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16 days

Highlights of Thailand & beach holiday in Phuket

Look forward to combining the absolute highlights of Thailand in Bangkok, the River Kwai, Ayutthaya and Chiang Mai with a fantastic beach holiday in the holiday paradise that is Phuket.

Highlights of Thailand & beach holiday in Phuket
Highlights of Thailand & beach holiday in Phuket
16 days

Highlights of Thailand & beach holiday in Phuket

Look forward to combining the absolute highlights of Thailand in Bangkok, the River Kwai, Ayutthaya and Chiang Mai with a fantastic beach holiday in the holiday paradise that is Phuket.

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What is included in the price?
This package includes the following
  • Flight from the UK to Bangkok and home from Phuket
  • Domestic flight from Chiang Mai to Phuket
  • 10 nights at 4-star hotels
  • 1 night at Hintok River Camp in a luxury tent
  • 1 night at the River Kwai Jungle Rafts flotel
  • 1 night in a couchette on the night train from Ayutthaya to Chiang Mai
  • 13 x breakfast (days 3-15)
  • 6 x lunch (days 5-10)
  • 3 x dinners (days 5-7)
  • Welcome meeting in Bangkok
  • Option to extend your beach holiday in Phuket
  • Local English-speaking guides on transfers and excursions
  • Travelling in a car or minibus with air conditioning
  • ATOL certificate included
  • Emergency hotline staffed 24/7 throughout your tour
  • Departure guarantee – the tour goes ahead regardless of the number of participants

Extensive excursion package:

  • Excursion in Kanchanaburi with a visit to the Death Railway Museum, the War Cemetery and the Bridge over the River Kwai
  • Hellfire Pass Memorial
  • Train ride on the Death Railway
  • Visit to Ayutthaya Night Market, including dinner
  • Excursion to Ayutthaya Historical Park
  • Bike ride in Chiang Mai, including lunch at a local restaurant
  • Excursion to ChangChill Elephant Sanctuary
  • Admission and fees to the sights and attractions mentioned

THE TOUR IN SHORT

This tour combines the highlights of Thailand with a relaxing beach holiday in the holiday paradise of Phuket.

The tour starts in Thailand’s bustling capital, Bangkok, where colourful tuktuks zip past the city’s beautiful temples, which stand side by side with modern steel and glass skyscrapers.

From Bangkok, you embark on a historic tour to the scenic area of Kanchanaburi and the River Kwai, which is surrounded by lush jungle. Here, you gain an interesting insight into the country’s harsh history during the Second World War. As something special, the standard hotels here have been replaced by luxury tents and flotels in the middle of the lush, green countryside.

You will then visit the former capital of Thailand, Ayutthaya, which is known for its impressive temple ruins, which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites for good reason.

From the seat of your bicycle, you’ll experience Chiang Mai’s charm and beautiful temples. You will also get to taste the local speciality, Khao Soi, which is a spicy noodle dish with vegetables and meat.

You’ll also visit the ChangChill Elephant Sanctuary, where you get right up close to the Asian elephant in a natural setting – a project supported by the worldwide World Animal Protection organisation.

Your tour ends on the lovely beaches of Phuket, where you can digest all that you have seen and done on this unforgettable tour.

Why choose this tour

  • Adventure and relaxation – a tour that combines the main highlights of the country with sun and beach
  • Fall in love with Bangkok’s wild contrasts, enjoy the lush jungle around the River Kwai, and learn about its harsh history from World War II
  • Discover Ayutthaya’s well-preserved ruins and set off on a bike ride in Chiang Mai in the mountainous north
  • Relaxing beach holiday in Phuket as the perfect end to your tour

Our prices always include

  • All international and domestic flights
  • All destination transfers
  • All specified excursions and activities
  • All accommodations
Detailed Itinerary
Day 1: Departure from selected airport

Today, you’ll be flying to wonderful Thailand with connecting flight(s) on the way.

Day 2: Arrival in Bangkok – Welcome meeting

After a long flight, you land in the Thai capital, Bangkok. You go through immigration and collect your luggage. A guide will be waiting for you in the arrivals hall, holding up a TourCompass sign, and you will be driven from here to the hotel in central Bangkok.

