Day 1 - Bangkok
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. You could take a riverboat to Chinatown and explore the crowded streets, uncover the magnificent Grand Palace and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, 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 into world famous street food.
Day 2 - Sukhothai
This morning, leave the current capital of Thailand and head north by local bus to one of the first ancient capitals of Siam, Sukhothai (approximately 6 hours). You’ll make a short stop midway through for a chance to stretch the legs and buy some lunch. Located on a fertile plain, Sukhothai was established in the 13th century, and the name means the 'Dawn of Happiness'. It’s now famous for its World Heritage-listed historic park that celebrates the Golden Age of Thai civilisation. Tonight, be sure to head to the fascinating local night market and try the local dishes, like Sukhothai noodles.
Day 3 - Sukhothai
Head out to the historical ruins of Old Sukhothai, set amid beautiful lakes and gardens. The religious art and architecture of the Sukhothai era are considered to be the most classic of Thai styles, and the Sukhothai Historical Park contains the remains of 21 historic sites, with awe-inspiring Buddha images and four large ponds often filled with stunning lotus flowers in full bloom. Upon arrival at the park, hire bicycles and enjoy a few leisurely hours feeling the breeze in your hair and learning about the history of this fascinating place. Enjoy a home-cooked picnic lunch somewhere along the way, and if you have enough free time, visit a local ceramics factory.
Day 4 - Homestay
Travel by private minivan from Sukothai to your overnight homestay (approximately 4-5 hours). On the way, stop off at the Friends of the Asian Elephant Hospital located in Lampang. This is the first elephant hospital in the world established to care for sick and abused elephants, with the aim of preserving the animals' natural habitat and lifestyle. You’ll learn more about this important initiative and perhaps become acquainted with some of its resident pachyderm patients. Continue 1.5 hours to the warm and welcoming home of Intrepid's long-time friends in a small Thai village. Accommodation is multishare and basic (there will be fold-out mattresses on the floor and shared bathrooms), but there is no better way to better understand a country and its people. In the evening, you’ll be treated to a traditional northern Thai khantohk dinner, accompanied by live music and dancing.
Day 5 - Chiang Mai
In the morning, jump on some bikes and cruise around the homestay village. This is a great opportunity to see how the locals live, and you’ll make a few stops along the way to see small country industries in the area. Cycling past the rice fields and breathing in the fresh country air, with beautiful mountains in the distance, makes this morning a picture-postcard experience. Say goodbye to your new friends and travel on to Chiang Mai (approximately 45 minutes). The most vibrant city in northern Thailand, Chiang Mai has many famous temples and an interesting old city area. Renowned for dazzling beauty and extremely welcoming locals, the ‘Rose of the North’ will leave you spellbound. Chances are, you won’t want to leave. Your accommodation has both ensuite bathrooms and air conditioning, and is perfectly located right by the famous vibrant night markets.
Day 6 - Chiang Mai
Today you have the choice of doing a half day Thai cooking class or a half day cycling tour around Chiang Mai. If you're a foodie, then you’ll discover some of the secrets of Thai cuisine, learn the key ingredients, how to use them, and what to use in their place if you can’t get them at home. As well as taking your own comprehensive recipe book with you after the class, you'll feast on the fruits of your labour for lunch. If you’re feeling more active then you might want to saddle up for a half day cycling trip. After a short safety briefing and bicycle fitting, navigate the light downtown traffic as you cycle south, a pleasant ride along the green banks of the Ping River. Make a stop at a former leper colony turned rehabilitation centre, where you’ll get to know some of the daily life of the missionaries who worked here over a hundred years ago. The trip continues along various fruit orchards, cycling down small country roads and meandering around the villages on the outskirts of Chiang Mai. Here you’ll discover the real rural Thailand and encounter the Thai way of life. Explore the temple ruins of Wiang Kum Kam, the former capital of Lanna, before you cycle back to Chiang Mai.
Day 7 - Chiang Mai
Today is free for you to explore, but there are also a few optional activities you can join if you want. Perhaps explore the famous temple complex of Doi Suthep. Drive along a scenic, winding mountain road that ends at an impressive 300-step naga-guarded stairway (approximately 45 mins). The rewards justify the climb with one of the most beautiful temples in Thailand on display, not to mention fantastic panoramic views of the city and the opportunity to listen to hypnotic evening chanting by resident Buddhist monks. You could also join an Urban Adventure and allow yourself to be spirited away on an early morning Chiang Mai tour that puts you at the epicentre of Buddhist rituals. Learn to meditate, offer alms to monks, and make an offering at a temple. Or maybe wander markets, meet monks, cruise the river, and slurp noodles on a Mae Ping River Experience. Tonight you’ll board an overnight train for Bangkok, accommodated in air-conditioned sleeping berths (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.
Day 8 - Bangkok
Your train is scheduled to arrive back in Bangkok in the early morning. Today you have a free day; you might want to consider doing an optional Urban Adventure. Or simply relax with a Thai massage. As this is a combination trip, your group leader and the composition of your group may change at this location. There will be a group meeting to discuss the next stage of your itinerary and you're welcome to attend, as this is a great chance to meet your new fellow travellers.
Day 9 - Bangkok / Overnight train
You’ll start today with a visit to Wat Pho, home to the country's largest reclining Buddha and keeper of the magic behind Thai massage. Wat Pho is one of the ‘trinity’ of Bangkok temples, located practically next door to the Grand Palace, and inside lies a 46-metre long gold-plated Buddha. Even the feet of this statue are incredible, three metres long and intricately decorated with mother of pearl. The temple grounds are equally fascinating, filled with beautifully decorated stupas, halls, and shrines. The complex is considered the first public university in the country, and is home to the world famous Wat Pho massage school, the centre of the traditional practice. The rest of the afternoon is free for optional activities, and this city has so much to offer – perhaps head next door to the magnificent Grand Palace and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, take a riverboat to Chinatown and explore the crowded streets, or travel by longtail boat down the Chao Phraya River to explore the famous 'khlongs' (canals) of Bangkok. Life along these canals seems a world away from the chaotic streets of the capital. Tonight you will board an overnight train southbound for Langsuan (approximately 9 hours).
