Our Destination Specialists are experts at tailoring bespoke itineraries just for you, but what would their own perfect holiday look like? We asked Thailand Specialist Natasha what she would include in her own ideal trip, and the result is Thailand Rediscovered. Designed to carry you away from the well-trodden trail to local hidden gems, lesser-known mid-city spots and remote beaches, this trip is ideal for second-time visitors or anyone keen to see a different side of Thailand.
At a glance
- Pick tea in Fang’s mountainous fields
- Cruise to riverside villages by longtail boat
- View sculptures by a renowned local artist
- Meet rescued elephants in their natural habitat
- Kayak along Bangkok’s historic canals
- Snack on streetfood at a Chiang Mai nightmarket
- Listen to monks chant at sunset
- Camp on a lake in a floating tent
- Relax on lesser-visited island beaches
Chiang Mai - 3 nights
Chiang Mai – Thailand's ‘Rose of the North’ – has a laid-back ambience to match its pleasant climate. There’s a fine selection of restaurants (many consider Thailand’s northern cuisine to be the best in the country) and a high number of temples and sites of cultural significance to take in. The city is an excellent base for exploring the surrounding valleys, and just a little way out of town are the evocative ruins of an ancient capital, hidden in the countryside.
Day 1 - Arrive Chiang Mai, evening street food tour
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 will be at leisure until early evening, when your guide will take you out to sample Chiang Mai’s streetfood delights in a local market. The variety on offer can be overwhelming, and you’ll be navigating some incredibly tempting aromas! Our favourite dishes include pad thai (there’s nothing quite like eating the real deal in situ!), deep fried taro and noodle soup, khao soi curry, kanom krok coconut pudding, and sweet mango with sticky rice. Your guide will introduce you to many local dishes, and teach you how to order. Once you’ve made your selection, pick a seat, sit back, and savour the flavours and the atmosphere.
Day 2 - City Safari & Doi Suthep
Take several unusual means of transport on a city safari through Chaing Mai’s highlights and further off the beaten track. Ride a songthaew to the old trader community of Wat Gatekaram for a stroll around the alleyways, and on to the lost city of Wiang Kum Kam. Explore the ruined temples by bike, before taking a cruise on the Mae Ping River. Back on dry land, hop on a samlor (trishaw) and ride to the spectacular ruins of Wat Chedi Luang, which once housed the renowned Emerald Buddha. Continue by tuk tuk to Warorot Market to join the local bustle for lunch, then step into the secret jungle temple of Wat Phalad. Make a final stop at Phra Thad Doi Suthep, the most sacred wat in Northern Thailand, to wonder at its impressive chedi and beautiful murals. As dusk approaches and the tourist crowds leave, stay and listen to the monks’ evening chanting - a really special moment.
Day 3 - Explore Chiang Mai independently
Enjoy a day at leisure, taking in Chiang Mai’s temples, history, and foodie culture at your own pace.
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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. The climate is 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. Encircled by forest and fertile rice fields, the town makes an excellent base for exploring this beautiful region and visiting the tribal communities who live in the surrounding hills.
Day 4 - Drive to Fang via Chiang Dao caves & hot springs
Head north from Chiang Mai towards the Myanmar border, stopping en route at the impressive Chiang Dao cave complex to explore its dark tunnels. Pause 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, a family-run property with a fascinating history; the family’s inspirational endeavours won the support of the former King of Thailand (Bhumibol Adulyadej) himself.
Day 5 - Doi Pu Muen village & forest trek
Take a 4WD deep into the forests and hills of Doi Pha Hom Pok, Thailand’s northernmost national park. At Phu Muen waterfall, continue on foot along a jungle trail which looks out over lush green surroundings, to the remote Lahu village of Doi Pu Muen, 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 now make a living through the organic cultivation of tea. Try your hand at tea-picking and traditional basket weaving, both of which are harder than the expert locals make them look!