Late afternoon, there is a welcome meeting at the hotel, when your guide will tell you about Thailand; what to respect and what to be aware of. At the same time, any questions you may have will be answered and you’ll run through the itinerary. You’ll then go on a short walk in the area around the hotel, where the guide will point out cash machines, pharmacies, etc. Finally, you’ll be served a welcome drink in the hotel’s rooftop bar, which affords spectacular views of the Bangkok skyline at sunset.

After the meeting, you’ll probably be hungry and then you’re all set to head out into Bangkok’s lively streets, where unique dining experiences await, ranging from bustling street kitchens to modern fusion restaurants.

Later in the evening, you can explore the busy streets a little before enjoying a well-deserved, good night’s sleep.

Days 3-4: Bangkok on your own

You wake up to Thailand’s hectic, colourful and fascinating capital, which is home to some 12 million people.

There are no excursions planned, so you can enjoy the days at your own pace. You also have the option to participate in one of our exciting optional excursions, which you can read more about below.

When it comes to getting about in Bangkok, you needn’t worry about the notorious traffic, as the city offers a wide range of transport options. A lot of people get around by tuktuk, but the river taxis are also popular and account for a significant portion of the city’s public transport, as they stop at many of the city’s sights. You can also take the Sky Train, which winds its way between the city’s high-rise buildings and is a good, fast and cheap way of travelling.

Bangkok is divided into east and west by the 372-km-long Chao Phraya River. The eastern part of the city is considered to be central Bangkok, with the popular areas of Silom and Sukhumvit and China Town, which offer a high concentration of shopping centres, local markets and good eateries. It is also on the eastern side that you’ll find the historic part of Bangkok, which is home to the city’s lavish royal palace, the Grand Palace and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, Wat Phra Kaew.

After walking all over Bangkok in the tropical heat and noisy traffic, there will almost certainly be moments when you dream of greener, quieter places. Might we suggest a visit to Lumpini Park and Benjakitti Park? You can also choose to head over to the western side of the river, where you’ll find yourself in a completely different world without skyscrapers and tooting tuktuks. You’ll encounter a more authentic Bangkok here, and a maze of canals, where houses stand on stilts and postmen make their deliveries by boat.

In the evening, it’s pretty much a must to visit one of the city’s sky bars, which is the perfect place to enjoy a cold drink and at the same time watch the sun setting over the metropolis.

You could also visit the neon-lit China Town or the Asiatique The River Front shopping venue, which in addition to shops also offers restaurants and entertainment.

Whatever you decide to do, we guarantee that you won’t get bored!

Day 5: Bangkok – Kanchanaburi – the River Kwai

Today, you’ll be waving goodbye to Bangkok and an exciting trip of 3 days and 2 nights awaits. You’ll visit the small town of Kanchanaburi, the River Kwai and the expansive area of jungle that surrounds it all.

You’ll be picked up from the hotel early to avoid the worst of the traffic heading out of Bangkok, and driven straight to Kanchanaburi and the River Kwai. During World War II, a railway was built here from Thailand to Myanmar under appallingly inhumane conditions. It took 18 months to build the 415-km railway line and during the period from 1942-1943, some 100,000 conscripted Asians and 12,500 allied prisoners of war lost their lives. This true story was later re-told in the famous novel “The Bridge over the River Kwai” by Pierre Boulle and immortalised in a film adaptation.

Upon your arrival in Kanchanaburi, you’ll visit the Death Railway Museum, where you can see the old train carriages, reconstructions of the old railway as well as original drawings, letters and photos. Opposite the museum is the war cemetery, where almost 7,000 prisoners of war are buried.

You continue to the Bridge over the Kwai, which was part of the Death Railway.

At around noon, you’ll arrive at your accommodation, Hintok River Camp, and after check-in, it’s time for lunch.

Early afternoon, you will be driven to Hellfire Pass, which was one of the hardest and most difficult places on the route to build the railway as it passed through a rock cutting. The work continued around the clock, and at night torches were used to illuminate the area, hence its name. You’ll walk from Hellfire Pass to Hintok Station. Walking here is very special, and in some places along the route you’ll come across memorials.

