Thailand: Mountains and Villages

This tour explores an area of Northern Thailand somewhat off the beaten track. It is designed to showcase the natural beauty of the northern hills and mountains whilst providing an insight and an education into the ethnic minorities of the area. Their rural and traditional ways of life inspire curiosity and wonderment in all who visit. Although there are both advantages and disadvantages to Hill tribe tourism, there are the many benefits of increased income and preservation of customs and traditions as the hill tribe peoples are given a freshly instilled sense of pride in their culture.

We try to provide a more authentic experience through visits to colourful markets and to bustling food stalls and cafes. The choices for eating and handicrafts are endless and the money is staying in the local economy - a vital way for tourism to make a positive impact. We feel activities that take you to markets, locally-owned restaurants, community projects, locals’ homes and villages are vital to the local peoples’ ability to truly benefit from tourism. After escaping the frenetic activity of Bangkok we continue head to Chiang Mai where we have a chance to learn about and visit different ethnic minority groups. Then it’s on to Pai and Mae Hong Son to enjoy varied activities including trekking, mud baths and hot springs. You will even have a chance to hone your Thai cooking skills preparing some of the local dishes in Chiang Mai.

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1 - Bangkok

Transfer to your hotel and meeting with your local leader for tour briefing.

Overnight: Ariyasom Villa

Day 2 - Bangkok

We will leave in the morning after breakfast for our city tour of Bangkok. Bangkok is gaining recognition for its art, culture, food, shopping, hospitality and affordability. The city combines some of Asia’s oldest and most elaborately adorned temples with modern shopping malls and skyscrapers – a city that packs in so many sights and attractions you won’t know where to begin. However, your friendly and knowledgeable local guide will give you a helping hand and introduce you to some of Bangkok’s most famous sights - including the impressive Grand Palace (former residence of the Thai monarchy), Wat Phra Kaew (home of the Emerald Buddha) and Wat Po (housing Thailand’s largest reclining Buddha.

Rather than sitting on a tour bus, we will travel like a local using a number of varied transport options. See life from the river aboard a klong (or canal) boat or the city from above on the elevated BTS or Skytrain.

After the temple tour we head into China town for lunch along Thanong Yaowarat and Thanong Charoen Krung, the main China town arteries. Many of the buildings in this district are designated historical landmarks as Chinatown is home to many fine examples of the architecture of Bangkok's early years. The area will leave you feeling like you have been transported back in time.

The rest of the day can be spent exploring the many first class shopping malls, heading to a gallery or museum, treating yourself to a foot massage or chilling by the pool.

Overnight: Ariyasom Villa (Breakfast included)

Day 3 - Chiang Mai

This morning we fly to Chiang Mai - or ‘New City’, as its name translates to from Thai. Chiang Mai is a moated city with the extraordinary backdrop of Doi Suthep, a 1,676-metre mountain peak that that we visit for remarkable views of the surrounding countryside. Near the summit is a famous temple – Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. We also visit the Tribal Research Institute for excellent background information on the cultures and customs of the various ethnic groups that inhabit the hill regions of northern and western Thailand and Laos. In the evening a visit to the night bazaar is a must, an absolute shopper’s paradise.

Overnight: Puripunn Hotel (Breakfast included)

Day 4 - Chiang Mai to Pai

Today we drive to the tranquil town of Pai. Along the way we enjoy some of the most stunning scenery in northern Thailand. Once here you can explore the rich culture of northern Thailand and enjoy the sights and attractions, stunning walks and amazing local cuisine.

After checking in you’ll enjoy a scenic walk around Pai, have a dip in the refreshing waters of a waterfall, relax in the hot springs and sample some local food from one of the many riverside cafes and restaurants. In the evening browse the myriad of stalls in walking street, which offers up lots of locally made handicrafts, clothes and nick knacks as well as some great food.

Overnight: Hotel Artists (Breakfast included)

Day 5 - Pai

Today is free for you to choose what you would like to do – spend the day white water rafting, take a leisurely boat trip along the river, hire a bike and head for the hills or pull on your walking boots and take a trek to neighboring villages.

Overnight: Hotel Artists (Breakfast included)

Day 6 - Mae Hong Son

This morning after breakfast, we take another scenic drive to Mae Hong Son. On the way we will stop at Tam Lod for a cave tour. Tham Lod Bat Cave is actually a tunnel that was formed by a river as it carved its way into a mountain of limestone. The cave’s entrance is massive with a height of 20 meters and a 50 meter width. The towering walls and ceiling of the cave is peppered with stalactites and stalagmites dating back thousands of years. We’ll take a ride on a bamboo raft along the length of the cave tunnel. Local guides with lanterns will accompany us on the trip to light the way. The guides and bamboo raft service are provided by the local Shans, one of the hill-tribes indigenous to Northern Thailand. The money they earn though Tham Lod Bat Cave tours helps the community as a whole.

