Day 0: Depart from the United States.
You can make your own International flight reservations, in which case arrival and departure transfers can be reserved with your guest relations manager, who is assigned to you after you book your tour - no surcharge applies. You can also choose to use flights booked through Easy Tours as part of your complete package.
We strongly recommend that our guests consider arriving a day earlier, as this allows you to recuperate from jetlag, and serves as insurance against international flight delays and cancellations. Even if your flight is not delayed, and jetlag does not affect you, this allows you to explore fascinating Hanoi on your own. An additional night hotel stay at Hanoi can be added as part of the process as you reserve your tour. If you are arriving a day earlier, your airport to hotel transfer will be provided a day earlier.
Day 1: Arrive in Hanoi.
You are greeted at the airport and ushered to
a vehicle. You are then driven to your boutique hotel where you will check-in if it is after 2 PM. If your arrival is before 2 PM, you can drop your bags off and use the facilities to freshen up.
Located on the banks of the Red River, Vietnam's capital is a stylish and gracious city that retains a unique old-world charm and has some of Asia’s most striking colonial architecture. Hanoi is one of the world’s most fascinating cities to explore on foot, and the street food scene is vibrant and extremely diverse.
Your highly ranked lodging in Hanoi is a small boutique hotel and has the best location in the city, right in the heart of the old quarter, and a stone’s throw away from the city’s main attractions. Multiple dining options are right on your doorstep. Please note that the lower room types are either windowless or have a window a foot away from a wall, so Easy Tours only uses their higher room/suite types.
Day 2: Hanoi (B & L).
Start your exploration of Vietnam’s capital with a visit to the Temple of Literature. Built in 1070 as a Confucian temple, this complex became Vietnam’s first university six years later. Among other things, on display are many large stones carved in the shape of a turtle bearing inscriptions of the names of all of the graduates of the university over many centuries. It is common to see local students here in school groups throughout the year, and large groups of them are here dressed in their finest during graduation periods. Walk around the complex and its gardens and explore several temples housing beautiful statues of the university’s founders and greatest scholars.
Next up is the impressive Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum complex. This site is highly revered by the North Vietnamese, and consists of several structures, including Uncle Ho’s (Ho Chi Minh) modest house on stilts, and of course the iconic mausoleum itself. This granite structure stands prominently above the parade area and grandstand at a height of 70 feet and is surrounded by meticulously maintained lawns and gardens. Please note that we do not view the preserved body of Ho Chi Minh, housed inside, as this requires a 45 minute (minimum) wait in line, and no photos are allowed.
Next to the mausoleum is the breathtakingly beautiful Presidential Palace, built between 1900 and 1906 as the French Governor General of Indochina’s residence. The Palace is not open to the public, but you can stop here for a photo opportunity of the front left profile of the structure, as well as its beautiful gardens.
Ho Chi Minh refused to live in the palace and had a simple home on stilts built in the gardens, which you will walk through to admire its simplicity and austerity.
There is a break for lunch.
After lunch, you will now see parts of Hanoi as very few others do. You will visit a real Hanoi district, seldom experienced by foreigners. You will feel like you have steeped back in time, into the 1960’s when Hanoi was a quaint capital populated mostly by modest workers. Wander around these narrow alleys covered in colorful market stalls, observe the locals as they go about their daily lives - you will experience Hanoi as only the locals do.
After this you will enjoy a cyclo (pedi-cab) ride around the Old Quarter. These ancient narrow streets are bustling with people and shops. Just like in ancient times, each street has its own specialty, including jewelry, shoes, clothes, leather, lacquerware, and much more.
Your ride ends at Hoan Kiem Lake in the city center. The small urban lake is also known as The Lake of the Restored Sword, and the area surrounding it is Hanoi’s cultural center. Visit Ngoc Son Temple, situated on a small island in the photogenic lake, where you can both admire the fascinating architecture, and watch the rituals that take place here - the devout visit it throughout the day.
In the early evening comes a fascinating performance of Water Puppetry, where Easy Tours guests will enjoy preferred seating. The Thang Long Puppet Theatre is Hanoi’s most famous because of the quality of the performers, and it is located on the banks of Hoan Kiem Lake, across from Ngoc Son Temple. This art form, which is unique to North Vietnam, originated in the 11th century. The combination of indigenous music, small fireworks and the colorful wooden performers, as well as the accomplished musicians visible in the gallery, makes this spectacle a great introduction to North Vietnamese culture.
After the performance, you will enjoy a walk by the charming lake to your hotel, walking around the locals as they dine on street food, an activity that is omnipresent at night all over the Old Quarter. The Vietnamese take street food to a whole new level, even by Southeast Asia standards. – locals are everywhere, in Hanoi and in Saigon, occupying sections of the pedestrian walkways, parks, and all other areas, enjoying the wares of small street stalls - it has to be experienced to be believed.
