Beautiful Northern Thailand

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Beautiful Northern Thailand

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Description

There’s a reason this trip was the tour that started it all, and still remains one of the most popular. Discover Northern Thailand, a lush adventure destination that takes you to the heart of what it means to be Intrepid. Experience the chaotic metropolis of bustling Bangkok, trek among the hillside villages near Chiang Rai, drift down the River Kwai in Kanchanaburi and see the historic temples of the Siam Kingdom. With welcoming hospitality, local experiences, mouth-watering cooking classes and plenty of free time to travel at your own pace, come along and see why Beautiful Northern Thailand was, and still is, a benchmark for all other Intrepid adventures.

Trip Name
Beautiful Northern Thailand
Last Updated
2020-01-24
Days
15
Capacity
12
Highlights
  • This is one of the original Intrepid journeys that started it all. Discover why Northern Thailand was chosen all those years back as an ideal destination to launch a world of travel experiences.
  • Experience rural Thai life with multi-day trek through scenic hilltribe villages in the remote Thai countryside, meeting welcoming locals and sharing laughs along the way.
  • Visit the home of the infamous ‘Bridge over the River Kwai’, learning about its dark history and the construction of the railway during the war.
  • Even the transport on this trip is an adventure – discover the joys of travelling on overnight sleeper trains, longtail boats, songthaew and rafthouses.
  • Indulge in an organic farm to plate cooking demonstration and lunch at a farm stay in the Mae Chan District – full of heat, spice and fresh food, you won’t go hungry!

Itinerary

ITINERARY CHANGES: Our itineraries are updated regularly throughout the year based on customer feedback and to reflect the current situation in each destination. The information included in this Essential Trip Information may therefore differ from when you first booked your trip. It is important that you print and review a final copy prior to travel so that you have the latest updates. Due to weather, local conditions, transport schedules, public holidays or other factors, further changes may be necessary to your itinerary once in country. The order and timing of included activities in each location may also vary seasonally to ensure our travellers have the best experience. Your tour leader will keep you up to date with any changes once on tour. OPTIONAL ACTIVITIES: A selection of optional activities that have been popular with past travellers are listed in the day-to-day itinerary. This isn't an exhaustive list and should be used as a guide only for some of what might be available. Prices are approximate, are for entrance only, and don’t include transport to and from the sites or local guides unless indicated. All activities are subject to availability, and may be on a join-in basis. It may not be possible to do all the activities listed in the time available at each destination, so some pre-planning for what you are most interested in is advised. When it's recommended that travellers pre-book these activities, look for a note in the Special Information section of the day-to-day itinerary. For most, they can either be organised independently on the day, or let your leader know you are interested and they can assist. Where activities are considered medium or high risk, we work with operators whose safety and credentials we have sighted and assessed. Although it is possible that you may find the same activity cheaper with another operator on the ground, we cannot vouch for the safety or quality of that operator. Medium and high risk activities not listed above have not been assessed by us and as such our staff and leaders are unable to assist you with organising these activities. Activities that contravene our Responsible Travel policies are also not listed. Please remember that the decision to partake in any activity not listed is at your own discretion and risk.

