Discover the best of Thailand on this AAA Sojourns EXCLUSIVE vacation hosted by CBS TV and radio personality Liam Mayclem of Foodie Chap and Eye on the Bay. From Bangkok’s Grand Palace to the town of Kanchanaburi, explore Thailand's rich culture, natural beauty and ancient Buddhist heritage. Also sample delicious Thai cuisine, see the famous bridge on the River Kwai and much more!
• Exclusive: Travel with CBS TV & Radio Host Liam Mayclem of Foodie Chap.
• Enjoy Thai cuisine as you dine in the home of a celebrated chef.
• Visit an elephant training camp and sample fruit at a floating market.
• Add a 2-night extension to Phuket from $840 per person.
Begin in the capital city of Bangkok which boasts some of Asia’s oldest and most elaborately adorned temples alongside modern shopping malls and skyscrapers. Here your knowledgeable guide will introduce you to some of the city's most famous sights. Marvel at the world’s largest solid-gold Buddha at the Temple of the Golden Buddha; this 700-year-old masterpiece stands 15 feet tall and weighs more than five tons. Visit Wat Pho, also known as the Temple of the Reclining Buddha. Built in the 16th century, it is the largest temple in all of Thailand. Tour the Grand Palace, one of the most beautiful examples of an ancient Siamese court and the former residence of the Kings of Bangkok. And don't miss Bangkok's most important and sacred temple, Wat Phra Kaeo, the beautiful Emerald Buddha Temple.
Then jet north to Chiang Mai, famed for its beautiful architecture and lush tropical surroundings. Browse for souvenirs at bustling Waroros Market and see Wat Doi Suthep, tucked away in the mountains at over 3,500 feet above sea level. Learn about elephant training and the history of elephants in Thai culture at the Chiang Dao Young Elephants Training Camp. You’ll delight in the interaction between elephant and mahout (elephant trainer) as the mahouts assist the elephants in taking their morning bath. And enjoy an unforgettable culinary experience at the Chiang Mai Thai Cookery School & Boutique Chef’s House. Dine poolside as you savor a multi-course gourmet dinner prepared personally by Master Chef Sompon.
Heading south again, you’ll also travel back in time as you visit the famous ruins and historical temples of Sukhothai, the first capital of Thailand (1275-1379) and of Ayutthaya, the former capital of old Siam (1350-1767). Now a UNESCO World Heritage site, Ayutthaya's surviving ruins stand as a testament to the former glory of what was once the most magnificent city in the Orient. Stroll around Wat Phra Sri Sanphet, the royal temple which originally stood within the compound of the king’s palace, and see the enormous bronze Buddha statue in Phra Mongkol Bopit, one of the largest in Thailand. In Kanchanaburi, see more history at the famous bridge over the River Kwai, built by Allied POWs during World War II, before returning to Bangkok for a final day to explore at your leisure.
• Airfare - Round-trip airfare from San Francisco and one internal flight
• 9 nights in 4 & 5-star hotels: 4 nights in Bangkok, 2 nights in Chiang Mai, 1 night in Sukhothai, 1 night in Ayutthaya and 1 night in Kanchanaburi
• Meals - Daily breakfast, 6 lunches and 8 dinners, including a Thai culinary experience at the Chiang Mai Thai Cookery School & Boutique Chef’s House
• Exclusive! Travel with CBS TV & radio host Liam Mayclem of Foodie Chap
• Sights - All transfers, transportation, entry fees and guided sightseeing with driver and English-speaking guides
Note: A 3-day/2-night post-tour extension to Phuket is available from $840 per person. Additional sightseeing tours in Phuket are also available. Inquire at time of booking.
Day 1 – Depart for Thailand
Embark on your journey to Thailand from San Francisco International Airport (SFO) via Taipei, Taiwan.
Day 2 – Cross the International Dateline
Day 3 – Arrive in Bangkok, Thailand
Arriving at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi International Airport and immediately after disembarking your plane, you will be met by our representative who will accompany you through immigration and customs formalities and assist you to collect your luggage. The airport representative will remain with you until you are met by your tour director and transferred by private vehicle to the Lebua Hotel in Bangkok. The remainder of the day at leisure.
