Visit the border market and have a glimpse of Myanmar. Proceed overland to the Golden Triangle, where you’ll have time to stroll around, visit and relax. On the way back to Chiang Mai, visit Akha and a Yao hill-tribe village.

Overnight stay at the hotel.

Day 13 Chiang Mai - Bangkok (1hr flight)

Post breakfast, check-out and transfer to Chiang Mai Airport for a flight to Bangkok.

Departure from Bangkok

Meet and assist, on arrival at Don Muang Bangkok domestic Airport, and then transfer (45mins drive) to Suvarnabhumi International Airport for a flight to onward destination.

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