DAY 7: Mini Cruise to Nonthaburi – Royal Summer Palace Bang Pa-In – Sunset in Ayutthaya
Today is an early revival. After breakfast and check-out, the guide will pick you up from the hotel, which will take you to the River City Pier in about 30 minutes. Next, embark on an exciting mini-cruise on the Grand Pearl Cruise Liner, which will take you along the Chao Phraya River to Nonthaburi. On a leisurely cruise, you’ll pass temples, markets, more marvelous buildings, and boats of all sizes sailing their daily itineraries.
As you board the ship you will first be warmly welcomed. During the coffee and tea service, the ship passes the important Wat Kalayanamit, Wat Arun, the glorious Royal Palace, the Grand Palace, the University of Thammasat and the Royal Barges Museum. The journey continues past the artificial island of Koh Kret, originally inhabited by a mon nation native to Myanmar. Today, the island is known for its relaxed and peaceful atmosphere, many mon-temples and pagodas, pottery workshops and exotic fruits.
Next up is a delicious lunch consisting of both traditional Thai and Western dishes.
After about a 3.5-hour cruise, the ship moored at the pier at Wat Chong Lom, from where it continues by car for about 45 minutes to the Royal Summer Palace. The Bang Pa-In Summer Palace is set in 19 acres of well-kept gardens, adorned with countless flowers, ponds, springs and pavilions. Construction of the original palace began in the early 17th century by order of King Prasat Thong. Later, the buildings have been restored and expanded on many occasions. Most of the current buildings date from the time of King Chulalongkorn. The king spent most of the summer in his palace. The palace area is a combination of several different building styles, and Chulalongkorn’s love of European architecture in particular is clearly visible.
After your visit, drive to Ayutthaya, a historic gem of Thailand, about 30 minutes away. The city was founded by King Ramathibodi I in 1350 and served as the capital of the country for as many as 417 years until 1767. After check-in, there is time for a short break.
Later in the afternoon, when most day-trippers have returned to Bangkok, the program includes a boat trip on a traditional long-tail boat in the beautiful scenery of Ayutthaya Historical Park.
The historic park is located on the island at the crossroads of three rivers, Chao Phraya, Lopburi and Pa Sak. There are a couple of stops along the way, and if the timing hits right, you’ll be able to admire the stunning colors of the sunset in the background of Wat Chai Wattanaram. The sharp peaks of the temples are somewhat reminiscent of Angkor Wat in Cambodia. There is also a guided tour here, during which the guide tells a lot of interesting information about the history of the temple. The sun setting behind the fabulous temple structure is simply an unforgettable sight, especially when the sky is slightly cloudy and the clouds are colored in all shades of red, orange, pink, and purple.
In the evening you get a ride back to the hotel and there is free time for the rest.
DAY 8: Ayutthaya Historical Park – night train to Chiang Mai
In the morning and in the morning you can explore the area at your own pace. If you wish, you can rent a bicycle and explore the historic park on a leisurely bike ride.
At noon you check out of the hotel, from where a guide will pick you up for lunch at a local restaurant.
After lunch, the program includes an interesting guided tour of Ayutthaya’s historic temple ruins. Some of the temples are relatively well preserved, while others were almost completely destroyed as early as 1767 by an attack by the Burmese army. Regardless of condition, all the temple ruins are very interesting!
The first destination to visit is Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon, located east of the banks of the Pa Sak River. It is one of the quieter destinations in Ayutthaya in terms of number of visitors, so the experience is a little more intimate. The temple originally served as a monastery for monks returning from Sri Lanka before the Burmese invasion. It was not until years later – in the 1950s – that restoration work began on the temple, which makes the temple look very well preserved today. Unlike many other temples in the area, Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon is still inhabited by monks.
Next, move on to Ayutthaya Historical Park itself, which consists of 67 temples and statues. In 1991, part of the park was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The first temple of the tour is Wat Phra Sri Sanphet (UNESCO), which was the largest and most beautiful temple in the city and was located in a place of honor next to the Royal Palace. It was precisely because of the royal status of the temple that ordinary monks had no place there. Wat Phra Sri Sanphet is especially known for its three large chedi (Thai name for stupa) and its small chapels. Maybe you notice some similarities with Bangkok’s Wat Phra Kaeo? It’s no wonder, as Wat Phra Kaeo’s design is modeled on Wat Phra Sri Sanphet.
The tour continues next to Wat Mahathat (UNESCO), which is also located right next to the Royal Palace. Among other things, the most important ceremonies of the king were held here. The temple was the seat of the highest patriarch of Buddhism, and since various Buddha relics were also preserved there, it was considered one of the most significant temples in Ayutthaya. Walking among the ornately carved columns, chedi and Buddha statues, you can almost feel how beautiful the temple has been during its golden age! Today, the temple is especially known for the tree with the Buddha’s head in the rhizome. It is not clear how the head of the statue has been devoured by the rhizome, but it is assumed to have occurred in the context of attacks or floods and the rapid spread of vegetation that followed.
The last destination is the old monastery Wat Lokaya Sutha. Apart from the floors, walls and pillars, there is not much left of the monastery. Its main attraction is a 37-meter-long reclining Buddha with a calm smile on his face.
After an exciting day at Ayutthaya Historical Park, get a ride to the city’s train station. Here you still have time to go eating before boarding the night train that leaves for Chiang Mai at 7:44 p.m. We recommend that you also go shopping for something to drink and a snack for the train journey.
You will arrive in Chiang Mai the next morning.
DAY 9: Chiang Mai
The train arrives in the northern mountainous city of Chiang Mai, Thailand at 7.15 am. Chiang Mai was the capital of the ancient Kingdom of Lanna (1292–1775), and the effects of manure culture are still visible everywhere.
