- Visit a peaceful, untouristy floating market in Bangkok
- Check out seven beautiful waterfalls in Erawan National Park
- Spend a day with elephants at an eco-sanctuary
- Go snorkeling and practice yoga from the hidden beach at Khanom
|Day 1||Arrive in Bangkok, Long-Tail Boat Canal Tour||Bangkok|
|Day 2||Guided Tour of Floating Market, Bangkok Temples & Palaces||Bangkok|
|Day 3||Transfer to Kanchanaburi, Bamboo Rafting on River Khwae||Kanchanaburi|
|Day 4||Erawan National Park visit||Kanchanaburi|
|Day 5||Thailand-Burma Railway & Mae Klong Railway Market En Route to Chiang Mai||Chiang Mai|
|Day 6||Wat Prathat Doi Suthep, Hmong Village Tour||Chiang Mai|
|Day 7||Elephant Encounter at Sanctuary||Chiang Mai|
|Day 8||Transfer to Surat Thani & Khanom Beach||Khanom|
|Day 9||Snorkeling in the Gulf of Thailand||Khanom|
|Day 10||Yoga & Spa Day||Khanom|
Day 1: Arrive in Bangkok, Long-Tail Boat Canal Tour
Welcome to Bangkok! Upon arrival at the airport, your driver will meet you and transfer you to your hotel in the city. After you've had a chance to drop your bags and settle in, get to know the Thai capital on an introductory two-hour tour by long-tail boat. The wide Chao Phraya River runs through Bangkok and has many long (canal) offshoots. Explore the ancient waterways on your boat and see how locals live. It's a great way to ease into this frenetic city if you're tired after your journey because you don't need to walk or be too active.
Day 2: Guided Tour of Floating Market, Bangkok Temples & Palaces
After a good night's sleep, rise early to visit one of Bangkok's famous floating markets. There are many such markets, but you'll visit Khlong Lat Mayom Market, one of the most beautiful and conveniently located near downtown Bangkok. This market isn't as busy with boats as others and offers a more authentic experience. You can shop for snacks and souvenirs while enjoying the sights and sounds on the water.
Next, you'll visit the iconic Wat Arun, built during the Ayutthaya period (14th-18th centuries) and named after Aruna, the Hindu god of the dawn, hence its common name, Temple of Dawn. Unlike many Bangkok attractions, Wat Arun is on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River. You can climb the temple's steps for sweeping views over the river and city. Take a local ferry back to the river's east bank and visit Wat Pho Temple, home to a golden reclining Buddha statue. Walk the short distance to the glittering Grand Palace complex, where you'll learn more about the Thai royal family and the golden and mosaic structures within the grounds.
If you're traveling over a weekend, take a tuk-tuk to the huge Chatuchak Market, the most famous weekend market in Bangkok and located on the city's northern edge. You can buy almost anything here, from essential oils and Thai-inspired beauty products to tribal embroidery, vintage jeans, and antiques. If it's not a weekend, there are other markets around Bangkok that you could check out instead, such as Pak Khlong Talat, the flower market.
Day 3: Transfer to Kanchanaburi, Bamboo Rafting on River Khwae
Travel northwest today to Kanchanaburi, a town with dark World War II-era history but some beautiful natural features, such as lush forest, beautiful ponds, and waterfalls, as well as the infamous River Khwae. The drive from Bangkok takes around 2.5 hours; along the way, you can enjoy the views of rice fields and local villages.After checking into your hotel, head out on a gentle bamboo rafting float down the River Khwae. Don't worry if you're not into whitewater rafting; this is much gentler! The Mon people have made bamboo rafts with local materials for a long time and are a traditional way of getting around. You'll have a guide to steer you so you can sit back and take in the views during the approximately 50-minute ride.
Day 4: Hike in Erawan National Park
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Day 5: Thailand-Burma Railway & Mae Klong Railway Market En Route to Chiang Mai
You'll say goodbye to Kanchanaburi today, but not before paying a visit to the Thailand-Burma Railway Centre to learn about the dramatic history of the railway and the famous bridge. During World War II, it is estimated that more than 100,000 people died during the construction of this "death railway," built to link Thailand and Burma. Next, drive to the Mae Klong Railway Market. Initially, it may look like a regular market, but the stalls are all set up along a railway line. When a signal warns that a train is approaching, the vendors pack up in a flash to get out of the way. It's quite a sight to watch!
