An Insider's Thailand

Thailand’s far north is unquestionably the country’s most unspoilt region and our Insider's Thailand holiday will take you away from the well-worn trail and deep into this scenically stunning and culturally diverse area.

At a glance
  • Sample some of the finest streetfood in Thailand
  • Explore an unearthed ancient metropolis
  • Browse the country’s largest handicraft fair
  • Pick tea at Fang, a mountain community
  • Visit ex-opium growers in a hilltribe village
  • Tour the fabled Golden Triangle
  • Spend a beautiful day at Elephant Valley
  • Trek in a protected jungle
  • Admire the temples of Chang Kham
Itinerary
Price & Hotels

Chiang Mai - 3 nights

Chiang Mai – Thailand's ‘Rose of the North’ – has a laid-back ambience and pleasant climate, a fine selection of restaurants (many consider Thailand’s northern cuisine to be the best in the country) and a high number of temples & sites of cultural significance. The city is an excellent base for exploring the surrounding valleys, and your time here will be spent exploring the ruins of an ancient capital hidden in the countryside.

Day 1 - Arrive Chiang Mai, evening street food tour

Includes:

On arrival in Thailand, you'll be met by your private guide, who will accompany you to your hotel.

Welcome to Selective Asia! This level of personal service (such as private transfers, private tours etc) is what you can expect throughout your trip. A few services (eg boat cruises) will be shared, but we'll always make sure you're aware of these.

Your day is at leisure until early evening, when your guide will meet you for an evening spent sampling Chiang Mai’s streetfood in a local market. The variety on offer can be overwhelming, and you’ll be navigating some incredibly tempting smells! Our favourite dishes include Pad Thai, deep fried taro & noodle soup, khao soi (a popular northern Thai curry), kanom krok (coconut pudding) and sweet mango with sticky rice, but you guide will introduce you to many local dishes, and teach you how to order. Once you’ve made your selection, pick a seat and sit back to savour the flavours, not to mention the atmosphere.

Day 2 - Cycling tour of Wiang Khum Kham & Ban Tawai

Includes:

Hop on two wheels this morning for a leisurely cycle ride to explore the ruins of the former Lanna capital. Dating back to the 13th century, Wiang Khum Kham was only discovered and excavated in the 1980s, having been completely buried after years of flooding from the nearby Ping River. So far the unearthed sites include sections of the old city walls, inscribed stone slabs, and several brick temples, but archaeologists believe there could well be more sites lying buried under the gardens and houses of this residential suburb. The ancient city covered a vast area, and the sites are quite spread out, hence the bicycles. Explore the ruins before heading out to cycle through a rural landscape of traditional teak houses and rice plantations on the way to Ban Tawai, one of the largest handicraft markets in Thailand. Whether or not you're in the mood to shop, it's an interesting place to wander around, with an incredible range of handicrafts and artisanal creations on show. Cycle back along the Ping River to your driver, who’ll take you back to town.

Day 3 - Relax & explore

Includes:

Your day will be at leisure to explore Chiang Mai's temples, visit the town's eateries or simply relax.

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Fang - 2 nights

There's something a bit special about Fang. Natural and unpolished, self-assured and deeply connected to an eclectic mix of local cultures, it's a place with a fierce sense of community, exuding the confidence of somewhere that is unafraid of change, yet passionately proud of its roots. It's also quite a bit cooler than most other areas of Thailand! Few tourist visitors make it this far off the typical path, and are still a novelty to the locals. Surrounded by forest-clad hills and fertile rice fields, the town makes an excellent base for exploring the beautiful surrounding countryside, and visiting the hilltribes who live in the region.

Day 4 - Drive to Fang via Chiang Dao Caves & Hot Springs

Includes:

Head north from Chiang Mai towards the Myanmar border, stopping en route at the impressive Chiang Dao cave complex to explore its dark tunnels, and at Doi Pha Hom Pok National Park for a dip (if you wish) in its famous hot springs, which bubble up from the granite far below. In Fang, you'll be staying at the charming Phumanee Lahu Hotel, family-run property with a fascinating history, where you can learn about the family’s inspirational endeavours, which have won the support of the former King of Thailand (Bhumibol Adulyadej) himself.

Day 5 - Immerse yourself in Lahu village life

Includes:

Head for the hills - and Thailand’s northernmost national park - in a 4WD vehicle, which will carry you steadily uphill and deep into the forest. The final part of your journey will be on foot, following a jungle trail which looks out over lush green surroundings. Your destination is a remote Lahu village, 1,300 metres above sea level. Its fascinating back story involves several visits from the Thai King, and the eradication of opium - but we’ll leave that one to the guide to explain! Meet one of the friendly village residents, and learn how the villagers make a living through the organic cultivation of tea (a far cry from the opium crops they were previously involved in). Try your hand at tea-picking, before sharing a traditional home-cooked lunch in one of the houses. This is an ideal opportunity to chat with your host, with your guide translating as you learn more about life in the village. Complete your visit with a demonstration of bamboo basket weaving; you can try it if you wish, but be warned - it's harder than it looks! After a short trek through the jungle to see a spectacular waterfall, drive back into town in time to freshen up before dinner.