Day 3: Hanoi - Hue (B & L).
Check-out from your hotel in the morning and you are then driven to the Hanoi airport to board your flight to Hue, The City of Mist. Easy Tours is at a loss about the fact that tour operators actually fly guests to DaNang, which is about 2.5 hours away from Hue, as opposed to being able to fly directly to Hue on Vietnam’s best, and only full service, airline. They then repeat 80% of the same drive as they head to Hoi An as the next destination.
Hue is widely known for its magnificent monuments built under the Nguyen Dynasty (1802 - 1945), and also famous for its amazing food, as well as its unique conical hats. The monuments that you will visit here, collectively, make up one of Vietnam’s eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites. This honor was bestowed on the city in 1993 due its reputation as such a fine example of an eastern feudal capital.
Upon arrival in Hue you will pay a visit to the mausoleums of King Tu Duc (ruled 1848 - 1883) and King Khai Dinh (ruled 1916 - 1925). The monuments, designed by the kings themselves, were also used as holiday retreats during their lifetime.
After this visit, continue your tour with a visit to the Royal Citadel. The sprawling complex of palaces, fortifications and pagodas was, in its day, virtually impenetrable. The tour of the Imperial City features monuments such as the Flag Tower, Noon Gate, Nine Dynastic Urns, Nine Holy Cannons, Thai Hoa Palace (Palace of Supreme Harmony), and the Forbidden Purple City.
After this you will enjoy a short walk through older parts of Hue, including a busy market located next to the river. Unlike Hanoi and Saigon, Hue’s lifestyle is much more relaxed, and your experience this late afternoon will be evidence of that. You are driven to your highly ranked hotel for check-in after the tour.
Day 4: Hue - Hoi An (B & L).
You will check-out and depart in the morning for the scenic 3.5-hour (approximately) drive to Hoi An. Some of this drive is through coastal fishing villages, and much of it is one of Southeast Asia’s most spectacular roads, where you straddle the Pacific Ocean with amazing views on one side, and lush green hills on the other.
At the highest point of the journey you will have a breathtaking view of the Pacific, and on the other side a gorgeous view of the modern city of Da Nang and its bay. You will drive through the outskirts of Da Nang as you head towards Hoi An,
and a brief photo opportunity stop will be at the beach zone that was a favorite for American soldiers during the Vietnam war, immortalized in the television series China Beach.
Arrive in Hoi An and there is a break for lunch, after which you will check-in at your top ranked boutique resort. Your resort is located a short walk from the ancient town, so that you can choose to walk there in the evenings and experience the lights and activity on your own. We are perplexed by tour operators who lodge their guests at cookie cutter ocean front resorts far away from Hoi An – the small ancient seaport is classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its reputation as the best-preserved ancient seaport in Southeast Asia. Our resorts location allows you to walk back to the UNESCO seaport at any time that you want, including to dine in one of the boutique riverfront restaurants, bars, and café’s. Unlike other tour operators, Easy Tours does not like to have our guests in the ancient town during the late morning and early afternoon as it gets really crowded and noisy due to a large influx of tourist bus groups from the Da Nang area casino hotels during this time. In the late afternoon you will enjoy an exploration of the ancient seaport with a walk through the Japanese and Chinese Quarters of the tiny town. One of the highlights is the much adorned and photographed Japanese Bridge. You will also visit a number of temples, pagodas, communal houses, traditional shops and other places of interest in the small town.
Day 5: Hoi An (B & L). My Son Sanctuary OR Jack Tran Rural Experience.
Today you have two options - you have to select one soon after you reserve your tour.
Option 1: My Son Sanctuary Excursion. Join your Tour Director for an excursion to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of My Son Sanctuary. These remarkable structures lie about an hour away from Hoi An, and the structures go back as far as the 4th Century. It is one of the most important examples of Hindu influence in Southeast Asia. Although largely in a state of ruin today, My Son is often compared with other historical temple complexes in Southeast Asia, such as Angkor Wat of Cambodia or Ayutthaya of Thailand. You'll be given a brief introduction to Cham history and culture, and its Hindu influence, and then will visit the remains of the carefully-crafted red brick temples replete with beautiful monuments and epitaphs.
Return to the Hoi An area and you will enjoy lunch at a local restaurant, after which you are dropped off at your boutique hotel.
Option 2: Jack Tran's Ecotours / Farming & Fishing Life.
