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Beautiful Northern Thailand

Northern Thailand

Beautiful Northern Thailand

Hiking·
Rafting
·
Start: Bangkok
·
End: Bangkok

Journey from Bangkok to Chiang Mai and back, via Ayuthaya

Activity
LocationNorthern Thailand
Duration15 days
Start / EndBangkok / Bangkok
Tour operatorIntrepid Travel

Northern Thailand

Beautiful Northern Thailand

Hiking·
Rafting·
15 days·Intrepid Travel
Start: Bangkok
·
End: Bangkok

Description

This was the tour that started it all for Intrepid - and it remains one of our most popular. Northern Thailand is among the greatest adventure destinations on the planet and this journey shows why - hiking among hilltribes near Chiang Mai, drifting down the River Kwai in Kanchanaburi and calling in to visit friendly and colourful villages. Come along and see why this has become the benchmark fo...

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Itinerary

Day 1Bangkok
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 6pm on Day 1. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where it will take place, and have your insurance details and next of kin information ready for collection. 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, perhaps gather your fellow travellers together and tuck into some world famous street food.
Day 2Kanchanaburi/River Kwai
Begin the day with a river cruise down the Chao Phraya River to explore the famous ‘khlongs’ (canals) (approximately 1 hour). 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. 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 3Kanchanaburi
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 or simply swim and relax. The falls are considered the most beautiful in the whole country, with glacial blue waters rushing through the forest into bamboo-shaded pools perfect for a refreshing dip. If you want to make the climb all the way from level one to level seven it’s about a ninety-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. Tonight you can explore the rows of street vendors in town and grab a drink overlooking the River Kwai.
Day 4Kanchanaburi
Today you’ll then spend a memorable day and night floating down the Mae Glong River in a raft house. The raft house is towed by a boat, and it is your transport down the river, your lounge room for the day to sit back and enjoy the sights, and your bed for the night. This is a unique way to travel and sets the scene for pure relaxation. Spend the afternoon temple-hoping down the river, stopping off to see the cave temple of Wat Baan Tham, a Chinese temple called Wat Tham Khao Noi, and a Thai temple called Wat Tham Suea. There’s also plenty of time for card playing, reading a book, or just taking in the view down the river. This really is an Intrepid style of travel! Notes: The raft house has Western style toilets and shared bathrooms with showers. There is an open plan living area that is fully covered and so offers plenty of shade, but the sides are open to take in the views and to feel the breeze while moving down the river. At night time the raft house will be moored, and the living room becomes the sleeping area. Thai style thin mattresses are placed on the floors with sheets provided, and everyone will sleep in the one area. Mosquito nets are also provided. Delicious Thai food will also be served on the raft house.
Day 5Ayuthaya
After your river adventure, you’ll disembark and travel by private mini van to Ayutthaya, via Suphanburi (approximately 5 hours). Day rooms will be arranged, as you take an 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 1 million residents by AD 1700. 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 picturesque 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 you’ll head north to Chiang Mai on an overnight train journey, accommodated in air-conditioned sleeping berths (approximately 13 hours). Notes: Multi share compartments are air-conditioned, with bunk beds; sheets and a pillow provided. Your baggage travels in the carriage with you. There is a food and drink service available on board. Sometimes the air conditioning on the trains can make the carriage quite cold so we recommend you bring a jumper and long pants for this journey.
Day 6Chiang Mai
The most vibrant city in northern Thailand, Chiang Mai has many famous 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 won’t 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. Perhaps simply have a traditional Thai massage before heading down to the famous Chiang Mai Night Bazaar, a shopaholic’s dream. 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; temples and ruins, the McCain institute for handicapped artists, and possibly a sticky rice factory are just some of the sights you may visit.
Day 7Chiang Mai
Today is a 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 (for you) is also provided, followed by elephant bath time. After a safety briefing you'll be free to jump in and help out scrubbing and bathing the elephants (be sure to bring some shorts/swim gear and a change of clothing). Alternatively, just sit back and watch these wallowing creatures so clearly enjoying themselves. Return to Chiang Mai for a final evening in the city – make sure to sample some delicious traditional northern Thai food. The signature dish is kao soy, yellow wheat noodles in a curry broth, traditionally served with chicken or beef.
Day 8Doi Mae Salong
Set off by road to the Golden Triangle region, the area where Thailand meets Myanmar and Laos. Travel by public bus, maybe chatting with the locals, 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 9Homestay