Day 1 - Bangkok
Sa-wat dee! Welcome to Thailand. Thailand's bustling capital, Bangkok is famous for its tuk tuks, khlong boats and street vendors serving up delicious Thai food. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm tonight. Bangkok has so much to offer those with time to explore, so perhaps arrive a day or so early and take a riverboat to Chinatown and explore the crowded streets, uncover the magnificent Grand Palace and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, wander down the tourist mecca of Khao San Road, or indulge in some Thai massage. After the meeting tonight, why not get some of your newfound travel pals together for a street food crawl.
Day 2 - Bangkok - Kanchanaburi
Start the day with a one-hour river cruise down the Chao Phraya River to explore the famous ‘khlongs’, or canals. Life along these canals seems a world away from the chaotic streets of the capital. Pay a visit to Wat Pho, one of the ‘trinity’ of Bangkok temples, with a 46-metre long gold plated Buddha reclining inside. Even the feet of this statue are incredible, three metres long and intricately decorated with mother of pearl. The temple grounds are equally fascinating, filled with beautifully decorated stupas, halls and shrines. Afterwards, hop on a local bus and travel northwest to Kanchanaburi (approximately 4 hours). Located where the Khwae Noi and Khwae Yai rivers converge, Kanchanaburi is home to the infamous 'Bridge on the River Kwai'.
Day 3 - River Kwai - Erawan NP - Kanchanaburi
This morning you’ll get an insight into the darker side of Kanchanaburi’s history with a visit to the Kanchanaburi War Cemetary (POW Cemetary) which was one of the first museums to attempt to educate the public and keep alive the memory of the Asian and POW workers who died constructing the infamous ‘Death Railway’. Then travel to Erawan National Park (approximately 1.5 hours each way), where you can explore the famous seven-level waterfall, and take a dip, if you’d like! The falls are considered the most beautiful in the whole country, with turquoise blue waters rushing through the forest into bamboo-shaded pools. If you want to make the climb all the way from level one to level seven it’s about a 90-minute hike, with the uppermost level usually quiet and with a stunning view over the jungle below. Be sure to pack your swimming gear, but also appropriate footwear if you’re going to make the walk. Level seven features a triple cascade that gives the falls their name – Erawan is the mythological three-headed white elephant that carries the Hindu god Indra.
Day 4 - Rafthouse
Be ready for a cruisy day as you’ll spend today and tonight floating down the Mae Glong River in a raft house. The rafthouse is towed by a boat and is an ideal and relaxing way to travel down the river – definitely setting the scene for pure relaxation. Spend the afternoon temple-hopping down the river, stopping off to see the cave temple of Wat Baan Tham, the Chinese Wat Tham Khao Noi, and Wat Tham Suea. There’s also plenty of time for travel games, reading a book, listening to your favourite playlist or just watching the world go by with a view of the lush Thai countryside. Enjoy a Thai meal on board and watch day turn to night as you moor on the riverside and fall asleep with the gentle rock of the boat.
Day 5 - Ayutthaya - Overnight train
After your river adventure, disembark and travel by private minivan to Ayutthaya, via Suphanburi (approximately 5 hours). You’ll have access to a day room, so you can freshen up before your overnight train later tonight. Ayutthaya was the second capital of Siam after Sukhothai, and it became one of the most powerful in Asia with over a million residents by the 18th century. Trading brought great riches to the city, and merchant tales tell of golden palaces, elaborate ceremonies, and breathtaking temples. You’ll see the remains and reminders of its golden age with a guided tour of the historic ruins and temples spread across the town. The rows of headless Buddhas at Wat Phra Mahathat, sacked by the Burmese in the 18th century, are very atmospheric, and a Buddha head surrounded by Banyan tree roots is perhaps the most photographed site in all of Ayutthaya. This evening, head north to Chiang Mai on an overnight train journey, accommodated in air-conditioned sleeping berths (approximately 13 hours).
Day 6 - Chiang Mai
The most vibrant city in northern Thailand, Chiang Mai has is most renowned for its temples and an interesting old city area. Renowned for dazzling beauty and extremely welcoming locals, the ‘Rose of the North’ will leave you spellbound – chances are, you may not want to leave. When you arrive in Chiang Mai, your day will be free. There are a number of optional activities for you to choose from, so you can do as much, or as little, as you like. There are also many Thai cooking schools offering courses for budding chefs, sure to help you impress your friends when you return home. Or get active with a bicycle tour to discover the city and surrounding countryside from a different perspective. Tonight, you might like to get some of your crew together and tackle the famous night markets – your group leader can help you out with their recommendations.
Day 7 - Chiang Mai
Today is another free day for you to spend how you wish. While Chiang Mai's markets, temples and cooking schools offer more than enough to keep visitors busy, there's also the option of a very special outing to an Elephant Nature Park. In a country where the cruel industry of elephant riding is still big business, elephant nature parks provide a sanctuary for rescued, injured and orphaned elephants. You’ll be greeted by an expert guide, who'll tell you stories of rescued elephants and explain the issues surrounding elephants in South East Asia. You'll then have a chance to feed the elephants from a viewing platform. Lunch on these activities is also provided, followed by elephant bath time. Sit back and watch these creatures so clearly enjoying themselves.
Day 8 - Doi Mae Salong
Set off by road and travel by public bus from Chiang Mai to Mae Chan (approximately 4 hours), then transfer to a private minivan to continue onto Doi Mae Salong (approximately 1 hour). The atmosphere in the charming town of Doi Mae Salong is reminiscent of a small southern Chinese village, as it was settled by former Chinese Nationalist soldiers who fled from (then) Burma in the 1960s. The region is famous for its Chinese tea traders and you can enjoy a cup of tea in a traditional Chinese tea house overlooking the mountains and tea fields. Check out the interesting markets, where you may see produce and crafts made by hilltribe people like the Akha.
