Family Thailand Hilltribe and Islands Adventure
|Family Thailand Hilltribe and Islands Adventure
|Asia, South East Asia, Thailand
Travel from Bangkok's bright lights to the tranquillity of Thailand's northern hills. This active teenage trip is designed to combine a taste of traditional local life, staying in bamboo stilt-houses on a hill tribe trek, taking a river cruise and seeing elephants in a rescue centre. No trip to Thailand would be complete without spending time relaxing on its tropical beaches on the island of Koh Samet.
Bangkok – Explore the glittering Grand Palace complex and the beautiful temple of the Reclining Buddha
Chiang Mai – Bustling walled old town and the serene hillside Doi Suthep Temple
Hilltribe Trek – Three day trek to some of the ethnic minority villages of Northern Thailand
Day 1 Trip starts in Bangkok
Arrive in Bangkok, the bustling capital of Thailand famous for its street vendors serving up tasty Thai food, bright lights, tuk tuks and khlong boats plying the network of canals and waterways.
For those arriving on time our Leader plans to meet you in the hotel reception at 6pm for the welcome meeting and for those that wish, there is the chance to go out for dinner. There are no other activities planned today, so you are free to arrive in Bangkok at any time. If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you’ll need to arrive into Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi International airport (airport code BKK), which is 30km, between 30 minutes and an hour from the hotel. Should you miss the welcome meeting, your Leader will inform you of any essential information as soon as you catch up.
If your flight arrives earlier in the day, perhaps you might choose to join a sight-seeing tour this afternoon of the Grand Palace and rambling complex of Wat Po. Older than the city itself, this is home to a reclining Buddha which is a 46 metre golden plated statue depicting Lord Buddha as he enters Nirvana.
Day 2 Tour of Bangkok including the Grand Palace and Wat Po Temple
After a leisurely breakfast our sightseeing tour begins by tuk-tuk. A fun way to get around the city, the tuk-tuk is a firm favourite with kids and a great way to experience Bangkok. After a short drive, we arrive at the Grand Palace. The sheer scale and vibrant colours can’t fail to impress as we learn about the Thai Royal Family before walking on to Wat Po – the Temple of the Reclining Buddha. After spending some time here we return to the hotel for some relaxation. In the evening you may like to have dinner on a floating restaurant before visiting the vibrant night market in Khao San Road.
Day 3 Free day in Bangkok; overnight train to Chiang Mai
The day has been left free to allow time for personal exploration or relaxation. Should you wish to take in more sights of the city a short walk from the hotel takes you to the water taxi’s, a fast and fun way to experience Bangkok and its riverlife. A few stops will bring you to Jim Thompson’s House, a beautiful teak building holding a stunning collection of antiques and fabrics. A short guided tour takes you through his life and significance to the capital after World War II. Following a visit here, why not take the sky train to Chao Phraya River where a further boat journey will transport you to Wat Arun (Temple of the Dawn). Alternatively if you missed the long tail boat ride on day 1 there is the opportunity to do this instead.
After freshening up back at the hotel (several day rooms are provided) we arrive at Bangkok railway station where we board our air conditioned overnight sleeper train to Chiang Mai.
Berths are not in compartments, but are arranged open plan either side of a central aisle. During the evening and morning part of the journey, pairs of seats face each other on each side of the aisle. At night, each pair of seats pulls together to form the bottom bunk, and an upper bunk folds out from the wall. The attendant will make up your bunk with a proper mattress and a pillow, bedding and blanket. There’s plenty of luggage room. A steward or stewardess from the restaurant car may come round and take your food or drink order, offering you a set menu with several choices, around 180 baht for dinner and 100 baht for breakfast. The meal will be delivered to your seat although you may want to have this in the restaurant car. Toilets and hand wash sinks are located at the end of each carriage.
