3 nights from only $695
Single Supplement: FREE
Travel to Thailand—once called Siam—where independence, hospitality, and the traditional philosophy that "life is pleasure" weave a spell over every visitor. Visit Bangkok with a small group, have personal encounters, and make unique cultural discoveries on this Asian adventure. Exploring Thailand from the cosmopolitan south to the remote northern hill tribes, you'll witness Buddhist monks receiving alms at a dawn ceremony ... explore a mountainside jungle ... maybe even buy some fresh lemongrass in Bangkok's floating market. Get an insider's perspective into Thai culture as you take part in a cooking class, dine in a local home, and ride on a traditional bamboo raft. Discover what captivates so many visitors in this tropical nation.
Please note: This map depicts the itinerary for August-December 2017 departures. January-May departures follow a slightly different itinerary.
Make It Your Adventure
Personalize your trip to meet your individual needs, from preferred flights and air routing, to “breaking away” to spend more time in a destination.
3 nights from only $695
When you purchase airfare through O.A.T., you have the option to personalize your flights and add a Stopover. Break up your lengthy flight to Bangkok, Thailand, with a 3-night Stopover in Hong Kong before your main adventure or before your pre-trip extension in Burma. An O.A.T. representative will meet you at the airport and assist with your included transfer into the city for three nights in a centrally-located hotel—the rest is up to you! Take advantage of this opportunity to relax, refresh, and explore the vibrant, sparkling skyline, mountainous nature reserves, and legendary varied cuisine of Hong Kong. Breakfasts and roundtrip airport transfer are also included. Single Supplement is FREE.
Looking for ways to fill your free time in Hong Kong? Check out some of our suggestions.Learn More
6 nights from only $1395
Before your adventure in Thailand, discover Cambodia’s bustling capital and see one of the world’s most stunning antiquities when you explore the sights and sounds of Phnom Penh and the spectacular temple complex of Angkor. Set amid tropical forests, the temples showcase the creative genius of the Khmer Empire, which reached its pinnacle between the ninth and 14th centuries.
Please note: This extension is available as a post-trip extension on January-May 2017 departures and available as a pre-trip extension on August-December 2017 departures of Discover Thailand.View Extension Itinerary
Depart the U.S. today for your international flight to Bangkok.
Your hotel room in Bangkok is reserved so that you can check in immediately upon arrival, very late in the evening today. An O.A.T. representative greets you at the airport and assists with transfer to the hotel, where you'll meet the travelers who joined the pre-trip extension to Phnom Penh & Angkor Wat, Cambodia.
Following breakfast, your Trip Leader, who will be with you throughout your trip, gives you a briefing on Bangkok. Then, we'll have the chance to see the floral market at Pakklong Talad, where we'll observe garland making and sample fresh tropical fruit before continuing our exploration of Bangkok by canal. We'll sail aboard motorboats down the river and along the klongs, or canals, through residential areas on the outskirts of town. We become part of Bangkok's lifeblood as we cruise its network of rivers and klongs—a part of Bangkok most travelers never see. We'll then enjoy a cooking demonstration and lunch.
After lunch, we'll take another boat ride to visit the Royal Barge Museum, where we'll discover a fleet of ornate teak and gold vessels that were once reserved for royal processions and grand ceremonies along the Chao Phraya River.
After the museum visit, we return to the hotel for an orientation walk of the surrounding area before enjoying a Welcome Dinner at a local restaurant.
Following breakfast at our hotel, enjoy a tour of Bangkok. Step into the Old Kingdom of Siam at the Grand Palace of Thailand, a sprawling compound of ceremonial halls, gilded spires, and ornate buildings. The ancient city's defining landmark since 1782, the palace became the centerpiece of a new Thai capital called Krung Thep (City of Angels), known outside of Thailand as Bangkok. It was King Mongkut (or Rama IV) who ruled from this palace, expanded trade with the West, and was romanticized in the musical The King and I.
The focal point of the palace is the Emerald Buddha. Carved out of jade and adorned with gold, the Emerald Buddha made a dramatic appearance in 1434, when it was found hidden in a temple stupa. Since 1785, the Emerald Buddha—the most highly revered image of the Buddha—has resided in the Royal Chapel of the Grand Palace.
Next, we'll visit the Giant Swing, or Sao Ching-Cha. This spindly red arch once hosted a festival in which men would swing higher and higher in an effort to grab a bag of gold suspended in mid-air. If they succeeded, they could keep the gold—but falling to their death in the process was an equally likely outcome. We'll stroll through the nearby old quarter of Bangkok, where we can see the shops and factories that supply local temples with their Buddha statues.
