Welcome to one corner of the wondrous Golden Triangle, known for the meeting of the Laotian, Myanmar, and Thai borders. You will be met at the airport by a private, English speaking guide who will take you to Chiang Saen harbor along the Mae Kong River. Your immediate view of Thailand is a world removed, where the culture continues to protrude from the modern cities, brimming through viewable temples and radiant elephant imagery.
Arrive at the harbor where the river’s width can be seen, opening up to Laos and Myanmar on either side of the water. The lush flatlands give way to rolling mountains on the horizon. The Golden Triangle riverbanks are considered frontier within Southeast Asia, a place where many goods, legal and questionable, often flow between the neighboring countries. The vibrant colors of local fruits pulse on boats and in the markets, from jackfruit to bananas, where the firm green outer layer is more vivid, calling attention to its fresh sweetness.
Board the boat and venture out to the actual intersection of the three countries; the water is cold, the air is warm, and the invisible line that separates the areas has an emotional draw, even in its intangible nature. In the late afternoon you will settle into the luxuriousness of the Golden Triangle Resort. Each room is filled with modern comforts that overlook the fabulous, lush jungle. Whether relaxing in your room or sitting within the warm infinity pool that looks like it drifts over the canopy, you can rest relaxed and cozy, and ready for the secrets of Siam.
When you wake up you will notice the morning light draping over the jungle canopy. You can venture down to the riverbanks to see the morning life that wades along the waterway. Fishermen cruise along the surface hauling nets and rods ready to display their goods at the local market. You can even look out your window and watch an early elephant trek traipse through the open trees, heading deeper into the jungle in an awkwardly elegant sway. After breakfast you will be taken to Mae Sai, Thailand’s most northern point. The town has the authenticity that brings culture and tradition to life, often overlooked by visitors en route to Myanmar. The Tham Pla Caves are situated just outside of the city and boast pure nature, from dangling trees and effervescent greenery to the sensational aquatic life that swims beneath the jutting rocks.
The farther you head into the jungle the less urban influence you find, the more the jungle wraps around you, and the more culture and tradition becomes prevalent. Arrive at Mae Kok River Village where the environment of Northern Thailand is wildly inescapable. The afternoon is at your whim with endless options that will show you the grandeur of the mountainside, from cooking classes to a canoe trip takes you to various villages down river. Wat Thaton overlooks the village of Ban Thaton and has marvelous views of the area. There is an ethereal iridescence to the temple, as the bulbous shape and the concentric circles of the spire add to its character. The temple is known as the Crystal Pagoda, and is decorated with gilded celestial figures. No matter how you spend the latter half of the day you will hear the whispers of history and experience where the culture and traditions of Thailand seem to be hiding.
The morning within the mountainous jungle is cool and awakening. Breakfast comes with the luscious scent of pineapple and coffee, both fresh and both seducing. Today you will have another opportunity to explore the surrounding majesty of the hillsides. Whether journeying through the jungle on a four-wheel drive vehicle into the Wawee region to see the ethnic tribes, or having an adventure of a full day trek through the mountains to see the rain forest waterfalls and hot springs of Fang National Park, your time will be well spent and the secret beauty of the north will be discovered.
Mae Fan National Park spans over 1,000 square miles of pristine greenery that overtakes the northern hillsides. Doi Pha Hom Pg is the second highest mountain in Thailand and is filled with sensational forest where delicate orchids blossom illustrious white and decadent pink. Geysers erupt up to 130 feet high and for up to two-minutes. The landscape is impressive and mesmerizing, from the colors to the natural majesty, including Pong Nam Dang Waterfall with its terraces and streaming water that makes it look more like a photo on a tourism billboard rather than the real-life wonder before your eyes.
The morning mist spreads over the forest dipping beneath the canopy in certain places displaying the stunning beauty of a morning within, or even above, the trees. The first half of the day is at your leisure. Whether you prefer to relax within the ethereal beauty of the village or venture out on a half day tour through the fantasy of the forest, the day is at your pleasure.
In the early afternoon you will leave the village behind and make your way to the capital of the north Chiang Mai by way of a traditional Hmong village. Just past the Doi Pui campground is a village known as Baan Khun Chang Kian. In January the cherry blossoms are in full bloom casting a pink and purple hue over the hillside. It is also when the villagers harvest the coffee from the plants that grow adjacent to the year round coffee house which the villagers own and operate, and where they produce the rich, lightly roasted, and deeply flavored beans. No matter the time of year you will find elegance and grace within the landscape, from the green to the pink, the coffee aromas to the sweet rain, before arriving in the historically rich city of Chiang Mai. In the evening you can visit the Night Market with your guide to experience the vivaciousness of the local people through their food and wares within the gentle glow of the market’s light.
Today is a spectacle of fantasy where you have much of the countryside at your whim and desire. In Mae Sa Craft Village you can look out over the sloping forest and find the elegantly slanted roofs hidden within the trees. The tranquil atmosphere of the village gives you a restful experience as you decide the activity and the pace of the day. Whether enjoying a Thai massage and steam room or witnessing saa paper making techniques, the day is open to you. In the Mae Sa Elephant Camp you can discover the jungle on the back of the graceful and friendly animal.
Every step has you sway from left to right beneath the overhanging trees. Your elephant stops from time to time to clear a path, pushing a tree to the side or clearing roots as a reminder to itself of the way it came. Back at the camp you can visit the nursery. Baby elephants romp and play, learning from their elders throughout their adolescence on how to be proper elephants. Their trunks are large compared to their smaller bodies, unable to grasp the dimensions of their size. Feed them bananas and feel their snouts wrap around your fingers as they take the fruit from your hand. Wherever the day takes you, there is no doubt that you will discover something magnificent.