This evening, meet your tour escort in the lobby of the hotel for a Welcome Dinner at Sala Rim Naam Restaurant. This beautiful riverside Thai restaurant is on the opposite bank of the Chao Phraya River, and offers delicious Thai dishes in a glittering setting. Housed in a richly decorated Thai Pavilion, originating from Northern Thailand, the restaurant is also the setting for one of the Kingdom’s distinctive cultural experiences – classical Thai dancing in full glittering regalia, performed before your table.
Accommodation: Lubua Hotel - 2 nights
Day 4 – Bangkok Sightseeing
This morning you will be transferred from your hotel to Wat Pho in time to experience the monks early morning chanting ritual (chanting starts at 9am local time). After this uplifting and often private experience visit the temple grounds and the famous 45-metre reclining Buddha. Then visit The Grand Palace, one of the most beautiful examples of an ancient Siamese court, which incorporates several palaces and halls used for different occasions. Bangkok’s former royal palace is an intriguing blend of Italian Renaissance architecture and classical Thai roofing. It was begun in 1782 by King Rama I and improved by subsequent rulers. See the Throne Hall, the Coronation Hall, the Reception Palace and the Funeral Palace. Note: When visiting The Grand Palace, you are required to wear appropriate attire. Shorts, short skirts and sleeveless attire are NOT permitted to be worn on the grounds.
You will also see The Emerald Buddha Temple (Wat Phra Kaeo) - Bangkok’s most important and sacred wat (temple). Built at the end of the 18th century by King Rama I, this splendid example of Thai aesthetics and religious architecture houses the Emerald Buddha, Thailand’s most venerated image. So small and distant that it can hardly be seen, the jade image symbolizes the independence, strength and good fortune of the country. The interior walls are painted with superb frescoes, while murals between the window frames depict Jataka scenes from the life of Buddha.
Conclude your sightseeing with a visit to the former royal palace of Vimanmek, also known as the Vimanmek Teak Mansion, the largest golden teak building in the world. As much a work of art as the treasures it holds within, the airy 100-room palace is filled with crystals, paintings, Faberge jewelry and collections of objects belonging to the Thai royal family. Dinner is aboard a Chao Phaya river cruise boat on the Chao Phaya River.
Day 5 – Chiang Mai
This morning, check out of your hotel and transfer to Bangkok Airport for the flight to Chiang Mai. Arrive a little before noon after which we will have lunch at a local restaurant before transferring to our hotel for check-in.
This afternoon’s sightseeing includes a visit to Waroros Market followed by a trishaw ride along Tapae Road through the city walls and along Rajdamnern Road to Wat Phra Singh (A.D.1345). This wat houses a very old and sacred Buddha image. Then visit Wat Phrathad Doi Suthep (A.D.1384). Located 3,500 feet above sea level, this is the most important temple in Chiang Mai. Dinner tonight is at Whole Earth Restaurant.
Accommodation: Le Meridian Hotel – 2 nights
Day 6 – Elephant Training Camp & Gourmet Dinner with Master Chef
This morning, we’ll drive along the picturesque mountain roads between Chiang Mai and Chiang Dao to the Chiang Dao Young Elephants Training Camp. Watch the interaction between elephant and mahout (elephant trainer) as the mahouts assist the elephants to take their morning bath in the running stream. Following a refreshing and often playful scrub, the elephants will begin their day’s training and work, providing you with an insight into how elephants and humans have worked alongside each other in the Thai forest for centuries. Make a short stop at a local orchid farm before returning to Chiang Mai. Lunch at a local restaurant.
This evening enjoy a gourmet dinner with a master chef. Enjoy an unforgettable culinary experience at the Chiang Mai Thai Cookery School & Boutique Chef’s House, an elegant retreat in the midst of tranquility for those who wish to enjoy only the finest dining while in Thailand. Our multi-course gourmet chef’s dinner will be personally prepared for you by Chef Sompon as you relax. Dinner is served poolside in the elegant setting of the chef’s private home.
Day 7 – Sukhothai, Thailand’s Ancient Capital
Depart Chiang Mai for Sukhothai early this morning. En route, visit Wat Pra Dhat Lampang Luang. The temple complex contains a number of buildings and numerous treasures, including what is said to be a relic of the lord Buddha’s image carved from the same block of green jasper as the famous statue at Bangkok’s Wat Phra Keo. The temple site has been occupied in one form or another since 496 A.D. but the present buildings date from only the 18th century. While Wat Pra Dhat Lampang Luang is somewhat off the beaten track, it is this relative isolation that serves to enhance its attraction.
