ESSENTIAL THAILAND - 2009 13 days incl. air, or 12 days from Bangkok to Bangkok (OT) Vacation Overview On this incredible journey to Thailand, experience Thailand’s culture, villages, history, and religion—the vacation of a lifetime! Begin your trip in Bangkok, Thailand’s capital city. Your sightseeing tour starts with a boat ride through the klongs, Bangkok’s canals, to see the everyday way of life and traditional Thai culture as you pass family homes and temples. See the Temple of the Dawn, whose 260-foot-tall spire has become identified with Bangkok, as well as the Grand Palace and Emerald Buddha Temple. Depart Bangkok for a glimpse into local life with a longtail boat ride through the canals of the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market; witness small flat boats expertly paddled by ladies ready to stop and bargain at a moment’s notice. Next stop: Kanchanaburi to see the Bridge on the River Kwai, Tiger Temple (a sanctuary and conservation center for Indochinese Tigers), Cemetery of the Allied Prisoners, and a ride on the Thailand-Burma Railway. Then, head to Ayutthaya and visit shrines and temples typical of ancient Thai religious architecture. On the way to Chiang Mai, stop at the Sukhothai Historical Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In Chiang Mai, rise early to witness and participate in the almsgiving ceremony, a very special Thai custom. Take a boat ride on the Kok River and visit Baan Mai, a silk- and sa paper-making village. Drive up a winding mountain road to visit the White Hmong People, one of northern Thailand’s Hill Tribes, to witness life in the village. Visit an elephant camp and ride an elephant before heading to Ban Thaton to visit the Paduang Long- Necked Women. Fly back to Bangkok and enjoy leisure time to explore and tour the city on your own. You’ll arrive home with lots of stories and photos from this amazing Thailand vacation. Tour Map Itinerary Day 1 (Sun.) Board your transpacific flight. Day 2Arrive in Bangkok, Thailand (Mon.) Welcome to Thailand’s capital city! Hotel rooms are available for mid-afternoon check-in. Day 3Bangkok (Tue.) Today’s sightseeing starts with a BOAT RIDE through the klongs, Bangkok’s canals, to see the family homes, temples, and the way of life that give this city the nickname “Venice of the East.” Stop at Wat Arun, the TEMPLE OF THE DAWN , whose 260-foot-tall spire has become identified with Bangkok. Continue on to the GRAND PALACE , comprised of the Funeral Palace, the Reception Palace, the Throne Hall, the Coronation Hall, the Royal Guest House, and the beautiful EMERALD BUDDHA TEMPLE. Spend the afternoon at leisure. Perhaps join an optional tour to The Jim Thompson House and silk shop. This evening, enjoy a special THAI WELCOME DINNER featuring traditional cuisine and dancers performing stories from classical Thai literature. (B,D) Day 4Bangkok. Excursion to Damnoen Saduak Floating Market (Wed.) This morning, depart Bangkok for the DAMNOEN SADUAK FLOATING MARKET. This colorful market provides an interesting glimpse into local life. Take a longtail BOAT RIDE through the canals filled with small flat boats expertly paddled by mature ladies ready to stop and bargain at a moment’s notice. The afternoon and evening are at your leisure to explore Bangkok. Perhaps join an optional dinner cruise aboard a luxurious teak barge along the Chao Phraya River. (B) Day 5Bangkok–Kanchanaburi (Thu.) A short drive this morning brings you to Kanchanaburi. Visit the THAILAND-BURMA RAILWAY CENTER, an interactive museum with eight main galleries depicting the story of the railway. A short walk takes you to the CEMETERY OF THE ALLIED PRISONERS from World War II before stopping to see the BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI. After a short stop, take a ride on the THAILAND-BURMA RAILWAY, commonly referred to as the “Death Railway.” Built by the Japanese during World War II using forced labor, approximately 25,000 of the 160,000 workers died during its construction. After lunch in a local restaurant, visit Wat Pha Luang Ta Bua, the TIGER TEMPLE, a sanctuary and conservation center