Golden Triangle Expedition
• Bangkok • Chiang Rai • Chiang Mai • Luang Prabang
On this small group tour (maximum 10 guests) discover the cultural traditions of Southeast Asia's Golden Triangle, in Thailand's northern jungles and Laos' Luang Prabang. You'll witness giving alms to monks in the early morning in Luang Prabang, learn cooking techniques at an organic farm and journey on a long tail boat from Chiang Rai to Phatai observing life on the river of remote Thai villages. Cultural immersion brings you closer to the history, learning about local food, transport, spiritual traditions and how the region's cities continue to thrive. You'll explore in luxury staying in 4 & 5 star hotels throughout.
Day 1: Bangkok Upon arrival at the airport, you will be met and transferred to your hotel.
Day 2: Bangkok (B,L,D) Morning drive to Wat Pho in time to experience the monks' morning chanting ritual. One of the oldest temples in Bangkok, Wat Pho houses the famous 45m reclining Buddha as well as the original school of traditional Thai massage. From here, take a tuk-tuk ride via Pak Klong Taland Flower Market towards the spectacular Grand Palace, home to the most revered Buddha image in Thailand, the Emerald Buddha (which is actually made of jade or jasper, rather than emerald). Stop at Wat Arun, once the grand royal temple to King Rama II.
After lunch at a local restaurant, cross the river and drive to Chinatown for a first-hand look at Old Bangkok. Walk along Yaowarat Road with shops selling everything from gold and garments to antiques and musical instruments. Enjoy a cup of Chinese tea with the locals at a very old teashop in this neighbourhood which dates back to 1782. Explore the bustling Talad Kao Market where a variety of food, fresh and dry fruits, and Chinese herbs are on offer before returning to your hotel. Later you will be transferred to the River City Pier from where we set sail on one of Bangkok's "must do" gourmand experiences, Apsara, the ultimate riverside dining experience along Chao Phraya River. Navigate the sights and sounds of the bustling waterways and enjoy a feast fit for a king, with authentic Thai dishes. A unique event in the midst of Bangkok's impressive scenery. After the cruise, return to the pier and transfer back to the hotel.
Day 3: Bangkok > Chiang Rai (B,D) Depart early morning for the 2hr drive to the 100-year-old Damnoen Saduak floating market located 100km from Bangkok. This vibrant, most famous of local markets features numerous small boats laden with colorful fruits and vegetables, paddled by Thai women wearing bamboo hats, and is one of the only places to see this traditional way of buying and selling goods in Thailand. Almost always crowded with hundreds of sellers, buyers and tourists, the best way to experience the bustling atmosphere of the market up close is to board a boat and float through the small canals purchasing fresh local produce from the vendors. This floating market is one of the most photographed places in Thailand and certainly a Bangkok icon. Drive back to Bangkok. Then meet your guide and transfer to the airport for your flight to Chiang Rai. Upon arrival, you will be met and transferred to your hotel. Exciting discovery and unforgettable experiences await at this all-inclusive destination. Savour an evening meal, before retreating to your room.
Day 4: Chiang Rai (B,L,D) Wake up to a leisurely breakfast buffet on a terrace with sweeping country views, followed later in the day by a sumptuous lunch. Delve into the Golden Triangle's infamous past with a visit to the world class Hall of Opium Museum, located just across from your hotel. Choose from a range of intriguing activities at Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp & Resort to indulge in during your time in the region known as the Golden Triangle.
Relax with a pampered treatment at Anantara Spa, or sample some of the regional flavors learning how to make local dishes in a Thai cooking class. You will also have the opportunity to engage with the friendly giants native to the area as you learn to drive your very own elephant with a mahout training experience, or taking a fascinating tour of three countries in one day. The choice is yours to spend your day as you like at this luxurious resort.
