This itinerary is for a past tour program.
Check out our current tour & cruise packages in Thailand.
Even the most sophisticated travelers long to visit Thailand, with its beautiful beaches and islands, exotic architecture, fascinating culture and ancient ruins. You'll enjoy all of it, from lovely Chiang Mai to frenetic Bangkok, all for an amazingly affordable price, despite the huge fluctuations in exchange rates between the U.S. dollar and Thai baht that have caused tour prices to Asia's favorite destination to skyrocket. But not if you travel with Friendly Planet!
Day 1: Depart USA. Check in for your flight to Thailand via Taipei. Los Angeles flights depart from LAX mid-afternoon on day 1.
Day 3: Bangkok. Arrive in Bangkok very early in the morning (shortly after midnight). After customs formalities, transfer to your centrally located hotel for guaranteed check-in. Take time to rest from the long journey.
Tonight, enjoy a Thai Set dinner at Supatra River House Restaurant. Located on the banks of the Chao Phraya River, this beautiful two-storey traditional Thai house is the former home of Khunying Supatra Singholaga, a leading advocate of women's rights in Thailand. Its contemporary décor blends perfectly with the traditional architecture, and the views of the River, Grand Palace, and Wat Arun are spectacular. Dusit Thani Hotel Breakfast & dinner provided.
Day 4: Bangkok. Temples, along with the monarchy, are the fabric that binds together the national identity that is Thailand, and some of the most interesting of Thai temples are found in Bangkok. Today's sightseeing tour takes you to three of Bangkok's most visually stunning temples. The first stop is Wat Trimitr, where you'll view the 700-year-old Golden Buddha, the largest in the world weighing approximately 5 tons.
This afternoon, a canal boat ride gives you a close up of traditional Thai life as you explore some of Bangkok's waterways. The network of canals (klongs) branching out from the main Chao Phraya river still follows an old lifestyle that leaves the modern face of Bangkok behind.
Visit the flower market and Wat Arun, the magnificent temple of Dawn with its 79 meter pagoda or 'prang', built in the Khmer style. Arrive back at the pier and speed by sky train back to your hotel. Breakfast provided.
Day 5: Bangkok. Your last full day in Thailand is at leisure for sightseeing or shopping. Explore on your own, or join our optional tours. On this morning's optional tour, visit the Grand Palace, which for about 150 years functioned as the home of the King and his court as well as the entire administrative seat of government. You will be awed by the grandeur and majesty of the building and its throne halls. Within its grounds, you'll also visit the Temple of the Emerald Buddha (Wat Phra Kaew) built to house a large Buddha image carved from a solid piece of green jadite (jasper).
Tonight's optional excursion offers you a visual extravaganza at the Ratchada Grand Theatre, one of the biggest stages in the world. Travel back in time through the Kingdom of Siam and experience Thai history and culture during this spectacular Siam Niramit show.
Day 6: Bangkok & Chiang Rai. This morning, transfer to the airport for your short flight to Chiang Rai, where you will meet you guide who will escort you to your centrally-located hotel. Continue to Chiang Saen. a small town on the bank of the Mekong River, on the border with Laos. A boat trip on the mighty Mekong takes you to the Golden Triangle, the place where the borders of Thailand, Burma and Laos meet. Return to charming Chiang Rai. The River House Breakfast provided.
Day 7: Chiang Rai & Golden Triangle. This morning, enjoy a half-day tour of the highlights of Chiang Rai. Transfer from your hotel to the King Meng Rai Monument. From there, board a samlow (rickshaw) for a ride to the main market area. Continue by rickshaw to Wat Phra Kaew, with its beautiful brass and copper Buddha image, and the Hill Tribe Museum. Leave your rickshaw and proceed by motor coach to Wat Rong Khun with its unique 'kanok' architecture. The rest of the afternoon is your at leisure to explore on your own. Breakfast provided.
Day 8: Chiang Rai & Chiang Mai. After breakfast, depart Chiang Rai to Mae Sai, the northernmost point of Thailand, separated from the Burmese border town of Thakhilek by a small river also called Mae Sai. Take a stroll through the local market where you'll find jade and other Burmese jewelry and handicrafts.
Continue through mountains, valleys and the lush landscape of northern Thailand to Chiang Mai, often called the "Rose of the North" for the abundance of flowers that thrive in its cooler mountain climate. In the evening, join your fellow travelers for dinner in a local restaurant. After dinner, launch a khum loy (fire balloon) or a kratong (floating candle) for good luck De Naga Hotel Breakfast & dinner provided.