Location: Local Farming & Fishing Villages
Departure Time: 8:00am
Duration: 6 hours - bicycle and Jack Tran's boat
This is a join-up tour that provides you with a close-up and intimate exposure to both the local farming and fishing communities. Your transportation to from and to your resort is facilitated by Jack Tran’s shared vans. Accompanied by a Jack Tran tour guide, you commence the day leisurely cycling along country roads witnessing local Vietnamese rural life first hand, discovering all manner of photo opportunities - coming and visiting a beautiful organic vegetable village, watering and planting vegetable, hoeing a soil with local farmer, riding a water buffalo in a rice paddy field; seeing ducks swimming along the rice farm or farmers tending their crops. The photo opportunities are endless. As well you will experience the friendliness of the local people greeting you along the way. Later you will board our Jack Tran's boat for a river cruise to meet and engage with local fishermen and enjoy a hands-on experience of traditional net fishing. You will also experience paddling the unique Vietnamese bamboo basket boat while the waterways of coconut palm paradise. This tour provides you with a cultural window into the ways of life of both our farming and fishing communities.
- You will be picked up at hotel by Jack Tran's guide and Jack Tran's driver on a mini-van and then you will be transferred to Jack Tran's bike station in the countryside to start your biking route
- Cycle to a local farming village traveling along picturesque country roads. If you don't wish to ride bicycles, please use our scooter "XE OM" services (a chauffeur driven scooter!) for a few extra dollars, payable on the spot
- Share in the daily work life of local farmers - hoeing and a soil, watering veggie at an organic herb garden, riding water buffalo in the field and enjoy the freshest air of the countryside beauty.
- Board the Jack Tran's boat and cruise to the mouth of the river where it meets the Cua Dai Sea
- Learn and try your hand at local traditional fishing techniques using round and cast nets
- Learn to paddle the strange and unique Vietnamese bamboo basket boats.
- Explore the now tranquil coconut-palm flanked waterways of a past war and hear of the extreme conditions endured by soldiers on both sides
- Back on-board our Jack Tran's boat, enjoy lunch and a cold beer or soft drink
Return to your hotel by Jack Tran's mini-van.
Day 6: Hoi An - DaNang - Saigon (B & L).
Check-out of your hotel in the morning and you are driven to Da Nang airport where you will board the noon flight to Saigon. Upon arrival, there is a break for a
late lunch, after which you will proceed directly into the countryside, north of the city toward your destination; Cu Chi. This area is famed for its elaborate network of over 200 kilometers of three-story underground tunnels hand-dug by local people during the Vietnam War. You have the option to experience climbing down into a tunnel and crawling around to get a taste of how the North Vietnamese lived during the latter part of the war. This excursion is a unique opportunity to see one of the most amazing aspects of the Vietnam War as you imagine years of people’s lives being lived underground. There are displays of weaponry that was used, as well life size statues of the North Vietnamese soldiers depicting the lives they lived.
You are driven back to Saigon where you are assisted with check-in to your highly ranked upscale hotel, located in District 1, which is downtown in the heart of the vibrant city of Saigon.
Located near the mouth of the Mekong, this city was once nothing more than swampland inhabited by a few Khmer people. Today it is Vietnam’s largest and most metropolitan city, with its new official name - Ho Chi Minh City. The city of over 9 million people is a prototypical large Asian city with an impressive modern skyline overlooking busy streets filled with motorbikes, culture and street food.
Day 7: Saigon - Siem Reap (B & L).
You will be assisted with your check-out from your hotel and then you proceed with a visit to the Reunification Palace. This was the headquarters of the United States supported South Vietnamese
government, and has been left largely as it appeared on the day the Viet Cong’s tanks crashed through the gate and claimed victory for the North. The original furniture, equipment rooms, and war rooms remain untouched, all the way down to the rotary phones on the desks and strategic maps on the walls. The large structure and it grounds, surrounded by the city, serve as a fascinating time warp back to the early 1970’s. Next, enjoy a visit to the beautiful colonial building housing the Central Post Office, with its amazing collection of almost a century old western telegraph, and other, machines. This is an active place of business, and the gorgeous antique interior includes wooden phone booths and counters that the locals will be standing at while buying services. There is a break for lunch.
After lunch you will enjoy a walk-through Saigon, including the famous shopping street of Dong Khoi. The walk starts at Notre Dame Cathedral and leads you to the Municipal Theater, after which you are driven to the airport to board your flight to Siem Reap. Saigon traffic is really bad to begin with, and this time of departure for the airport allows us to prevent the even worse rush hour. Bid farewell to your Vietnam Tour Director at the airport.
Arrive in Siem Reap. You are greeted at the airport by a Travel Facilitator and ushered to a chauffeur driven vehicle. You are then driven to your highly rated upscale hotel and assisted with your check-in.
Evening: Join your Cambodia Tour Director for a fascinating walk through the local night market and join throngs of tourists and locals as they shop for souvenirs and enjoy street food.
Day 8: Siem Reap (B & L).