Jump in a private mini van and visit the point of the Golden Triangle, where the Thailand, Myanmar and Laos borders meet. Stop at the border town of Mae Sai, a great place to do some souvenir shopping; full of colourful shops stacked with Chinese, Thai and Lao goods, all at some of the best prices around! Pay a visit to the House of Opium Museum for a deeper insight into opium culture and this area’s problematic, drug-filled past. Then you’ll begin one of the highlights of this whole trip, when you’ll spend a few of days with the locals – head to a small Thai village and stay in the home of some local friends. There will be plenty of time to experience the quiet village life before sampling a traditional northern Thai khantohk dinner. Not only that, but this evening you’ll also enjoy a traditional Thai musical performance from our local friends’ children's band. Staying here is a true privilege and a chance to experience the real Thailand, something very few travellers are able to do. Notes: The accommodation in the homestay is on a basic multishare basis. There will be foldout mattresses on the floor and shared bathrooms.
Day 10Hilltribe Trek
Walking through hilltribe villages and meeting the locals is, for many, the highlight of this trip. Visit various villages, each with their own unique language, clothing style and belief system. After breakfast at the homestay and with a lunch pack in your bag, say bye to your hosts and take a songthaew to the Karen people village of Baan Yang Khamnu. After a short walk along the road, hike through green forest and 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 beautiful forest, crossing streams and climbing up a mountainside, you’ll reach the Akha village of Baan Pha Sert Nai 2 hours later. There are around 46 families in the village, most of whom emigrated from Myanmar around 16 years ago, and you’ll stay with one in their home near a stream with a forest view. You can join in with the local kids playing football or volleyball, or the local girls have many games they can teach you. 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. Notes: To take the trek you should be fairly fit, as you hike across hilly countryside, and rain or hot, humid weather can pose extra challenges. You’ll walk for up to 5 hours each day, but there's no great rush. The terrain is rural rather than jungle – the hilltribes grow rice and other vegetables on the slopes – and you’ll trek along village tracks. There's also the possibility of some shallow river crossings. Please note, there may be times during the trek when the use of video and/or still cameras may be inappropriate. Your group leader will advise you further. Each person carries his or her own pack for the whole trek (see the 'What To Take' section for luggage requirements). All meals are included while trekking, but you'll need to purchase and carry your own water (please allow approximately US$10 to cover your water purchase for the trek). Accommodation is multishare, sleeping on your rented roll mats on the floor of the wooden/bamboo huts typical of the villages. There are shared squat toilets and basic washing facilities (a hose or water pipe) in most villages. You may also be able to wash in a nearby stream. Warmer clothing and sleeping bags are recommended from November to January, as the nights are usually quite cool during this period. Sleeping bags can be rented locally – ask your leader to organise this for you at the group meeting.
Day 11Hilltribe 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 at 9am, with a distance of around 5-6 kilometres covered today. It’s a bit longer than yesterday, but the scenery is stunning and, with the cover of the jungle overhead, it won’t be too hot even in the summer. For the next 80 minutes or so 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 for 40 minutes to the main trail. Here you can see a Buddha image above a well of clean holy spring water that the locals drink from. 15 minutes or so later you’ll arrive at a Lisu people village, with a beautiful view across the countryside to the village you’ll stay in. Prop yourself on a rock and enjoy lunch under a shady tree. Pass tea plantations for 20 minutes, 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. Climb 15 minutes uphill to the swimming area and luxuriate in the refreshing waters (though beware it’s very slippery in rainy season). Just 10 minutes down the road 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 2pm 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 12Chiang Rai
Another 9am 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 to Chiang Rai (approximately 40 minutes), arriving around 1pm. 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 13Chiang Mai
In the morning visit privately owned Wat Rong Khun, more commonly known as the White Temple, is a must-visit in Chiang Rai. This contemporary temple is constantly being added to and its strange design features references to Buddhist mythology, human sin and pop culture icons such as Michael Jackson, Harry Potter and Superman. Then return to Chiang Mai by bus (approximately 4 hours). The rest of the day is free to explore. Maybe take a scenic, winding drive up a mountain (around 45 minutes) 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. This evening you’ll get back on the rails for an overnight train to Bangkok (approximately 13 hours). Conditions are the same as Day 5 – soft sleeper class.
Day 14Bangkok
Arrive back in Bangkok and spend your day shopping or sightseeing before meeting again for a final night's 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 15Bangkok
This Beautiful Thailand adventure comes to an end today. There are no activities planned for the final day and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time.

