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|Itinerary at a Glance
|5||Bangkok & Ayutthaya|
& the River Kwai
the River Kwai
|8||Kanchanaburi & Bangkok|
|Angkor Wat Optional Extension|
|9||Bangkok & Siem Reap|
|Phuket Island Optional Extension|
|9||Bangkok & Phuket|
24 travelers max, dedicated tour escorts & guides throughout
|Departs||Los Angeles (LAX), New York Kennedy (JFK) (flight schedule)|
|Highlights||Bangkok, Ayutthaya, Kanchanaburi. Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn), & River Kwai. Optional extensions to Phuket & Angkor Wat.|
|What to Expect||This moderately-paced, escorted tour includes a reasonable amount of walking or hiking and requires an average level of physical fitness.|
Even the most sophisticated travelers long to visit Thailand, with its beautiful beaches and islands, fascinating culture, exotic architecture, and ancient ruins. This tour showcases some of the highlights of this magnificent country, including the bustling capital city of Bangkok, the ancient city of Ayutthaya, and the historic River Kwai—all for an amazingly affordable price. At prices this low, you can be sure that this tour will sell out quickly, so hurry to reserve your space soon!
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Day 2: En route. Cross the International Dateline and lose a day en route. (You'll recover this day on your return trip.)
Day 3: Bangkok, Thailand. 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.
This afternoon, an exciting 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 Royal Barge Museum to view the beautiful barges used by the King on state occasions. Continue to Wat Arun, the magnificent temple of Dawn with its 79-meter pagoda or "prang", built in Khmer style. Before returning to your hotel, disembark at the River City Shopping Complex to browse for some of the best treasures in Bangkok! Accommodations: Rembrandt Hotel.
Optional Excursion: 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. Continue to Wat Po, founded in the 17th century and the oldest temple in Bangkok. This temple is also home to the amazing Reclining Buddha, one of the largest in the world, whose face depicts the attainment of Nirvana and whose feet are inlaid with mother-of-pearl. Later, drive through the city of Bangkok, via the Indian Market, the Wholesale Flower Market and Chinese Town; and the Royal Avenue were the Palace of the King is located. This optional excursion can only be purchased locally.
Optional Excursion: For 150 years, the Grand Palace, served as the home of the King and his court as well as the entire administrative seat of government. Within its grounds, you'll also visit the Temple of the Emerald Buddha (Wat Phra Kaew), a structure built to house a large Buddha image carved from a solid piece of green jadeite (jasper). This optional excursion can only be purchased locally.
Tonight, enjoy a traditional Thai Set dinner at Supatra River House Restaurant. Located on the banks of the Chao Phraya River, this beautiful two-story 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 downright spectacular. Breakfast and dinner provided.
Day 5: Bangkok & Ayutthaya. After breakfast this morning, drive north to the ancient city of Ayutthaya, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. King U-Thong founded the city in 1350 as the capital of his kingdom of Siam. By 1700, Ayutthaya had as many as a million inhabitants, making it one of the largest cities in the world at the time. But in 1767, the city was invaded and destroyed by the Burmese army. Magnificent ruins of the old city still remain, some having been restored. Exciting archaeological excavations are still proceeding at many sites in the area.
Today's sightseeing tour takes you first to Bang Pa to view King Rama IV's summer palace, used occasionally by the king and queen to host receptions and banquets. The palace and its surrounding temples represent an appealing fusion of Thai, Chinese, and European architectural styles. Continue to Wat Yai Chaimongkol, a temple best known for its enormous statue of the Reclining Buddha.
Conclude the tour at Wat Chai Watanaram, a monastery commissioned by King Prasatthong in 1630 in honor of his mother. However, its striking resemblance to Cambodia's famous Angkor Wat has led some to believe that the king also built the wat to commemorate his victory over Cambodia. Accommodations: Kantary Hotel, Ayutthaya. Breakfast provided.
Day 6: Ayutthaya, Kanchanaburi & the River Kwai. Set out on a drive this morning through the picturesque rice fields of Suphanburi to Kanchanaburi. Upon arrival, visit the historic bridge over the River Kwai, part of the infamous Death Railway built by the Japanese using Allied prisoners of war during World War II. At the Death Railway museum, you'll learn more about life in the camps, the building of the bridge, and the more than 8,000 POWs who died during construction.
Take a train ride through the Kwai Noi gorge before continuing to your river resort. The rest of the afternoon is yours at leisure. We suggest a visit to the resort's spa for a Thai massage or steam bath, or a dip in the pool. Accommodations: River Kwai Resotel. Breakfast provided.
Day 7: Kanchanaburi & the River Kwai. After a breakfast this morning, drive to the Hellfire Pass museum, a memorial complex dedicated to the men and women who died during the construction of the railway. Nighttime labor by torchlight on this particularly difficult section gave the pass its name. Briefly explore the area before embarking on a trek through the Memorial Walking Trail. Enjoy the rest of the day at leisure for independent exploration. Breakfast provided.
Optional Excursion: Join a relaxing optional tour that includes a visit to an elephant camp, complete with an elephant ride through the jungle and alongside the river. Afterwards, enjoy a bamboo raft ride down the river's gently flowing waters. Enjoy the rest of the day at leisure for independent exploration, or head to the river to help bathe the elephants (fee may apply). This optional excursion can only be purchased locally.
Day 8: Kanchanaburi & Bangkok. After a leisurely breakfast, transfer to Bangkok and check-in at your hotel. Spend the afternoon at leisure or take the opportunity for some last minute shopping. Accommodations: Rembrandt Hotel. Breakfast provided.
Optional Excursion: 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 show. This optional excursion can only be purchased locally.
Day 9: Bangkok/USA. Enjoy breakfast and leisure time this morning or take part in a last optional tour. In the afternoon, bid farewell to Thailand later today as you transfer to the airport to board your return flight to the USA. Or, take advantage of your already-included international airfare and join our optional extensions to Angkor Wat or Phuket Island...or both! Breakfast provided.
Optional Excursion: Visit Damnoen Saduak Floating Market in Ratchaburi province about 100km from Bangkok. Take a long tail boat ride through the canals and see how Thai people live alongside the labyrinth of canals in this area. Arrive at the famous Damnoen Saduak market where you can stroll around the colorful floating marketplace bustling with boats and vendors selling tropical fruits and other delights.
This optional excursion can only be purchased locally.
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 9: 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. Accommodations: Borei Angkor Hotel. Breakfast provided.
Day 10: 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 11: 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 12: Siem Reap/USA. Transfer to the airport for the short flight to Bangkok. Continue to the USA via Taipei, arriving in Los Angeles. Or, continue on our optional Phuket Island Extension. 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 9: Bangkok & Phuket. Today you'll fly to Phuket. Upon arrival, transfer to your hotel and enjoy the balance of the day at leisure. Accommodations: Cape Panwa Hotel & Spa. Breakfast provided.
Day 10 & 11: 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.
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. Breakfast provided.
Day 12: 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 later today. Breakfast provided.
Thank you for an amazing tour of Thailand! This was our first experience with Friendly Planet, but based on this, we would highly recommend them. We thought it was a fantastic value. There is no way that we would have been able to do as much, or travel to multiple cities on our own. All of the accommodations were excellent. Our guide, "Tick", was very knowledgeable, experienced, informative, entertaining, had a great sense of humor, and he spoke/understood English very well. We would definitely consider another Friendly Planet tour, to a new destination.
Danielle Lawson, Madison, WI