for the many Indochinese Tigers that are cared for by the monks. (B,L,D) Day 6Kanchanaburi–Ayutthaya–Phitsanulok (Fri.) Travel to the ancient capital of Ayutthaya, one of the world’s largest cities before falling to the Burmese in 1756. Visit WAT PHRA SRI SAN PHET, the largest temple on the Royal Palace grounds, and WAT MONGKOL BOPHIT, featuring a giant 55-foot-tall bronze Buddha. Enjoy lunch in a local restaurant before continuing to Phitsanulok on the banks of the Nan River. Upon arrival, visit the much-venerated shrine of WAT PHRA SI RATANA MAHATHAT, typical of ancient Thai religious architecture. This evening, enjoy dinner at your hotel, then depart by rickshaw for a fascinating visit to the NIGHT MARKET. (B,L,D) Day 7Phitsanulok–Sukhothai–Chiang Mai (Sat.) A short drive this morning brings you to the SUKHOTHAI HISTORICAL PARK , a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Admire the beautiful standing Buddha statues as you explore the ruins of temples and monasteries. Then, continue north to Chiang Mai, the “Rose of the North.” Chiang Mai has a rich cultural and agricultural heritage, and is famous for the production of high-quality handicrafts. This evening, perhaps enjoy the optional Thai family-style dinner in a local restaurant. (B,L) Day 8Chiang Mai. Hill Tribe Excursion (Sun.) Rise early this morning to witness and participate in the ALMSGIVING CEREMONY, a very special Thai custom. Each morning before dawn, Buddhist monks don their distinctive saffron-colored robes and walk along the streets, carrying alms bowls and receiving boiled rice and condiment donations. Personally present alms to the monks and you will receive their blessings! After breakfast in the hotel, drive up a winding mountain road to visit the WHITE HMONG PEOPLE, one of northern Thailand’s HILL TRIBES. Here you will witness life in the village and visit a local school (if in session). Then, visit the temple of WAT PHRA THAT DOI SUTHEP, which offers a spectacular view of Chiang Mai and the surrounding valley. After a long day, enjoy a TRADITIONAL THAI MASSAGE at your hotel. (B,L) Note: You will travel on rough dirt roads in a utility pick-up truck to visit the White Hmong people. Day 9Chiang Mai–Ban Thaton (Mon.) This morning, visit an ORCHID FARM and an ELEPHANT CAMP. Here you will see skilled mahouts show how elephants have worked for centuries and you will RIDE AN ELEPHANT through the jungle. For the more adventurous, perhaps join the optional river rafting trip on handmade bamboo rafts. Then, continue on to Ban Thaton to visit a KAREN VILLAGE, home to the PADUANG LONG-NECKED WOMEN. Early in life, brass rings are placed on the necks and legs of the village girls. As they age and mature, additional rings are added, creating the visual illusion of stretching their necks. (B,L,D) Day 10Ban Thaton–Chiang Rai (Tue.) Today, enjoy a BOAT RIDE on the Kok River and visit BAAN MAI, a silk- and sa paper-making village. Then, visit the HILL TRIBE VILLAGE of the AKHA, known for gorgeous headdresses decorated with silver coins. After lunch, continue on to Chiang Rai. The remainder of the day is at leisure. (B,L) Day 11Chiang Rai. Excursion to the Golden Triangle (Wed.) Today, climb narrow mountain roads with stunning views and visit several villages en route to DOI MAE SALONG, a settlement founded by Kuomintang soldiers who fled China in 1949. Continue to MAE SAI, a market town on the Myanmar border, then drive to the renowned GOLDEN TRIANGLE, where the Ruak and mighty Mekong Rivers meet. Enjoy views over Myanmar, Laos, and Thailand, and consider an optional boat trip on the Mekong River. Next, visit the HALL OF OPIUM, built to educate people on the history of opium in the area and to help combat illegal drugs. En route back to Chiang Rai, stop in CHIANG SAEN, where you can still see evidence of the original 13th-century city. This evening your Tour Director hosts a special farewell dinner. (B,L,D) Day 12Chiang Rai–Bangkok (Thu.) A short flight returns you to Bangkok. The rest of the day is at leisure. (B) Day 13 (Fri.) Your homebound flight arrives the same day. (B) AIRPORT TRANSFERS