Rising before dawn, proceed for your exploration of the Mother of all temples, Angkor Wat. Believed to be the world's largest religious building, this temple is the perfect fusion of symbolism and symmetry and a source of pride and strength to all Khmers. Built in the 12th century by King Suryavarman II, this is most famous temple at Angkor. Arrive at the monument as the sun rises and then proceed into the great structure to discover its intricacies, as described by your Tour Director. This is the best time to visit Angkor Wat because it is the least crowded during the early morning, and watching the sunrise over the awe-inspiring complex is an experience not to be missed.
After exploring Angkor Wat you are driven back to the hotel for breakfast and some time to freshen up. In the late morning you will explore the immense walled city of Angkor Thom, which was the masterpiece of King Jayavarman VII. Following the occupation of Angkor by the Chams from 1177 to 1181, the new king decided to build an impregnable fortress at the heart of his empire. The scale is simply staggering, and you will be awed by the achievement of King Jayavarman as you enter the city’s gates. The causeway is lined by an intricate bridge depicting the Churning of the Ocean of Milk from Hindu mythology in which the Devas (gods) and Asuras (devils) are engaged in tug of war with a Naga (seven-headed serpent) to obtain the elixir of immortality. Begin your visit at the Terrace of the Leper King.
This intricately carved platform was the royal crematorium and the statue that was originally thought to be the leper king is now believed to be Yama, the god of death.
We continue along the Terrace of Elephants, originally used as a viewing gallery for the king to preside over parades, performances and traditional sports. At the southern end lies the Baphuon, once of the most beautiful temples at Angkor, dating from the 11th century. It has undergone a massive renovation by the French and is now once again open for viewing.
Then proceed to the enigmatic and enchanting temple of the Bayon. At the exact center of Angkor Thom, this is an eccentric expression of the creative genius and inflated ego of Cambodia’s most celebrated king. Its 54 towers are each topped off with the four faces of Avalokiteshvara (Buddha of Compassion), all of which bear more than a passing resemblance to the king himself.
After lunch you will visit mystical Ta Prohm, which has been abandoned to the elements, a reminder that while empires rise and fall, the riotous power of nature marches on, oblivious to the dramas of human history. Left as it was discovered by French explorer Henri Mouhout in 1860, the tentacle-like tree roots here are slowly strangling the surviving stones, man first conquering nature to create, nature later conquering man to destroy. This was one of the settings for Lara Croft’s adventures in “Tomb Raider”.
Complete your exploration of this section of Angkor’s wealth of monuments with a visit to another temple that makes you feel like you have traveled back in time - Preah Khan. This large temple is left unrestored for the most part and is a fascinating maze of narrow passageways and windows that each offers their own unique view into the past.
Day 9: Siem Reap - Bangkok (B & L).
After an assisted check-out, join your Tour Director for a scenic 1.5-hour drive through the Cambodian countryside to the amazing temple complex of Beng Mealea. Arrive and start your exploration of this massive early 12th century complex. Although much of the area is in ruins, there is a lot that is still in good condition, and some of the trees and vegetation have intermingled with the structure to create a sight that is unmatched by other similar monuments in Southeast Asia. Due to its distance from Siem Reap, this surreal complex attracts significantly less tourists than Angkor Wat and the temples in the city of Angkor Thom.
From Beng Mealea you will head to the Banteay Srei Temple Complex, another one of the more amazing temple complexes
in all of Cambodia. Arrive at Banteay Srei and you will break for lunch. Although it attracts more visitors than Beng Mealea, it is still uncrowded when compared to the main complexes in the Siem Reap Region. Banteay Srei is another Cambodian temple dedicated to the Hindu God Shiva, and, at more than a thousand years of age, it is older than almost all of the more significant in the Siem Reap Region. Constructed from hard Red Sandstone, this complex is a study in detail - it is small when compared to the main complex’s structures in Siem Reap, or even the Beng Mealea Complex, but its intricacy of amazing original sculpture, especially the detailed figures of Hindi Gods and Goddesses, including voluptuous and beautiful Apsaras, has to be viewed so as to appreciate talent of the ancient artists that created this masterpiece. Some parts of this temple, more so than in other Angkor Region monuments, are replicas due to theft over the last few decades, before adequate protection was added. From Banteay Srei you will head to the Siem Reap airport, where you will be assisted in boarding your flight to Bangkok – bid farewell to your Cambodia Tour Director at the airport.
Arrive in Bangkok and you are greeted at the airport by your Thai Accompanying Tour Director and our staff, and ushered to a vehicle. You are then driven to your hotel for assisted check-in.
The giant metropolis of Bangkok is a fascinating blend of modern skyscrapers, congested traffic, beautiful and ornate Wats (temples), incredible street food, and a lot more. The colorful Thai culture and the easygoing local lifestyle make this unique city even more interesting.
Your highly rated hotel offers upscale accommodation, great dining options, including a large and diverse selection of delicious western and eastern breakfast options, and is located in the best area of Bangkok for tourism, a short walk to Bangkok’s heart, the iconic Chao Phraya River. An enviable advantage is your ability to walk straight from the hotel’s 3rd floor to the BTS station, Bangkok’s Metro and the fastest way to traverse the city.