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Chiang Rai - 3 nights

Chiang Rai is a fairly small city with a laid back atmosphere, easily explored by trishaw or on foot. It's home to a handful of interesting temples, and a popular night market, where villagers from the surrounding hills sell their wares. It's a thriving focal point of the city, and we recommend heading here in the early evening - as the huge range of wares for sale, the large open courtyard has a mouth-watering array of food stalls offering all manner of northern Thai cuisines, including spicy curries, fresh tempuras and barbecued meats - join the locals, grab a table, and tuck in! Chiang Rai is known as the gateway to the Golden Triangle, the region where Thailand meets Myanmar and Laos, and most visitors use the city as a base for trekking in the Triangle and visiting the region’s famous hill tribes. Both activities will feature during your stay here, along with a special visit to meet some rescued elephants.

Day 6 - Longtail boat cruise, then drive to Chiang Rai

Includes:

Leave Fang for Chiang Rai, stopping en route at Tha Ton, a small town with a relaxed vibe on the banks of the Kok River. Enjoy lunch in a local restaurant before boarding a longtail boat for a gentle cruise along the wonderfully scenic river, stopping to visit a couple of thatched-hut villages on the riverbanks. Disembark for the final drive to Chiang Rai, through typically picturesque Northern Thailand scenery. Just north of the city, pause at Baan Dam: also known as the Black House, this unusual art installation showcases the unique work of local artist Thawan Duchanee. Expect sculptures made from cow horn, buffalo bones, rock and stone, alongside African masks and Lanna woodcraft, all housed in Lanna-style pavilions made from black wood. Once you reach Chiang Rai, the remainder of your day will be at leisure.

Day 7 - Explore the Golden Triangle region

Includes:

Head deep into the Golden Triangle to visit Doi Tung, close to the Myanmar border, for a fascinating insight into life in this remote area, whilst enjoying spectacular scenery of paddy fields ranged against a mountainous backdrop. Spend the morning 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. Pause to view the beautifully landscaped Mae Fah Luang Gardens, before walking up the winding road to a beautiful hilltop temple, for outstanding views of the valley below. Head on to the Royal Handicraft Centre, which creates opportunities for farming families to earn additional income, by preserving traditional Thai crafts. Swing by Mae Sai, the northernmost point of Thailand, en route to an ancient riverside town with views into Laos, where you’ll board a local boat for the short ride to where the Mekong and Ruak Rivers form the 'triangle' for which this region is named.

Day 8 - Elephant Valley Project

Includes:

Spend a fantastic day at Elephant Valley, Chiang Rai’s first elephant sanctuary. Spread over 40 acres of prime elephant habitat, the project is (currently) home to four former Mae Sot elephant ‘loggers’. Closely modelled on the practises and ideas of the renowned Elephant Valley Project in Cambodia, the sanctuary puts elephant care and conservation at the heart of its ethos. There's no riding, tricks or shows; the elephants are free to wander and graze, break down trees, and play in the mud. It’s a unique chance to experience these amazing animals up close. You'll meet the elephants, and spend the morning learning about each individual by observing them in their natural habitat. After a local-style lunch, it’s all hands on deck! Because 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. You'll help to plant and harvest crops for the elephants' meals, and tidy up the site. As thanks for mucking in, you will have the opportunity to feed the elephants before heading back to Chiang Rai.

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Chiang Kham - 2 nights

The small town of Chiang Kham is home to many ethnic Thai Lue people, who migrated to the region from the southern Chinese province of Yunnan. It's a delightful rural spot surrounded by plains of rolling paddy fields, ideal for leisurely cycle rides. Apart from cycling, you'll spend your time here meeting the locals, watching them produce traditional handicrafts, exploring some of the town's historic temples, and visiting a nearby national park.

Day 9 - Drive to Chiang Kham, Countryside Cycle

Includes:

Journey to Chiang Kham through the paddies and forested hills, where you'll be served lunch overlooking the rice fields before stretching your legs on a scenic cycle ride through the surrounding countryside. Pause at a Thai Lue weaving house to observe weavers at work, and pay a visit to Wat Nantalam, a beautiful Burmese style temple built entirely of teak wood. At Wat Phra That Doi Kham you can climb the Naga stairs to the temple for beautiful views, before swapping two wheels for four for the drive to Pha Daeng Bat Cave in nearby Phu Sang National Park, in time to enjoy an atmospheric sunset.