Airport transfers may be included when you make your flight arrangements Optional Excursions Here's a list of optional excursions you can enjoy during your vacation. Whether it's a special dinner, a local show or a special behind-the-scenes glimpse into an historical site, optional excursions are a wonderful way to enrich your vacation even further. Plus, they give you flexibility. We include the must-see sites and experiences, and we also understand that people take interest in different activities and may want to craft a more personal vacation by hand-picking optional excursions that appeal to them. Availability is subject to sufficient participation, weather conditions, seasonal suitability, days of operation, group interests, and general feasibility for your vacation. The approximate value listed gives you a good, general idea of what you can expect to pay but may vary once you are on your vacation. Some information provided might be in a foreign currency; you can use our online currency converter for exchange rate information. CITY: Bangkok Jim Thompson's House & Suan Pakkard Palace Take a step back in time and wander through Wang Suan Pakkard, the "Lettuce Farm Palace," once the residence of Princess Chumbot of Nakhon Sawan. The Palace is a collection of five traditional Thai-style houses including the "'Lacquer Pavilion" which dates from the Ayutthaya period. The buildings are now home to a priceless Asian antique collection and exquisite wood carvings. The landscaped grounds are a peaceful oasis, the perfect retreat from the noise and bustle of Bangkok. The tour is completed with a visit to the private Thai-style house of Jim Thompson, the "father" of the famous Thai silk industry. The house now serves as a museum with a small Asian art collection and some of his personal belongings. If time permits, you visit the Jim Thompson shop for a chance to browse.(Our price is based on a minimum of four passengers. A surcharge will apply for less number of passengers traveling). Approximate value: USD $28 per person Dinner Cruise on Loy Nava Traditional Rice Barge Enjoy a superb Asian dinner on Traditional converted Rice Barge while slowly drifting along the riverside of the Chao Phraya River, past the Temple of Dawn and the Grand Palace. Loy Nava, the originator of Chao Phraya dinner cruises and operator of the uniquely beautiful antique teakwood rice barge, the Tahsaneeya Nava, awaits with pleasure the opportunity to serve you with the same attention to detail and standards as we have offered to royalty, celebrities and visitors from all parts of the world over the past thirty years. We will take you on a journey through Thai history, culture and gastronomy in a truly romantic ambiance and guarantee that it will be an experience of Thailand you will never forget. (Our price is based on a minimum of two passengers. A surcharge will apply for one passenger traveling alone). Approximate value: USD $46 per person CITY: Chiang Mai Kantoke Dinner with Show Enjoy a superb Kantoke Dinner while being entertained by a selection of traditional Thai culture and folk performances. Kantoke is the customary northern Thai style of eating with the food being served in large platters at low tables while you sit on mats on the floor. As you enjoy your meal, let yourself be entertained by a selection of northern Thai cultural performances. Approximate value: USD $21 per person Family style dinner at Gallery Restaurant A combination of exquisite Lanna architecture, fine Thai cuisine, and exhibits of northern Thai art, the Gallery is the perfect setting for relaxation and entertainment during a stay in Chiang Mai. Set in a 100 year old Teakwood House on the bank of the Ping River, the Gallery was selected as the Best Conserved Private House by the Association of Siamese Architects, under Royal Patronage, in 1993, and the Chiang Mai Conservation Prize presented by the Lanna Architect Group in 1991. Approximate value: Please check back later per person Vacation Highlights INCLUDED FEATURES Bangkok: Guided sightseeing; boat ride through the klongs; visit the Temple of the Dawn, Grand Palace, and