You can spend the afternoon at leisure making your own discoveries in Bangkok, with lunch and dinner on your own. Or, you can join an optional excursion to see the beautifully painted murals at the Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall, watch an epic Thai musical production, and have dinner at a local restaurant.
After breakfast, we'll journey about 75 miles west of Bangkok to Ratchaburi, set on the banks of the Mae Klong River. We begin with a boat ride along the canal at the colorful Damnoen Saduak floating market. Then, after a walking tour of the market, we’ll stop at a palm sugar workshop and coconut farm to see how this staple of Thai cuisine is made.
We then take a bus ride to Khlong Khon district of Samutsongkram province, where a local community is working to preserve the once-thriving mangrove forests. We’ll enjoy lunch here as well as board a fisherman's boat to explore the beauty of the mangrove forest area, feed the monkeys who often swim by for handouts, and witness the birdlife. In the late afternoon, we return to Bangkok by bus.
Dinner is on your own this evening in Bangkok.
This morning, we travel overland to Kanchanaburi Province, a green region where the riverside scenery belies its dramatic history, portrayed in the film The Bridge on the River Kwai. It was here that Allied POWs and Asian conscripts were forced to build the infamous World War II railway. In the summer of 1942, World War II was raging across Europe and Asia. The Allies were rapidly capturing the sea routes to Burma, forcing the Japanese to develop an overland supply route from the east to support their troops. The Japanese decided that the most viable option was a railway that followed the River Kwai through the dense jungle on either side. About 200,000 Asian laborers and 61,000 Allied prisoners of war built this 260-mile stretch of rail in abominable conditions—for every half-mile of track laid, 38 POWs perished.
First, we have a chance to cross the original bridge on the River Kwai, and board a raft house on which we'll have lunch as we cruise along the river. Then, we visit Kanchanaburi's War Cemetery and Hellfire Pass, where we'll walk along the former River Kwai Railway. The area is now peaceful, but many lives were lost during the World War II construction of one of the most difficult sections of the railway. We visit the sobering Hellfire Pass Museum and continue to our lodge, where we'll enjoy dinner as a group.
Today, we have a special treat: A Day in the Life of a western Thai community. In the morning, you can either enjoy breakfast at the hotel or take a bike ride to a local neighborhood known for basket weaving, where we’ll enjoy breakfast.
Then we depart to the Ta Sao Market, experiencing alongside the sale of fresh produce some of the most popular snacks of the region.
From here, we’ll continue to Ban Phu Toey Village, spending the afternoon visiting with local villagers and farmers, discussing agricultural and political topics important to the region. We’ll pause for lunch at a local farm, where we’ll be joined by members of the community.
After lunch, we’ll say farewell and visit the community cooperative center before boarding our longtail speedboat for a cruise on the River Kwai.
Dinner tonight is at a local restaurant.
We set out for Phitsanulok early this morning after breakfast. We drive through rice-growing country to Uthaithani.
We then board the Khiri Nava, a large traditional wooden rice barge, and cruise past peaceful scenes of river life. Many local people live on the raft houses that line both sides of the Sakae Krang River, and you might see farmers tending their small fish farms. We enjoy lunch as we cruise on the river for about an hour and a half. We then continue to Phitsanulok. Late in the evening, we check into our hotel and have dinner at a local restaurant.
After breakfast this morning, we head for Sukhothai, Thailand's largest collection of historic ruins. This is the place where the Thai nation was born, the kingdom's magical and spiritual center. With its cache of remarkably preserved columns, shrines, temples, and palaces, it epitomizes old Siam.
We ride local transport through the well-kept grounds of this historical park to see the monuments, and learn about its most famous king, Ramkamhaeng. Not only did this legendary ruler leave a great legacy of art and architecture, he left stones inscribed with a chronicle of his achievement. King Ramkamhaeng is credited with inventing Thai script, as well as with amazing skill at hand-to-hand combat on elephantback, the spread of Theravada Buddhism, and developing relations with China. But even his colorful legend pales in comparison to the evocative palette of Sukhothai, which translates to “Dawn of Happiness.” Then we enjoy lunch together at a local restaurant.
In the afternoon, we travel to Phrae, where we'll visit an indigo workshop to learn how cloth is dyed and intricate patterns and designs are locally made. Later, we'll ride in a rickshaw by the old city walls and have dinner at a local restaurant.
After breakfast, you’ll depart for a visit to the Mae Yang Rong School, where we’ll enjoy a student performance. Since 2010, the Grand Circle Foundation has donated more than $28,000 to the school to support education for the students, who range from six to eight years old.
Afterward, we head to Pha Yao provice and take a scenic walk around one of its many lakes, where we’ll then enjoy lunch at a local restaurant. Then we head back to the lake to take a cruise on a local fisherman’s boat, learning about his way of life along the way.
