The Essence of the Land of Smiles

The Essence of the
Land of Smiles

The historical heart of central and northern Thailand with ample highlights captured en route

WHY THIS TOUR?

The renowned quality of what Thailand can bring to the tourism table requires no further introduction. From north to south, the travel options are next to unlimited and a plethora of religious, natural and historical landmarks pass the revue with every turn you take. It’s a country that not only delivers smiles it also smiles from across the globe, sharing the uniqueness of the country, and its openness to anyone interested in the country’ history.

Rounding off with beach, more exploration of other mesmerising destinations or simply seen as a stand-alone introduction, this well-balanced 6 days exploration from Bangkok is all what one needs to lift the veil of Amazing Thailand.

TRAIL ITINERARY

Day 1 | 6 Days The Essence of the Land of Smiles

Day 1

Bangkok – Phitsanuloke                                                                                                             [L]

A journey through time with culture and authenticity commences with an early departure from your accommodation in Bangkok. Guided by our local ambassadors, awarded by many as keen and extremely knowledgeable tour leaders, your guide for the coming days takes northbound towards some of Thailand must-sees.

We start our morning towards one of the former capitals of the Siam Kingdom – Ayutthaya. A Heritage Site 80 km north of Bangkok, it was the capital of Siam and a prosperous trading port from 1350 until 1767 when it was ransacked by Burmese invaders. It is now the site of the Ayutthaya Historical Park with the ruins of palaces, temples and monasteries on an island at the convergence of three rivers. We commence with our Ayutthaya explorations at the Wat Phanan Choeng. This temple was constructed at the beginning of the 14th century and remains a focal point for worshippers from across the country. Its prominent location along the eastern banks of the Chao Phraya River makes it a recognisable landmark in Ayutthaya. Wat Phra Sri Sanpetch is a unique temple in Ayutthaya’s vast landscape of antiquities and the next port of call. It is famed for its three-spired pagoda and its importance as a royal temple within palace grounds, making it one of Ayutthaya’s most venerable sites.

Named after the original name of the Ayutthaya period during the time, this well-known city was seen as the centre of the former Kingdom of Siam, the villagers at Ban Ton Pho and Ban Nhong Pai are keeping the ancient tradition of making knives alive. Collectively called the Aranyik Knife Villages, the descendants of these craftsmen are originally from Vientiane and are using their handed-over-through-generations smithing skills to create sharp-edged masterpieces. With historical artefacts dating back to the Ratanakosin period, these villages are the epitome of authentic craftsmanship. We head slightly further north to Ang Thong, home of a unique museum.

Ang Thong is a renowned creative enclave that is home to artisans who are highly skilled at hand crafting traditional Thai court dolls, drums and wickerwork. The collection at the Ban Bang Sadet Court Doll Centre, located in a well-preserved Thai wooden house on stilts, is seen as one of the most comprehensive ones in the country. All aspects, from making the dolls to learn about their function in Thai society, are shown here. A visit to this part of central Thailand is not complete without visiting Wat Muang with the country’s largest sitting Buddha. Part of the Ang Thong district, this gilded representation of the Lord Buddha is 92 metres tall and was erected in 1990.

Lunch is included at a local restaurant in Chainat

After this visit, we head further north to Phitsanuloke via Lopburi. Lopburi is situated in the central region and famed for its resident monkeys and historical sites. Often taking the spotlight when visiting Lopburi, the centrally-located Prang Sam Yod’s residents are the main attraction rather than its historical values. Nationwide known as the Monkey Temple, the stone walls and stupa are home of numerous families of monkeys. Each year, to pay respect to the town’s mascot, the monkey festival has a large crowd heading over to the Prang Sam Yod. Be mindful when entering the temple as the monkeys are very curious and are eager to grab onto your personal belongings.

The drive further in northern direction towards Phitsanuloke shows the rural, agricultural side of the country. It is here where visitors can see rice paddy fields, fruit plantations, and local villages still making a living by blending local traditions with little visible modern influences. Temples and pagodas dot the landscape from all directions, showing how important Buddhism is for the country. Upon arrival in Phitsanuloke, we head over to the Wat Phra Si Mahathat, commonly called Wat Yai by the people, is on the east bank of the Nan River within Phitsanuloke’s town limit. The Viharn of the temple houses what is regarded as the most beautiful and graceful Buddha statue in Thailand, It is believed that the structure was originally a lotus bud-shape Chedi, a style called Phum Khao Bin regarded as genuine Sukhothai. The long day comes to an end when you check in at your hotel. Dinner is on own arrangement.