Day 4 Arrive Chiang Mai; visit Doi Suthep Temple
In contrast with the heat and bustle of Bangkok, the climate in Chiang Mai comes as quite a relief. The town is situated in a high valley at the foot of the majestic Doi Suthep Mountain. Founded in the 13th century, Chiang Mai is a city with a rich, colourful and turbulent history. As capital of the Lanna (Million Rice Fields) Kingdom, this area remained outside the rule of Bangkok until well into the 20th century. Upon arrival we take breakfast in our hotel before driving to the famous Doi Suthep Temple, where we learn that the location of the temple was chosen by… an elephant! The king’s favourite white elephant was left to wander with a Buddha relic strapped onto its back – the monarch having decided that where the elephant stopped, a temple would be built. We then return for an orientation walk of the town including various markets. In preparation for our hilltribe trek, there will be a short briefing from your tour leader tonight.
Day 5 Drive to Pai; start Hilltribe trek to Red Lahu Village
Leaving Chiang Mai we head into the northern hills to spend the next three days exploring the area of the hilltribes where colourful tribes people inhabit the mountain slopes above an altitude of 300m. There are numerous individual tribes, each with its own particular beliefs, way of life and colour of dress. Our 4 hour morning transfer is punctuated with several stops including a tea making cafe where we watch the grinding of the leaves and can sample different flavours.
We continue on and have lunch in the small town of Pai before driving to the start point of our trek. Here we are met by jeeps which take our overnight bags to the village, we just carry our day bag during the walk. Our trekking journey begins in the afternoon when we hike to a Red Lahu Village (approx 3 hrs walking), where we spend the night.
The walk takes us through beautiful open scenery and we regularly stop to look at the flora and fauna or watch the locals at work in the fields. The pathway is clearly defined as we climb and descend three hills. Our Tour Leader carves bamboo walking sticks for everyone, these prove a real asset particularly with the uphills and river crossings.
Once we arrive at the village we are taken to our sleeping quarters. The group is housed communally in one room with another room for cooking and eating. Foam mattresses, pillows, sleeping bags and mosquito nets are provided. After dinner we are greeted by traditionally dressed local children who sing several songs and then expect us to sing in return! It is a nice gesture to offer them sweets or small toys which you may have picked up in the markets of Chiang Mai. After a satisfying dinner, the ladies of the village provide a wonderfully soothing massage on tired muscles and help us drop off to sleep.
Day 6 Trek to White Karen Village via Tham Yao Cave
This morning we have time for a quick tour of the village before heading out on our days trek. The scenery today is less open and feels more wooded and shady. A welcome relief from the hot sun. There are numerous streams to cross and stepping stones to navigate. We may come across water buffalo on our journey and a picnic lunch of sandwiches and fresh fruit is provided by our crew. Firstly however they must make the table! This they do by cutting down bamboo, a very versatile material which serves as both a table top and legs.
This afternoon our walk brings us to Tham Yao Cave. A vast and pristine cave system which provides a home to hundreds of bats. Our second village is a little less basic than the previous night; a local shop in the village selling ice creams is a very welcome sight after our days walk. Again we are all accommodated in one village house but we are split between several communal rooms here with bedding as described above. There is a basic bucket shower and several toilets and also the opportunity to charge phones/cameras.
Day 7 Morning trek through river before transferring to Mae Hong Son
Our final morning of trekking is a little more relaxed as the majority of the route takes us along the river. Splashing though the water and skimming stones on the river is a perfect end to our trekking adventure. After a couple of hours walking, we arrive at our third and final village. A celebratory cold drink is much deserved as we finish this element of the adventure and bid farewell to our trekking crew. We board our bus and drive on to our lunch stop before continuing to Mae Hong Son. Although over half the population of Mae Hong Son are from the various hilltribes, the town’s location gives it a distinctly Burmese feel. It was only linked to the outside world by a paved road in the late 1960’s. Our hotel is located in a tranquil setting next to the river and surrounded by mountains. The rest of the day is free to relax by the hotel pool.