More info

Last modified (date)

27 Nov 2018

Trip title

Beautiful Northern Thailand

Trip code

TTSN

Validity

Validity: 01 Jan 2018 to 31 Dec 2018

Introduction

This was the tour that started it all for Intrepid - and it remains one of our most popular. Northern Thailand is among the greatest adventure destinations on the planet and this journey shows why - hiking among hilltribes near Chiang Mai, drifting down the River Kwai in Kanchanaburi and calling in to visit friendly and colourful villages. Come along and see why this has become the benchmark for a... Read more

Style

Original

Themes

Explorer

Transport

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

Physical Rating

3

Physical preparation

For the trek on this trip the general rule is the more preparation you have done for it, the more you will enjoy it. Although we are not walking at altitude or setting any distance records each day, the trek can still be demanding, as we walk through hilly terrain with our packs, and the temperature is often hot. We recommend that you undertake regular aerobic exercise in the weeks before you trav... Read more

Joining point

Nouvo City Hotel (Canal Wing)

Joining point description

Centrally located and close-by the famous Khao San road, the Nouvo City Hotel is within walking distance of many of the area's main attractions such as the Grand Palace, National Museum and Wat Po. We use the "canal wing" for all of our Intrepid Original trips that stay at this property and rooms are equipped with a private en-suite. Breakfast is not included but a buffet breakfast can be purchase... Read more

Joining point instructions

Metered taxi ranks are located outside the airport entrance on the 1st floor (gate 4 and 7). Go out of the customs hall, down to the 1st level and walk outside the airport where there is a table with a sign saying "metered taxis". The cost is the metered fare plus a THB50 surcharge. If the taxi uses the toll way it is up to an extra THB75. The total fare should be about THB400 Baht (US$11). Non-me... Read more

Finish point

Nouvo City Hotel (Canal Wing)

Finish point description

Centrally located and close-by the famous Khao San road, the Nouvo City Hotel is within walking distance of many of the area's main attractions such as the Grand Palace, National Museum and Wat Po. We use the "canal wing" for all of our Intrepid Original trips that stay at this property and rooms are equipped with a private en-suite. Breakfast is not included but a buffet breakfast can be purchase... Read more

Finish point instructions

A pre-booked departure transfer is available. Please inquire with your agent. If you have a transfer to the Bangkok Airport your transfer driver will collect you from your Hotel 3 hours before your flight time. If your transfer has not arrived within 15minutes of the scheduled pickup time please ask the hotel / guesthouse reception to call our transfer operator World Travel Idea 24hr number 081 6... Read more

Group leader

All Intrepid group trips are accompanied by one of our group leaders. The aim of the group leader is to take the hassle out of your travels and to help you have the best trip possible. Intrepid endeavours to provide the services of an experienced leader however, due to the seasonality of travel, rare situations may arise where your leader is new to a particular region or training other group leade... Read more

Safety

Many national governments provide a regularly updated advice service on safety issues involved with international travel. We recommend that you check your government's advice for their latest travel information before departure and ensure that your travel insurance covers you for all areas your itinerary covers. Please refer to our website's safety page for links to major travel advisories and upd... Read more

Visas

As a general rule most countries expect that your passport has a minimum of 6 months validity remaining. Please ensure the name on your passport matches the name on your booking and airline tickets. Your passport details are required to complete your booking. Your consultant will contact you when this is required. Take a copy of the main passport pages and other important documents with you, and l... Read more

Why we love it

Experience rural Thai life from a local's perspective with a homestay in a small village and a trek through scenic and enlightening hilltribe villages

Is this trip right for you

Experience travel in a variety of different ways, using private buses and even local transport like songtheaws. This trip covers a fair amount of ground, so be prepared for some long travel days. There is a night at a homestay and two nights in Hilltribe villages on this trip, a wonderful opportunity to witness everyday Thai life. Facilities can be basic and multishare, with fold-out mattresses o... Read more

Health

All Intrepid travellers need to be in good physical health in order to participate fully on this trip. When selecting your trip please make sure you have read through the itinerary carefully and assess your ability to cope with our style of travel. Please note that if, in the opinion of our group leader or local guide, any traveller is unable to complete the itinerary without undue risk to themsel... Read more

Food and dietary requirements

While travelling with us you'll experience the vast array of wonderful food available in the world. Your group leader will be able to suggest restaurants to try during your trip. To give you the maximum flexibility in deciding where, what and with whom to eat, generally not all meals are included in the trip price. This also gives you more budgeting flexibility. As a rule our groups tend to eat to... Read more

Money matters

SPENDING MONEY: When it comes to spending money on the trip, every traveller is a little different. You know your spending habits better than we do, so please budget a sensible amount for things like meals not included, drinks, shopping, optional activities and laundry. It's always better to bring a little more than you think you'll need. Also make sure you've read your trip details thoroughly so ... Read more