Overnight in Phitsanuloke

Day 2 | 6 Days The Essence of the Land of Smiles

Day 2

Phitsanuloke – Lampang                                                                                              [B, L]

Breakfast is included at the hotel

Before we say goodbye to Phitsanuloke, one museum that has been a landmark in the preservation of historical artefacts and tools cannot be forgotten. Cha Thawee Folk Museum is a privately-owned museum in the centre of Phitsanuloke, dedicated to showcase historical artefacts, tools and photographs from the region. The cosy, charming museum has ample examples of how people lived and worked in the former days. Founded by a retired Sergeant Major of the Thai military, the displays are spread over three different buildings. The region is widely known as one of the important centres for making Buddha statues where a visit to a factory shows the dedication of local master crafters in turning raw material into replicas of the Lord Buddha.

Drive in western direction to yet another example of history preserved with an international stamp. Sukhothai, meaning ‘dawn of happiness,’ was the capital of the first Thai kingdom that flourished from the mid-13th to the late 14th centuries. It laid the cultural and political foundation for the realm that became known as Thailand and is viewed as the golden era of Thai civilisation. For example, the Thai alphabet was created by King Ramkhamhaeng the Great here. The remains of the kingdom can be seen in a 45 sq-km World Heritage Site containing 193 antiquities of royal palaces, temples, city gates, walls, moats and dams spread amid ponds, rice paddies and villages.

A not to miss temple inside Sukhothai Historical Park is the Wat Si Chum with its large seated Buddha statue with a set of gold-tapered fingers reaching towards the earth. The sheer size of this image almost fills the complete roofless stone-walled chamber. According to local findings, this 700-year old temple was once adorned with rich murals, dedicated to the life of the Lord Buddha.

Lunch is included at a local restaurant

In the late afternoon, we reach Lampang where we spend the night. Lampang is a provincial capital famous for its ceramics and horse-drawn carts. The city has undergone a renaissance as of late with the opening of cool cafes, restaurants and trendy hotels. Situated 100 km south of Chiang Mai, Lampang has always been in the shadow of its more famous neighbour and hence its rich heritage of traditional shops and houses have not fallen victim to mass tourism development.

Nationwide seen as the unofficial ceramic and pottery capital of Thailand, the production of blue-and-white pottery with its trademark chickens on it, is next on our agenda. The stories why the chicken has become intertwined with Lampang is explained right here while locals go on creating daily household goods and decorative items that in the end will be shipped across Thailand. Lampang is more than just known for its ceramics; walking through Talad Gao Street and the remarkable colonial history in the form of houses and buildings will put forward another important characteristic of this quaint town. Dinner is on own arrangement.

Overnight in Lampang

Day 3 | 6 Days The Essence of the Land of Smiles

Day 3

Lampang – Chiang Rai                                                                                                 [B, L]

Before the sun has set, it is highly recommendable to join your guide and the local community for an alms giving experience in Lampang. Morning rituals nearby one of the town’s main temples are amongst the most sought-after experiences when wanting to witness local alms giving in town. Located just a short distance away from your accommodation, alms giving is and remains the way to witness the austere lifestyle of monks and novices, living and learning according to the teachings of the Lord Buddha.

Breakfast is included your hotel

An early departure in the morning follows the well-maintained roads even further up north. The morning starts with a visit to a pineapple plantation. From sweet to sour, the various pineapple species grown in Thailand offer locals and visitors really have their own distinctive taste and shape. The labour-intensive cultivation process of growing the perfect pineapple is included in this day when passing through Lampang. Accompanied by the local farmer and your guide, you wander the almost endless fields of pineapple plantations and see the various stages from seed to the fully grown, thirst-quenching treat, seen almost everywhere on the menu.

Via Phayao, known for Kwan Phayao, the country’s fourth largest lake and the largest body of fresh water in Thailand’s northern provinces, we reach the Chiang Rai province in the afternoon. Known as the gateway to the Golden Triangle border area of Thailand, Laos and Myanmar, Chiang Rai was founded in 1262 by King Mengrai as the capital of the Lanna Kingdom. It is situated in a mountainous landscape that is home to many hill tribe groups, with excellent trekking opportunities available.