From Hintok Station, you’ll be driven back to Hintok River Camp, where you can enjoy the area and the camp’s activities.

Accommodation:
Day 6: Visit to a Mon village and check-in at River Kwai Jungle Rafts

You awaken to the sounds of the jungle and the river.

After a delicious breakfast, you’ll check out and be sailed by long-tail boat to River Kwai Jungle Rafts, where you can drop off your luggage until check-in later in the day.

You’ll visit a nearby Mon village, where the Mon people have lived for many generations. Here, you’ll visit the Golden Rock, the Buddha Image Cave and the village school. You’ll have the opportunity to meet the locals and hear about their history, culture and traditions. Afterwards, a short walk along the riverbank to a breathtaking vantage point awaits you where you can enjoy the view of the lush River Kwai,

before returning to River Kwai Jungle Rafts, which is a flotel or raft hotel on the River Kwai itself. The scenery and lushness are almost indescribable! There is check-in on arrival and lunch is served.

The afternoon is yours to do as you please, and you might like to choose an extra excursion arranged by the hotel such as canoeing and rafting trips, or just relax with a good book.

Day 7: Train ride on the Death Railway – Ayutthaya night market

The morning is yours to enjoy the scenic surroundings until check-out at around 11 am. You’ll then be sailed up the river to the quay where you’ll disembark and have lunch at a local restaurant. A scenic train ride on the Death Railway awaits you next in the historic train carriages. The train ride takes you along an elevated stretch above the scenic landscape and the River Kwai.

After the train ride, you’ll meet your guide and driver, who work for our partner, and they’ll drive you to the historic pearl of Ayutthaya, which was the capital for 417 years from 1350 to 1767. The drive takes about 3.5 hours.

On your arrival in Ayutthaya, you’ll check in at the hotel and then you’ll visit the city’s colourful night market, where you have dinner.

Afterwards, you can enjoy the sight of the illuminated temples that you’ll be visiting on tomorrow’s excursion to Ayutthaya Historical Park.

Accommodation:
Possible upgrades:
Day 8: Ayutthaya Historical Park – Night train to Chiang Mai

Take the morning and afternoon at your own pace.

In the afternoon, you’ll check out and your guide and driver will drive you to a local restaurant where the day’s lunch is served.

Next, you will embark on an exciting tour of some of Ayutthaya’s historic temple ruins. Some are relatively well preserved, others are almost gone, destroyed by the Burmese army in 1767. But that doesn’t make them any less interesting!

The first visit is to Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon, located on the east bank of the Pa Sak River. A little off the beaten path, it offers a more intimate experience. The temple originally served as a monastery for a group of monks who had returned from Sri Lanka before the destruction caused by the Burmese. Restoration work did not begin until many years later – in the 1950s – which is why the temple appears so incredibly well-preserved today. Unlike many other temples in the area, monks still live here.

The tour then heads into Ayutthaya Historical Park itself, which consists of 67 temples and Buddha statues. In 1991, part of the park was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The first temple you visit is Wat Phra Sri Sanphet (UNESCO), which was the largest and most beautiful temple built next to the king’s palace. Monks were denied access here due to the royal status of the temple, which is especially famous for its three large chedis and small chapels. You might notice the similarity with Wat Phra Kaew in Bangkok, which is inspired by Wat Phra Sri Sanphet.

The tour continues to Wat Mahathat (UNESCO), which was also built close to the king’s palace. It was here that he performed important ceremonies. The temple was the seat of the Supreme Patriarch of Buddhism while at the same time home to various Buddha relics and was therefore considered one of Ayutthaya’s most important temples. When you see the ancient columns, chedis and Buddha statues, you can easily imagine how beautiful this would once have been! Today, the temple is best known for the Buddha head embedded in a tree. It is still unclear how it ended up among the roots of the trees, but it is believed to have happened in connection with the mass destruction and flooding of the area and the rapid growth of the vegetation that followed.

The last visit of the day is to the ancient monastery, Wat Lokaya Sutha. There is not much left here other than the remains of the old floors, walls and columns. The major attraction of the site is the 37-metre-long reclining Buddha with the peaceful smile.

