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Explore Thailand from the bustling metropolis of Bangkok to chilled-out Chiang Mai and the northern Hill Tribe regions. Head home having seen the fascinating diversity of Thailand. Relax and prepare for a world-class trip to Thailand! Once you arrive at your departure city, our Airport Coordinator will help you get checked in to your international flight. Meet your Flight Leader who will escort you all the way to Bangkok!
Get acquainted with your new friends before boarding your flight to Southeast Asia! Today is lost as you cross the international dateline. Sawat dee, and welcome to Thailand! Thailand is known as one of the most welcoming countries in the world and is affectionately nicknamed the Land of Smiles. As you exit the arrival hall with your Flight Leader, you will meet our team of staff.
Unwind and meet new friends who have arrived on different flights or are connecting from different programs. In the mid-afternoon, hop on a quick one-hour flight up to Chiang Mai, where your program begins. This ancient and graceful capital is a fascinating mishmash of Northern Thai style, hill tribe cultures, and a vibrant community of non-profit workers. Freshen up, rest, or take a dip in the hotel pool. Depart for the elephant camp by a. Once you arrive at the camp, meet the entire staff — including the elephants — and then the senior camp officials will offer an opening prayer ceremony, which is performed for good luck and to show the commitment of the group to the task at hand.
With the ceremony finished, the program will be officially underway, and you will waste no time in getting down to business. Your first order of business will be to look the part — so everyone will receive an official mahout suit. Once you are comfortable in your fashionable new attire, you will be assigned to an elephant. Depending on the size of the group, there will be one or two students assigned to each elephant. First, master the basic mahout commands and how to interpret and communicate with these amazing animals.
In the evening, settle in to jungle life, with plenty of time to relax and share stories or maybe have an early night, ready for a dawn start with the elephants tomorrow!? The morning is truly a special time in the jungles of northern Thailand.
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The birds bring the forest to life and the sun cuts bright rays through the lingering mist. Rising early, walk down to greet and bathe your elephant at 7 a. Once your elephant is fed and cared for, head back to the camp for breakfast yourself. Then ride your elephant back to the camp base and return them to the jungle for some rest while you join your mahout in some traditional Thai games.
Say goodbye to the cheerful mahouts for the evening and head into the nearest town of Lampang for dinner and a stroll through the Saturday Walking Street Market. Rising early, take your elephant down to the river again for its morning bath. Learn about the special relationship that develops between the mahout and the elephant, the tools and skills involved, and how they communicate with one another. Then practice the training commands with your elephant, learn how to weave rope for a saddle, and find out how to strap cargo on comfortably.
You will have gone a long way in developing your own relationship with your elephant by the time you release it back into the jungle in the afternoon. After dinner, join the staff to learn some songs in Thai that will help bring you closer to your mahout on your journey into the jungle tomorrow. This lesson always turns into a dance party, so bring your best moves to teach the local staff! After the morning elephant bath and breakfast, use the skills you learned yesterday to load up your elephant with everything you will need for a night in the jungle.
Once you reach the camp, give your elephant a chance to rest while you enjoy a jungle-style lunch cooked over an open fire. Craft what you find into several different kinds of products, including cups and dishes, with the help of the mahouts. As evening falls, throw on warmer clothes, eat a jungle feast, and play some Thai campfire games while singing and dancing the night away. For many students, this night is the highlight of the whole trip!
The sun will wake you up early this morning, and you will help your mahout bring your elephant in from the jungle where it spent the night. Then, after taking the elephants on a short walk to an area where they can munch on fresh greens for breakfast, hike back to the main camp. After a well-deserved shower and hearty lunch, learn to make a typical Thai dessert and head to a nearby market to try the local fare and grab some souvenirs.
On your return, help reforest the jungle by planting trees that will eventually help shelter our pachyderm pals in their home. On your last night at the Conservation, eat dinner family-style and reflect on your amazing week with the elephants. After the morning elephant bath and breakfast, head to the elephant hospital for a tour. Learn about the many elephants the camp has rescued from abusive situations and how they are rehabilitated. It will now be time to say good-bye to your elephant, your gracious hosts, and the camp. At the closing ceremony, receive a certificate of completion for the program.