Lunch is included at a local restaurant

From our lunch address, we head in north-western direction Doi Mae Salong with its elevated position in the mountainous landscape of northern Thailand. Located some 40 kilometres from Mae Chan, along Route 1089, Doi Mae Salong is a mountaintop settlement known as Santi Khiri is home to descendants of Chinese Nationalist soldiers who fled to and settled in Thailand in 1940. Mountainside plantations of tea, coffee, and fruit orchards provide scenic variety. The area is particularly picturesque in December and January when Thai cherry trees are in blossom. Wandering along one of the main tea plantations, seeing Chinese-style temples, and seeing local ethnic minorities working in the fields or at one of the ample open-air bazaars dotted across the 1800 metres-above-sea level plateau fill the afternoon before checking in at your booked accommodation in downtown Chiang Rai. Dinner is on own arrangement.

Overnight in Chiang Rai

Day 4 | 6 Days The Essence of the Land of Smiles

Day 4

Chiang Rai – Chiang Mai                                                                                           [B, L, D]

Breakfast is included your hotel

Unique on its views on Buddhism, Chiang Rai has a few religious surprises that are earmarked to show the creative impressions of local artists and its faithful followers. The life’s work of celebrated national artist Chalermchai Kositpipat still tops bucket lists of many travelers heading up north. Chiang Rai’s Wat Rong Khun (the White Temple) elates visitors for its detailed work and its unique view on Buddhism, seen through the eyes of an artist. A temple that both keeps visitors in awe, whether you’re a Buddhist faithful or embracing the quaint and abstract side of Thailand.

It is here where one of the best-known regions of the country commences. The Golden Triangle is the area where the borders of Thailand, Laos and Myanmar meet at the confluence of the Ruak and Mekong Rivers. Once known for opium production, the Golden Triangle is now a tourism hotspot with options including exploration of hill tribe villages, long-tail boat journeys down the Mekong and relaxation in luxury retreats. A boat ride over the Mekong River marks the end of our visit to the northernmost point of Thailand and seeing neighbouring countries such as Laos and Myanmar on the other side of the river bank.

Lunch is included at a local restaurant

It is time to leave the north and move southbound to Thailand’s second largest city. The ‘Rose of the North’ is surrounded by fertile valleys and misty hills occupied by indigenous tribes. The historic city includes antiquities, ancient walls and moats and is close to the magnificence of Doi Inthanon, Thailand’s highest mountain. Chiang Mai offers a more relaxed pace, a distinctive regional cuisine and rich cultural experiences such as exploration of rustic hill tribe villages.

Before we end the day at your booked hotel, seeing local artisans at work in creating some of the country’s most notable handicraft fills the afternoon. Situated north-east from Chiang Mai, San Kamphaeng has long been associated with being the centre for Thailand’s thriving handicraft centre and home for various natural landmarks. The district lies along the administrative border with the Lampang province and an insight in local life in northern Thailand. The afternoon comes to an end when we arrive at your hotel in downtown Chiang Mai.

An indigenous cultural feast for all the senses in Chiang Mai is a so-called Khantoke dinner. Enhanced with a music and dance performance from the various ethnic minorities living in northern Thailand, such as the Akha, Yao, Lahu and Meo, a Khantoke dinner allows guests to taste a broad array of various dishes from this part of Thailand. Seated on cushions with one’s shoes off, a combination of meat, noodles, vegetables, soups, curries and rice are shared in an almost communal way. Menus can be adjusted for those with dietary specifications of meal allergies once given an advance notice.

Overnight in Chiang Mai

Day 5 | 6 Days The Essence of the Land of Smiles

Day 5

Chiang Mai – Bangkok                                                                                                     [B]

Breakfast is included your hotel

Guests definitely need a full day to explore what Chiang Mai has in store. Right after breakfast, it is time to thank the hospitable staff at this Chiang Mai hotel for giving you a memorable stay before heading out in exploring what lies in and around the Rose of the North. Chiang Mai’s climate is ideal for the cultivation of orchids, the country’s national flower. Wandering around the various orchids at this Chiang Mai orchid farm at the end of the morning will certainly bring visitors plenty of beautiful memories to take home. Founded as an ecological, sustainable project in turned elephant faeces into usable fibres, the name Elephant Poo Poo Paper Park may raise some eye brows at first when reading the name. This family-friendly attraction outside Chiang Mai (45 minutes’ drive) shows how paper and fibres are made as well giving visitors an interactive chance to make their own. Our morning is reserved in learning all there is to know about recycling.