Day 8 Cycle ride and boat trip on River Pai
This morning we have a short cycle ride visit a temple which sits above the town offering expansive views of the surrounding area. In the afternoon, we then take a boat ride along the scenic River Pai. Similar in design to the long tail boats in Bangkok, they travel down the river giving the opportunity to spot colourful birdlife along the way and watch local people doing their daily chores. The afternoon is free for more walks, cycling, a mud spa or you may choose to relax and enjoy the facilities of the hotel.
Day 9 Return to Chiang Mai with optional Thai Cookery class
Today we return to Chiang Mai, the scenic bus journey will take around five hours including several stops plus lunch. Your main luggage will be waiting for you back at the hotel and the rest of the day is free. Later this afternoon we offer an optional Thai cookery class. You will meet your chef in the local market where he will explain and purchase the necessary ingredients, before being transferred to his kitchen (approx 30 mins). This is a stunning open air building which houses countless cooking stations. Everyone is encouraged to cook independently with children and parents working alongside each other. Each dish is demonstrated, before you then have a go yourself and whatever you produce is your dinner for the evening. The setting is stunning and provides a lovely cool environment. After dinner you are returned either back to the hotel or to Chiang Mai night market for a bit of bartering.
Day 10 Visit Elephant Nature Park Sanctuary before catching the overnight train to Bangkok
This morning we head out to the Elephant Nature Park Sanctuary which is one of the largest elephant conservation centre in the country and also hosts an elephant nursery and hospital caring for sick and abandoned elephants. Its main functions are for the treatment and care of elephants although visitors and tourists are now admitted. We will feed the elephants from a viewing platform in the morning and in the afternoon we walk with the centre’s staff with the elephants to the river that skirts the park. Bathing these gentle giants as they splash around is a real highlight with the opportunity to go into the river with them or watch them on the river bank. The day is all about spending quality time with these gentle giants and observing them being with the herd. We say goodbye to the elephants and travel back to Chiang Mai where we prepare for our overnight sleeper train back to Bangkok.
Day 11 Morning drive and ferry to Koh Samet with the afternoon on the beach
Our train arrives in the early morning into Bangkok where we are met and continue by minibus (3-4hrs driving) to Ban Phe port for the ferry to Koh Samet. We should arrive on the island around lunch time with the afternoon free to relax. The hotel has several pools and is located right on the beach front.
Day 12 On Koh Samet, a tropical paradise
Only 6 km in length, Koh Samet is home to some of the best beaches in Thailand. White sands contrast vividly with the clear blue sea that laps the tree-lined shores of this idyllic island. Up until the 1980’s Ko Samet was home to a small community of fishermen when the island then became a designated national park. The island still retains some of its original charm which you can experience for yourself over the two days that we are based upon the island. Relax and enjoy this tropical paradise, with the opportunity to do as much, or as little as you want.
Day 13 On Koh Samet with optional boat trip or watersports
Today is left free to explore/relax. You may just decide to enjoy the pristine beach, cooling down with a swim in the clear waters of the Gulf of Thailand. Alternatively you can take an optional boat trip to one of the nearby uninhabited islands. Watersports and snorkelling can all be arranged locally. The Queen Turtle Conservation Project is also a possible optional visit. Evenings can be spent in the beach front restaurants which are within close proximity to our hotel and specialise in freshly caught seafood dishes.
Day 14 Return to Bangkok
After a final morning on Koh Samet, we head back to Bangkok.
Please note, the trip starting on the 14th August 2016 has a flight back to the UK on Sunday morning at 1.10am arriving that day into London Heathrow. The hotel night for Saturday the 29th August has been booked for all clients. If you book a flight departing on the morning of the 30th August, Explore will still provide an airport transfer.
Day 15 Trip ends in Bangkok
The trip ends after breakfast at our hotel in Bangkok.
There are no activities planned today, so you are free to depart from Bangkok at any time. If your flight is departing later in the day luggage storage facilities are available at our hotel. If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you need to depart from Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi International airport (airport code BKK), which is 30km, between 30 minutes and an hour from the hotel.