We’ve put together this 14-night unusual adventure which combines the iconic sights of Bangkok with the lesser-known, and rarely visited region of Isaan in Eastern Thailand. For starters you’ll be guided through the temples and markets of Bangkok, cycle through the ancient city of Ayutthaya, and trek up a mountain in Isaan for spectacular views. To top it off, we’ve been granted exclusive access to participate in the culturally significant festival of lights, Loy Krathong, with the community of Chiang Khan, casting little Krathong boats onto the river and wishing for a good year ahead.
Touching down in Bangkok you’ll be greeted with a warm welcome in the aptly nicknamed land of smiles, and whisked off to your glamorous city crash-pad; The Peninsula Bangkok. An evening spent in Yaowarat, Bangkok’s Chinatown will open your senses to the smells and sights of this cultural mosaic of a city. With your expert guide at hand, you’ll speed through the streets on a tuk-tuk ride to Saphan Put Night Market and wander through the fragrant flower market and spice market taking in the exotic ambience.
The best way to see this vibrant city is via Bangkok’s public transport. Cut through the city on a water taxi, or a longtail boat through ‘Little Bangkok’ or a tuk-tuk ride to the city’s oldest temple, Wat Pho. Our expert team of guides will make sure you can see all the iconic sights: the Grand Palace, Wat Phra Kaew, Rattanakosin Royal Island, the reclining Buddha at Wat Pho and the canals of Bangkok Nio.
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Whiz through Ayutthaya on a bicycle
Leaving the delights of Bangkok behind, we’ll take you north to the ancient Siamese capital of Ayutthaya. A beautifully preserved city, which can’t be missed off any itinerary. On the back of a bicycle, you’ll zip around discovering the fascinating history of the site with a knowledgeable guide at hand. It’s an intimate exploration of the city which gives significance to the history of the area. Enjoy an authentic ‘Isaan’ lunch along the way; an introduction to the next step of the trip.
Journey into Isaan
Beginning in the morning with a short flight northeast to Loei, you’ll be travelling into the Isaan region. Still mostly undiscovered by tourists, the region is surrounded by mountain ranges and the Mekong River and has distinct cultural practices. Known for Mor Lam indigenous folk music and Muay Thai boxing, it’s an exciting insight into rural Thailand. Heading into the mountains of Phu Kradueng National Park you’ll be trekking for 5.5km up the southeastern flank of the mountain. The steep, but non-technical hike to the summit passes through tropical rainforest where you can spot deer and, if you’re lucky, an elephant or two. Reaching the plateau at 1316m above sea level, you’ll finish the journey to your evening’s camp, with a leisurely 3km walk across the pine savanna landscape and marvel at the stunning views from your camp.
Over the next few days, you’ll be exploring the Plateau of Phu Kradueng. Rising early, we’ll take you to a fabulous clifftop lookout to watch the sunrise over the panoramic landscape and a sea of clouds. Spend the days hiking along the trails past cliffs, waterfalls, ponds, streams and wild animals. In the evening watch the sunset at the Mak Dook Cliff with a glass of chilled champagne and enjoy the peaceful and untouched beauty of the area.
Thai village life
Bidding farewell to the mountain, you’ll begin the 3-hour descent back to ground level. You’ll head towards the Mekong by car in a scenic drive through farming communities. Your destination is the quiet Mekong riverside town of Chiang Khan, thought of as one of Thailand’s most charming rural communities. Trading your mountain top camp for a traditional wooden hotel in Chiang Khan, you can enjoy the vistas across the river to the rolling Laos landscape from your window. Barter in the local market where you can buy a variety of handicrafts and sample the mouth-watering local food as you settle into the small-town way of life. See the people carry out their daily tasks as they have for centuries, including fishing, weaving silk, growing rice and trading with their Laotian neighbours.
Light a lantern at Loy Krathong
It’s the rural traditions that really define Isaan and we’ve been granted special access into the community to join their preparations and celebrations for Loy Krathong Festival. An ancient festival of light, it is celebrated on the full moon of the 12th lunar month (November). A celebration to give thanks and wish for a good year ahead, people light candles and joss sticks to begin the festivities. Boat-shaped krathongs containing coins, food or flowers as offerings are then lit and allowed to float away along the river. The flame signifies longevity, the fulfilment of wishes and the release from sins, so the longer the flame burns, the better the year ahead should be. The tradition hasn’t changed for centuries and is seen as one of Thailand’s most spiritual and romantic festivals. Getting into the spirit of the festival, you’ll learn how to make your own Krathong and then head to the river with the locals to float your Krathong away and make a wish for good luck. Partake in the rest of the evening’s festivities in this truly exclusive experience.
Relax by the Mekong River
For your final few days, you’ll be staying along the banks of the iconic Mekong River. Overlooking the waters, you’ll have gorgeous views out across the river and on to Laos. Take a gentle boat trip up the Mekong River and try your hand at some fishing, where you can dine on your freshest catch for lunch. Cycle through the countryside or take a trip further afield to Phu Phra Bat Historical Park and archaeological site, or to Huai Krating Reservoir, a favourite place for locals to relax. Transferring from Udon Thani to Bangkok, you’ll begin your journey home feeling inspired by everything you’ve seen and with some fantastic memories.