One of the smaller museums outside Chiang Mai, the Dara Pirom Palace Museum was founded after the passing of the Princess Dara Rasamee, a royal consort. Located in the Mae Rim district, this two-story house turning museum displays items, memorabilia and the Benjarong actual living quarters of one of King Rama V’s most beloved persons. The museum is closed every Monday

Lunch is included at a local restaurant

Part of the Doi Pui National Park and within a short drive from downtown Chiang Mai, Doi Suthep Mountain is best known for its highly revered temple nearby the peak – Wat Prathat Doi Suthep. The uphill road to this spiritual sanctuary with amazing views over Chiang Mai comes with quite a few turns to reach the 1050 meter above sea level temple. Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep is to Chiang Mai what St. Peter’s Cathedral is to Rome. Climb a 300-step staircase to be rewarded by the sight of the temple’s golden spire and birds-eye view of the city below.

Spiralling down Suthep Mountain and back into downtown Chiang Mai marks the end of our visit to the North. Together with your guide, you will be transferred to Chiang Mai’s Railway station to catch the night train back to Bangkok (2nd class, air-conditioned). The experience of taking an overnight train is something quite exhilarating where on-board staff will turn down your seats into comfortable bedding (bunk bed style) as the train travels through the night to reach Bangkok early the next morning. Dinner is on own arrangement.

Overnight on the night train Chiang Mai – Bangkok

Options to return back by domestic flight from Chiang Mai to Bangkok are available. Kindly contact our customer service tram Asian Trails Thailand for time table, supplementary charges, and other information you may require.

Day 6 | 6 Days The Essence of the Land of Smiles

Day 6

Bangkok                                                                                                                                [-]

An early morning arrival at Bangkok’s central railway station marks the end of 6 days travelling through the central and northern part of Thailand. A one-way transfer from the railway station to your booked accommodation in Bangkok or to one of the international airports in the City of Angels ends the services.

THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW

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INCLUSIONS

  • Tours with licenced English-speaking guiding services / assistance. Other languages are on request and are subject to availability;
  • Accommodation in sharing twin / double;
  • Transportation for tour and transfers by air-conditioned vehicle, unless otherwise stated;
  • One-way overnight train ticket Chiang Mai – Bangkok (2nd class, air-conditioned);
  • One-way arrival transfer Bangkok Railway Station – Bangkok hotel (no guide); supplementary charges for transfer to one of Bangkok’s International airports apply.
  • All entrance fees for visits as mentioned in the program;
  • All applicable taxes and service charges;
  • All meals as indicated in the program (food only)

EXCLUSIONS

  • Personal expenses such as other meals, drinks, tips and gratuities, shopping, portage fees and optional tours/ visits, unless otherwise stated;
  • Hotel accommodation in the destination of commencement;
  • Any domestic / international airline tickets, airport taxes, visa fees, specific camera / video fees, additional transportation cost from and to the general pick-up / drop-off regions (such as airports, out-of-town resorts, ports, harbours and accommodation in surrounding towns);
  • Any accommodation expenses of a personal nature. This includes (compulsory festive) meals and drinks, mini-bar consumption, laundry, room service, any telephone or other communication cost not mentioned in the program;
  • International travel and medical insurance coverage for customers.

GOOD TO KNOW

  • In line with the program, customers are strongly advised to spend the night prior to the start of this package in Bangkok;
  • We will do all possible to comply with any dietary requirements during this tour; it may not always be possible to confirm your wishes in advance based on the choice of local restaurant;
  • We reserve the right to make necessary changes to the tour in case of unfavourable weather conditions or situations where we are forced to make alterations to guarantee the safety of our guests;
  • To respect local customs and respecting the religious sites and temples, it is customary for guests to take off their shoes before allowed entrance. Your guide will inform you in advance for which of these sites this is applicable
  • Natural elements of any kind have a destructive effect on electronic equipment. It the customer’s own responsibility to ensure that any camera, mobile telephone or other device is properly wrapped and protected against these elements. We cannot be held responsible in any way for negligence and/or not following suggestions for any damage related to this;
  • We reserve the right to make necessary changes to the tour in case of unfavourable weather conditions or situations where we are forced to make alterations to guarantee the safety of our guests;
  • Tours and excursions often include obstacles of various kinds that may not make this excursion suitable for wheelchair users or guests with limited mobility;
  • The protection of the country’s flora, fauna and its historical and cultural treasures is of immense importance for us. We will not pursue any activities that are not in line with our animal, wildlife and environment protection principles;
  • Please ensure that you bring sunglasses, a hat /cap and sunblock with a high SPF factor when traveling with us. Even when it is cloudy, the sun still has an immense power;
  • All mentioned times, durations and stops are based on approximations and may change due to unforeseen circumstances, weather and traffic conditions beyond our control

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