In the afternoon, depart for Chiang Mai and check into the hotel for some down time by the pool. After a nice rest, head into town for a traditional Thai massage before dinner, and take in some souvenir shopping at the world-famous Night Bazaar. Chiang Mai is home to a thriving artist community, and while in town you will have the chance to learn about many traditional handicrafts that this region has become famous for. Today will start with a trip to Baan Tawai, an artisan village that is home to legendary woodworkers and carvers, as well as many traditional craft traditions that date back centuries.
With panoramic views of the lush Chiang Mai valley below, learn about the unique religious traditions of the area, a fusion of Buddhist, Hindu and animist traditions. Hear the Legend of the White Elephant that marked this sacred spot as the location for the temple, and climb the dragon-guarded staircase to into the shrine itself. Once inside, witness the resident monks chanting and take in the sweeping views before receiving a blessing for a happy and healthy trip.
Rise early today and set out into the stunning mountains of Northern Thailand. This is the most diverse region of the country, home to more than a dozen hill tribe minorities, each with its own distinct language, history, and culture. Visit an orchid farm and a butterfly farm on your way out of town, as you wind north through the mountains. Next you will check out Mork Fa Waterfall, which is a perfect stop to cool off and snap some beautiful photos on a hot day.
After lunch, the journey continues into the Chiang Dao Valley, famous for the magnificent mountain that towers over the landscape. The Doi Luang Chiang Dao Mountain is one of the tallest peaks in Thailand and easily the most impressive, with sheer limestone cliffs ascending to the top. Take in the view of mountains and rice fields as the sun goes down beyond the mountains. By evening, enjoy a traditional buffet and a cultural performance put on by the local community. Today, you will visit the Chiang Dao cave, an extensive network of caves that are also revered in local folklore as a sacred destination.
Local guides will lead you by lantern-light to explore the many hidden passageways. This cave is an important spiritual center filled with flower-laden Buddha statues and the occasional hermit. Next, continue up the road to a meditation center tucked beneath soaring limestone cliffs and jungle canopy. This area is a treasure trove for botanists and biologists, and walking through the lush forest you will see why. Enjoy a delicious lunch at the Chiang Dao Nest, and then embark on a bicycle tour through the picturesque Chiang Dao countryside. This journey will take you past vibrant rice fields where you can observe the rice-growing process and take some photos of the greenest greens that you will ever see.
You will end up at some local hot springs where you can soak in the rejuvenating waters. After breakfast, those of you who did not participate in the Thai Elephant Conservation Project will then have the chance to visit a small, locally owned elephant camp to get up close and personal with Asian Elephants. Then you will meet up with the rest of the group as the journey continues north to Chiang Rai. After lunch, visit the White temple, an intricate frosting-like edifice takes visitors on a journey through heaven and hell showing the karmic path away from temptation.
Then check in to the hotel in Chiang Rai and enjoy some poolside relaxing time. Tonight you will head out for dinner and some souvenir shopping at the Chiang Rai Night Bazaar. Tonight, you will experience a championship Muay Thai Thai kick-boxing fight at the most prestigious stadium in Thailand, Lumpini Stadium.
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Muay Thai is an ancient art and a huge source of pride for Thai people, and experiencing a match in person is quite an experience. After a nice breakfast at the hotel, get ready to see it all in a day here in Bangkok! Next, you will be treated to a refreshing traditional Thai massage to get in the right state of mind. Viewing Bangkok from the river — away from the busy streets and with a cool breeze on your face — is truly the best way to see it. In the late afternoon, you will arrive at Asiatique to explore this cool market and take in the big city vibe of downtown Bangkok.
Finally, you will cap off your final day with an evening dinner through the heart of modern Bangkok. All students on our groups flights will be escorted back to the United States by our Flight Leaders and met by our Airport Coordinator upon their return. Here is a detailed packing list for your time in Southeast Asia this summer. Packing the right gear and not too much of it is the first step to an incredible travel experience. Temperatures sometimes cool off once the sun goes down, making for more pleasant evenings. Airlines in Southeast Asia have weight restrictions for checked and carry-on luggage.