Day 9: Chiang Mai. This ancient city boasts many of Bangkok's amenities, including excellent cuisine and accommodations but without the frenetic pace of modern city life. From its origins as a small northern town, it has become a city representative of modern Thai culture with a beautiful personality of its own, shaped in part by the many lovely temples found here.
This morning, explore ancient and modern Chiang Mai including the city's most important temples: Wat Suan Dok, where the ashes of Chiang Mai's royal family are interred; Wat Phra Singh, home to an old and sacred Buddha image; and Wat Chedi Luang, where the famous Emerald Buddha was once enshrined. Drive around the old city walls and gates and see markets, residential areas, and Tapae, Chiang Mai's main street. Stops briefly for photos at Chiang Mai University grounds, the Monument of Three Kings, and Buak Haad Park.
Spend the afternoon exploring on your own or join an exciting optional tour to Phu-Phing Palace, the winter home of the royal family, sitting 4300 feet above sea-level. Continue to the temple of Wat Prathat Doi Suthep, the most famous landmark of Chiang Mai. Climb the Naga staircase to visit the exquisite golden pagoda. The panoramic city view from the top makes for an irresistible photo opportunity. Note: The Phu-Phing Palace tour operates daily except when the Royal Family stays in Chiang Mai. Breakfast provided.
Day 10: Chiang Mai. This morning you will visit an elephant camp for a first-hand look at the important role elephants have played in Thai life, from ceremonial purposes to warfare, transportation and farming. See a fascinating demonstration of elephants at work and play. Next, visit a beautiful orchid farm to see how these lovely and prized plants are expertly and artistically cultivated.
Tonight, join an optional dining excursion for an opportunity to experience one of Northern Thailand's signature dishes—'Khao Soy' curry noodles. The meal is served in specially designed Khao Soy sets, consisting of 8 small ceramic condiment dishes, laid around a large 'Khao Soy' bowl and set on an artist's palette. After dinner, visit the nearby night bazaar for a stroll among the colorful stalls. Breakfast provided.
Day 11: Chiang Mai/USA. Bid farewell to Thailand as you transfer to the airport to board your return flight to the USA via Bangkok. Or, take advantage of your already-included international airfare and join our optional extensions to Angkor Wat and Phuket Island! Breakfast provided.
Why not take advantage of your already-included international airfare and enjoy a luxurious and relaxing stay on Phuket Island, Thailand's most famous resort.
Day 11: Bangkok & Phuket. Today you'll fly to Phuket, where the balance of the day is at leisure. Your hotel is ideally located at Patong Beach, overlooking Kalim Bay. Novotel Resort Breakfast provided.
Day 12 & 13: Phuket. Two full days at leisure to relax, shop or tour this scenic island, Thailand's largest. Phuket and the 39 smaller islands to the southeast are studded with tropical forests, mountains, gravity-defying limestone formations, and pristine beaches, surrounded by coral reefs and the aquamarine water of the balmy Andaman Sea.
With warm, humid weather year-round, you'll enjoy plenty of sun-drenched days lounging on the beach and all manner of water sports, including jet-skiing, parasailing, surfing, scuba and snorkeling. Most of the dive locations are suitable for all skill levels, and the waters abound with colorful coral forests, tropical fish and other marine life, including leopard sharks, moray eels, octopus and turtles.
Phuket is also the sailing and yachting center of Thailand and adjacent countries, with several races and regattas happening throughout the year. And in the unlikely event that you can pull yourself away from the beach, you'll find opportunities to ride horses or elephants, hike, mountain bike, and even golf. Afterwards, unwind at one of the many spas or one of the excellent acrobatic, theatrical or cultural shows.
Join an optional tour to the breathtaking Phi Phi islands, filming location of The Beach. Take a trip by boat and bus to Phang Nha Bay and to the famous limestone spire known as "James Bond Island" for its role in The Man with the Golden Gun. Breakfast provided.
Phuket is a melting pot of Buddhists, Thai-Chinese, Muslims and even sea gypsies, whom you'll find warm and welcoming. The west coast of Phuket was hit severely by the Indian Ocean tsunami of December 2004, but the resilient people have quickly rebuilt, and almost no evidence of the damage now remains.
Day 14: Phuket/USA. Enjoy a final day at leisure. Later today, transfer to the airport for the short flight to Bangkok. Continue to the USA via Taipei, arriving in Los Angeles or San Francisco later today. Breakfast provided.