What to take

What you need to bring will vary according to the trip style you have chosen, the countries you are visiting and when you are travelling. Generally speaking you should pack as lightly as possible. On the vast majority of our trips you are expected to carry your own luggage, although you won't be required to walk long distances with it (max 30 minutes). Many travellers carry their luggage in a bac... Read more

Climate and seasonal

Warmer clothing and sleeping bags are recommended from November to January as the nights are usually quite cool during this period. Sleeping bags can be rented locally for approx. THB200, please ask your leader to organise this for you at the group meeting. Songkran is a national holiday in Thailand marking the start of the Thai New Year. The proposed dates for this traditional Buddhist festival ... Read more

A couple of rules

Everyone has the right to feel safe when they travel. We don’t tolerate any form of violence (verbal or physical) or sexual harassment, either between customers or involving our leaders, partners or local people. Sexual relationships between a tour leader and a customer are strictly forbidden. Use or possession of illegal drugs will not be tolerated on our trips. If you choose to consume alcohol... Read more

Feedback

After your travels, we want to hear from you! We rely on your feedback. We read it carefully. Feedback helps us understand what we are doing well and what we could be doing better. It allows us to make improvements for future travellers. http://www.intrepidtravel.com/feedback/

Emergency contact

While we always endeavour to provide the best possible holiday experience, due to the nature of travel and the areas we visit sometimes things can and do go wrong. Should any issue occur while you are on your trip, it is imperative that you discuss this with your group leader or our local representative straight away so that they can do their best to rectify the problem and save any potential nega... Read more

Responsible travel

We believe strongly in low impact or rather positive impact tourism. Broadly speaking this means that we try to minimise the negative aspects of tourism on the local cultures and environments that we visit and highlight the positive aspects. Please visit our website for further details and suggestions on how you can be a responsible traveller. http://www.intrepidtravel.com/ourtrips/rt/responsible... Read more

The Intrepid Foundation

Help us change thousands of lives by creating meaningful work and supporting skills training in communities around the world. The Intrepid Foundation is the not-for-profit for Intrepid Group. We work with local organisations around the world to improve the livelihoods of vulnerable individuals and communities through sustainable travel experiences. With our travellers’ help, we’ve contributed mo... Read more

Accommodation notes

OCCASIONAL ALTERNATIVE ACCOMMODATION The style of accommodation indicated in the day-to-day itinerary is a guideline. On rare occasions, alternative arrangements may need to be made due to the lack of availability of rooms in our usual accommodation. A similar standard of accommodation will be used in these instances. TWIN SHARE / MULTI SHARE BASIS Accommodation on this trip is on a twin/multisha... Read more

Transport notes

OVERNIGHT TRAINS Overnight sleeper trains in Thailand are air-conditioned and have sleeping berths down both sides of the carriage. The carriage is a multishare, with are curtains that close over the beds. A sleeping sheet and a pillow are provided, and our luggage travels in the carriage with us. There is a western and Asian-style toilet located at the end of the carriage, but no showers. Carriag... Read more

Travel insurance

Travel insurance is compulsory for all our trips. We require that, at a minimum, you are covered for medical expenses including emergency repatriation. We strongly recommend that the policy also covers personal liability, cancellation, curtailment and loss of luggage and personal effects. When travelling on a trip, you won't be permitted to join the group until evidence of travel insurance and th... Read more

Your fellow travellers

As you travel on a group trip you will be exposed to all the pleasures and maybe some of the frustrations of travelling in a group. Your fellow travellers will probably come from all corners of the world and likely a range of age groups too. We ask you to be understanding of the various needs and preferences of your group - patience with your fellow travellers is sometimes required for the benefit... Read more

Itinerary disclaimer

Occasionally our itineraries are updated during the year to incorporate improvements stemming from past travellers' comments and our own research. The information given in this itinerary may be slightly different to that in the brochure. It's very important that you print and review a final copy of your Essential Trip Information a couple of days prior to travel, in case there have been changes th... Read more

Accommodation

Guesthouse (4 nights),Hilltribe village (2 nights),Homestay (1 night),Hotel (4 nights),Overnight sleeper train (2 nights),Rafthouse (1 night)
15days
€1,215per person
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Jan 27
Bangkok
Feb 10
Bangkok
€1,336
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Feb 3
Bangkok
Feb 17
Bangkok
€1,287
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Feb 10
Bangkok
Feb 24
Bangkok
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Feb 24
Bangkok
Mar 10
Bangkok
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