Notes: Sleeper trains are clean and air-conditioned, and beds are multi-share compartments with bunk bed padded berths with sheets, pillow and blanket provided (although some people prefer to bring their own sleeping sheet). Please note that you may be sharing compartments with locals of the same or opposite gender. Your baggage will travel in the carriage with you. There's also a food and drink service available on board. Some may find the air conditioning on the train quite cold overnight so best to pack a jumper and some long pants.
Day 10 - Koh Pitak
Arrive on your overnight train early in the morning, at around 6 am. Try a local style breakfast in Luangsuan market before heading to the pier (approximately 20 minutes) for Koh Pitak. Take a 10-minute boat to nearby Koh Pitak, a gorgeous little island, the location of tonight's homestay. Take an orientation walk around the village. While you're here, you'll see how the fisherman live and how they make their interesting fish traps. Your homestay tonight will include lunch, dinner and breakfast. Most meals will be be typical southern fare with fresh local seafood.
Day 11 - Chumphon
Say goodbye to your hosts and travel back to the mainland on a short boat trip. Then make the journey to Chumphon by private minivan (approximately 1.5 hours) and check into your resort. Your accommodation is beautifully located, right on the beachfront at Thung Wua Lan Beach (located about 16 kilometres away from the main town). You'll join the rest of the group to travel to a local lookout point, Khao Matsee, to take in some nice views and perhaps grab a cup of coffee. Back at the beach, spend free time stolling along the white sands of this pristine, uncrowded strip of coast.
Day 12 - Chumphon
Embark on a full-day snorkelling adventure. You will start at around 9 am and finish up at around 3 pm. The trip covers three different snorkelling spots, which gives you a nice variety of underwater scenery. See how many different kinds of tropical fish you can spot. The snorkelling will take place in the open water, so there will be no beach stops. Lunch is included, and you will arrive back at base at around 5 pm.
Day 13 - Ko Tao
Hop from one beach paradise to another, travelling to Ko Tao. The ferrry takes around 2 hours, and you'll arrive on Ko Tao mid-afternoon. Famous for its spectacular coral reefs, the delightful little island of Ko Tao is popular not only among divers but also those looking for beautiful palm-fringed beaches such as Sairee. Here you can relax or perhaps take up some optional diving. Cooking classes, aromatherapy sessions or local spa visits are also great options. Ko Tao also has a small but lively nightlife for those interested in dancing and socialising on the beach or in bars.
Day 14 - Ko Tao
Today you’ll experience the beautiful underwater world that surrounds Ko Tao with an exploratory snorkelling trip. With coral and fish a plenty and the remote chance of seeing timid reef sharks amongst mesmerising coral formations, Ko Tao is undeniably one of the jewels in southern Thailand's crown. Sail south from Mae Haad Pier, navigating around the southern tip of the island until you reach Shark Island. You might see the occasional leopard shark. Drop by Luek Bay for one of the best swimming beaches on the island with fish-filled reefs on either side, then stop at Hin Wong Bay for lunch aboard the boat – an idyllic spot where palm trees line the sheltered inlet. The shallow waters of Muang Bay are filled with colourful fish to swim by, and then stop at Nang Yuan Island. You can pay the small entrance fee to this privately owned island and take a short hike up to a viewpoint, relax on the beach, snorkel through schools of parrotfish, or chill out on the boat.
Day 15 - Ko Samui
Jump on another boat today and cruise over to Ko Samui (approximately 2.5 hours). The island is certainly a brasher, more vibrant extrovert compared to its sister islands. If a little modern pizazz is what you’re after with your dose of sunshine exotica, look no further – this island offers a little something for everyone. Known simply as Samui by locals, Thailand's third largest island is rich with white sandy beaches, coral reefs and coconut trees. There's also the Big Buddha, waterfalls, markets, temples, a mummified monk, great shopping opportunities, Michelin star restaurants, luxury spas, and a lively nightlife. Today you can take an optional sightseeing tour around the island or brush up on your cooking techniques with a Thai cooking class.
Day 16 - Ko Samui
It’s up to you what you want to do today, but if you feel like being more active, take an optional day trip to Ang Thong Marine National Park, an idyllic archipelago of around 40 islands (many uninhabited). If you choose this option you’ll take a speedboat to the Marine Park, with the island of Ko Wao or Ko Tai Plow as your first stop – here you can snorkel in the turquoise waters filled with ever changing colours of coral and fish. Sail around the steep limestone cliff islands and stop near an inland saltwater lagoon called Emerald Lake (Talay Nai), which is fed by an underground cave. Take a short walk up pathways and a wooden staircase to reach a magnificent hilltop lake viewpoint. Enjoy lunch on the island that houses the park headquarters, then chill out on the beach, climb up for a panorama of the Marine Park, and get out on to the bay for some kayaking. You’ll head back to Ko Samui in mid-afternoon. Maybe join you the rest of your group for a drink to celebrate the end of this east coast Thailand beach adventure tonight.
Day 17 - Ko Samui
This wonderful Thailand beach adventure comes to an end today, and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time. Perhaps continue your exploration of South East Asia with another Intrepid adventure.
Accommodation, Food (as stated), Transport, Selected Activities
Flights, Travel Insurance, Visa, Vaccinations or Personal Spending Money