Take advantage of your already-included international airfare by joining our extension to Cambodia for a special opportunity to visit Angkor Wat, a massive complex of temples that ranks among the most fascinating religious sites in the world.
Day 11: Bangkok & Siem Reap, Cambodia. Transfer to the airport to take a short flight to Siem Reap, gateway to the Angkor Archaeological Park. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the park contains the ruins of more than 1000 stone temples dating from the 9th to the 13th centuries. Borei Angkor Hotel Breakfast provided.
Day 12: Angkor Explorations. Built by the Khmer civilization between 802 and 1220 AD, the temples at Angkor and the great city that surrounded them represent one of mankind's most astonishing and enduring architectural achievements. The structures you see today are the surviving remains of a grand religious, social and administrative metropolis whose other buildings—palaces, public buildings, and houses—were built of wood and are long since decayed and gone.
Satellite photographs reveal Angkor to have been the largest preindustrial city in the world, with an urban sprawl of 3000 square kilometers (the closest rival is Tikal in Guatemala, at most 150 square kilometers) and supporting a population of up to one million people. Mysteriously abandoned in the 15th century, the Angkor site remained largely cloaked by the forest until the late 19th century, when archaeologists began to clear away the forest and embark on a long restoration process that continues today.
After breakfast, begin your explorations at the mysterious royal walled city of Angkor Thom. Its 54-tower temple is an awesome sight that most visitors never forget, with each of its surreal towers topped with four giant, barely smiling faces, staring out in the directions of the four points of the compass. The faces, which depict a Khmer royal ruler as a Buddhist deity, are identical, but the staggered height of the towers and the different viewpoint of each keeps the design from appearing repetitious. You are engulfed by the silent, heavy, enigmatic gaze of those faces, through half-closed eyes, staring out from a remote time in history.
After lunch at a local restaurant, explore the temples of the Small Circuit. The most famous is Ta Prohm temple, built in the mid 12th to early 13th centuries. Ta Prohm is unique in that it has been left largely as it was found: overgrown by jungle trees and vines, with many parts of the temple crumbling to the ground, giving it the most mysterious atmosphere of the temples in the Angkor area.
Continue to the magnificent Angkor Wat Temple, built by Suryavarman II in early 12th century. Inside the temple, the walls are covered with carvings and bas-reliefs depicting Hindu mythology and the history of the region. Breakfast & lunch provided.
Day 13: Angkor Explorations. This morning's excursion takes you to three early-Angkor era temples of the Roluos Group: Preah Ko, Bakong, and Lolei, built by King Indravarman I and his successor in the 9th century.
After lunch at a local restaurant, visit the "Citadel of Women" of Banteay Srei and Bantay Samré, considered to be the birthplace of Khmer classical architecture. Breakfast & lunch provided.
Day 14: Siem Reap/USA. Transfer to the airport for the short flight to Bangkok. Continue to the USA via Taipei, arriving in Los Angeles or San Francisco later today. Or, continue on our optional Phuket Island Extension Breakfast provided.
PLEASE NOTE: Passengers originating from New York (JFK) who take our Phuket or Angkor Wat extensions will overnight in Bangkok on Day 15 at a hotel near the airport and return to the U.S. on Day 16. Los Angeles and San Francisco passengers follow the schedule as shown.
$195/person if pre-booked**
To take full advantage of your visit to Thailand, we offer a discounted package of the most popular optional tours featured on our tour. These are not "seat in coach" tours that pick up passengers in various hotels. All the optional tours are operated for Friendly Planet groups only. (A minimum of 4 passengers required to operate.)
Optional Tours Package includes:
The special package price of $195 per person is available when booked and paid prior to departure.** If you don't want to book the entire package, individual optional tours will be available upon arrival.
**We regret that we cannot accept bookings for the pre-paid optional tours package within 75 days from departure or after final payment has been received.
Quick answers to Frequently Asked Questions about Thailand.
Quick answers to Frequently Asked Questions about Cambodia.
In Cambodia, we've seen this first-hand. We were amazed to discover that it takes as little as $200 to dig a well and install a pump that provides clean water to several dozen families. Friendly Planet has been funding the construction of wells in villages for the past three years. Several of our passengers have volunteered to fund wells themselves. Together, we've built over 200!
You can too! Learn more and donate towards a well yourself. $200 buys a complete well and pump, which will bear your name!
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