After breakfast, bid farewell to your hosts and depart Fang, heading in a north east direction.
Your first destination is Tha Ton, a small town set on the banks of the Kok River with a relaxed vibe. Enjoy lunch in a local restaurant, before boarding a longtail boat for a gentle cruise along the Kok River. This section of the river is wonderfully scenic and there is plenty of opportunity to soak up the scenery as you glide along. Stops will be made to visit a couple of the thatched-hut villages that dot the banks of the river.
Disembark and continue your journey to Chiang Rai, passing through typically picturesque Northern Thailand scenery. Just north of the city stop to visit Baan Dam. Also known as the Black House, this unusual art instillation showcases the unique work of local artist Thawan Duchanee. Expect sculptures made from cow horns and buffalo bones; rock sculptures and stone circles; African masks and Lanna-style woodcraft, housed in Lanna-style pavilions made from black wood.
On arrival in Chiang Rai, the remainder of your day is at leisure.
Chiang Rai is a fairly small city with a laid back atmosphere, easily explored by trishaw or on foot. It is home to a handful of interesting temples and a popular night market where villagers from the surrounding hills sell their wares. Primarily, Chiang Rai is known as the gateway to the Golden Triangle region, where Thailand meets Myanmar and Laos, and most visitors use the city as a base for trekking into the foothills of northern Thailand and visiting the regions’ famous hill tribes.
In the early evening we recommend heading to the central night market, which is a thriving focal point of the city. As well as finding a huge range of wares for sale, the large, open courtyard has a mouth-watering array of food stalls providing a melting pot of northern Thai cuisines including spicy curries, fresh tempuras and barbecued meats - join the locals, grab a table and tuck in!
Overnight in Chiang Rai.
Depart Chiang Rai heading north towards Doi Tung, close to the border between Thailand and Myanmar. Throughout your visit you’ll gain a fascinating insight in to life in this remote area, whilst enjoying spectacular scenery of paddy fields ranged against a mountainous backdrop.
Your morning will be spent learning about the Doi Tung Development Project, established to help eradicate the cultivation of opium in the area, and to encourage local farmers in their use of sustainable agriculture. A stop will be made to view the beautifully landscaped Mae Fah Luang Gardens, before climbing up the winding road to Wat Phra That Doi Tung, to be rewarded with outstanding views of the valley below. Continue to the Royal Handicraft Centre, which aims to create opportunities for farming families to earn additional income and to preserve traditional Thai crafts. If you wish there will be time to browse the unique collection of hand-made mulberry paper, pottery and woven goods on display.
Following a break for lunch, continue on to Mae Sai, the northern most point of Thailand, where you can enjoy a little shopping at the atmospheric flea market. Continue further into the Golden Triangle region where Thailand borders with both Myanmar and Laos.
Explore Chiang Saen, an ancient town set on the banks of the river with views across to Laos. Finally, board a local boat for a short ride to where the Mekong and Ruak Rivers form the 'triangle' for which this region is named.
Return to Chiang Rai by car, arriving in the late afternoon.
Overnight in Chiang Rai.
After breakfast, transfer to Elephant Valley: Chiang Rai’s first elephant sanctuary. Spread over 40 acres of prime elephant habitat it is home to (currently) four former Mae Sot elephant ‘loggers’. Closely modelled on the practices and ideas of the renowned Elephant Valley Project in Cambodia, elephant care and conservation are at the heart of the project’s ethos. There is no riding, tricks or shows, instead the elephants are free to wander and graze, break down trees and play in the mud! It’s a unique opportunity to experience and learn about these amazing animals up close.
On arrival there will be an informative briefing about the work of the Elephant Valley Project and what to expect from your visit. You will then be introduced to the elephants and will spend the rest of the morning learning about each individual and observing them in their natural habitat.
This is then followed by a local-style lunch whilst overlooking the resident elephants.
After lunch, it’s all hands on deck! As the main focus of Elephant Valley is to establish a natural habitat for the elephants, a major part of the project is to recreate this setting. It’s a large task and the assistance of volunteers is much appreciated. Over the course of the afternoon you will help with planting crops for elephant food, harvest existing crops and helping to clean up the site.
Finally, there will be an opportunity to feed the elephants, before transferring back to Chiang Rai.
Overnight in Chiang Rai.