Bangkok, Chiang Rai, Chiang Mai, Ayutthaya, Suphan Buri, Kanchanaburi, Erawan National Park, Siem Reap, Angkor Wat, Tonle Sap, Phnom Kulen, Kompong Phluk
Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.
Many secrets have yet to be uncovered in Thailand and Cambodia. Tree-wrapped temples, stilt-house communities, and mysterious hill tribes can be found in the jungle of Cambodia. Then, in Thailand experience Siam ruins, a World War II railway, the back-canals of Bangkok, and a Chiang Rai night market. Handcrafted to take you off the beaten track, this two-week tour explores a superb variety of destinations and ends with the lesser-known secrets of Angkor.
Bangkok – Lively Welcomes From Across Thailand
When you land in Thailand, you will be transferred to a hotel that’s perched above Chao Phraya River, the artery from which so much of Bangkok extends. Spend the evening at a cultural dance performance, which will be an informal way to get over your travel fatigue and quickly get to know different parts of the country. There are various forms of music and dancing that come from different Thai regions, giving a feel for a diversity that is often understated by visitors. Dinner will be served on the terrace in a quiet part of Bangkok.
Bangkok – A Labyrinth of Canals and Backstreet Bangkok
In the morning, children splash in the shallows of the river with exuberance written across their faces. Food sizzles on small barbecues and older men are out fishing while sisters sit in unison, braiding each other’s hair. You’ll cruise through a maze of canals (klongs) while you pass stilt houses and glistening temples as local life continues all around. Away from the bustle of central Bangkok, these klongs provide you with a relaxed and unobtrusive glimpse into a way of life that remains well preserved. In the afternoon, visit some of the city’s more iconic sites, including Wat Pho, the Grand Palace, and a flower market.
Chiang Rai – The Surreal White Temple and a Night market
At Wat Rong Khun, images of Superman drift in the space between heaven and hell. Star Wars characters juxtapose with zodiacs and a sculpted bridge comes from the ethereal, a mix of Greek fable and Buddhist fiction. This post-modern White Temple is loved and loathed in equal measure, and there is nothing like it across Asia. Today you will fly to Thailand’s northernmost charming city, to spend the afternoon at the White Temple before an evening in the Chiang Rai market. Singers perform on stage as the aromas of tasty food drift across a central square. The sounds and smells create an atmosphere that is authentically Thai and a far change from night markets in tourist-heavy Chiang Mai or Bangkok. In Chiang Rai, you’ll use your senses to soak up a thousand new impressions.
Mae Rim – Hill Tribes of Northern Thailand
Minority hill tribes are dotted across the north of Thailand. Their traditions are well preserved, as the outside world has only known of these tribes for the last 80 years. Go off the beaten track to meet these communities today to gain insight into the life and secrets of a very remote corner of the world. Try not to focus on taking photos, instead try to make genuine local connections. Spend the night at a homestay, which will provide deep cultural insight into the ways of a small community.
Chiang Mai – Tea Plantations and Sunset With the Monks
From Mae Rim, the road meanders south, in and out of the jungle towards Chiang Mai. Oolong tea plants cover the hills like a patchwork and plantations look more like gardens than places of profit. Handpick some leaves and brew up a tea to learn the process and history of tea in the region. Sunset will be spent with monks. Doi Suthep stands high above the city, and a monk leads you through the sanctified space as incense swirls and a beautiful golden stupa reflects a series of color changes. Used continuously since the 14th century, this temple provides evocative insight into a working Buddhist sanctuary. The temple also has the best possible views over Chiang Mai.
Chiang Mai – Thai Cooking Class and Northern Heritage
In the heart of Chiang Mai, the remains of hundred-year-old stupas stand at street corners and gold glistens inside temples. Cracks decorate the city walls bicycle rickshaws fill the streets. This is a very relaxed place to spend the morning. You’ll spend the afternoon in the kitchen of a local chef for a workshop in gourmet Thai recipes. Your cooking class will be as much about the conversation as the cooking as you delve into classic dishes that originate from this corner of Thailand.