Day 10 - Two wheel exploration

Includes:

Take to the bikes again for a day of exploration, heading out through the surrounding rice fields to Wat Phra Kaew, one of the oldest temples in the area, and Wat Don Chai – location of the (allegedly) biggest Bodhi tree in northern Thailand. Continue through the outskirts of Chiang Kham until you arrive at the Community Jungle, an eco-zone designed to preserve the local environment, and offer a learning experience for visitors. Your guide will lead you on an easy 2km trek, pointing out interesting flora as you walk. Back on your bike, peddle past rubber plantations and vegetable fields to a local restaurant for lunch, before visiting Wat Phra Nang Din, where the temple’s main Buddha image is uniquely seated on the ground, the afternoon vegetable market, and a picturesque waterfall - the only one in Thailand with a warm water cascade, which originates from a hot spring high in the hills.

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Chiang Rai - 1 night

On your way back to Chiang Rai, stop in the scenic town of Phayao. This laid-back town is ranged around a large lake, where it’s easy to lose an hour in one of the waterfront cafes, watching the fishermen and local tourists rowing boats on the water. Pay a visit to Wat Si Khom Kham with its interesting sculpture garden and 16 metre high seated gold Buddha, before driving onwards via Wat Analayo, a beautifully decorated hilltop temple surrounded by trees and tropical foliage, making it a popular place for Buddhist meditation.

Day 11 - Return to Chiang Rai, via Phayao

Includes:

Drive back to Chiang Rai, stopping en-route at the scenic town of Phayao and the temples of Wat Si Khom Kham and Wat Analayo. On arrival in Chiang Rai the remainder of your day will be at leisure.

Day 12 - Depart Chiang Rai

Includes:

Transfer to the airport for your onward flight.

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We only provide privately guided holidays - meaning that you will not be expected to share guides or transport for the duration of your visit. You can also start on any day you choose.

Please click on the hotel category buttons below to view hotel details. These are recommended properties only - we have many alternative options for you to choose from if you would prefer. You can mix hotel categories throughout your holiday.

Hotel class Price per person (based on total # travelling)
2 persons 3-4 5-6
First Class £2,342US$2,796 £1,914US$2,284 £1,539US$1,837

Banthai Village

Stylish, bags of character, great value and well located, the Banthai Village is a class act. Set thoughout a cluster of five traditional-style northern Thai house, the charming hotel... See more

Phumanee Lahu Home Hotel

This charming guest house is owned and run by a Lahu family who originated from the nearby mountain village of Doi Pumuen where the owner's father was formerly the tribal chief, and the property proudly displays its heritage... See more

Le Patta

For those who prefer to be in the middle of the action, Le Patta boutique hotel is minutes from the attractions of central Chiang Rai, including the famous Night Bazaar... See more

Rico Resort

Surrounded by a rural landscape of rice fields on the outskirts of Chiang Kham, the Rico Resort is a relaxing base from which to explore this scenically stunning and relatively tourist free region of Northern Thailand... See more
Superior £2,538US$3,029 £2,109US$2,518 £1,735US$2,070

Tamarind Village

A true gem, the Tamarind Village offers the perfect balance of city centre dwelling whilst providing a sanctuary from the hustle and bustle of Chiang Mai's busy streets... See more

Phumanee Lahu Home Hotel

This charming guest house is owned and run by a Lahu family who originated from the nearby mountain village of Doi Pumuen where the owner's father was formerly the tribal chief, and the property proudly displays its heritage... See more

The Legend Boutique River Resort and Spa

Located on the banks of the Mae Kok River, The Legend is a beautifully presented, spacious property built in a classically Lanna Thai style… See more

Rico Resort

Surrounded by a rural landscape of rice fields on the outskirts of Chiang Kham, the Rico Resort is a relaxing base from which to explore this scenically stunning and relatively tourist free region of Northern Thailand... See more
Deluxe £3,147US$3,756 £2,719US$3,245 £2,344US$2,798

137 Pillars House

A stunning home from home in a historic neighbourhood in Chiang Mai, 137 Pillars House has true Colonial style, but meets every modern requirement...

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Phumanee Lahu Home Hotel

This charming guest house is owned and run by a Lahu family who originated from the nearby mountain village of Doi Pumuen where the owner's father was formerly the tribal chief, and the property proudly displays its heritage... See more

The Legend Boutique River Resort and Spa

Located on the banks of the Mae Kok River, The Legend is a beautifully presented, spacious property built in a classically Lanna Thai style… See more

Rico Resort

Surrounded by a rural landscape of rice fields on the outskirts of Chiang Kham, the Rico Resort is a relaxing base from which to explore this scenically stunning and relatively tourist free region of Northern Thailand... See more

Solo travellers are always welcome - please contact us for a tailored quote.

