Nature & Cultures of Northern Thailand

Ancient Sukhothai, Punjen Hideaway, Chiang Mai and Mae Hong Son
Overview

overview

Enjoy a very personal exploration of the cultures and natural environments of northern Thailand. On this active, flexible itinerary you will meet the people of various indigenous hill tribes, savor famous and varied cuisines, and learn about the ancient history of southeast Asia at the UNESCO World Heritage site at Sukhothai. All of this is made even more wonderful by the personal hosting at two of Thailand's most unique, most lovingly-run, eco-lodges. Perhaps no other trip better showcases the benefits of traveling in a very small group with local guides and hosts who cherish their opportunity to share the culture they love.

Accommodations vary from comfortable wilderness bungalows at the Punjen Hideaway to Deluxe or Superior accommodations at Sukhothai, Chiang Mai and Mae Hong Son. The itinerary can be easily adapted to add time in Bangkok, at one of Thailand's famous beaches, at Angkor Wat in Cambodia or elsewhere in southeast Asia.  This trip may be undertaken year around. Note that the Loi Krathang Festival falls in early November in 2014 and Makha Bucha Day observance can be witnessed on the February trips. Our Asia Specialist, Kerina Rowley, will accompany the February 23, 2015 departure.

 

itinerary

itinerary

  • Day 1: Sukhothai
    Explore the ancient ruins at Sukhothai

    Connect from your international flight to a domestic flight to Sukhothai (THS) in northern Thailand. Domestic flights depart Bangkok at approximately 7 AM and 3:45 PM. (It may be necessary to overnight in Bangkok prior to the start of this itinerary. Ask us about an pre-trip extension in Bangkok.)

    Meet your local English-speaking guide and visit Sukhothai Historical Park including Wat Mahathat, Wat Sra Sri and Wat Sri Chum. Many of these ruins date from the 13th Century and the site is often considered to hold the roots of modern Thai language and culture. Now a UNESCO World Heritage site, the Sukhothai Historical Park is situated at the actual site of the ancient kingdom, with many of the important ruins located within the walled Royal City. Ruins of royal palaces, temples, city walls, moats, dams, canals and other infrastructures have been well preserved and constantly restored to display the magnificent beauty of Thailand's cultural heritage. Lunch will be provided at a local restaurant.

    Meals
    Lunch
    Lodging
    Legendha / Superior
    Show on a map
  • Day 2: Sukhothai / Punjen Hideaway in Phrae Province
    Relax at the charming Punjen Hideaway

    After breakfast at the hotel, visit the historical park of Sri Satchanalai – the little sister of Sukhothai and part of the World Heritage Site. These are more ruins, but don't despair. The expansive and peaceful setting aesthetically restored and maintained, invites you to imagine processions of royal elephants, elaborate ceremonial events, and a thriving society that seems to have vanished just recently, not 800 years ago. Visit the special legendary sacred sites of Wat Chang Lom and Wat Chedi Jet Taew. After lunch at a local restaurant, head for the wilderness and Punjen Hide Away by private coach driving time approx. 2.5-3 hrs.) This small nature resort was started by Dwaila Armstrong, an American who has been in Thailand for more than 40 years. She was also the founder of the famous Tree Tops Jungle Safaris in south Thailand. Punjen Hide Away is a perfect place to experience unspoiled rural Thailand in a relaxed and authentic setting. This is a very small resort with just six rooms. Have dinner and then possibly chat with Dwaila at her resort about the coming days.

    Meals
    Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
    Lodging
    Punjen Hide Away
    Show on a map
  • Day 3: Punjen Hideaway
    Enjoy an authentic Thai massage

    After breakfast at the resort, your local resort guide will lead you on an easy, enticing path through the jungle. The hike takes you along a jungle stream with opportunities to see and hear local flora and fauna.This area is rapidly becoming famous among butterfly enthusiasts for the tremendous variety of colorful species found here. The path leads to a favorite picnic spot in a clearing along the stream where your guides will begin catching fish in three traditional ways. They will gather wood to cook your meal in bamboo in traditional style. You are welcome to participate in each activity or just sit back and relax by soaking in the river while the work is done for you. Upon your return, trained village massage ladies will be waiting to give you full traditional Thai massage. Lay back and relax at the pool of the resort; you're literally in good hands! Dinner always includes three or four delicious home-cooked Thai dishes. Resort founder and director Dwaila Armstrong will explain first-hand.

