Sa-wat dee! Welcome to Thailand. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 5 pm. If you arrive early, there is plenty to see and do in this exciting city. Bangkok is famous for its tuk tuks, khlong boats and street vendors serving up delicious Thai food. Perhaps 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 a Thai massage. After the formalities of the meeting, take the opportunity to introduce yourselves to your leader and the other families joining your tour and perhaps head out for a group dinner.
Today you will travel by longtail boat down the Chao Phraya River and explore the famous khlongs (canals) of Bangkok (approximately 1 hour). Life along these canals seems a world away from the busy streets of the capital. After that you will pay a visit to Wat Pho, one of the six most important temples in the country. It's home to the country's largest reclining Buddha, which is a seriously impressive sight. This place is also the gatekeeper of the secrets of Thai medicine and massage. After exploring the site, you and the family will take a private minivan to Kanchanaburi (approximately 2.5 hours) and check into your hotel. The hotel is situated where the Khwae Noi and Khwae Yai rivers converge. Kanchanaburi is home to the infamous 'Bridge on the River Kwai'.
Travel to Erawan National Park in the morning (approximately 1.5 hours each way). Located in western Thailand in the Tenasserim Hills of Kanchanaburi Province, this national park boasts the incredible Erawan Falls, a famous seven-level waterfall of luminous turquoise pools and exotic tropical fish. It's a great place to explore or simply swim and relax. If you do some exploring of the lush surrounds, keep your eyes peeled for eagles, pheasants or leafbirds among many others who might be soaring above or perched in the treetops.
Transfer by minibus to the nearby city of Ayutthaya (approximately 2.5 hours). Once the capital of ancient Siam, Ayutthaya offers a great opportunity to stroll the World Heritage-listed ruins of this once magnificent city. There's time for a guided tour of the picturesque ruins and temples spread across the town. The ruins at Wat Phra Mahathat provide many photo opportunities and the Buddha head surrounded by Banyan tree roots is perhaps the most photographed site in Ayutthaya. You will have access to a day room at a local hotel in Ayutthaya to have a swim in the hotel pool and freshen up before the train. Afterwards, board an overnight train to Chiang Mai (approximately 11 hours).
Wake up in Chiang Mai, the most vibrant city of Northern Thailand. As well as amazing temples and an interesting old town, the city is known for its friendly, smiling locals. Drive along a scenic, winding mountain road that ends at an impressive 300-step Naga-guarded stairway (approximately 45 minutes). The rewards will justify the climb, as one of Thailand's most stunning temples reveals itself. This is Doi Suthep. You'll be treated to panoramic views of the city from up here. You might also be able to listen to the evening chants of the resident Buddhist monks while you're here. With free time in the evening, perhaps wander through the colourful night bazaar or visit one of the quality restaurants along the riverfront. In any case, don't miss out on the signature northern dish kao soy – yellow wheat noodles in a curry broth with chicken or beef.
After breakfast we take the journey out to see the elephants - which will sure to be a highlight for the entire family. One and half hours outside of Chiang Mai, the elephant sanctuary is home to elephants who have been rescued. Upon arrival head out on a walk with a local guide into the forest to observe the elephants grazing and socializing, from a safe distance of course! The children will learn some new facts about Asian Elephants and meet their Mahouts. Your guide will deliver a "live" information session answering any questions you may have about conservation, elephant behavior, and interesting facts: like how much they eat? After some Thai snacks you will then head to the riverside where you can help fill feeding tubes with corn, sugar cane, grass, bananas and any other supplementary food on hand for the elephants.
We will have lunch at the Sanctuary before heading back to Chiang Mai arriving in the late afternoon. You will have some free time to maybe visit the night markets or take a wander around the city.
Set off early through the Mae Taeng Valley to the rural village of Ban Hua Tung (approximately 2 hours). Arrive at the warm and welcoming village where the community will invite you and your family for a truly unique experience. Once you’ve had some time to settle in, join local guides for a walk around the village, giving you the chance to learn about their agricultural practices and traditional basket weaving. Visit the forest which the local Hua Tung people manage together as part of a new community initiative. The biodiversity of the forest is protected by a sacred 'forest ordination' by Buddhist monks whereby trees are ordained as monks – the people nurture the forest, and the forest nurtures the people in return. There's a yearly bamboo harvest which raises money for the village. The locals take great pride in showing you the development of their village and the many different herbal medicines and wild foods in the forest. Join your hosts for a homemade lunch prepared by the community and learn a little more about their lives. Later in the day, make the short drive to the peaceful village of Chiang Dao, where you will spend the night.
Enjoy a free morning to enjoy your peaceful surroundings in the misty Chiang Dao. Perhaps take a walk through the lush jungle, have a swim in the pool or just kick back and relax at the hotel. Make your way back to Chiang Mai, arriving in time to catch the overnight train back to Bangkok.
Arrive into Bangkok around 7am this morning. After some breakfast at a local hotel, make the journey south to the beach town of Hua Hin (approximately 3 hours). With two days to enjoy this palm-fringed resort town, spend your free time exploring the numerous white sandy beaches by day and indulging in amazing food by night. This beautiful coastal spot is located right by a sophisticated city that has everything you need. But its slickness takes nothing away from the gorgeous beach and blue-green waters, which are perfect to laze around in. Hua Hin was once a sleepy fishing village before Thai royalty made it their beachside getaway in the 1920’s. Hin Beach is the main strip – grab a coconut, settle in and be sure to sample the delicious thom kha (spicy seafood soup).
Today is free to spend as you please. A bicycle tour is always an excellent choice for the family, and there are many nearby vineyards and mountainous trails to explore, depending on how far you would like to venture. You might like to just stay at the beach and soak up the atmosphere of Thailand's original coastal resort. Perhaps stroll north on the main shore to check out some of the opulent Victorian-style garden estates. The day market, Chatchai, is well worth a visit, boasting fresh fruit, delicious donuts and traditional sweetened coffee.
Return by minivan to Bangkok and enjoy an afternoon of free time. The shopping is excellent in Bangkok, and the malls sometimes feel like their own kind of theme park. Tonight, why not head out for a farewell dinner and take the opportunity to look back on the week’s adventures with your family and new-found friends.
There are no activities planned for the final day and you are free to depart at anytime following check-out. If you have time, there’s still plenty to enjoy in this bustling capital, ask your leader for their recommendations on the best family-friendly activities.