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Chiang Rai - 2 nights
Chiang Rai is a small city with a laid back atmosphere, home to a handful of interesting temples, and easily explored by trishaw or on foot. The popular night market, where villagers from the surrounding hills sell their wares, is a thriving focal point of the city. Chiang Rai is known as the gateway to the Golden Triangle, the region where Thailand meets Myanmar and Laos, and many visitors use the city as a base for trekking in the Triangle and visiting the region’s famous hill tribes, along with making a special visit to meet some rescued elephants.
Day 6 - Longtail boat cruise, drive to Chiang Rai
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. Board 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. Pause at Baan Dam, also known as the Black House - an unusual art installation showcasing 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 rest of your day is yours to spend as you please. We really recommend heading for the market in the early evening to sample the huge array of northern Thai dishes - join the locals, grab a table, and tuck in!
Day 7 - Elephant Valley Project
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 to maintain and re-establish this thriving habitat. This is a major part of the project, and can be a mammoth task (pun intended!), so any assistance from visitors is much appreciated. You'll help to plant and harvest crops for the elephants' meals, tidy up the site, and feed the elephants before heading back to Chiang Rai.
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Bangkok - 2 nights
Bangkok, Thailand’s bustling capital, is a world-famous metropolis that simply mustn't be missed. Bubbling with energy, this city is always on the go, endlessly reinventing itself with fabulous new hotels, a trendy art scene, world class dining and shopping, stunning temples and a deep cultural heritage all very much in evidence. Explore the city on a tuk-tuk safari, a riverboat journey and, through your tastebuds, via plenty of mouth-watering food.
Day 8 - Fly to Bangkok, Tuk tuk street food tour
After a gentle morning, catch your flight to Bangkok. The rest of your day will be at leisure until late afternoon, when your guide will meet you with a tuk-tuk for a tour of the city’s finest streetfood. Zigzag through the city, stopping to savour local dishes from different parts of Thailand, fresh from the stalls. Sput-sput past the Grand Palace Temples and stop to admire Wat Pho, beautifully lit up at night, before a drink at one of our favourite hidden bars. There’s time for plenty more food, finishing with one of the best pad thais you’ll ever eat. Head back to your hotel with your appetite fully satisfied (and waistbands at bursting point!).
Day 9 - Kayaking the klongs
Bangkok was once known as the ‘Venice of the East’ due to its vast network of klongs (canals), and there’s no better way to discover the true heart of the city than by exploring its waterways. Although you can do this in a long-tailed boat, paddling through the klongs in a kayak gives you an alternative, leisurely perspective. Start your journey away from the city centre on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River, where you’ll instantly notice the slower pace of life. Pass by old teak houses and temples, tropical fruit orchards, vendors selling vegetables from wooden boats, and children splashing at the canal edge. Meet the local shipwright who builds and repairs boats for a 200-year old community, and pause at a Chinese shrine.
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Khao Sok National Park - 2 nights
The Khao Sok landscape is an area of dramatic natural beauty. It’s covered by one of the world’s oldest evergreen rainforests, which sprouts from a multitude of limestone mountains and karsts, and the whole region is rich in flora and fauna. Elephant Hills - a highly ethical conservation project - is the perfect place to see and hear this abundant wildlife. Expect to encounter a wide array of birds and primates, including macaques, leaf monkeys, and gibbons, which can often be heard calling to their mates. Stay in some of Thailand’s most remarkable safari accommodation, kayak along the Sok River, spend time with the camp’s elephants, and explore the rainforest in search of its many other residents.
Day 10 - Fly to Phuket, drive to Khao Sok National Park, meet the elephants
Take a morning flight to Phuket to meet the Elephant Hills team, who’ll transport you to the jungle camp in Khao Sok National Park. Spend time with the camp's resident Asian elephants, learning about their welfare and upkeep via the expert tutelage of the Elephant Hills guides and resident mahouts. It’s a very hands-on experience, and you’ll have the opportunity to get up close to these incredible animals, but riding them is not allowed. In the evenings there are cooking demonstrations, and dance performances by a local school which the camp and its clients help to support. Sleep in a top quality safari tent, complete with comfy beds, an en suite hot shower, and western-style loo. The tents are well ventilated, with mosquito netting and canvas flaps to keep insects and reptiles at bay. Blankets are always on hand to ensure you stay snug in the cooler evenings.