Day 5: Chiang Rai > Chiang Mai (B,L) After breakfast, meet your guide and drive to Chiang Mai. You will take an exciting 3-hour long-tail boat ride from Chiang Rai to Phatai passing tiny hill tribe villages, bamboo huts and jungle. Observe the life of a hill tribe village, built along the banks of the Maekok River. Arrive at the boat landing in the afternoon and proceed to your hotel in Chiang Mai. Lunch in a local restaurant along the way.
Day 6: Chiang Mai (B,D) Morning visit to a vibrant food and flower market where local Thais do their shopping. Continue to Wat Suan Dok, final resting place for the ashes of former kings of Chiang Mai and the Royal Family. Drive 30min to Doi Suthep Mountain, enjoying the spectacular views of Northern Thailand as you head past mountains and forests, towards Wat Phra That, one of Northern Thailand's most sacred temples. Founded in 1383 AD, the temple is reached by climbing 309 steps (or for the less fitness-minded, a tram is available for a small surcharge). The climb up is rewarded with a superb panoramic view over the city. Return to Chiang Mai. In the evening, learn Thai cooking secrets in a family environment with a well-known local chef. As a trekking guide, Chef Sawat noticed that travellers were interested in preparing food with him. His passion for cooking and experience as a chef in several restaurants inspired him to set up an organic farm where he has a spacious garden full of Thai herbs, vegetables and tropical fruits. Visit the organic garden at the chef's farmhouse located just an hour north of Chiang Mai and pick some fresh herbs for use in the hands-on cooking experience where you will learn how to pound curry paste and to make authentic Thai curry. Create a dessert with the fruits you pick right from the trees. Enjoy your culinary efforts for dinner before returning to your hotel.
Day 7: Chiang Mai > Luang Prabang (B) Morning drive 5km (3mi) southeast of Chiang Mai to Wiang Kum Kam, an ancient city built by King Mengrai in the 14th century and rediscovered by archaeologists in 1984. Because of frequent flooding, the former capital was eventually abandoned and forgotten. The excavated ruins cover 3 sq km and feature more than 1,300 inscribed stone slabs, bricks, bells and chedi. Explore the royal temple of Wat Chang Kam, the shrine of King Mengrai, and Wat Hao Nong, notable for its old-style temple entrance.
Continue to Wat Pu Pia and Wat E Kang, which were also quite recently discovered during archaeological excavations. Finally, visit Wat Chedi Liam, and notice the five-tiered design common in the early Lanna period as well as the large, outward facing lions on each corner of the chedi. Return to your hotel. Transfer to the airport for your flight to Luang Prabang, Upon arrival meet your guide will be waiting to transfer you to your hotel. Your visa will be processed while you are on the way to your hotel and your passport and luggage will be delivered to you at your hotel within approximately half an hour of arrival.
Day 8: Luang Prabang (B,L) The morning alms round (called "Tak Bat" in Lao) is a living Buddhist tradition for the people of Luang Prabang and dates back generations. Wake up before dawn to witness and participate in offering alms to a procession of hundreds of saffron-robed monks in the early morning light, truly a spiritual occasion! If you wish to make an offering, please inform your guide a day in advance so that a gift of alms can be prepared. After the almsgiving, watch the town come to life during a visit to the bustling morning market before returning to your hotel in time for breakfast.
Meet with your guide at hotel and explore the Luang Prabang countryside with a full-day boat tour visiting caves, villages and a museum. Depart from your hotel and transfer to the boat pier for a 2hr long-tail boat cruise upstream on the Mekong River. Observe the rugged limestone formations along its banks, as well as the abundance of green forest and fishing villages on the way. Explore the Tham Ting and Tham Phoum Caves, better known as the Pak Ou Caves, home to thousands of miniature Buddha images in different positions, including meditation, teaching, peace, rain, and reclining.
Continue by boat to the small fishing village Ban Pak Ou where lunch is served before returning to Luang Prabang either by boat or by private vehicle along an unpaved road. On the way, stop at a minority village to learn about sticky rice production and other traditional customs.