Besides the excellent restaurants within the hotel, there are multiple dining options available, ranging from great street food to upscale dining, right outside your hotel. A 20-minute walk through safe and populated major streets will take you to the Patpong Night Market, with its infamous nightlife. There are a multitude of Thai 7 Elevens within a couple of minutes, where you can buy pretty much anything that you desire, ranging from snacks, drinks, local cell phones, sim cards, to a selection of western spirits.
Day 10: Bangkok (B & L).
Starting in the morning, you are assisted in boarding your boat and you will now enjoy the fascinating ride on the River of Kings to the Grand Palace complex, which has been the state residence of Thai royalty since 1782 and is still used for official events. Your Tour Director will show you some of the more interesting highlights of the complex. The collection of buildings serves as a nice introduction to Thai architecture and provides many great photo opportunities. Just one of the several stops you will make within the complex is Wat Phra Kaew, also known as the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. This is the most sacred Buddhist temple (wat) in all of Thailand.
Except for the Thai King, no other person is allowed to touch this statue. The King changes the statue’s cloak three times each year to correspond to the summer, winter, and rainy seasons.
Next, you will visit Wat Pho, known also as The Temple of the Reclining Buddha, adjacent to the Grand Palace. This large statue is 50 feet (15 meters) high and 140 feet (43 meters) long and is covered in gold leaf. The bottoms of the feet are inlaid with mother of pearl, divided into 108 panels depicting the 108 auspicious symbols used by the Buddha.
A colorful interlude during this morning’s exploration will be a walk-through Bangkok’s wholesale flower market, where millions of colorful displays are spread throughout. Flowers are an integral part of Thai society, and the plethora of fragrant colors amidst the extremely busy shops and stalls are a delight to experience.
After lunch you will enjoy an urban excursion by long-tailed boat to discover the canals of Thonburi. The people of Thailand, including the residents of Bangkok, have always lived a riparian lifestyle. You will explore the intricate network of canals, or Khlongs as you cruise past colorful homes and other structures. Unlike the tourist areas that you stay in with most tours, this adventure will offer great insights into how the locals live. You will see women washing clothes and utensils in the water, children swimming, locals throwing food to teeming schools of fish (considered a religious offering), and a lot more.
Stop at Baan Silapin
(Artists House), the beautifully decorated centuries-old structure on a residential canal, for a brief visit. This succession of buildings is a whimsical art gallery showcasing local creative talents. Your last stop in the canals will be a quick visit to the hidden Museum of Royal Barges, which houses a few of the ornately carved and painted barges used by Thai Royalty.
As you pull out of the canals into the river for your cruise back, you will enjoy great photo opportunities of beautiful Wat Arun (Temple of the Dawn), Bangkok’s iconic riverside monument.
Day 11: Bangkok (B & L).
Continue your exploration of Thailand with an excursion to a fascinating area located a little over an hour away to the southwest of Bangkok. As your first stop you will experience the famous Maeklong Railway Market,
locally known as the Umbrella Pulldown Market. This name is derived from the fact that the vendors spread their wares and awnings to cover the railroad tracks,
and then everything is pulled back upon a trains approach - your time here will be during one such train arrival. The market is one of the largest fresh seafood markets in Thailand and also sells a host of other local food specialties, as well as other goods, including clothing and souvenirs.
From here you will be driven to the seashore at Klong Khone, where you will be assisted in boarding your boat. Proceed on a calm cruise to your lunch destination, a seafood restaurant built on stilts on the water. There are other options for those not interested in fresh seafood.
After lunch you will enjoy a very unique experience as you cruise through the dense mangrove forests of Samut Songkhram. You will visit a charming oyster farm and will encounter the local monkeys that are expert swimmers, providing visitors with great photo opportunities. All this while you will be experiencing rural Thailand, cruising past remote villages as you experience one fascinating activity after another.
It is Easy Tours policy to do our best to avoid touristy experiences such as weaving villages (shopping stops), monk chats (talking to novice monks whose superiors want them to practice their English and get some donations) and other similar mass market experiences such as the over-crowded (mainly by Asian tourists) floating market of Damnoen Saduak. Instead, your next stop will be picturesque Amphawa Floating Market; the authentic Amphawa market is the perfect place to observe traditional Thai way of life. Wander through the wooden walkways of the market and imagine a time gone by. The Market was revived from an old market where fruit and vegetable growers used to trade their produce 50 years ago. There is an incredible variety of Thai food available, from fresh sea food to cut fruits to all sorts of fried street food, and the stalls at the bank of the river are peddling the unavoidable local souvenirs. The food boats are usually manned by colorfully attired Thai women, and the culinary options are charmingly well presented. After the floating market you will enjoy the scenic drive back to Bangkok.