Day 11 - Longtail boat to the Rainforest Camp, kayak & trekking
Head to Cheow Larn Lake, deep in the national park, where you’ll board a traditional longtail boat to cruise across the water. Your destination is the Elephant Hills Rainforest Camp, where safari tents are pitched upon floating platforms, moored to the lake’s shore. During your time here, you can hop in a kayak to spot wildlife close to the banks, and look for primates high in the canopy. Trek out to see an incredible variety of exotic plants, learn about the ecology of the rainforest, and visit caves deep in the jungle. If you fancy a cool dip when you return, the lake is excellent for swimming too!
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Koh Pha Ngan - 3 nights
While still renowned amongst backpackers for its full-on Full Moon Parties, there’s much more to Koh Pha Ngan island than its southern shore hedonism! As well as being home to a wealth of natural beauty, with some great wildlife watching opportunities and nearby dive sites, the island also has numerous undeveloped bays scattered with traditional Thai beach huts. Remaining something of a hidden gem to most, it’s a paradise for anyone looking to escape the crowds and large developments found on neighbouring islands.
Day 12 - Drive to Surat Thani, boat to Koh Pha Ngan
Wake early to the chatter of gibbons and other wildlife along the lake shore. They say that the early bird catches the worm, and navigating the lake and tributaries by kayak before full light can provide exceptional wildlife spotting opportunities. See hornbills fly overhead and primates gather at the water’s edge before they return deeper into the rainforest. There will also be plenty of time to enjoy a swim or simply relax at the camp. After lunch, drive to Surat Thani to board the ferry to Koh Samui, and then on to Thongsala on Koh Pha Ngan's west coast. Settle in to your remote beach resort, where the rest of your day will be at leisure to bask in your serene surroundings.
Days 13 & 14 - Relax on the beach...
Spend a couple of days taking things at your own pace, exploring the island, snorkelling in the shallows, and chilling out on the sand.
Day 15 - Depart Koh Samui
Returning by boat to Koh Samui, head 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|
Tamarind VillageA 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 HotelThis 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 PattaFor 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
Riva SuryaThe intimate surroundings of the Riva Surya will suit those looking to get away from the more intense parts of Bangkok... See more
Elephant HillsThis extremely well run project is so much more than just a tented camp. Elephant Hills, set deep within Khao Sok, is the perfect location for clients wanting to add a little outdoor living... See more
Elephant Hills Rainforest CampLocated on the banks of jaw-droppingly picturesque Cheow Larn Lake, deep inside Thailand's Khao Sok National Park, the Rainforest Camp is part of the exceptional Elephant Hills innovation... See more
Anantara Rasananda Koh Phangan VillasThe 44 spacious, private and extremely luxurious villas all have private pool and garden or terrace. Rooms are bright and finished in a contemporary Thai style... 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).
The important stuffPlease 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.
- English speaking, local guide
- All accommodation listed
- Land transportation by private air-conditioned vehicles
- Any domestic flights listed (unless marked otherwise)
- All admission fees at attractions, temples and activities as mentioned in the itinerary
- All meals listed
- International flight reconfirmation.
- 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 noteAll prices are correct at the time of publishing. They are liable to change and can only be confirmed upon submitting an enquiry.
FlightsWe 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.
VisaYou may require a visa to enter Thailand. Your consultant will be happy to advise you on visa requirements.
PassportPlease 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.
InsuranceYou 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 PreventionYou 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 ProcedureOnly 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 ResponsiblyWe 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.
’ I’ve been visiting Thailand for over 10 years, but am still drawn back to discover off-the-radar places, revisit old haunts and tuck into the food! Thailand Rediscovered follows in the footsteps of my recent 2017 trip which is arguably my favourite so far.’
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.