These prices are shown in GBPUSD.
Selective Asia is a UK-registered company, but our client-base spans the globe, so we bank in both GBP and USD and can therefore provide a fixed price in either currency.
We also have payment facilities in Canada, New Zealand, Australia and the EU, and can typically offer better-than-bank exchange rates on the date of payment in these currencies (against a booking priced in GBP).

Itinerary additions

  • If 12 days isn't enough and you want to venture further south for some well-deserved R&R on one of Thailand's world class beaches - just ask a Selective Asia consultant to tailor-make this holiday just for you.
  • Extend your stay in Thailand’s Golden Triangle region at the renowned Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp where you can enjoy an elephant experience like no other.

  • At Selective Asia we specialise in creating unique, tailor-made experiences. The holiday itineraries provided on this website are intended to help you visualise what is achievable in your destinations of choice, over a given period of time and at an intended budget.
    Whilst many clients are happy with of our recommended itineraries in the current form (and at the price quoted), there are those that wish to personalise their holiday in some way, whether it be a change of hotel, an additional destination or even start from scratch. This is when our tailor-made specialists come into their own; with many years of experience both living and working in the region they are ideally equipped to advise on alternatives and to facilitate any necessary changes.

    The important stuff

    The prices listed are per adult and the cost for any children will vary depending on their age and your room requirements (i.e. extra beds, family suites or adjoining rooms). We will be happy to advise you on this and create a tailor-made quote for your family.
    Please note: During high season periods (such as Christmas and New Year) hotels often levy a surcharge and these are not included in the above prices. Your consultant will be happy to advise you of these.

    Inclusive:

    • English speaking, local guide
    • All accommodation listed
    • Land transportation by private air-conditioned vehicles
    • All admission fees at attractions, temples and activities as mentioned in the itinerary
    • All meals listed
    • International flight reconfirmation.

    Exclusive:

    • Flights to/from Asia. We are an ATOL bonded operator and can arrange flights for all our clients, regardless of whether you are departing from the UK or from almost any other worldwide destination.
    • Entry visas
    • Any meals not listed in the itinerary
    • Drinks, other than water on activity days
    • Personal expenses (laundry, telephone, drinks, tip...)
    • Travel insurance
    • All other services not listed in 'inclusive'

    Please note

    All prices are correct at the time of publishing. They are liable to change and can only be confirmed upon submitting an enquiry.

     

    Extras

    Flights

    We will arrange all internal flights used within our holiday itineraries. We can also arrange discounted flights from all UK airports to Asia and we are a fully bonded ATOL operator. If you would like a quote for your international flights then please complete the required section on the enquiry form.

    Visa

    You may require a visa to enter Thailand. Your consultant will be happy to advise you on visa requirements.

    Passport

    Please ensure that you have a valid passport with at least 6 months validity remaining after your return date. You will also need at least one blank page for each of the countries you are visiting.

    Insurance

    You will require a comprehensive travel insurance that covers you for medical costs associated with hospitalisation, emergency travel and repatriation back to your home country. We offer our customers a specially discounted insurance policy, ideally suited to the needs that a trip such as this creates. Tick the insurance box in the enquiry form and we will send you a quote to suit your needs.

    Vaccinations and Malaria Prevention

    You will undoubtedly require vaccinations for your visit to Asia. Please consult your doctor or a vaccination clinic for the most up-to-date advice. They will also be able to advise you of the most suitable anti-malarial medication if required. It is important that you do this well in advance of your departure date.

    Booking Procedure

    Only once you are completely happy with any holiday itinerary we create for you will we ask for a payment. In order that we can secure availability for your booking we would typically require a deposit of 20%.

    Travelling Responsibly

    We care about the places and the communities that you will travel through. It is important to us that we travel as responsibly as possible throughout Asia and that we are giving something back to the regions and the people that make these journeys so special. Full details on our approach to responsible travel can be found on a dedicated section of this website.

    Make it yours!

    Call us on 01273 670 001

    Get in touch

    Natasha – Thailand tailor-made specialist

    'In true Selective Asia style this itinerary experiences areas of Thailand that have yet to be overrun with tour groups and coach parties.'

    NatashaThailand tailor-made specialist

    Speak to Natasha on 01273 670 001

    Make it yours!

    Call us on 01273 670 001

    Get in touch

    Our tailor-made service costs you no extra

    This itinerary is designed to work straight off the peg, but we'll happily tailor it until it's a perfect fit for you, to ensure we’re making the absolute best of your time and funds. All you need to do is ask...

    Your own private guides & drivers

    You'll typically have your own private guides & drivers throughout your trip. When you will be sharing a service (eg a boat cruise) with others, we'll always let you know.