Suphanburi – Legendary Ruins From Early Siam
This morning, you’ll fly south to Ayutthaya. Land in the old Siam capital, where a patchwork of remains from the 13th-century decorates the city. At Wat Mahatat, a Buddha’s head has been raised from the jungle floor by a tree. Extravagant stupas rise skywards at Wat Phra Si Sanphet, and their crumpled frames evoke the artistic detail of a past era. Barefoot monks walk around the vast archaeological site to find private places of spirituality. Local women come to pay homage as they light incense sticks in ruined temples. You will need a full day to uncover Ayutthaya’s secrets, as this is one of Thailand’s most historically and religiously essential places. As the sun sets, you travel a little further to spend the night in Suphanburi, which will place you closer to the River Kwai for tomorrow morning.
Kanchanaburi – The River Kwai, Hellfire Pass and Floating Through the Jungle
Thousands of allied prisoners of war perished while they built a railway through the jungle, and their story was immortalized in the movie Bridge over the River Kwai. When you glance at the trees, you will not believe they managed to lay any track at all since the jungle is so dense. You’ll ride the rickety train for two hours, through the jungle to Nam Tok and then Hellfire Pass. Stay in the tropical underworld this afternoon and evening. On a long-tail boat, you drift slowly downriver toward glowing lanterns and the warming sight of a jungle hotel. You’ll be deep within nature, listening out to swinging monkeys as the trees turn to silhouettes after sunset.
Bangkok – Immersed in Nature
The next morning, a lone elephant plods past your lodge through the trees. The river comes out of a shadow, so serene and still at this early hour. You can hear the monkeys, but they will be difficult to spot in the canopy. You hear a rustle, a chirp, and a flurry of noise before you glimpse them, tumbling past with strange grins across their faces. Leave the hotel on jungle rafts and head deeper into the trees, as you travel into Erawan National Park and its multi-tiered waterfalls. Swim in the pools, laze back beneath cascades and appreciate the secrets that nature can hide. You will have a full day in the park before you transfer back to Bangkok and a hotel that is close to the airport.
Siem Reap – An Afternoon With the Icons
When you fly to Cambodia, the lure of Angkor will be unmistakable. From the plane window you glimpse its outline, and from the hotel terrace you spot rising stupas. The world’s largest temple complex extends before your eyes, and much of it misses tourists’ eyes. On your first day in Siem Reap, you will go off the beaten path to explore temples and stories at the outer reaches of the complex. This will ease you into architectural glories and give you some quiet space to appreciate the history. Tree roots take hold, sculpted faces are cracked and mysterious, mold and moss cover stupas, and as the dust swirls you will imagine the former grandeur of the Khmer Kingdom.
Siem Reap – Full Day Exploring Angkor
Today, you will immerse yourself in the icons. Parrots can outnumber tourists at Ta Prohm, especially in the early morning. They brighten the temple, which is cloaked in jungle shadow. Trees rise from the ground, wrapping the Bayon-style structure in a heavy embrace. Nature appears to be winning the battle, leaving the temple in the most evocative of ruinous states. Yet inscriptions and artistic secrets suggest a more harmonious balance. Next, you will visit the ancient city of Angkor Thom, where the most moving of all temples stands bright and proud. As the sun moves, it casts expressions on the giant slabs of sculpted stone, especially on the Bayon. Be sure to stop and savor where you are, in the heart of an ancient empire.
Siem Reap – Banteay Srei Temple and 10th-Century Khmer
This morning a waterfall trickles and the sound will guide you to the River of a Thousand Lingas, where the archaeological history is etched into nature. At this Khmer site in the Kulen Hills, culture has overcome nature with messages and structures carved into rocks beside waterfall and river. Banteay Srei is the oldest temple you will visit, a tenth-century structure honoring Shiva. Its details are so exquisite that they said it could never have been crafted by man, which gave the temple its name Banteay Srei or “Fortress of the Women.” During your time in Siem Reap, your guide can adjust the daily program to your interests and energy levels.
Siem Reap – Silt Houses on Tonle Sap Lake
Today will be your last day to continue exploring and uncovering secrets. Drive to Tonle Sap Lake and set out on a boat to cruise out to a floating community. Stilts raise the houses above water while locals peer out at you. Some homes have space for pigs and chickens, liveries that are also built on stilts above the lake. Visit the community and admire the contrast in faces, as this is a place where Viet, Cham, and Khmer live together. This afternoon, you can visit a series of wooden villages where artisanal crafts help provide a route out of poverty while preserving ancient Khmer skills. You can also head back into the Angkor complex for some final time with the magnificent temples.