In the train station arrival hall, you will meet your guide, which you will recognize from the Asia Travel sign. From the station, drive first to the local eatery at Talad Warorot Market, where you can enjoy a good breakfast. The marketplace is just a 2-minute walk from the famous Night Market, whose stalls are teeming with colorful fruit, fragrant spices and a variety of Thai specialties.
After breakfast, drive to the hotel, where you can leave your luggage in the storage room before checking in later in the afternoon. Next up is an exciting rickshaw ride, which is a great way to explore the city.
You will be picked up from your hotel for a rickshaw ride through the narrow and colorful streets and alleys of Chiang Mai. The trip will of course also include stops at places of interest, the first of which is the city’s oldest temple, Wat Chiang Man. The original temple was built as early as the 13th century, and over the years buildings representing different architectural styles have been added to the temple complex at various times. The temple is especially known for ancient Buddha images and a crystal carved Buddha statue that is said to have a healing effect.
Along the way, one also stays at a slightly more unusual destination, namely the “Chiang Mai Women’s Correctional Institution”. Prisoners study various service professions here to make it easier for them to find work when they are released. The training center is located opposite the prison and is guarded by guards. For example, women can specialize in Thai massage or restaurant services.
The journey continues towards the stunningly impressive Wat Phra Singh, located inside the old city wall. Dating back to 1345, Wat Phra Singh is one of the city’s most significant temples right after Doi Suthep. The Lanna style is clearly visible in the building’s arched roofs and stunning carvings. The temple’s elegant assembly hall at Wihan Lai Kami preserves its biggest attraction, the famous Lion Buddha (Phra Singh). The colorful murals on the walls of the hall, painted in 1870, give a detailed and interesting picture of the life of the locals hundreds of years ago.
Afterwards, visit the charming artisan village of Puak Tam, known for its beautiful brass ornaments.
The last leg of the tour is Wat Chedi Luang, built between 1385 and 1402. The specialty of the temple is its huge pagoda, which was originally 60 meters wide and over 80 meters high. Unfortunately, the top of the pagoda was destroyed in an earthquake in 1545, and today the legendary ruins remain. Wat Chedi Luang also housed the once famous Emerald Buddha, which was later moved to Bangkok.
At the end of the tour, drive for lunch to a local restaurant. The menu features traditional North Thai Khao Soi curry soup made from meat, noodles and vegetables.
After lunch, you will receive a ride to the hotel and check in. The rest of the day is free time. After a long day, a rest break is sure to taste good!
In the evening, for example, you can go for a walk on the Ping River, which has many high-quality and cozy restaurants.
DAY 10: Elephant Center ChangChill
A memorable visit is known today.
The popular elephant sanctuary of ChangChill – whose permanent residents include six happy female elephants – is about an hour and a half drive from Chiang Mai. Here elephants are allowed to be elephants.
When it opened its doors in 2017, ChangChill took an unprecedented step forward in Thailand, a country starting with T listed by COUNTRYAAH.COM. The center was designed to be 100% elephant-friendly from the outset and received funding from the World Organization for Animal Protection, among others. This means that at ChangChill, elephants are allowed to live in as natural conditions as possible: they roam freely in the valley, graze, bathe in the river, take mud and dust baths and spend quality time together.
Visitors are not allowed to meet or touch the elephants, but they can observe the animals and follow their hustle and bustle from a distance.
The day begins with an introduction to the elephant center, followed by a guided tour of the forest to see the moment of eating of these gray giants. The guide introduces all six elephants and tells a lot of interesting information about Asian elephants, their appearance, eating habits, weight and sleeping habits.
After the walk, refreshments are enjoyed on the observation deck, and with good luck you can get to witness the mud baths of elephants, which they like especially in hot weather. Namely, mud protects their gray skin from both the sun and insects. When the mud starts to feel too dry on the skin, the elephants head to the river to bathe and wash the dried mud away. It’s fun to watch the giggling of awesome animals!
For lunch, head to the riverside where you can help fill the elephant feeding tubes with either corn, sugar cane or bananas. While enjoying a vegetarian lunch in the pavilion, you can also watch the elephants dine below you.
The ivory is taken care of by elephants, or mahouts, who are all members of the local Karen tribe. After lunch, visit the cultural center to learn about the tribe’s history and traditions. Karen women are very skilled in handicrafts, especially in weaving, and if you wish, you can try weaving yourself with old-fashioned looms.
After this, visit ChangChill’s own herb garden and learn about plants, leaves, roots and herbs that are used as medicines for both humans and elephants. Many medicinal plants also contain a lot of nutrients. This is a good thing for elephants, because although the diet of animals includes more than 120 different plant species, they are only able to utilize 40% of the nutrients they contain.
Supplements are therefore needed. Next, snacks or vitamin bombs are made for the elephants, for which the ingredients are picked from an herb garden, among other things. At the same time, the guide explains the importance of different ingredients and the diet and health of elephants.
Finally, elephant riders answer questions and talk about their daily work and the important role of mahouts in Thai culture and history.
After a great day, it’s time to say goodbye to the elephants and drive back to the hotel in Chiang Mai, where the rest of the day is free time.
DAY 11: Chiang Mai
There is no planned program today, so you can spend the day relaxing by the pool, set out to explore the streets of Chiang Mai on your own, or take an extra trip, with more information below.
In the evening, you can still make your last souvenir shopping at the city’s popular night market.
DAY 12: THE journey home begins
Today is the time to say goodbye to beautiful Thailand. You will be picked up from your hotel and transferred to the airport, from where you will fly via stopover (s) to the airport of your choice.
DAY 13: Return home
You will land at the airport of your choice after a wonderful eventful holiday.