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, 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.
2 Bangkok / Overnight sleeper train
Take to the streets of Bangkok on bikes and explore some of the quieter parts of town on a half day tour. Cross Rama VII Bridge and cycle through the suburbs of Bangkok Noi, down the small alleyways that house the local residents. This is a great chance to get away from the tourist areas of Bangkok and into the heart and soul of this lively city. Pass the King's Royal Barges, the Bangkok Noi Canal, a local market, and ride on to Wat Arun. There's a brief stop for an optional visit inside the impressively towered Wat Arun, before crossing Chao Praya River to Pranakorn via the Memorial Bridge. Head past Wat Suthat, and make a stop for those who wish to see the largest sitting Buddha image in Thailand.
Your final stop on this ultimate Bangkok bike tour is the giant swing Sao Ching Cha, which represents the movement of the God Shiva and was reserved for performances at grand ceremonies. Travelling around by bike allows you to move through the city quite easily and at a pace where you can peer into the daily lives of those who call Bangkok home. Today's total distance cycled is around 17 kilometres. Take the afternoon to relax and maybe wander the streets a little more to soak up Bangkok's unique city life. This evening take an overnight train to Chiang Mai (approximately 13 hours). Multi share compartments are air-conditioned, with bunk beds; sheets and pillow provided. Your baggage travels in the carriage with you. There is a food and drink service available on board.
3 Hilltribe Trek
Arrive in Chiang Mai and check into day rooms to prepare for your trek into the remote surrounding regions. You destination today is the Karen village of Ban Pong Noi, stopping for lunch at the Mok Fah Waterfall. On the way you'll drop into Mae Malai local market to buy some fresh food for the trip, then drive for 1 hour to Mork Fah Waterfall. Have lunch and rest by the gushing waters, and maybe also take a quick dip, before heading to Baan Mae Sae, which marks the starting point of the trek (approximately 2 hours). Today is a relatively simple 2. 8 kilometre hike to Ban Pong Noi, and you'll arrive in the village in the late afternoon. You'll have your first homestay tonight, a brilliant opportunity to experience rural Thai life first-hand.
Please Note: 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 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. (L/D)
4 Hilltribe Trek
Today, there's an early morning start to take a tour the village before breakfast. Then trek through jungle, rice paddies, rotation dry farms, streams, rivers and waterfalls on a nature trail through Karen villages. The first leg of the trek is steep up and down hill through bamboo forest, a total walking time of around 3 hours. You'll enjoy a picnic lunch en route, and then continue for another 2-3 hours to a Lahu village, where you'll spend the night. The total walking distance today will be approximately 11 kilometres. (B/L/D)
5 Hilltribe Trek / Chiang Mai
After breakfast, take a morning walk around the village, with the opportunity to buy some local handicrafts – spending your money on community enterprises directly can help support community development. Then begin today's trek through the storybook landscape of farmland and jungle (approximately 3-4 hours) to a Thai village for lunch, where you'll meet with your transport. Take your time returning to Chiang Mai (approximately 2 hours), and this evening perhaps indulge with another traditional Thai massage before heading down to the famous Chiang Mai Night Bazaar, a shopaholic's dream. 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. (B/L)
6 Chiang Mai
The most vibrant city in northern Thailand, Chiang Mai is renowned for dazzling beauty and extremely welcoming locals. The ‘Rose of the North' will leave you spellbound. You'll get to ride right into it with two days of cycling narrow lanes through local neighbourhoods, past beautiful houses and to areas rarely seen by visitors. You'll be cycling for around 55 kilometres today, so an average level of fitness is suggested. The terrain is mostly flat with occasional hills, down quiet country roads and lanes, through beautiful changing scenery, picturesque rice paddy fields and orchards. You'll see the Thai countryside and Thai way of life, pausing at local markets, temples, villages and anywhere that deserves a photo stop or that's worthy of stretching the legs. Start by biking from the Chiang Mai FC Stadium along the canal road to Huay Tung Tao Lake. Then take the northern route following the Mae Ping River. Bike along paved roads through the local villages and their farmland to Mae Jo University, before stopping to relax and refuel with lunch in the area. Before and after lunch, along the cycling trail you'll see the variety of countryside landscapes that make up the Mae Ping River basin, from paddy fields to fruit orchards. You'll arrive at your accommodation, a lovely resort, around 4pm. Before your included dinner tonight you can relax by the swimming pool and take a well-deserved and refreshing dip. (B/L/D)