    Meals
    Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
    Lodging
    Punjen Hide Away
    Show on a map
  • Day 4: Punjen Hideaway
    Swim at the base of a waterfall

    You might choose to rise early and enjoy a walk in the area on your own. After a leisurely breakfast, visit Saloke village by a song taew (a passenger vehicle adapted from a pick-up or a larger truck and used as a share taxi). This village is populated by a Karen tribe that migrated out of the mountains near China over 150 years ago. They were the first people to settle in this local area of Wang Chin. Your first stop is at the village school. The children are always excited to see you and may invite you to come into their class to say hello or share a song. For many visitors this is a highlight experience.Next, stroll in the village with your guide who will introduce you to her own family and other friendly folks. This is an informal and spontaneous experience and you never know what you will see, though you will certainly gain a seasonal “slice of life” exploration of village activities. Finally, enjoy the butterfly farm where many species of butterflies are bred and cultivated. After a generous lunch of local specialties at the Hide-Away, you take a 15-minute ride in the song taew to the gorgeous Wiang Ko Sai National Park. Here you may swim in the park area at the base of the 7 tier waterfall or climb to the very best pool at the top.  After the heat of the jungle, the breeze blowing over the waterfall and cool mountain fed stream is a welcome experience. Return to Punjen Hide Away for a cold drink and a few minutes to relax. Then your guide introduces you to the resort garden with its many varieties of plants, and also discusses some of the traditional ways of preparing whole grain rice. Dinner is a full, three-course Thai meal.

    Meals
    Breakfast, Lunch, DInner
    Lodging
    Punjen Hide Away
    Show on a map
  • Day 5: Punjen Hideaway / Chiang Mai
    Lisu woman at night market

    After a hearty Western breakfast, go by song taew to visit a stunning view point and temple outside of the town of Wang Chin. The scenic route takes you down the mountain to explore an interesting local village. Visit a local basket shop and food market. Your guide will explain the exotic offerings and help you negotiate for items costing much more in frequently touristed locations. After lunch at the resort, depart for Chiang Mai by A/C coach, about a four hour drive.

    Meals
    Breakfast, Lunch
    Lodging
    Bodhi Serene / Deluxe
    Show on a map
  • Day 6: Chiang Mai / Pai

    After breakfast at your hotel, depart Chiang Mai by vehicle to Pai, a 3.5-4 hour drive, and enjoy the wonderful mountainous scenery on the way. En route make a short stop at Hot Spring Ban Papae for a brief hike around the hot spring area. Then continue to Pai, for a delicious lunch. After lunch visit Wat Nam Hoo, a small Shan’s Temple. Visit a KMT Chinese village called Ban Santichon, renowned for Yunnanese traditions and cuisine before you return to Pai Town.

    Meals
    Breakfast, Lunch
    Lodging
    Quarter Hotel Pai
    Show on a map
  • Day 7: Pai / Mae Hong Son
    Visit nearby hilltribe villages

    Enjoy breakfast at the hotel, then, with your guide depart to Mae Hong Son by coach (driving time approx. 3.5-4 hours). En route visit an ethnic Lisu village, where you will have an inside look into their daily life. Afterwards, proceed to the Water Cave, Tam Lod - a large limestone cave with a wide stream coursing through it. Besides the main chamber there are three side chambers that can be reached by ladder. Depending on your fitness, motivation and level of intrigue, you may devote two or three hours to see the whole thing. Afterwards, visit an ethnic Lahu village, another example of a distinctive Tibeto-Burmese hill tribe. Most Lahu are polytheistic Buddhists who trace their cultural origins to the Yunnan area of southern China. Drive to Mae Hong Son. Along the way visit Fish Cave, where thousands of a distinctive species of brook carp live an undisturbed life thriving on the fruit and vegetable offerings of visitors. It is a very touristy stop, but amusing and entertaining in its peculiarity and pleasant for the serene surroundings. Then continue to the very delightful Fern Resort, JOURNEYS' favorite ecolodge in all of Thailand.