Emerald Buddha Temple; excursion to Damnoen Saduak floating market with boat ride; Thai welcome dinner and show Kanchanaburi: Guided sightseeing; visit the Thailand-Burma Railway Center, Cemetery of the Allied Prisoners, Bridge on the River Kwai, and the Tiger Temple; ride the Thailand-Burma Railway Ayutthaya: Guided sightseeing; visit Wat Phra Sri San Phet and Wat Mongkol Bophit Phitsanulok: Guided sightseeing; visit Wat Phra Si Ratana Mahathat and a night market Sukhothai: Visit Sukhothai Historical Park Chiang Mai: Almsgiving ceremony; guided sightseeing; visit a White Hmong village, Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, and an orchid farm; ride an elephant; traditional Thai massage Ban Thaton: Guided sightseeing; visit a Karen village with long-necked women, Baan Mai, and Akha village; boat ride on the Kok River Chiang Rai: Excursion to the Golden Triangle; visit Doi Mae Salong, Mae Sai, the Hall of Opium, and Chiang Saen All Intra-Tour Flights INSIDE VISITS Inside visits and special features are shown in the description, including admission charges when applicable. Accommodations MEALS - (B) Breakfast (L) Lunch (D) Dinner American breakfast daily (B), 7 lunches (L), 5 dinners (D), including a Thai welcome dinner and show in Bangkok and a farewell dinner in Chiang Mai. SUPERIOR HOTELS - (D) Deluxe (SF) Superior First-Class (F) First-Class Bangkok Majestic Grande Hotel (SF), Kanchanaburi Felix River Kwai (F), Phitsanulok Topland Hotel (F), Chiang Mai The Empress Hotel (MF), Ban Thaton Mae Kok River Village (MF), Chiang Rai Dusit Island Resort (SF), Bangkok Majestic Grande Hotel (SF) Dates and Prices View the following dates and prices to find just the right date for your vacation. Below you'll find the date you'll depart, the date the vacation starts and date you'll return. Once you've selected your date, click on “Find an Agent” link to find the nearest agent and book your vacation. Departure Departure Tour Return Land/Cruise Status Details Date Start Date Date Price Only 9/13/2009 9/14/2009 9/25/2009 $1,979.00 Not Available 10/18/2009 10/19/2009 10/30/2009 $1,979.00 Call Now 11/15/2009 11/16/2009 11/27/2009 $2,049.00 Not Available 12/6/2009 12/7/2009 12/18/2009 $2,049.00 Call Now 1/17/2010 1/18/2010 1/29/2010 $2,129.00 Call Now 2/14/2010 2/15/2010 2/26/2010 $2,129.00 Call Now 3/14/2010 3/15/2010 3/26/2010 $2,129.00 Call Now CAN$ Price Details Land-only price includes intra-tour flights and must be purchased with this vacation. Single Room Supplement: $656 Triple Room Reduction: $9 Extra Nights per person in Bangkok: Jan-Jun., Sep.-Oct. in single room $122; in twin room $71; in triple room $59. Nov.-Dec. in single room $125; in twin room $74; in triple room $63. 2010 prices and itineraries are subject to change. Details will be available in August 2009. Our Volume Buying Power Saves You Money! -We may be able to provide you with flight arrangements from your gateway city. -Additional accommodations before or after your tour may be available at our low prices. Additional Information: - Departure/arrival taxes and fares from other cities will be advised at the time of booking. - 2009 & 2010 vacation itineraries and prices are subject to change. Guaranteed Air-Inclusive Price: Air tickets may be issued on the date we receive full payment in order to protect you from price increases. We encourage early payment to ensure that you are not subject to any airfare increases. If you revise or cancel your air record after tickets are issued, revision fees or airline cancellation changes may be applicable. Please ask if any such charges apply if making changes. Not Included in the Vacation Price: Airport taxes and fees; passports; visas and vaccinations; tips to your tour director, tour driver, local city guides; gratuities on ferries, trains and cruise ships; laundry; telephone; mini bar; alcohol, beverages and food not on the regular table d’hôte menu (these extra items will be billed to you before leaving the hotel or restaurant); optional excursions; porterage at airports; travel protection; excess baggage fees; all other items of a personal nature.