7 Chiang Mai
Saddle up again this morning with a ride to the gigantic temple of Wat Ban Den, where you'll discover the beautiful temple arts and architectures of Lanna modern temple buildings. Each of the 12 chedis here is dedicated to one of the 12 animals of the Thai zodiac, and Buddhists from all over Thailand make the pilgrimage to this special temple. Then, drop by another highlight of the Mae Tang Valley, Mae Ngat Dam. Here you can bike on the ridge of the dam, giving you panoramic views of the valley. Take a lunch break and refresh, then continue cycling to the ‘sticky waterfall', Nam Tok Buatong. Hidden in the lush green forest of Sri Lanna National Park, the waterfall gets its name from the porous limestone that's surprisingly easy to climb on. Today you'll cycle around 35 kilometres, passing though teakwood plantations, with teak being one of the most economic logging industries in Thailand. You'll spend some time relaxing at the waterfall before returning to Chiang Mai around 4pm. The rest of your afternoon and evening is free for you to enjoy the city's atmosphere. (B/L)
8 Chiang Mai / Overnight sleeper train
You'll have free time until an overnight train tonight to relax and enjoy the city. Options abound in Chiang Mai, from wandering the Old City to visiting some of the 300 temples which dot the Chiang Mai landscape – 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. There are also many Thai cooking schools offering courses for budding chefs, sure to help you impress your friends when you return home. This evening you'll get back on the rails for an overnight train to Bangkok (approximately 12 hours). Conditions are the same as Day 2 – soft sleeper class. (B)
9 Kanchanaburi / River Kwai
You'll arrive in Bangkok early in the morning and transfer to the bus station. Travel by local bus to Kanchanaburi (approximately 2 hours). Located where the Khwae Noi and Khwae Yai rivers converge, Kanchanaburi is home to the infamous 'Bridge on the River Kwai'. Today you can enjoy the views over the river, explore the rows of street vendors in town and grab a drink overlooking the Kwai.
10 Kanchanaburi / River Kwai
This morning you'll get an insight into the darker side of Kanchanaburi's history with a moving visit to the Hellfire Pass Memorial (approximately 1 hour), built to honour the Allied POWs and Asian conscripts who died while constructing some of the most difficult stretches of the Thai-Burma Death Railway. You can head out to a teak observation deck, and look across to Myanmar just 25 miles away and the eponymous pass, cut through rock 18 metres deep, that got its name from the hellish fires used to light the work at night. You then have time by the river for lunch before jumping aboard kayaks to enjoy paddling at a leisurely pace on the smooth waters of the River Kwai Noi for the next two days. The time it takes can depend on the water level but you'll usually kayak for approximately 3-4 hours on the first day and 4-5 hours on the second day. The scenery is stunning, and kayaking through tropical forests and beautiful limestone mountain views is unique and unforgettable. You'll overnight in a resort with an outdoor pool, the perfect place to relax any sore muscles. You will kayak for approximate 23Kms on this day. Double seater kayaks are provided. (L/D)
You'll continue your wonderful kayak down the river this morning, floating down the river (with the help of a bit of arm power) for around 3 hours this morning, or approximately 13 kilometres. After a rest and refuel for lunch you'll get another good workout with 5 hours at a leisurely pace in the afternoon. The kayaking finishes at Kaeng Pralom Bridge in the afternoon, and you'll drive back to Kanchanaburi for a well-deserved cold drink. Please Note: There will be a support vehicle with you for these two days, just in case anyone gets tired and would like a rest from kayaking. The amount of kayaking done on Day 11 can depend on the group's wishes and fitness. It can be 35 kilometres, but it may also be possible to finish kayaking after lunch and visit the seven-tiered Erwan Waterfalls in the afternoon. (B/L)
Travel back to Bangkok by public bus (approximately 2 hours). You are free to depart at any time after arriving. If you are booking flights or other transport out of Bangkok on this day, please keep in mind that delays are frequent and we strongly recommend that you don't book a flight earlier than 2pm. Please note no accommodation is included in Bangkok on this day. There are shared day rooms available for your use until midday. Additional accommodation is available to book – please enquire at time of booking.