It might be a bit of a cliché, but it’s true: Thailand really does have it all. Vibrant cities? Check. Ancient temples? Check. Inspiring nature? Check. Exquisite beaches? Check. Finding the highlights is easy, but it can be trickier to find a path through all the noise to its genuine heart.
This trip showcases the country’s impressive credentials whilst digging a little deeper into its rich cultural landscape. Fill up on foodie delights in Chiang Mai and Bangkok, immerse yourself in the country’s famed hospitality, enjoy a little temple spotting, then venture south. Explore Khao Sok National Park, one of Thailand’s natural gems, before finishing your adventure in style on your chosen tropical shore.
Food is central to Thai life, and each region’s specialities combine to make some of the best cuisine in the world. Chiang Mai’s food is packed full of exciting fresh herbs and interesting bitter and sour notes, accompanied by sticky rice and punchy dips. Start by trying your hand at creating northern delicacies in a local family garden before heading south to Bangkok, jumping in a tuk-tuk and sampling an array of delicious street food treats.
Beach-wise, you really are spoilt for choice. The east and west coasts are both teeming with picturesque stretches of shoreline and islands. Watching the sunset across the horizon with your feet touching the sand… we can’t think of a better end to a holiday in the ‘Land of Smiles’.
Chiang Mai’s crumbling walls and ancient moat create a tangible connection to the city’s past. As you walk through the old town, temples appear around every corner, saffron-robed monks wander the streets, and, as dusk falls, street food vendors set up at the city gates. Whether you stay within the walls or in the surrounding countryside, it’s easy to combine a visit to Wat Doi Suthep and Wat Umong in the foothills, with a stroll through a local market and a leisurely cycle down quiet backstreets.
In the suburbs, visit a local family’s traditional wooden stilted house and learn to cook, Chiang Mai style - an experience that feels more like preparing a meal with friends than attending a class. Take a walk through the lush herb garden with your host, before donning your apron and rustling up a feast in the outdoor kitchen.
Bangkok is the pulsating heart of the country, and there’s no denying the city’s sprawling nature and frenetic energy. However, away from the traffic jams and shopping centres you can find a serenity to the capital, perhaps nowhere better than on the Chao Phraya River. Winding through the centre and stretching out into the suburbs via its khlongs (canals), the river shows a different side to city life. Glittering temples peep out along its banks and stilted wooden houses jut over the embankments.
Spend an evening zipping through neighbourhoods in an iconic tuk tuk taxi, sampling some of the best treats from Bangkok’s exciting streetfood scene. Try delicacies such as spiced seafood, rice noodle rolls and stir-fried morning glory in Yaowarat Road, see Pak Khlong Talat’s rafters packed with beautiful plants and flowers, and finish your night on the neon-tastic Khao San Road.
Visit the spiritual and majestic Grand Palace, and wonder at Wat Pho’s Reclining Buddha. Jim Thompson's famous silk house contrasts nicely with a stop at the modern Siam Square for some retail therapy. At the end of the day, reflect and relax while watching the sunset from a rooftop bar on the riverbank.
Only an hour’s flight from the bright lights and bustle of the capital lies the stunning rainforest of Khao Sok National Park. Stay at the phenomenal Elephant Hills - a highly ethical conservation project that is a leading light for eco-tourism in Thailand. Focused on sustainability and animal welfare, they also deliver a top quality glamping experience with safari-style tents to help you drift off to sleep to the sounds of the jungle. Spend a morning getting to know their resident herd of Asian elephants, feeding them their morning snack and watching them enjoy a playful bath.
Head deeper into the National Park, swapping your 4x4 for a longtail boat to reach floating accommodation on the Cheow Lan lake. Karst jungle-clad mountains jut out from the azure water, concealing a plethora of wildlife such as gibbons, langurs, hornbills, elephants, and tapirs. Trek to caves deep in the jungle, swim directly from your tent’s ‘doorstep’ and kayak to neighbouring inlets. Drifting through water on your kayak allows you to silently watch for jungle residents that come close to the water’s edge.
Thanks to Khao Sok National Park’s central location, you can be whisked from the jungle to a number of wonderful beach locations within just a few hours. Our extensive research trips to Thailand over the years, as well as a few family holidays and honeymoons, have given our Destination Specialists first-hand experience of a wide range of beach locations, from the most secluded luxury to buzzing local eateries and markets. Some of our favourites hotels are The Sarojin in Khao Lak for that slice of peaceful indulgence, and Koh Samui’s Anantara Bophut Resort for a perfect blend of luxury and location, just a few footsteps from Fisherman’s Village and its collection of local restaurants, boutiques and cafes. Take time to explore your criteria for your ideal beach, and let us recommend somewhere that will suit you down to the ground...or sand!
The guide price of £1,990US$2,190 is a per person price (not including international flights) staying 3 nights in Chiang Mai, 2 nights in Bangkok, 2 nights at Khao Sok National Park and 4 nights on Phuket; all in our favourite mid-range hotels. How yours looks is up to you, our tailor-made specialists work with you to create your perfect journey.
Not your traditional fly & flop - instead we invite you to fill your senses with the vibrancy of Thailand’s extraordinary capital, then head to the coast to grab an ice cold Chang, feel the sand between your toes and watch the sun set over some of the country’s least-known and most stunning beaches.