Day 12: Bangkok - Chiang Mai (B & L).
You are assisted with check-out in the early morning and driven to the airport to board your flight to Chiang Mai. Arrive in Chiang Mai and you are greeted at the airport and driven to the city center.
Located on the Ping River, Chiang Mai
was once the capital of the Lanna Kingdom, which flourished in northern Thailand between the 12th - 15th centuries. The city is the second largest city in Thailand, and the cultural capital of the north. Possessing great natural beauty and a host of outdoor activities and parks on its outskirts, the city itself is a fascinating combination of unique architecture, ancient history with its associated rituals, and a modern metropolis. Chiang Mai is one of Asia’s best cities to explore on foot, with a bustling street food scene.
You will explore the historic walled city of Chiang Mai. Included are visits to some of the iconic old temples of ancient Chiang Mai, including Wat Phra Singh, Wat Chedi Luang and Wat Chiang Man. This tour demonstrates the architectural diversity and blending of styles that the Lanna were known for. It is also a great way to get familiar with the city, should you decide to go out during the evenings and explore. During the middle of the city tour there is a break for lunch.
In the late afternoon you will proceed on the short drive up to Doi Suthep, the hill on the edge of the city that dominates the Chiang Mai skyline. Once at the top, you
will find the 309 stairs up to Wat Phra That, which are flanked on each side by beautiful Nagas, which run the entire length of the stairs. You also have the option of taking a large elevator (which does usually have a line) up to the Wat. Once at the top, enjoy the spiritual ambience of one of Thailand’s most holy places, as well as some superb sunset views of the city. You will see devout Thai’s circling the main stupa in a ritualistic manner, and many others on their knees in deep prayer. Walk down the stairs and you are driven to your top rated small boutique resort and assisted with check-in. Your resort has among the best locations in the city on the riverfront in a quiet upscale area, yet only a 10 to 15-minute walk (or 5-minute tuk-tuk ride) to Chiang Mai’s famous night market, the area where there are scores of cafés, restaurants, and bars. It is a truly boutique property and widely recognized as one of the most charming accommodations in the city. Your view of the river is framed by a beautiful ancient tree on the resort grounds by the riverbank.
Chiang Mai has a great street market every night, but the best and largest one is on Sunday nights. Join your Tour Director this evening for an excursion to Chiang Mai’s most exciting and extensive night market. This market has a really fascinating street food scene and is another one of Southeast Asia’s amazing photo opportunities.
Day 13: Chiang Mai (B & L).
You have the option to either enjoy a full day excursion to the Doi Inthanon region (about 8 hours round-trip, with just under 4 hours of drive time), or experience one of Northern Thailand’s best Elephant Camps, which takes a total of about seven hours, including drive time. This decision needs to be made soon after you reserve you tour. You can also opt to spend the day on your own, enjoying your boutique resort and the charming city of Chiang Mai.
Doi Inthanon Excursion:
Proceed for a visit to the most photographed attractions in Northern Thailand, located in the Doi Inthanon region. You will also visit other major attractions inside Doi Inthanon National Park, which is a proudly protected area that is home to the highest mountain in Thailand, Doi Inthanon.
Doi Inthanon is a huge and superb national park full of majestic waterfalls, lush green valleys, terraced paddy fields, fruit, flower and vegetables crops, and ethnic communities living prosperous, free and happy in their natural environment. Once at the peak you will admire the views and then enjoy an easy trek through the mist laden virgin forest and be fascinated with the unique flora that is found here.
After a break for lunch, there will be two more not-to-be-missed experiences on your way back to Chiang Mai.
The subject of the most gorgeous and popular photos that travel journals and websites use for the Chiang Mai region are actually situated close to the peak of
Doi Inthanon. Phra Mahathat Naphamethanidon and Naphaphonphumisiri are two gorgeous and colorful Chedis, dedicated to the Beloved Late King and the Revered Queen, located in a magical spot with spectacular views. The immaculate terraced gardens with unbelievably beautiful flowers that surround the Chedis would be an attraction by themselves, but the massive and beautiful Chedis facing each other at the center of this breathtaking locale, make this a true treat for your eyes and your soul.
A fascinating stop as you head down the mountain is the Royal Projects Highway Market run by the Hill Tribes of the Doi Inthanon region. You will stop and walk around the outdoor stalls selling fruits, produce, nuts and other items organically grown by the simple and now prosperous tribal locals, some of whom will be dressed in their unique clothing. This market, its wares, and the tribal people that grow and sell here are a growing testament of the success of the Late King’s vision and efforts. In the 1960s, poppy fields were widespread in the mountains of Northern Thailand, and hill tribe villagers were working as laborers for opium producers and smugglers. King Bhumibol (Rama IX) initiated drastic reforms in the region to put an end to it. It was the beginning of the ‘Royal Projects’. These projects were highly profitable to the whole region and to the ethnic communities who were literally slaves of the drug barons and addicts to opium.