Please limit your checked luggage to no more than 33lbs 15kg and your carry-on luggage to 15lbs 7kg. For your one checked bag, a backpacking backpack or a duffel bag that is easy to carry are perfect. Make sure everything you pack in your carry-on bag complies with the carry-on regulations of the TSA. Lastly, remember to leave your valuables or prized possessions at home. Southeast Asian cultures are very conservative. As we seek to respect and preserve the culture of the communities we work with, we ask that our students dress conservatively while in country.
To dress respectfully in Southeast Asia, please bring loose-fitting pants or shorts that cover just above the knees think basketball length. Bring basic t-shirts that cover your shoulders, and please leave all tank tops, cut off shirts, low-cut, see-through, or crop tops at home. As mentioned in our packing lists, yoga pants and leggings are not appropriate because they are too form-fitting. The key is to show less skin and to stay cool by wearing loose-fitted clothing.
We will also send you our travel tips starter kit! Nearby Wat Pho is famous for two things: a larger-than-life golden reclining Buddha statue and a very relaxing massage school. Located in the south of Thailand, Khao Sok National Park is constantly rated as one of the best in Thailand, with incredible trekking, camping, limestone karsts, cooling rivers, and a glistening lake. Visiting them on your way north is a unique way to head from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. My favorite is Ayutthaya.
Thailand has a million and one beautiful tropical islands. Some are overdeveloped, while others only have a single bungalow on them. The Full Moon Party is a giant festival-like party with a lot of drinking, dancing, and drugs.
The beach itself is lined with people selling alcohol, fire dancers putting on shows, and little booths selling glow-in-the-dark face paint. There are some great jungle trekking opportunities in northern Thailand.
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Be sure to go on a multi-day hike. The biggest departure points are Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai. If you book online ahead of time, you will pay more. Scuba diving here is a popular activity because of the crystal clear waters and majestic sea life. The cheapest place to learn is on the island of Ko Tao, which caters specifically for dive trips. While you can dive all over the country, the Similan Islands offer the best diving.
If you dive the Similan Islands, be sure to see Elephant Head Rock, and the reef houses plenty of fish, snappers, rays, and turtles. There are many temples built throughout the region , all along the ancient roads connecting Angkor to the other villages. The largest of these is Phimai, located at the end of the ancient highway. In the Buriram province are two other magnificent Khmer temples only a few kilometers apart. Phanom Rung built on top of a hill and Muang Tum which is at the base of the hill.
One of the most under visited areas of the country, Isaan is mostly a land of farms and villages. This is a great place to escape the frantic tourist atmosphere of the rest of the country. It is not overrun by tourists, and you get a chance to experience Thai culture in a different, more personal way.
Taking the day train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai is not only cheaper but a much better way to see the countryside than the night train. The day trip remains one of my favorite experiences in Thailand. Just make sure you have a good book!
Thailand 18 – 30 somethings
Sure you can come to Thailand and ride an elephant, but so many of them in this country suffer from abuse. An even better way to get up-close-and-personal to the animals is to volunteer at the Elephant Conservation Center near Chiang Mai. A tram or a trek up steps will take you to the summit of Doi Suthep, where the glittering gold temple spire awaits you. The temple dates back to the 14th century and holds rare relics of Buddha. Admission is 30 THB 0. You can take a boat and head to the Golden Triangle Park, or check out some of the many Buddha statues and markets.
This is one of the most popular tourist islands in Thailand. From the famous of Maya Bay made famous in The Beach to the monkeys on the aptly named Monkey Beach to the diving and nightlife, there are reasons people flock here. Destroyed by the tsunami in , the island has been rebuilt and developed to an even greater extent than before. Located in southern Thailand, this semi-off the map island is one of my favorite places in the world. Here on Ko Lipe , the super friendly locals bring in the daily catch for amazing seafood.
The beaches are beautiful, the water warm, and the island cheap. I came for three days and then lived here for a month. Thailand is full of markets. Perhaps the most whimsical of these are the floating markets, which can be found throughout the country. This is also where you will find the Bridge on the River Kwai, built using POW labor and the subject of a both a film and a book.
Around the Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai areas, there are lots of great routes. Many people rent bikes and tour the scenery. You can take a day trip, or you can take a couple of days — whatever suits your schedule. Pai has grown as a tourist destination in more recent years, but it is still a great place to escape some of the craziness of your larger cities.