Back in town, pay a visit to the Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre (TAEC) with one of the directors as your guide. Home to a rotating display of informative and engaging exhibitions, the TAEC offers a rare and fascinating look into the diversity and richness of Laos' ethnic cultures. Exhibits feature objects from the museum collection including traditional handmade clothing and textiles, jewellery, handicraft and household tools, reconstructions of domestic scenes, as well as ritual and religious artefacts. Founded in 2006, the museum collects, preserves, and interprets the traditional arts and lifestyles of the country's many ethnic groups. Afterwards, sit down for a coffee/tea break in the museum cafe for a candid discussion with the director about the museum. Return to your hotel.
Day 9: Luang Prabang (B,L) Spend a half day exploring the area around Kuang Si Waterfall, highlighted by a private tour of the Asian Bear Rescue Centre. Depart on a 1hr drive south of Luang Prabang, with a stop at the vibrant Phou Si Market. Continue on to the waterfalls, and take a leisurely hike through the national park to the Kuang Si Bear Rescue Centre. Enjoy a 1hr private guided tour of the centre, established by the Free The Bears Fund Inc. in 2003 to look after bears destined for use in the traditional medicine trade, including the Asiatic Black Bear (moon bears). Observe one of Laos' most endangered species and learn about the threats to bears and what can be done to protect Laos' precious wildlife.
Arrive before 11:00 to help out with the bears' midday scatter feed by hiding food around the enclosure to stimulate the animals and get them to work for their food. Afterwards, walk to the beautiful cascading Kuang Si Waterfall with the option to climb to the top of the main waterfall.
Swimming in the refreshing turquoise waters is possible, although the water temperature is very cool between November and January. Transfer back to Luang Prabang by private vehicle. This afternoon, take a half-day walking tour exploring some of the highlights of this incredibly picturesque town. Start with a visit to the Royal Palace, which is now a National Museum housing precious artefacts that belonged to the Royal Family. Drive or enjoy a leisurely walk to explore some of Luang Prabang's famed temples including: Wat Visoun, Luang Prabang's oldest temple.
Notice its unusually shaped stupa designed to look like a lotus flower but referred to by locals as "the watermelon stupa"; Wat That Luang, traditionally the cremation site for Lao royalty; the gorgeous Wat Mai with its detailed golden reliefs depicting scenes from village life; and Wat Xieng Thong, built in the 17th century. Notice the stunning "tree of life" mosaic set on its western exterior wall. End the tour by climbing up to the top of Mount Phousi to admire the panoramic views across the Mekong and Khan rivers as well as the mountain range. Return to your hotel.
Depart in the early evening from your hotel and head to Luang Prabang's famous night market. Walk through the market and head towards the small side streets where vendors offer 'food buffets' and different local snacks. Enjoy the sights, sounds and smells while your guide explains the different cooking methods or ingredients to you. After the markets head to a famous local restaurant for Sindad BBQ, a "BBQ at your table" type of Laos traditional way of cooking which is very popular with the locals. The guide will assist you with your food order and recommend some of the restaurants specialties. After dinner, head back to your hotel.
Day 10: Luang Prabang (B) After breakfast, morning at leisure until meeting with your guide for the transfer to the airport for your departure flight home.
• 9 nights 4 & 5 star accommodation inclusive of tax and service charges • Group transfers and transport on tour • Sightseeing with Local English speaking guides (one guide in each city) • Entrance fees and boat rides • Meals as specified • Economy class Airfares: Bangkok - Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai - Luang Prabang (including airport tax) • Cold towels and water on sightseeing days • Welcome pack • Airport arrival assistance services in Bangkok & Luang Prabang
Pricing (per person) $NZD
2017 Nov 25
Booking conditions Minimum of 5 and maximum of 10 guests.
Minimum of 5 and maximum of 10 guests.
Not included • Thailand visa
• Laos Visa
• Private airport transfer
• Other flights & airport taxes
• Travel insurance
• Thailand visa • Laos Visa • Private airport transfer • Other flights & airport taxes • Travel insurance • Gratuities