After an exciting day, you’ll be driven to the city’s train station, where there will be time to find something to eat before taking the 19.44 night train to Chiang Mai. We also recommend that you buy some snacks and drinks for the train ride.

You arrive in Chiang Mai the next morning.

For an additional fee, you can fly from Bangkok to Chiang Mai instead of taking the night train. This option will include an extra night in Chiang Mai.

Day 9: Arrival in Chiang Mai – Bike ride in historic Chiang Mai

At 7.15 am, you’ll arrive in the mountainous north in Thailand’s second largest city, Chiang Mai. It’s an incredibly beautiful city located in a valley surrounded by mountains, including Doi Inthanon, which is the highest point in Thailand. Chiang Mai is also the former capital of the old Lanna Kingdom, which existed from 1292 to 1775. You will therefore discover many influences from this era around the city.

In Chiang Mai, you’ll really experience a different and unique side of Thailand.

Out in the station’s arrivals hall, a guide holding up a TourCompass sign will be waiting for you, and you’ll be driven from here to the popular Talad Warorot Market, where breakfast is served.

After a delicious breakfast, you’ll be driven to the hotel where you can store your luggage until check-in in the afternoon. Until then, an exciting bike ride in historic Chiang Mai awaits you, which is a great way to experience the city.

You’ll be driven to our partner’s office, where you will be kitted out with a bicycle and bicycle helmet. After a quick briefing, it’s time to hit the pedals and experience the charm of the city. The route is flat and easy, making it suitable for most people. You’ll cycle through the small, quiet streets of Chiang Mai to the fine temple Wat Inthakhin Sadue Mueang, known for its 700-year-old white Buddha statue. The bike ride continues past the Three Kings monument to Tha Phae Gate, the city gate where traders brought their wares into the city. Here, the guide will tell you all about Chiang Mai as a former trade centre. You’ll continue to the nearby Somphet Market, where you have time to walk around and soak in the local atmosphere. You’ll also have the opportunity to taste the colourful fruits and sweets. Wat Chiang Man, Chiang Mai’s oldest temple, then awaits. It is here that the 1,800-year-old Crystal Buddha and the 2,500-year-old Marble Buddha are kept. Finally, you’ll visit the city’s largest and most iconic monument, Wat Chedi Luang, once home to the Emerald Buddha, which is now housed in Wat Phra Kaew temple in Bangkok.

After a 3-4 hour bike ride, you’ll be back at the starting point, and a well-deserved lunch awaits you at a local restaurant. Lunch consists of the dish “khao soi”, a spicy noodle soup and a speciality of northern Thailand.

You then check in at your hotel and you have the rest of the day to yourself.

Day 10: ChangChill Elephant Sanctuary

Today, you’ll be going on an unforgettable visit. Around an hour and a half drive from Chiang Mai is ChangChill Elephant Sanctuary.

ChangChill is a sanctuary for 4 happy female elephants – elephants are allowed to be elephants here! When ChangChill opened in 2017, it was a big, important step, the like of which had not been seen before in Thailand. They were 100% elephant friendly with the support of World Animal Protection, among others. This means that at ChangChill, the elephants are allowed to live as naturally as possible by letting them roam freely around the valley, graze, bathe in the river, have dust and mud baths and socialise with each other. As a visitor, you cannot interact with the elephants but you can observe them from a distance and see them express their natural behaviour on their own terms.

The visit starts with an introduction to the project itself, and then you head into the jungle with the guide, where you can see the large elephants grazing. The guide will tell you the story of the elephants and more about the Asian elephant in general.

After the walk, refreshments will be served on one of the observation platforms, and you may be lucky enough to see the elephants enjoying a mud bath beneath you – something they love doing on hot days. Mud baths protect their skin from both the sun and insects. When their skin begins to feel dry, they bathe in the river to remove the dry mud, with much splashing and spraying in the process – a fantastic sight to see.

At lunchtime, you’ll head down to the river, where you’ll help fill the elephants’ feed tubes with either corn, sugar cane or bananas. While you are being served your own vegetarian meal up in the pavilion, you can see the elephants enjoying theirs below.

The elephants are cared for by the mahouts, who descend from the Karen tribe. After lunch, you’ll visit the local cultural centre, where you learn about the history, culture and traditions of the Karen tribe.