The Hill Tribes were given land to cultivate, provided with free seeds, tools, and all kinds of resources to make them succeed in becoming successful natural farmers. Now, over half a century later, the results of the Late King’s vision have brought happiness to everyone involved. Arrive back in Chiang Mai in the early evening.
Elephant Sanctuary (No Elephant Riding).
You are picked up by the Elephant Camp staff after an early breakfast and driven out to the mountains to enjoy some time with Thailand’s iconic animal – the elephant. You will be spending the day at one of the finest elephant camps in Northern Thailand and taking part in a hands-on experience that will allow you to truly interact with these majestic animals. Baanchang Camp stopped offering Elephant Riding a while back, and even when they did offer that activity, they never used cages for riding. The “Elephant Da
y Care” is an interactive and personalized program that aims to spread knowledge about elephant conservation efforts while creating a unique and special experience for everyone who joins.
The Elephant Sanctuary experience is orchestrated by the camp operator and you will be picked up by the camp operator’s vehicles along with other participants from local hotels, and be joined by others while interacting with the gentle giants.
The schedule, as per the camp operator, is as follows:
Arrive at Baan Chang Elephant Park, change into traditional clothing.
Prepare fruits for the elephants and meet the elephants. Feeding, roaming, touching, and playing with elephants.
12:00 pm Lunch
1:00 pm Prepare and cook sticky rice in order to be mixed with herbal stuff for the elephants. Learn about the background, health care and behavior of elephants.
2:00 pm Enjoy more time roaming, feeding and taking the elephants for a walk to a clean water pond where they will cool themselves off and you will have a chance to observe and join them in bathing as well. Feed sticky rice balls and fruits to the elephants.
This part is focused on taking your time and allowing the elephants to enjoy each moment of their freedom, scratching, rubbing, and throwing dirt on their backs, an activity that is good for their skin.
** Tea and coffee break.
Visit and play with the baby elephants in the Nursery Zone.
At about 3 PM you will join other experience participants and be driven to your Chiang Mai resort, arriving at about 4 PM.
Day 14: Chiang Mai - Chiang Rai (B & L).
You are assisted with your check-out from your hotel and now you will enjoy the scenic drive to Chiang Rai. Arrive at the outskirts of Chiang Rai and there is a break for lunch, after which you will visit a monument that is nothing like anything you have ever seen before, Wat Rong Khun,
also known as the White Temple. This striking modern creation of a famous local architect is extremely ornate and beautiful in its design, and also houses an impressive array of intricate sculptures. This is the attraction that gets the most visitors in the Chiang Rai region and for good reason - it is strikingly different from any other monument in Southeast Asia.
From here you are driven to your resort
and assisted with check-in. The city of Chiang Rai has no upscale hotels within its boundaries, and your hotel is the closest upscale lodging to the old city and its attractions. Your room has an enviable view of the lush and hilly Chiang Rai region, including the beautiful river than runs right next to your resort. Unlike Bangkok and Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai city itself does not offer a lot of attractions. It is what is around it that is most charming. The Peak Wine & Grill at your resort is the highest restaurant in Chiang Rai and offers spectacular views of the river, mountains, and countryside, with a sunset that has to be experienced to be believed.
Thailand’s northernmost city was once the capital of the Lanna Kingdom, and today is the commercial center of the Golden Triangle region. The mountainous region of the north has been significantly influenced by Burmese and Chinese culture due to its proximity to those nations. The culture, language, and food, even the physical appearance of the local Lanna descendants, all stand in subtle contrast to the rest of Thailand.
proceed on a tour of Chiang Rai. A much smaller city than Chiang Mai, this northern outpost has a slower pace and a markedly laid-back feel. Its rural surroundings are showcased by the fact that, during your exploration of the city, you will come across a number of visitors from rural ethnic tribes, in town to buy and sell goods.
The tour starts with a visit to the original Wat Phra Khew,
which was home to the precious Emerald Buddha statue before it was moved to Bangkok. With a known history going back about 700 years, this is one of Northern Thailand’s most revered Buddhist pilgrimage destinations. The beautiful temple complex is housed in gorgeous gardens with orchids and other blooming flora and is less crowded as compared to Bangkok and Chiang Mai’s main temples. Photography of the replica Emerald Buddha is permitted, unlike in Bangkok, and the architecture of the temple, and the quality of the craftsmanship of the statues inside, especially the massive 7 century old brass and copper statue of Lord Buddha in the main chapel, is outstanding.
From the wat you will board rickshaws and explore a busy market area, and then you are driven back to your resort at the end of the day.
Day 15: Chiang Rai (B & L). Golden Triangle Excursion.
