Secrets of Siam

Choose hands-on, active options for exploring northern Thailand
Overview

overview

Secrets of Siam will reveal to you what some Thais, but few tourists, know about the great pleasures and treasures of northern Thailand. Choose this trip if you appreciate learning the nuances of local culture, relish good food, enjoy unusual hands-on learning experiences, and prefer cozy eco-lodge and nature resort style accommodations. You may hike between tribal villages, mountain bike, raft, canoe, ride an elephant, or go bird watching in the protected natural areas close to many of the neat, immaculately maintained lodges where you will stay. You may also choose to learn Thai cooking, massage, painting, gardening, or batik.

itinerary

itinerary

  • Day 1: Chiang Rai/Golden Triangle
    View along the Mekong River

    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
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  • Day 2: Drive to Mae Kok River Village
    Akha village women

    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
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  • 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
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  • Day 4: Mae Kok River Village/Chiang Mai
    Lisu woman at night market

    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
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  • Day 5: Mae Sa Craft Village
    Bathing the elephants

    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
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  • Day 6: Chiang Mai / Mae Hong Son
    Fern Resort

    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
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  • Day 7: Mae Hong Son
    Young Padong woman with her wares

    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
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  • 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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Price and Date Details

Price and Date Details

Tuesday departures October-March
Or Privately on Request
Land Cost:
$2,050
Activities additional cost Chiang Mai/Mae Hong Son/Chiang Mai flights add $350 (estimated)
Single Supplement:
$450
The single supplement is applicable if a roommate is not available or if single accommodation is specifically requested. While single accommodation is not available on all trips, we will try and honor this request whenever possible.
Need to Know

Need to Know

This trip can be extended to include more time enroute, or other elements of amazing Thailand before and after. If you have lots of time, you may even wish to visit a beach...

Duration:
8 days
The number of days, or duration, in a destination corresponds with the itinerary as published. This is the time period covered by the land cost. The total number of days includes the time required to travel between the USA and the destination country.
Comfort Level:
2
Charming eco-lodges & Thai-style resorts
Group Size:
2-10
The stated range indicates minimum required for guaranteed departure and maximum accepted on the scheduled dates. Exceptions can often be made for private departures.
Activity Level:
2
Optional activites

Resources

Trip Extensions

Trip Extensions

Bangkok Hospitality

Duration: 3 days

If you are passing through Bangkok and want more than a transit stop, ask for our three day/two night Bangkok Hospitality Extension. We meet you at the airport and transfer you to an attractive centrally located hotel. This extension also includes y... read more

Phuket

Duration: 4 days

Phuket is the largest of Thailand's islands. It is incredibly varied with rocky beaches, long broad sandy beaches, forested hills, and clear waters great for snorkeling and relaxing. There is no better way to end a trip!

Angkor Wat 3-Day Odyssey

Duration: 3 days

This excursion focuses on the amazing ruins of Angkor in Siem Reap. Angkor Wat, a spectacular architectural legacy of a period of bizarre regimes, is the most famous and confusing of the ruins in southeast Asia. This makes a perfect extension to any ... read more

Angkor Wat 5-Day Odyssey

Duration: 5 days

This excursion takes you to Siem Reap where you explore the magnificent Angkor sites followed by a ride on the Tonle Sap to see the local fishing villages. Then a short flight to Phnom Penh where you visit interesting museums, including Toul Sleng, a... read more

Bangkok Exploration

Duration: 1 days

Accompanied by your personal guide you will meet exotic, ancient, enigmatic Bangkok head-on. After completing this multi-transport, mobile cultural immersion seminar, you should be able to go anywhere in Bangkok by train, ferry, sky-train, taxi or tu... read more

River Kwai & Erawan National Park

Duration: 4 days

This extension gives you a mixed variety of history and nature. You begin by exploring along the River Kwai stopping at important historical sites. You then travel to Erawan National Park, a unique and rugged landscape of high elevation plateau and s... read more

Ko Samui

Duration: 4 days

Relax and explore the beautiful island of Ko Samui. A perfect extension to any Asia tour.

Sukhothai, Thailand's Early Kingdom

Duration: 3 days

Consider adding a couple of days to your Thailand odyssey to explore Sukhothai and other towns and ruins of Thailand's ancient kingdom.

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