ChangChill also has its own herb garden, where you’ll learn about which plants, leaves, roots and herbs are used as medicine for elephants. Many of these are also highly nutritious. Despite eating around 120 different plant species, it is said that elephants only absorb 40% of nutrients and therefore need extra in the form of supplements. The next activity involves making elephant snacks or vitamin bombs using ingredients from the herb garden.

Finally, the guide will answer any questions you may have and tell you more about their day-to-day work.

A fantastic day with the 4 happy female elephants has now come to an end, and you’ll be driven back to the hotel in Chiang Mai, where the rest of the day is your own to do as you please.

Accommodation:
Day 11: Chiang Mai on your own

There are no excursions planned for today, so you can explore Chiang Mai on your own and at your own pace. There’s plenty to see and do here, and the city is also the perfect base for excursions. Read more about our exciting extra excursions below.

In the evening, you can enjoy the view of the illuminated temples and monuments, or how about a visit to the city’s popular night market? You can also eat your way through the many wonderful street kitchens.

Day 12: Flight from Chiang Mai to Phuket

You will be picked up from your hotel and driven to Chiang Mai airport, from which you will fly to Thailand’s holiday destination no. 1: Phuket.

After arriving, you pick up your luggage and pass through immigration. Your guide and driver will be waiting for you in the arrivals hall to drive you to the hotel.

After check-in, the rest of the day is yours to do as you please. Perhaps you fancy a dip in the waves? Or how about a stroll along the beach where you can enjoy the sun’s rays, the soft sounds of quiet waves and a relaxing holiday atmosphere?

Kata Beach is on the south-western coast of Phuket and is one of the most famous beaches on the whole island. Kata Beach actually consists of two beaches: Kata Yai, the “big” beach, and Kata Noi, the “small” beach. Both beaches have fine, golden sand and shade from greenery and palm trees. The water is clear, calm and relatively shallow – ideal beach for children and adults alike. Kata Beach is a bit more relaxed compared to the lively and vibrant Patong Beach, but it still offers a good selection of nice restaurants, pleasant pubs, and shops.

A good 20 km north of Kata Beach is Kamala Beach, which consists of a nearly 2 km sandy beach with fine sand and calm waters for bathing. Kamala Beach is all about pure relaxation, and time passes slowly here. The area isn’t overrun by tourists, which gives it a unique sense of calm, particularly at the northern end, which features only a few hotels and lots of space on the beach. On the southern end of the beach is the city of Kamala itself. There are no neon lights here, nor noisy city life, but you will find good restaurants and pleasant cafés that, as one of few places in Phuket, are situated right next to the beach.

Days 13-14: Phuket on your own

There are no excursions planned for today, so you can enjoy Phuket at your own pace.

Phuket is Thailand’s largest island, boasting more than 30 magnificent beaches, making it tempting to spend the days lazing on the golden sand and swimming in the warm water. But if you feel like heading out in search of adventure, Phuket actually has a lot to offer in the way of nature and cultural experiences.

We certainly also recommend a snorkelling trip to one of the beautiful coral reefs off the coast of Phuket, where you’ll see the most beautiful colourful fish?

East of Phuket is Phang Nga Bay, which is famous for its many islands and impressive limestone cliffs. Among other things, this is the bay where you can find the legendary “James Bond Island”, where sections of The Man with the Golden Gun were filmed in 1974.

Even further east are the heavenly Phi Phi Islands, which can be experienced on a full-day excursion, giving you time to bathe, go snorkelling, and relax on the alabaster sandy beaches.

You must not miss spending at least one evening on a sunset excursion to Khao Rang Hill, one of Phuket’s most famous lookout points. It offers a beautiful panoramic view of the city, nearby islands, and the undulating landscape.

Below is a selection of the optional tours we offer:

Day 15: Departure day

Today, you’ll be saying goodbye to Thailand. You’ll be picked up from the hotel and driven to the airport, from where you fly back to Europe with connecting flight(s) on the way.

Day 16: Arrival back home

You land at your selected airport after a lovely holiday packed with experiences and relaxation.

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Laura Arundell Trelborg

Laura loves to travel and is extremely passionate about helping others achieve their travel dreams.

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