    Meals
    Breakfast, Lunch
    Lodging
    Fern Resort
    Show on a map
  • Day 8: Mae Hong Son
    Fern Resort

    Wake to the sound of water and breeze in your cozy Shan-style bungalow. After an early breakfast, drive to the Elephant Camp for a ride through the jungle on one of the giant pachyderms. Then take a Long-tailed boat cruise on the Pai River to visit the hill tribe village of the Long-necked women, the Padongs (women, who from early age on, have brass rings put around their necks and thereby stretching it). Return to town for lunch. After lunch visit the best known small local temples in Mae Hong Son: Wat Doi Kong Moo, Wat Chong Kam and Wat Chong Klang, all of Burmese origin, then transfer to the resort. In the evening we enjoy a BBQ dinner at the resort on a camp fire.

    Meals
    Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
    Lodging
    Fern Resort
    Show on a map
  • Day 9: Mae Hong Son / Chiang Mai
    Ahka Hilltribes

    The morning is at your leisure in the beautiful surroundings of Fern Resort. You may wish to take a walk into the National Park on your own, assisted and tended by one of the resorts “guide dogs” who attentively keep you on the trail and alert you to any dangers. Then transfer to the Mae Hong Son airport for your flight departure to Chiang Mai. In the evening, enjoy the color and activities of the local night market, where you can purchase handmade products and souvenirs from the many Chiang Mai villages and hill tribes. Everything is a bargain and everyone will enjoy the hustle and bustle of the market. There are many choices of eating locations in Chiang Mai. Your guide can assist with recommendations.

    Meals
    Breakfast
    Lodging
    Bodhi Serene / Deluxe
    Show on a map
  • Day 10: Chiang Mai City and Temple Tour
    Buddhism in Thailand is vibrant. Visit Doi Suthep Temple in Chaing Mai

    After an early breakfast, visit the major landmark of Chiang Mai, the Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep (driving time approx. 1-1.5 hrs.)- a sacred temple with a challenging flight of steps which are flanked by Naga Serpents. The earlier you go the fewer tourists you will encounter. On top of the hill you can enjoy a magnificent view over Chiang Mai and the valley. View Wat Chedi Luang, the site of a formerly massive pagoda that was unfortunately destroyed in the great earthquake of 1545. Admire Wat Phra Singh, the lovely Lai Kam chapel which houses the revered Phra Singh Buddha image. For those joining the February departure, today is Makabucha Day, and you will have the opportunity to observe the Vian Tian ceremony.  Makabucha Day is an important Buddhist day significant to the Triple Gems (the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha). In the evening, led by monks, the people perform the "vian tian" ceremony in a procession of three (for the Triple Gems) around the main sermon hall of the temple with lit candles and incense sticks and holding flowers. 

    Meals
    Breakfast
    Lodging
    Bodhi Serene / Deluxe
    Show on a map
  • Day 11: Chiang Mai onward

    Transfer to the airport in time for your homeward flight or for further exploration or beach time in other parts of Thailand.

    Meals
    Breakfast
Price and Date Details

Price and Date Details

Feb 4-14, 2015
Or Privately on Request
Land Cost:
$2,700
- $3,000
Group size 2 - $3000 Group size 3 or more - $2700 Local flight Mae Hong Son/Chiang Mai approx. $150
Single Supplement:
$450
The single supplement is applicable if a roommate is not available or if single accommodation is specifically requested. While single accommodation is not available on all trips, we will try and honor this request whenever possible.
Need to Know

Need to Know

Duration:
11 days
The number of days, or duration, in a destination corresponds with the itinerary as published. This is the time period covered by the land cost.
Comfort Level:
2
Charming eco-style lodges and resorts in beautiful settings
Group Size:
3-10
The stated range indicates minimum required for guaranteed departure and maximum accepted on the scheduled dates. Exceptions can often be made for private departures.
Activity Level:
2
JOURNEYS grading system from I to IV will help you choose an experience with physical demands which match your motivation. 1. Active Active exploration with optional day hikes, easy walking, leisurely bicycling or light canoeing. Comfortable travel by vehicle. 2. Vigorous Experience may include regular hiking or physical exercise in varied environments. Travel by vehicle may be long or over rough terrain. 3. Challenging Parts of trip will involve physical challenge. Daily hiking in rough terrain, high altitude, rough road travel and remoteness from modern medical care may be unavoidable circumstances. 4. Demanding Extended foot travel in very remote areas. Previous wilderness travel experience advisable. Doctor's certification may be requested.

Resources

Trip Extensions

Trip Extensions

There are currently no suggested extensions for this itinerary. Please ask the Destination Specialist if you'd like to customize one.

×