It is a true backpackers town, located in Northern Thailand. It is nestled in rolling green mountains and surrounded by waterfalls and incredible hiking trails. Be sure to take a day trip to the Tham Lot Caves, where you can take a stop off to swim in waterfalls and hot springs on your way there. Stay on the outskirts town in a lovely little bungalow, rent a bike, traverse the hills, and bathe in the cool waterfalls. This island is the biggest destination for tourism in Thailand. Phuket draws a lot of tourists, and if you really want to enjoy the area, get out of the main spots.
Be sure to visit our specific destination travel guides for more detailed information about what to see and do in each place:. Accommodation — Thailand is very cheap, though the north is far cheaper than Bangkok and the southern islands. Basic bungalows cost the same. Dorm rooms, which are increasingly widespread throughout the country, range from THB per night. Airbnb is also growing in Thailand and a good amount of cities have a nice selection. Food — Food is really cheap in Thailand. Street food costs as little as 20 THB 0. Most western dishes burgers, pizza, pasta, etc cost between THB USD , though they can be higher in the fancier western establishments.
Visit each city guide for specific food recommendations in each place! Knowing that their target customers are primarily tourists, Western food venues can be pricey compared to Thai food. Also, some of the ingredients need to be imported, which contributes to the higher costs. Keep in mind, you have more bargaining power if you go with a group. Most parks and national museums cost between THB 1. Always book your tours and activities when you arrive. Booking tours online is always more expensive. This range will get you your own room fan only with a shared bathroom or a dorm room on the lower end , food from the street stalls, a couple of drinks per day, a few tours here and there, and local transportation.
On a budget of around 1, THB 50 USD per day, you would be able to fly between some destinations, eat more delicious seafood dinners and international meals, take more tours and activities you wanted, sleep in air-conditioned rooms, and drink more. After that, the sky is the limit. Luxury transit and attraction options might include car rentals and private tours, while mid-range might include a scooter rental and organized tours.
Welcome to Asia
Thailand is an inexpensive country and it is hard to overspend. However, there are a few things that will blow your budget such as alcohol, tours, and trips to the islands. Looking for accommodation in Thailand? Here are some of my favorite places to stay in Thailand. For more suggestions, check out the specific city guides we have. Like everything in Thailand, transportation is also cheap. Local buses cost as little as 8 THB 0. Tuk-tuks are un-metered and generally more expensive, costing THB Motorbike taxis in orange vests are available all over the country with short trips costing about 35 THB 1.
Trains in Thailand tend to be a slow but scenic option to get around. Taking the train is a genuine Thai experience, making the journey as much a part of your trip as the destination. While they may not be as quick, the trains are relatively comfortable and cheap, and safer than traveling by road. There is a new Bangkok—Vientiane train that will get you to Laos with ease. Taking the train is also a convenient way to travel between Bangkok, Penang, Kuala Lumpur, and Singapore.
Train service around the country is cheap — day trains cost as little as 50 THB 1. Coach buses are a great way to get around the country. When it comes to tuk-tuks, be sure to agree on a price before you take off. I generally try to avoid tuk-tuks, but for very short distances they can be fun. Taxis that put the meter on will almost always be cheaper in the end.
Flights around the country generally cost between THB USD one way when you book at least two months in advance. Flights to the islands tend to be higher in price than flying between large cities like Bangkok and Thailand. Buses in Thailand are incredibly cheap. The fare for city buses start at around 7 THB 0. If you plan on being in the north during this time, temperatures can drop quickly in the evenings. Bring warm clothing! Temperatures can be unbearable for those who are not use to them. Monsoon hits the northern area at the end of May. The low season is the rainy season, from July to October.
Rainfall can be dramatic — ranging from light showers to major flooding. June and August have the heaviest rains, but things wind down during October.
You might still get some afternoon showers, but October is also generally a good time to visit. Violent attacks are uncommon. Petty theft including bag snatching is the most common type of crime here. There are some common scams around like unmetered taxis but for the most part, this is a safe place to travel. The people who do tend to be involved with drinking or drugs or sex tourism. For tips on specific scams, read this article on the 14 major travel scams to avoid.
Remember to always trust your gut instinct. If a taxi driver seems shady, stop the cab and get out.