You have seen the peak of Mount Doi Sutehp towering over Chiang Mai since the moment the expanse of the city opened to you from within the trees. In the morning you will venture up the mountain to be the first at the steps of Wat Phrathat, the summit's adorning temple. 309 stairs ascend the mountain, climbing beneath the canopy and flanked by vivacious dragons growling at the spirits. At the summit you can look out over the valley below, the lingering cityscape, and plush trees. A magnificent white elephant is displayed within an opulent shrine, memorializing the carrier of the Emerald Buddha that chose this particular spot for the temple to have been erected.
In the afternoon you will have a private transfer to the airport where you will be taken to Mae Hong Son and welcomed into the exquisite Fern Resort. Just outside of the city are the luxury huts and vast open fields of the Fern Resort that extend to the foothills of the surrounding mountains and the forest beyond. It looks like you have stumbled upon a tropical jungle paradise that no one before you has ever known. The swimming pool is cool, the nature is pristine, and the serenity is unparalleled.
The greenery seems to be endless along the fringe of the Fern Resort. Enjoy your breakfast within the open restaurant that has a tremendous view of the landscapes. Today you will have another day at your pleasure surrounded by the splendid nature and culture of the mountains. Whether trekking through the morning mist at Doi Sann Fa which will take you up the highest mountain in the region, or visiting the Tham Lod Cave where a large, wide stream carves the limestone, the majesty is ever-present and the possibilities are each unique.
For an experience mixed with culture and nature you can journey down the Pai River visiting the local tribes along the banks, including the famous long-necked women of the Kayan tribe. The river itself is wide and cool while the mountains seem to rise and fall behind the trees. Once you arrive at the village you immediately see the difference in the people, while the wooden structures are similar to those of previously visited villages. The women, beginning at the age of five or six, have brass rings around their necks, elongating the bone structure and giving the Kayan a unique custom and vibrant look. There is no substitute for a sensational visit along the water which will have you conversing with and learning about this group of women that you could have only once pictured. Eventually you will return to Fern Resort, but the mid-day sun has you wanting to stay a little longer.
The morning washes over the forest bringing a misty light to the day. The lovely aroma of breakfast rouses you from bed where fresh squeezed orange juice and coffee await. A quick transfer from Mae Hong Son will have you back in the city. You have the morning at your leisure to once more enjoy the sights and sounds of Chiang Mai, where the city’s jungle brings endless wonders, while the vast city itself is filled with cafes and history, sitting at the center of the urban expanse. Within the heart of the city is the old fortress where you can see the red brick walls continuing to stand tall and forceful over the now empty moat. Around the walls you can watch couples stroll hand in hand beneath the shading trees; grassy fields follow the wall offering a serene space to what was once an imposing figure.
The scent of fresh noodles and lemongrass lifts into the air, streaming from within the fortress walls. You meander along triangular roofed temples that shine with gilded fringe, as peaceful cafes sit beneath the tree-lined walkways. Eventually you will have a private transfer to the airport to catch your flight home. You will never forget Thailand and your discovery of Siam; it will always linger as a secret you don’t want to keep and a whisper you will always want to return to.
If eight days is not enough in Thailand, consider adding on to this customized vacation. Browse the Thailand travel agent reviews for additional ideas.
The secrets of Siam will be revealed on this 8-day Thailand vacation through the jungle cities and undulating mountains that have hidden the cultures and traditions of the past and present for millennia. From the Golden Triangle to the meandering riverbanks, the sensational resorts to elephant splendor, you will discover the historical and modern majesty of the countryside and the cityscape. Villages continue to populate the jungle. Elephants are still celebrated throughout the northern territory. You can find gilded temples and incredible crafts, each telling you another secret.
Begin to unravel Thailand’s whispered secrets with your arrival in Chiang Rai. The Golden Triangle doesn’t just sparkle in a gilded light but also continues to inspire and awe people that venture to and through its waterway. Visiting the harbor of Chiang Saen will take you to the actual border where Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar converge. Along the banks of the Mae Kok River you will journey to the various tribes that have survived off of the land and within the jungle for centuries, crossing the borders at will, dependent upon the stability of the kingdoms. Whether you choose to canoe or mountain bike, try your hand at Thai cuisine or venture into the village of Baan Thaton, the days will whisper wonders from every direction.
Your search for Siam’s secrets continues en route to Chiang Mai. Whether relaxing in the morning mist or venturing out along the countryside on a half-day tour, you will eventually make your way to the grandiose city that was once a part of the Lanna Kingdom. The traditions and beauty of Chiang Mai persist, making the city feel more like a charming town. Travel to the quaint resort of Mae Sa Craft Village where the optional activities are endless within the plush, natural landscape. Whether saa paper making or venturing into the jungle on an elephant trek, the choices are yours to make and are always fantastic. In the morning you will venture through the wondrous temples of the city, including Doi Suthep which looks out over the vast city and even vaster jungle. Later you will fly to the secluded town of Mae Hong Son and settling in at Fern Resort. The resort is surrounded by grand fields and spectacular forest offering you the best of Thailand’s wildlife, and even a journey to see the Padong women who are known for the brass rings that look to elongate their necks. Soon you will return to Chiang Mai and eventually onwards to home, but not before you have discovered the extraordinary secrets of northern Thailand.
$1755 per person (excluding international flights)
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