Siem Reap – Departure
Siem Reap has plenty of places to go shopping for souvenirs on this final morning in Cambodia. Late check-out will be arranged, and you transfer to the airport in the afternoon.
- Get lost in the mystery of Angkor, where ancient Khmer temples are wrapped in tree roots and jungle
- Spend a day with a hill tribe community in far northern Thailand, where traditions are integral to the everyday culture
- Explore the fabulous ruins of Ayutthaya, the early Siam capital
- Float through the jungle on a raft and take an adventure in Erawan National Park
- Visit a stilt house community and learn about the cultural mysteries of Cambodia’s Tonle Sap Lake
- Discover the spirituality of Thailand’s temples, from artistic Wat Rong Khun to a monk’s blessing at Doi Suthep
- Disappear into tenth-century Khmer by spending a day at Banteay Srei
- Soak up the tranquility of northern Thailand in Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai
- Float through the back-canals of Bangkok, an experiential alternative to the capital city’s bustle
- Take a Thai cooking class, watch the sunset from Bayon in Cambodia, and explore the stories of the World War II Burma railway
Thailand and Cambodia have always had secrets. The countries’ recent popularity hasn’t changed this, especially as the majority of visitors follow standard routes. Across both countries, you’ll find historical mysteries and tradition that has been kept hidden from most of the world. There are temples wrapped in trees, not just the famous ones in Angkor but others that lay shrouded by jungle. Communities are tucked away, like hill-tribes in northern Thailand and stilt houses on Cambodia’s Tonle Sap Lake. Other evocative stories are known, just lesser celebrated and lesser-seen by visitors, including Bangkok’s back canals, sublime tea plantations, and temples and ruins from distinctive eras. As you dive a little off the beaten track, you will find two countries that appear to have countless secrets.
This handcrafted tour to Thailand and Cambodia focuses on authentic stories that reveal the places and people where there are secrets left to uncover. You will travel at a relatively fast pace, with six different overnight stops in Thailand, before you use Siem Reap as a base to explore different areas of Cambodia. Angkor will be the highlight of course, but four days in Siem Reap will help you travel beyond the postcards of Angkor Wat. You will be led by a number of excellent guides with a focus on meeting the people. On this tour, experience everything from receiving a monk’s blessing in a Chiang Mai temple to a cooking class in a local kitchen.
Your trip will begin in Bangkok with a cultural dance performance offering a quick and laid-back means of getting to know the country’s regions. Then, spend the day on the back-canals and backstreets as you cruise through a lesser-seen side to the city. Fly to Chiang Rai where the White Temple and a night market provide contemporary experiences. Visit tea plantations and meet monks en route to Chiang Mai, where you will have a unique cooking experience. End your stay in Thailand with a day in early Siam at the Ayutthaya ruins before you spend a day around the jungle and railway close to the River Kwai, and a day immersed in the nature of Erawan National Park.
Fly to Siem Reap to travel in many Cambodian directions. Enjoy a sunset with the Khmer Empire as the centerpiece, a full day getting lost in the tree-wrapped temples, and exploring beyond central Angkor. Then, visit the Brahman temple of Banteay Srei, a floating community on Tonle Sap Lake, and sections of Angkor that remain in the most redolent state of ruin. Like in Thailand the tour is all about meeting people, exploring traditions, and uncovering the secrets that have made these places so unique.
$2,795 per person (excluding international flights)
Your Zicasso trip is fully customizable, and this sample itinerary is a starting place for your travel plans. Actual costs are dynamic, and your selection of accommodations and activities, your season of travel, and other such variables will bring this budget guideline up or down. Throughout your planning experience with your Zicasso specialist, your itinerary is designed around your budget. You can book your trip when you are satisfied with every detail. Planning your trip with a Zicasso travel specialist is a free service.
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Your final trip cost will vary based on your selected accommodations, activities, meals, and other trip elements that you opt to include.
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