Later on, we depart for Chiang Rai province to our resort, where we’ll enjoy dinner.
Note: If Day 10 falls on a weekend or a holiday, we will instead visit the Boonyapak Daycare Childcenter on this day.
Today we visit the House of Opium Museum and hear stories about the opium warlords who once held sway in this region, formerly known as the Golden Triangle. At one time, the hill tribes in this region relied on the cultivation of opium for survival—including several bands of Chinese nationalist followers of Chiang Kai Shek, who have been living here (somewhat in hiding and in dwindling numbers) since the Revolution. But times have changed. The government has established many programs to introduce more viable crops, and most of the people are law-abiding farmers. Today, tourism has become a preferable alternative to drug smuggling, and the hill tribes are more concerned about preserving their old traditions.
For lunch, we'll drive by open songtaew taxi trucks to a nearby restaurant. After some free time back at the hotel, we'll depart for our visit to the local hill tribes. More than 20 distinct, semi-nomadic tribes inhabit northern Thailand and the borderlands of Burma and Laos. Some have obscure origins; most have their own language; and all have unique customs. We visit the hill tribe known as “Long Neck” for the golden rings the women wear to push down their collar bones. Take note of their compact huts, their traditional clothing, and a way of life that has changed little in centuries. We also visit the Akha, who wear elaborate headdresses accented with vivid colors.
We head back to explore the night markets of Chiang Rai where you’ll have a chance to explore. Dinner is on your own, and make sure you ask your Trip Leader about the best local delicacies at the market.
Relax and enjoy the passing landscapes as we travel most of the morning to Chiang Mai—the principal city of the north, a major cultural center, and a favorite with visitors. The city's medieval walls encircle more than 30 active Buddhist temples, and the metropolitan region boasts another 80 religious sites.
Lunch will be in Chiang Mai at a local restaurant. This afternoon, join your Trip Leader on a visit to a gem gallery. Chiang Mai is well known for its sapphires, and it's the world's largest cutter of colored stones. In the evening, we enjoy making personal connections with the Thai people as we have a special dinner in the home of local residents.
After breakfast, we embark for Ban Pa Bong, a village famous for basket weaving and handmade bamboo furniture. Here, we’ll learn the art of bamboo basket weaving and enjoy an in-depth talk with a bamboo artisan, who will go over the finer points of his centuries-old trade.
Later on, you’ll visit the Teen Tok Royal Project Resort. As part of a 38-project effort to offer economic opportunities to rural Thais, the Thai Royal Family hopes to stem the attraction for opium cultivation, still a major issue in the country.
Afterward, you’ll explore Mae Kampong Temple, a wooden structure built around a stream. Then, we travel to Chiang Mai where we’ll enjoy lunch at a local restaurant.
The rest of the afternoon is at leisure. Later on, we’ll meet up for dinner at a local restaurant.
Before breakfast this morning, you have the option of visiting a local temple to witness traditional Buddhist alms-giving. After breakfast, we'll visit the temple of Wat Suan Dok and have a discussion with its Buddhist monks. Then we'll see the most magnificent of the city's temples, Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep, which we reach by riding up its mountain slope and negotiating hairpin turns until we come to a flight of 306 stairs, flanked by snarling naga serpents whose tails coil up to the temple. From here, we'll enjoy panoramic views of Chiang Mai below. You'll have the option to walk up the stairs or take a funicular.
You'll have the afternoon to explore Chiang Mai on your own, perhaps sampling the renowned northern dish, khao soi (yellow noodles and meat in a spicy, coconut-curry broth) for lunch. Dinner is also on your own this evening.
This morning, we fly to Bangkok. Lunch will be on your own today. After checking in to our hotel in Bangkok, spend an afternoon at leisure making your own discoveries in the city.
Tonight, we gather for a Farewell Dinner cruise on a river rice barge, and return to our hotel for the evening.
Very early this morning, we accompany you to the airport. If you’re taking our post-trip extension in Singapore, Malacca & Kuala Lumpur, you’ll fly to Singapore; otherwise, you’ll fly home. You cross the International Date Line, arriving in the U.S. on the same day, in time to make connecting flights home.
6 nights from only $1795
Explore the distinctive icons of the Malacca Strait: Singapore, a futuristic cityscape; Malacca, with its colonial heritage and multicultural charm; and Kuala Lumpur, where a blend of Chinese, Indian, and Muslim influences come together in one striking destination. Trace the legacy of European trade with Asia, from the centuries-old ruins of a Portuguese fort to the gleaming skyscrapers of Singapore's global institutions.
Please note: This trip extension is available only on August-December 2017 departures of Discover Thailand.View Extension Itinerary