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adventure travel trip to Thailand
Buddhist monks outside monastery in Chiang Mai
  • Privately on Request
  • Duration 8 days
    Group Size 2-10
    Land Cost $2,050 Details
    Single Supplement $450
    Lodging 2 stars-3 stars
    Grade I-II
    Best Time

    Secrets of Siam

    Choose hands-on, active options for exploring northern Thailand

    Day 1      Chiang Rai/Golden Triangle

    You arrive at Chiang Rai Airport around noon, meet your English-speaking Thai guide, and drive to Chiang Saen harbor on the Mekong River. This is the heart of the famous Golden Triangle, where legal and illicit commerce flows among the wild frontiers of Laos, Burma, China, and Thailand. You probably won’t see opium or arms, but you will marvel at the vigorous and colorful exchanges of boatloads and truckloads of fruit, dry goods, grain, building products, and hardware. People from all four nations meet here in the markets to bargain vigorously as they have for centuries. Board a boat for a trip from Chiang Saen to the actual intersection of the borders of Laos, Burma, and Thailand. Visit the Opium Museum and take a short walk to your lodge above the confluence of the Mekong and Ruak rivers. Overnight at the Imperial Golden Triangle Resort, an international-class lodge featuring classical Lanna ambience and modern facilities. The resort offers a spectacular view of the borders of Myanmar, Laos, and Thailand.

    Meals: None
    Lodging: Golden Triangle Resort or similar

    View along the Mekong River
    Day 2      Drive to Mae Kok River Village

    If you are a very early riser, take a walk on your own to watch the river activity or look for nature around the resort. Then, get an early start for Mae Sai, the northernmost point of Thailand, on the Thai-Burmese border. Visit the morning market. It may be possible to cross into Burma (costs not included); this will depend on regulations at the time of your visit. Continue on to an Akha hill tribe village and then to Mae Kok River Village (or similar), your base for two days. Here on the Mae Kok River, away from any urban influences, you can enjoy the swimming pool and gardens and immerse yourself in the cultures and environments of northern Thailand. Choose from a variety of activities for which you pay local costs. A sample of half-day activities for your arrival day includes: trekking around Baan Thaton village and Wat Thaton (impressive Buddha images spread over five hilltops); mountain biking in the Fang Valley; traveling the river by barge or canoe to different villages; a three-dish Thai cooking program; an herbal steam bath and Thai massage. You may also choose to learn about community development by visiting the local hospital orphanage or an organic farming project.

    Meals: Breakfast
    Lodging: Mae Kok River Village or similar

    Akha village women
    Day 3      Mae Kok River Village

    Again choose activities that match your interests and pay local prices for services. Possibilities for today, in addition to those above, include full-day treks of varying difficulty to the rainforest waterfalls and hot springs of Fang National Park, a 4WD vehicle tour into the Wawee region which is home to nine different ethnic groups, or a six-dish Thai cooking program. The Mae Kok River Village is well-known for its extensive menu of excellent Thai food. Unlike major city hotels, the food prepared in the kitchens is not compromised to suit the western palate -- it is authentic Thai. The cooking courses are conducted in the Krua Maekok cooking school on the grounds of the Mae Kok River Village. The facility has 12 fully equipped individual cooking stations.

    Meals: Breakfast
    Lodging: Mae Kok River Village or similar

    Day 4      Mae Kok River Village/Chiang Mai

    After breakfast at the resort, you can choose to spend your morning at leisure or participate in one of the half-day programs available to you. After lunch, drive from Thathon to Chiang Mai. En route, you will visit a Hmong hill tribe village and also a small market where the Hmong sell products from their farms. Chiang Mai is northern Thailand’s ancient capital from which the Lanna kingdom extended its influence into present day Myanmar, Laos, and Vietnam. This was a center of power, wealth, trade, beauty, tradition, and art. You will enjoy the threads of these traditions as they thrive in the present. In the evening, your guide will bring you to a restaurant near the night market and will assist you in choosing the right food combination (cost not included). Afterward, enjoy the color and activity of the night market.

    Meals: Breakfast
    Lodging: Holiday Inn or similar

    Lisu woman at night market
    Day 5      Mae Sa Craft Village

    After breakfast, you can choose to spend time at beautifully-landscaped Mae Sa Craft Village, where a variety of activities are offered, including many which focus on traditional arts and crafts (not included in land cost). Select two from the following: steam room and Thai massage; parasol and fan painting; ceramic painting; batik fabric dying; saa paper making (dried flowers pressed into liquid paper); and Thai cooking. Alternatively, you may take an hour-long elephant ride through the jungle at Mae Sa Elephant Camp and visit the elephant nursery to join in feeding bananas to the elephant babies. After lunch, you may visit Agro village to see how the farmers grow vegetables and flowers in the village of Baan Pha Nok Kok. (In season, you might see strawberry fields laden with fruit.) This community is well-known for providing products to the Royal Project and also selling products in the local market in Chiang Mai. Return to your Chiang Mai hotel for the night.

    Meals: Breakfast
    Lodging: Holiday Inn or similar

    Bathing the elephants
    Day 6      Chiang Mai / Mae Hong Son

    Depart from your hotel at 7:30 am in order to be the first visitors at Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep, a sacred temple with a challenging flight of steps flanked by Naga serpents. Afterward, visit Wat Chedi Luang, the site of a formerly massive pagoda that was destroyed in the great earthquake of 1545. You will also stop to marvel at Wat Phra Singh and lovely Lai Kam Chapel houses with the revered Phra Singh Buddha image. Then transfer to Chiang Mai airport for a flight to Mae Hong Son and a welcome at the unique Fern Resort. The resort is outside of the city at the edge of a vast national park and is designed to attract wildlife and offer easy access to the forest. You will stay in comfortable deluxe air-conditioned cabins.

    Meals: Breakfast
    Lodging: Fern Resort or similar

    Fern Resort
    Day 7      Mae Hong Son

    The area around Mae Hong Son is completely forested and mountainous. Tribal villages in the area are strongly influenced by Burmese traditions, which are also evident in the architecture and monuments of Mae Hong Son. Less sophisticated and developed than Chiang Mai or Chiang Rai, Mae Hong Son is less a center of activity than an outpost in the wilderness offering you access to Thailand’s natural and cultural traditions as they thrive in the present.

    Once again, you are presented with a selection of options for entering a variety of fascinating environments (not included in land cost). You may choose to do a day trek that begins with meditation in the morning mist at Doi Sann Fa and includes a hike on Mae Hong Son’s highest mountain. You may choose a jungle elephant ride followed by a boat trip on the Pai River to visit the village of the long-necked women, the Padong women who from an early age put increasing numbers of brass rings around their necks. You may visit the Phu Clone Mud Spa and the Fish Cave. Or you may visit Tham Lod Cave, where a wide stream cuts through the limestone.

    Meals: Breakfast
    Lodging: Fern Resort or similar

    Young Padong woman with her wares
    Day 8      Mae Hong Son / Chiang Mai / Onward

    Your morning is free to relax until your departure for the airport and return to Chiang Mai where JOURNEYS services end. Consider adding a beach extension on the lovely island of Phuket or Koh Samui.

    Meals: Breakfast
    Lodging: None

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