Day 9 - Chiang Rai
Jump in a private vehicle and drive for about 1 hour into the Mae Chan District to reach the Ahsa farm stay. Here, take part in a farm to table cooking experience, where you’ll wander the property in search for organic eggs, fruits and vegetables. Then, continue back to the kitchen and begin whipping up a culinary storm – you’ll learn the secrets of a punchy chilli paste, hot and sour soups, a Thai-style stir fry and a traditional dessert. You’ll learn how to make these dishes from a local chef from the village, and then enjoy the fruits of your labour over a relaxed lunch. After your hunger is tamed, continue to Chiang Rai city, where you’ll arrive at your guesthouse for the evening. Chiang Mai's 'little sister', Chiang Rai boasts a relaxed atmosphere, a great night market, and a variety of good restaurants. This charming city has a small-town feel and is a great place to explore on foot.
Day 10 - Hilltribe Villages Trek
Today marks the beginning of your trek through hilltribe villages which, for many travellers is the highlight of their Thai adventure. Visit various villages, each with their own unique language, clothing style and belief system. After breakfast, transfer to Karen village of Baan Yang Khamnu. After a short walk along the road, climb through bamboo forest for just over an hour to the top of a hill. Around 50 minutes later you’ll arrive at a lovely waterfall where you’ll break for lunch. Through more beautiful forest, crossing streams and climbing up a mountainside, you’ll reach the Akha village of Baan Pha Sert Nai mid-afternoon. There are around 46 families in the village, most of whom emigrated from Myanmar around 16 years ago, and you’ll stay with in a home near a stream with a forest view. You can join in with the villagers playing football, volleyball or other local games. Lend a hand to help your guide cook a delicious dinner of local food and enjoy an early evening meal in this memorable location and experience.
Day 11 - Hilltribe Villages Trek
After breakfast, chat with local women and see the handicrafts that they sell, perhaps choosing to purchase some – spending your money on community enterprises directly can help support community development. Begin your trek around 9 am, with a distance of around 5-6 kilometres covered today. For the next 1.5 hours you'll walk up a hill though scenic bamboo forest, then descent down to a stream where you can break and splash on some refreshingly cool water. Relax and refuel with your snacks, then continue uphill to the main trail. Here you can see a Buddha image above a well of clean holy spring water that the locals drink from. Nearby is the Lisu village, with a beautiful view across the countryside to the village you’ll stay in. Pass some tea plantations, then an hour later reach Huay Kaew Waterfall. This last section can get quite hot in the dry season, so the waterfall is perfect for cooling off, so why not tackle a quick climb uphill and laze in the refreshing waters. Close by is the Akha village of Baan Khum Akha, where you’ll stay tonight. The village overlooks a majestic valley surrounded by native jungle, tea plantations and lychee farms. You’ll arrive around 2 pm and, after a walk around the village, have time to relax – maybe even with a recuperating massage. Flex your cooking skills as you help the guide with dinner tonight.
Day 12 - Hilltribe Villages trek - Chiang Rai
Another 9 am trek start takes you uphill though lychee fields, then downhill on a hike that’s easier going than yesterday. Take it easy for the next 1.5 hours or so as you walk through scenery of rice fields and bamboo jungle, stopping in the village of Baan Ja-Jor to take a look around and maybe say hi to the local school kids. Then it’s not too far to the end of the trek at Pha Sert Hot Springs in Mae Kok National Park. You walk for a total of around 3 hours today. Here you’ll have lunch and can relax, swim and reward you muscles in the springs. Transfer back to Chiang Rai (approximately 40 minutes), arriving around 1 pm.
Day 13 - Chiang Rai - Chiang Mai - Overnight Train
In the morning visit privately owned Wat Rong Khun, more commonly known as the White Temple – a must visit in Chiang Rai. This contemporary temple is constantly being updated, and its strange design features references to Buddhist mythology, human sin and pop culture icons such as Michael Jackson, Harry Potter and Superman. Afterwards, return to Chiang Mai by bus (approximately 4 hours). The rest of the day is free to explore, so perhaps take a scenic, winding drive up a mountain to one of the country's most stunning temple complexes, Doi Suthep. A 300-step naga-guarded stairway leads you to the temples, and the climb is well worth the effort. The hypnotic atmosphere of chanting Buddhist monks and sweeping views of the city make this a most memorable experience. Keep in mind this evening you’ll get back on the rails for an overnight train to Bangkok (approximately 13 hours).
Day 14 - Bangkok
Arrive back in Bangkok and spend your day shopping or sightseeing before meeting up with your group for dinner. Being a weekend, this is a great opportunity to visit the weekend market at Chatuchak – one of the biggest and busiest markets you will ever see. Your leader can also give you other ideas of what to do – places like Jim Thompson's House, the Grand Palace and Chinatown are all great to explore. There's a fantastic array of transport options available for getting around this traffic-choked city and although it's most efficient to stick to the canals, river, and Skytrain, a trip in a tuk-tuk is certainly an experience!
Day 15 - Bangkok
With no activities planned for today, you are free to depart the accommodation at any time. That doesn’t mean that your adventure has to come to an end! Feel free to continue to soak up Thai culture and cuisine with an extra couple of days in its capital, if you’d like. If you wish to spend more time in Bangkok, we’ll be happy to organise additional accommodation (subject to availability).

