Immerse yourself in the spiritual and isolated side of South East Asia on this 15 night luxury holiday, where you’ll experience the cultures and landscapes of Thailand and Laos. Head north and unlock the secrets of traditional Thai-style cooking, then work alongside experienced Mahout elephant trainers in the remote jungles of the Golden Triangle, before setting sail to cruise into the mysterious kingdom of Laos. One of South East Asia’s most pristine landscapes, in Laos you’ll explore hidden temples and experience Buddhist ceremonies, finishing off your trip back in Thailand on the golden sands of Phuket.
Chill out in Chiang Mai
After landing in Bangkok, take a short transfer flight onto Chiang Mai where you’ll meet your Black Tomato guide. Staying right in the centre of buzzing Chiang Mai at the Tamarind Village Resort, you’ll be able to escape the bustle of the city in your chic, Lanna-style room whilst being within walking distance of all the main sights. For the next few days explore with your guide some of the many temples dotted around the urban landscape. Chiang Mai is stepped in history and the city is a perfect setting to give context to the country’s religious beliefs. Here you will learn about Buddhism at Wat Chedi Luang, to get a little bit of background on Chiang Mai province, how the city was built and Lanna culture. Continuing on, one of the best views of the city is from Wat Doi Suthep where you can watch the sun set and visit one of the country’s most beautiful and cherished temples.
However, for us, there is a must when in Chiang Mai. Thai food is famous around the world so for those looking to uncover the secrets of Thai cuisine, we’ll arrange an authentic cooking class where you can whip up the most fragrant and freshest food you’ll have ever tasted. We have spent years finding the very best cooks in Chiang Mai, not just professional chefs but people that have been cooking for years for their family. You’ll join them on their daily visit to the various fish, meat, rice and vegetable markets before visiting their homes or small cookery schools to be taught the skills that they’ve been passed down through the generations. Truly one of our favourite experiences in Thailand.Read more
Four-footed two ton locals
You’ll be taken up to the misty hills of the Chiang Rai on one of the best drives in Asia. Weaving through the rolling plantations and dramatic hillsides it’s a few hours drive but with plenty of stops to try the local rambutan (like a lychee, but better) from local road side stalls it will go by in a flash. Your scenic journey ends at the Katiliya resort and spa to rid yourself of any lingering tension with one of the spa’s revitalising, traditional Thai treatments. Take a breather by the palm lined pool before venturing into the mountains for unparalleled views of the terraced tea and rice plantations, coffee fields and meeting with Karaen tribe villages. Meeting such tribes and walking through some of the most beautiful scenery in north Thailand is an absolute must on this trip and we can tailor the trek to be as gentle or difficult as you like.
Once you’ve had your fill of Chiang Rai, we’ll whisk you off to the remote Anantara Golden Triangle for the ultimate encounter with a few of the locals (local elephants that is). Spend your time with Thailand’s gentle giants during a sunrise elephant drive, join in with their frolicking at river bath time and trek through the jungle and learn about these incredible creatures alongside expert elephant trainers – the mahouts. Enjoy the rest of your time here on the Ruak River and the Mekong River aboard traditional fishing boats, or visiting remote hill-tribes and enjoying the views over the Thai, Laos and Myanmar borders, with the occasional baby elephant to keep you company.
Laotian caves and Buddhist temple
Bidding farewell to Thailand, your next stop is the peaceful country of Laos. We’ll send you off down the river to the historical capital of Luang Prabang on a luxury overnight river cruise. You’ll be met by your Black Tomato guide and escorted to your hotel, La Residence. Camouflaged at the confluence of two rivers by palms and coconut trees, La Residence is luxuriously tranquil. You’ll be perfectly situated to explore the rest of the area. For your first day, we recommend visiting the Pako Ou Caves, followed by an afternoon in the temples. You’ll be taken by your knowledgeable guide on a traditional long tail boat up the Mekong River, past the natural limestone formations and fishing villages arriving at the sacred Tham Ting and Tham Teung caves. These caves house 4000 wooden Buddha statues, accumulated over several centuries; it’s an awe-inspiring sight.
The afternoon will take you through the town of Luang Prabang where you’ll view the iconic saffron-robed monks who move silently through the ancient temples. Enjoy the palace of the former Laotian Royal Family, Wat Mai, Luang Prabang’s oldest Pagoda and a few other historic sites. Finish the day with a short climb to the top of Mount Phousi in the centre of town and savour the view of the rivers and surrounding mystical mountains.
Age old ceremonies and jungle survivor skills
Having already made friends with elephants in Thailand, you’ll get a second chance to test your elephant riding skills through the jungle and learn some health tips to help care for your elephant. You’ll have lunch by the river, where you can bathe with the gentle giants. You’re day will be topped off with a trip further up the river to the glistening Tad Sae Waterfall; one of the area’s best natural beauties.
Saving the best till last, on your final day in Laos you’ll have to wake up before dawn as your Black Tomato guide will be taking you to see the offering of alms by the saffron-robed Buddhist monks. It’s a sacred tradition dating back countless generations. A wonder to behold, observe the ritual from a distance or make your own offering with the help of your guide. You’ll see the sun rise and the city gradually come to life. In the afternoon you’ll be taken into the jungle and shown by one of our most knowledgeable guides how to collect herbs, mushrooms, and bamboo shoots and learn the local way of fishing in order to survive the tropics. Trekking through the jungle, you’ll reach the Kuang Si waterfall where the goodies you collected will be used to make a delicious Laotian lunch.
Beach time in Phuket
For a grand finale, we can arrange for you to spend a few days in complete luxury by the beach. You’ll be transferred to Bangkok and on to Phuket where you’ll be met by your car and taken to your own villa at the Amanpuri resort. Overlooking the turquoise Andaman Sea, you can bury your toes in the sugar-white sand and bask in the sun. Spend your days at the hotel spa and taking yoga lessons or venture out into the sea on one of the Amanpuri’s luxury cruisers and dive down to the multi-coloured corals with one of the PADI certified diving instructors. You’ll depart for your flight home feeling completely refreshed with lasting memories of these two incredible countries.