Continue your exploration of Northern Thailand with a drive to the ancient region of Chiang Saen. Located along the banks of the Mekong River, the once great city here was the capital of the Lanna Kingdom during the 12th and early 13th centuries, before Chiang Rai took its place. Now all that remains is a sleepy riverside town with some well-preserved remnants amongst beautiful teak and banyan trees. Here you will be assisted in boarding your boat for a cruise along the upper Mekong River toward Sop Ruak and the exact coordinates of the Golden Triangle. This is the spot where the countries of Thailand, Laos, and Burma meet. This notorious piece of real estate was once the location for the production of most of the world’s opium. Disembark from the boat and you are driven to the hilltop viewing site where you can clearly see the spot where the three nations meet at the confluence of two rivers. There is also a large golden Buddha image which gazes out over the Mekong.
After lunch you will proceed on a very short drive to the fascinating Hall of Opium. This is a first class museum and interactive exhibit, dedicated to teaching visitors about every aspect of the poppy and its derivative. This informative exhibit shows opium’s effects on the human bo
dy and its profound influence on human history. Even those who usually do not like museums are always intrigued by this place, and it only requires a short visit.
From here you proceed for a scenic drive to a group of rural villages in the hills near Chiang Rai.
Hill Tribes and today’s reality - many travel companies continue to paint a picture of the unique traditional clothing, jewelry and lifestyles of Southeast Asia’s hill tribes as if these have remained unchanged over the last few decades. The truth is quite the opposite. The hill tribes were an integral part of poppy farming for a long time, and supported themselves and their unique lifestyles through its cultivation. As mentioned during your Doi Inthanon excursion in Chiang Mai, about five decades ago the revered late King of Thailand decided to end the drug trade in this region issuing a series of Royal Proclamations and Royal Projects to uplift and empower the tribal people. His goal was to provide them with alternative livelihoods and education for their children so that they could assimilate into the rest of Thailand’s population. Although some still live in their villages and farm, their lifestyles have changed; they dress like other Thai people do, practice modern cultivation methods, live in brick and mortar houses, speak the Thai dialect that is local to their region, ride motorbikes and drive pickup trucks as part of their daily routine.
There are a handful of locales where the tribal communities have been somewhat preserved in their original form with support from government funded agencies whose goal is to provide the few who do not want to change a place to live, while also making them self-sufficient. Easy Tours guests visit one of the better such villages, located near Chiang Rai. During this excursion, you will pay a visit to the Kiran (longneck), Akka, Lahu, and Yao tribes. Your Tour Director will introduce you to some of the villagers and explain the origins and customs of these unique tribal peoples. These villagers still honor their heritage by dressing in the vibrant and colorful garments unique to their people. The entry fees to this set of villages supports the hill tribe residents of the village, and the tribal residents also offer hand crafted items for sale, although they are not the least bit aggressive in pushing their wares. A few reviews condemn these village tours as being degrading to the tribal people, but the reality is that this is still the best way for them to earn a living, without completely changing their lifestyles. You are driven back to Chiang Rai after walking through the villages.
Day 16: Chiang Rai - Bangkok - International Flight (B & L).
You are assisted with your check-out at 10 AM and driven to Wat Huay Pla Klang. Guests who require an early flight out of Chiang Rai so as to connect with an international flight will be booked on a morning Bangkok to Chiang Rai flight and be driven directly to the airport in the morning.
The massive white statue next to Wat Huay Pla Klang, visible from many places in the Chiang Rai valley, is often mistaken as a statue of Lord Buddha; it is actually the Goddess of Mercy who is represented here. This strikingly scenic
hilltop location is home to one of the most beautiful pagodas in Thailand, although it is of fairly recent construction. The nine storied pagoda has ornate decorations, and you can walk up to the top of the structure on a staircase inside it, where you are rewarded with spectacular views of the colorful surrounding monuments, gardens, and the Chiang Rai countryside.
You will then enjoy your last meal in the Chiang Rai region.
After lunch you are driven to Chiang Rai airport where you will board your flight to Bangkok.
Arrive at Bangkok Airport in the early evening. Please note that international flights have check-in requirements that require you to be at their check-in counter approximately 2.5 to 3 hours (for coach), and 2 hours for premier classes, before that flight departs. Please also allow for unexpected delays on the flight from Chiang Rai to Bangkok.
We strongly recommend that travelers who book their own international flights use caution and not book a flight that departs before 11 PM on this day, or, upon request, we can alter your touring in Chiang Rai to get you fly to Bangkok earlier.
If you used Easy Tours services for your international flights, we will factor the above when recommending flights to you.
If your flights timing requires an extended period at the airport, a stay at the only hotel connected to Bangkok Airport, the upscale Novotel Suvarnabhumi Airport, can be added during the reservation process.
Our services end at the Chiang Rai airport.