After lunch, visit some of the famous ruins and historical temples of Sukhothai, the first capital of Thailand (1275-1379) including Wat Mahadhat, the Ramkhamhaeng Museum, Wat Sra Sri and Wat Sri Chum.
Accommodation: Legendha Sukhothai Resort – 1 night
Day 8 – Ayutthaya, Former Thai Capital
This morning, depart Sukhothai to visit Wat Phra Sri Ratana Mahathat which houses the Jinaraj Buddha (the Victorious King). This Buddha ranks as the great masterpiece of Sukhothai period art, so highly regarded that it has been reproduced for the Marble Temple in Bangkok and a Thai temple in Bodgaya, India. The Folk Museum established by Dr. Thawi includes items from his personal collection of traditional farm implements, cooking utensils, hunting equipment, musical instruments and other folkloric artifacts from the northern region. Buddha Casting Foundry on Wisut Kasat Road, not far from the Phitsanulok Youth Hostel, is a small factory where bronze Buddha images of all sizes and designs are cast. Most are copies of the famous Phra Chinnarat Buddha at Wat Phra Sri Ratana Mahathat. Continue to Lopburi and visit Prang Sam Yod and Phra Kan Shrine.
This afternoon, drive to Ayutthaya and check in at the hotel. Afterwards, see the sights of Ayutthaya, the former capital of Thailand from 1350 – 1767. Although sacked, looted and razed by Burmese invaders in the 18th century, the surviving ruins stand as a testament to the former glory of what was once the most magnificent city in the Orient. During its 417-year history, it was the capital for 33 kings of five dynasties. Stroll around Wat Phra Sri Sanphet, the royal temple which originally stood within the compound of the king’s palace. Built in the 14th century, the main compound once held a 52 foot Buddha image covered in 550 pounds of gold; it was melted down by the Burmese conquerors. View the enormous bronze Buddha statue in Phra Mongkol Bopit, one of the largest in Thailand, and see Wat Phanan Choeng, believed to pre-date Ayutthaya by 26 years; it houses a massive image of the seated Buddha.
Accommodation: Classic Kameo – 1 night
Day 9 – Kanchanaburi & Bridge on the River Kwai
Depart Ayutthaya for Kanchanaburi. En route, visit Bang Pa In, the former royal summer retreat. Tour the impeccably manicured grounds and assortment of royal buildings within the complex. Proceed to Kanchanaburi and the famous bridge on the River Kwai, immortalized in the classic 1957 David Lean film The Bridge on the River Kwai. During World War II, the Japanese attempted to complete a rail link between Burma and Thailand. The bridge spanning the River Kwai was a crucial sector of this link and the prisoners of war (POWs) who worked on the bridge where subjected to unfathomable horrors throughout its construction. Today the site features the beautifully maintained Kanchanaburi War Cemetery and the stimulating Thailand-Burma Railway Centre. With time permitting, you will have the opportunity to take the train across the bridge and up the railway to Lum Som station.
Later, lunch at a local restaurant. In the afternoon, embark on a boat trip on the River Kwai to Kang Lava Cave, one of Thailand’s most beautiful caves with several chambers featuring impressive stalactite and stalagmite formations.
Accommodation: Dheva Mantra – 1 night
Day 10 – Floating Market & Bangkok
This morning, experience a religious part of Thai culture by partaking in the solemn Buddhist ceremony of food offering before heading back to the hotel for breakfast and check-out. Depart Kanchanaburi and board a private long tail boat to visit the famed Floating Market at Damneon Saduak. This traditional floating market is set in a small klong (or canal) where buyers and sellers come in dugout canoes laden high with tropical fruit and vegetables, tourist fare and ready-to-drink coconuts. Delicious bowls of hot noodle soup can be purchased from floating kitchens positioned throughout the canal network.
Later, arrive in Bangkok and check-in to your hotel. The remainder of your day is free to spend as you wish.
Accommodation: Novotel on Siam Square (or similar) – 2 nights
Day 11 – Bangkok at Leisure
Enjoy a full day to explore Bangkok at your leisure. Tonight, enjoy a Farewell Reception at the hotel.
Day 12 – Depart for home
This morning, you will be met and transferred to the Bangkok Airport for your return flight home.
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