Drive to the airport in Bangkok to catch a short flight north to Chiang Mai, a large city in Northern Thailand. A driver will meet you in Chiang Mai and take you to your hotel. You can spend the rest of the day relaxing or head out to explore Chiang Mai on your own. You might want to visit the large central market, Worarot Market, to pick up snacks or souvenirs. If you love temples, visit Wat Chedi Luang, home to Chiang Mai's largest Buddhist chedi (stupa) and an example of local Lanna architecture. You could also see Wat Chiang Man, the oldest temple in Chiang Mai. Take in the sunset from Wat Phra Singh, sometimes said to be Thailand's most beautiful temple.
To experience Chiang Mai's atmosphere after dark, head to the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar, famous for its handicrafts and portrait paintings. You can also find jewelry, toys, and clothing. The market runs every evening from 5 pm and covers a whole neighborhood east of the Old City.
Day 6: Wat Prathat Doi Suthep, Hmong Village Tour
Get out of the city today and explore the surrounding mountainous countryside. Start with a drive up to Wat Prathat Doi Suthep, the most sacred temple in Chiang Mai, which is 3,500 feet (1,000 m) above sea level. Although you'll be driven most of the way, the only way to reach the very top is to ascend the 306 steps on foot to the temple guarded by two nagas (serpents). Constructed in 1383, this symbol of Chiang Mai contains a holy relic of the Lord Buddha, enshrined in the magnificent glowing golden pagoda. You'll be rewarded with a bird's-eye view of the entire city, and the surrounding areas can be seen from the temple grounds.After spending time at the temple, continue in a local truck along a bumpy but scenic mountain road to a White Hmong hill tribe village. These tribal people live in simple, isolated, and self-sustaining villages, preserving their culture, ancient customs, and beautiful embroidered clothing. Originally from China, the White Hmong are now spread through the mountains of Southeast Asia, including Vietnam too, and are quite distinct from "mainstream" Thai culture. Learn more about their way of life on this visit to their village.
Day 7: Elephant Encounter at Sanctuary
Today is special for animal lovers, as you'll meet gentle elephants in a natural setting. Visit an elephant care project that aims to improve the well-being of elephants and increase awareness of elephant conservation. A local family started the project in Meung Kud village and believed elephants were not for entertainment. That's why they offer guests an opportunity for close interaction with the creatures in a mutually beneficial way.
The center is about 90 minutes' drive north of Chiang Mai. After your arrival, change into traditional clothing, which will be provided. Your English-speaking local guide will explain the habits and histories of the elephants and the way to communicate with them. Then, gather the elephants' food: sugar cane, grass, and banana plants, all grown on the farm. Feed them by hand and get to know them personally. After a traditional lunch, walk with the elephants and lead them to their bath. It'll be hard to say goodbye after spending the day caring for them, but after this, you'll head back to Chiang Mai.
Day 8: Transfer to Surat Thani & Khanom Beach
Experience a dramatic change of scene today as you travel from the mountainous north to the tropical beaches of Southern Thailand. Fly from Chiang Mai to Surat Thani, a city on the Gulf of Thailand coast that's the gateway to some of the loveliest islands and beaches in the country. The flight is about 2.5 hours. Upon your arrival in Surat Thani, your driver will meet you and transfer you to your hidden beach paradise at Khanom, a drive of about one hour.Khanom Beach is well-known for its stretch of white sand that lines the sea and the rows of pine trees nearby. Beautiful coral reefs make it an excellent destination for scuba diving, snorkeling, and swimming. It is quiet and peaceful, so you can enjoy true relaxation here. There are also beautiful waterfalls, lookouts with sweeping views over the ocean and nearby hills, caves, rubber tree groves, and beaches that stretch for miles. Spend the rest of today exploring or relaxing as you wish.
Day 9: Snorkeling in the Gulf of Thailand
The crystal clear waters of the Gulf of Thailand are fantastic for snorkeling. Take a boat out to the nearby islands of Tan and Raab, from where you can delve into the vast coral reefs to enjoy the sight of brightly colored tropical fish. The sea is warm year-round, so every day is perfect for snorkeling. Refuel with lunch on board the boat between snorkeling.
Day 10: Yoga & Spa Day
To ensure you return home with a thoroughly relaxed body and mind, spend a day enjoying a program of yoga, tai chi, and Pilates at a beachside spa and retreat center at Khanom Beach. Classes are available throughout the week in the mornings and evenings. This is a perfect place to try yoga and other activities for the first time or to continue an established practice. You can enjoy spa treatments, a walk on the beach, or swimming between classes.
Day 11: Depart
Transfer back to Surat Thani today, from where you'll catch a flight back to Bangkok and then onward to your next destination or home. Safe travels!