We’ll have lunch in neighbouring Suppong before continuing our journey to Mae Hong Son. The drive takes us through more stunning landscape. Mae Hong Son is a province in the northwestern part of Thailand, right alongside the border of Myanmar (Burma). The province is well known for its cool climate, rugged mountains, abundant flora and fauna, crystal clear mountain springs, waterfalls and lime stone caves. The main ethnic groups are the Shan people, who co-exist with a number of other ethnic groups in the province including Karen, Lisu and Lahu, each with their own unique style, language, customs, traditions and cuisine. We stay in a truly amazing eco-lodge nestled in the lush valley outside the town of Mae Hong Son - a nature lover’s paradise. The sounds of running water and the peaceful jungle setting create a truly relaxing atmosphere. It is the perfect hide-away and the ideal place to enjoy some well earned pampering by taking a soothing mud bath.

If this is not your style the lodging has many other activities to choose from, such as bush walking, bird watching, trekking and mountain-biking. Alternatively, if you really feel like experiencing an authentic taste of Thailand you can plant or harvest some rice

Overnight: Fern Resort (Breakfast included)

Day 7 - Mae Hong Son

Today will start with a tour of Mae Hong Son including some temples and local villages.
First stop is the morning market, which is a lively market showcasing all the various local food and produces.
We’ll then move on to check out a few of the temples around the city. Wat Prathat Doi Kong Mu is a famous hilltop temple offering a wonderful view of Mae Hong Son encased by mountains reflects the influence of the Burmese. The highlights of this attraction are the two lavishly decorated pagodas. Also, this hilltop temple affords an exceptional aerial view of the city and surrounding mountains and valleys.
Wat Kam Kor is a Burmese-style temple built in 1890. A special architectural feature is the cover over the passageway from the entrance arch to the chapel. It also stores text in Thai Yai script chronicling the Thai Yai history
Wat Pra Non houses a 12-metre long reclining Buddha image in the Thai Yai style. The image was cast in 1875 by Phranang Miah, the wife of Phraya Singhanatracha. Another main feature of the temple is the two large sculpted lions lying side by side, presumably providing passage for those going up to pay homage to the Holy Relic on the hill.

After lunch well take a drive into the mountains past tea and coffee plantations and jaw-dropping scenery to Mae Aw, situated on a mountain peak at the Myanmar border. The modern Thai name for Mae Aw is Ban Rak Thai (Thai-Loving Village). Mae Aw is a Chinese KMT settlement, one of the last true KMT outposts in Thailand. Filled with old renegade fighters, this is now a quiet place with people going about their business, but the scenery on the way up here, and in the town itself is stunning.

On the way back we’ll stop in at another village - Ban Ruam Thai, surrounded by coffee plants, fruit trees and stunning scenery. We will learn the process of making coffee from a local villager, from the picking of beans to the roasting and grinding. Once an opium-growing area, help from the Royal Project, which provided arabica beans and expertise, has transformed this village into a hub of the coffee industry in Thailand.
We return to the peace and tranquility of our eco resort for our last evening dinner.

Overnight: Fern Resort (Breakfast included)

Day 8 - Mae Hong Son - Chiang Mai

After breakfast, we’ll be transferred to the airport for our flight to Chiang Mai. At 4pm we’ll go and meet our hosts for our half day Thai cooking class. You’ll learn to cook some of the mouth watering dishes you have tried during the tour and consequently impress your family and friends with your new found culinary skills when you return home. The class will finish at 8pm so you will have some time for last minute shopping at the night market.

Overnight:Puripunn Hotel (Breakfast and Dinner included)

Day 9 - Chiang Mai - Bangkok

Depending on the flight schedule we’ll take a transfer to the airport for our flight to Bangkok.
Tour finishes in Bangkok

(Breakfast included)

Accommodation Information

Ariyasom Villa

Ariyasom Villa is an elegant boutique hotel in the heart of Bangkok. It is family owned, and has all the rich charm of another more genteel era. It is relaxed, quiet and peaceful with excellent service, stylish décor and yet remains traditionally Thai in character and atmosphere

Puripunn Hotel

This 30 room boutique hotel is small and amiable and inspired by traditional Lanna design and complements the architecture of the traditional homes found throughout the streets of Chiang Mai. The Thai owners have given the Puripunn a personal touch, with him donating Burmese paintings from the family collection, and her designing the garden.

Hotel Des Artists

This is a charming, antique boutique hotel, which has been converted from an old teak house on the bank of the river. It is comfortable and stylish, blending in with the architecture and spirit of Pai. The deck in the rear of the hotel, overlooking the lazy river is a pleasant place to sit in the evening at the end of the day and watch the river go by

Fern Resort

Fern resort has thirty Shan style bungalows scattered over the valley. They are all comfortably furnished in bamboo and teak, and have private terraces. The rooms have no TVs or telephones—to guarantee an away-from-it-all experience. They offer a range of activities for the nature lover from bird watching to rice planting.

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