Trip Dates

StartEndPrice FromRoom Type
02-02-202016-02-2020AUD $ 2,455-
09-02-202023-02-2020AUD $ 2,070-
23-02-202008-03-2020AUD $ 1,921-
08-03-202022-03-2020AUD $ 1,849-
12-04-202026-04-2020AUD $ 2,175-
24-05-202007-06-2020AUD $ 2,090-
21-06-202005-07-2020AUD $ 2,090-
05-07-202019-07-2020AUD $ 2,090-
19-07-202002-08-2020AUD $ 2,090-
16-08-202030-08-2020AUD $ 2,090-
13-09-202027-09-2020AUD $ 2,090-
11-10-202025-10-2020AUD $ 2,090-
18-10-202001-11-2020AUD $ 2,175-
01-11-202015-11-2020AUD $ 2,175-
08-11-202022-11-2020AUD $ 2,175-
22-11-202006-12-2020AUD $ 2,175-
06-12-202020-12-2020AUD $ 2,255-
13-12-202027-12-2020AUD $ 2,255-
20-12-202003-01-2021AUD $ 2,255-
27-12-202010-01-2021AUD $ 2,320-
03-01-202117-01-2021AUD $ 2,255-
10-01-202124-01-2021AUD $ 2,195-
31-01-202114-02-2021AUD $ 2,195-
07-02-202121-02-2021AUD $ 2,090-
21-02-202107-03-2021AUD $ 2,090-
07-03-202121-03-2021AUD $ 2,090-
04-04-202118-04-2021AUD $ 2,090-
11-04-202125-04-2021AUD $ 2,090-
23-05-202106-06-2021AUD $ 2,090-
20-06-202104-07-2021AUD $ 2,090-
04-07-202118-07-2021AUD $ 2,090-
18-07-202101-08-2021AUD $ 2,090-
15-08-202129-08-2021AUD $ 2,090-
12-09-202126-09-2021AUD $ 2,090-
10-10-202124-10-2021AUD $ 2,090-
17-10-202131-10-2021AUD $ 2,090-
31-10-202114-11-2021AUD $ 2,090-
07-11-202121-11-2021AUD $ 2,090-
21-11-202105-12-2021AUD $ 2,090-
05-12-202119-12-2021AUD $ 2,090-
12-12-202126-12-2021AUD $ 2,090-
19-12-202102-01-2022AUD $ 2,090-

Accommodation

Guesthouse (5 nights),Hilltribe village (2 nights),Hotel (4 nights),Overnight sleeper train (2 nights),Rafthouse (1 night)

Transport

Private minvan,Public bus,Overnight sleeper train,Songthaew,Taxi,Longtail Boat

Map