Royal Kingdoms and the Gulf of Thailand

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24 days, from £2798
Saga
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Description

Tuk-tuks, temples and tropical islands

From Emerald Buddhas and tea plantations in Chiang Rai to the ornately decorated monasteries of Nan, you'll walk in the footsteps of royalty on this tantalising Thai tour. Discover Sukhothai's 'Grand Canyon', Bangkok's bustling flower market, and find perfect paradise on the beaches of Hua Hin, Koh Phangan and Koh Samui.

Including...

22
nights in hotels and 2 in flight

47
meals: 22 breakfasts (B), 14 lunches (L) and 11 dinners (D) (43 meals for 2018 departures)

Free bar
12 hours daily at Nishaville Resort and Spa, and Samui Palm Beach Resort (2017 departures only) - VIP door-to-door travel service
- Return flights and transfers
- Optional travel insurance and additional cancellation rights, or a reduction if not required
- Saga tour manager
- Welcome drink reception
- Porterage at all hotels

Excursions and visits
- City tour of Chiang Rai
- Visit to a tea plantation
- Hill tribe visit
- Wat Rong Khun - The White Temple
- Kwan Phayao Lake
- Tung Hong Village
- Nan National Museum
- Wat Phra That Chae Haeng temple
- Phae Mueang Phi - The Grand Canyon
- Wat Phra That Suthon Mongkhon Khiri temple
- Sukhothai Historical Park
- Wat Tha Sung temple
- Bangkok's Flower Market
- Bangkok's Grand Palace
- City tour of Bangkok

2017 only
- Farewell dinner at the Blue Elephant restaurant
- Travel a section of the POW Railway
- Visit the temples and palaces of Phetchaburi and Hua Hin
- Afternoon tea in the former Railway Hotel, Hua Hin
- Two river tours
- See the Kuan Yin shrine in Koh Phangan
- Tour Koh Samui and see the Big Buddha

2018 only
- Visit UNESCO-listed Ayutthaya
- Visit Mae Klong Railway Market
- Kanchanaburi and the Bridge over the River Kwai
- Visit the Thailand-Burma Railway Centre
- Scenic rail journey across Wang Po viaduct
- Afternoon tea in the former Railway Hotel, Hua Hin
- Seafood lunch at Pranburi
- Visit to a pineapple plantation
- Tour into the mountains of Koh Phangan

Itinerary


 Day 1 UK-Chiang Rai

After taking Saga's included UK door-to-door travel service to your departure airport, fly overnight to Thailand, often referred to as 'The Land of Smiles'.


 Day 2 Chiang Rai

Arrive and check into the Dusit Island Resort Chiang Rai (4Q), where you stay three nights. Enjoy dinner at your hotel. D


 Day 3 Chiang Rai

Spend the morning at leisure enjoying the hotel's facilities. In the afternoon, take a short orientation tour of Chiang Rai city. Soak up the welcoming atmosphere of the city, passing the glistening clock tower recently built by Thai national artist, Chalemchai Kasitpipat. Afterwards, visit the local market to witness every day Thai life. Continue on to visit Wat Phra Kaew, a temple that housed the original Emerald Buddha during the 13th century. B


 Day 4 Chiang Rai

This morning we drive to Doi Wawee, a long-established Chinese community in the northern part of Thailand. Here, tea drinking is an important part of the culture and the process of planting tea has been taught through generations. Walk through one of the tea plantations where you will have hands-on experience of tea leaf picking and be able to chat with tea growers and learn more about the different qualities of tea leaves. Continue to a production factory to see the tea-drying process, enjoy a tasting and the opportunity to buy some Thai tea products. After lunch at a local Chinese restaurant, drive to Wawi town for a brief walk through the local market, followed by a visit to a hill tribe village. B, L


 Day 5 Chiang Rai-Phayao-Nan

Drive to Phayao, stopping en route at Wat Rong Khun, the 'White Temple' and Phayao Lake. Continue to Nan where you stay two nights at the Sasidara Resort (3Q) B, L D


 Day 6 Nan

Begin the day with a city tour of Nan and its National Museum, featuring exhibits on Nan history and architecture, along with Thai silverwork and tribal costumes. Afterwards, drive to Wat Phumin monastery to admire its beautiful wood-carved doors, followed by Wat Phra That Chae Haeng temple, boasting a 55-metre high golden chedi containing a holy relic. After lunch at a local restaurant, return to the hotel for some free time.B, L


 Day 7 Nan-Phrae-Sukhothai

Head to Sukhothai, stopping at Phae Mueang Phi - the 'Grand Canyon' of Thailand. Continue to ancient Phrae and Tung Hong Village, known for its production of morhom fabric. After lunch visit Wat Phra That Suthon Mongkhon Khiri temple with its 86 metre-long reclining Buddha. Afterwards, perhaps join an optional visit to Wat Chang Lom for a cocktail under its chedi. Stay the next two nights at The Legendha Sukhothai Resort (4Q). B, L, D


 Day 8 Sukhothai

This morning take a trip to Sukhothai Historical park, capital of Thailand's first kingdom. It is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site due to its historical significance and can easily be explored by tram or on foot. After lunch at a local restaurant, enjoy further free time in the park. B, L


 Day 9 Sukhothai-Uthai Thani-Bangkok

If you're up early enough, perhaps visit a local market before returning to the hotel to check out. Depart for Bangkok, stopping at Uthai Thani en route where you can visit Wat Tha Sung temple with its spectacular 'Crystal Hall'. After lunch at a local restaurant, continue to Bangkok, arriving early evening at The Ramada Plaza Menam Riverside hotel (4Q) where you'll spend the following six nights. B, L


 Day 10 Bangkok

This morning pay a visit to Pak Klong Talad, the 'Flower Market', by long-tailed boat from the hotel pier to Yodpiman pier. Afterwards continue on to the Grand Palace, a beautiful ancient Siamese court, formerly the residence of Bangkok kings. There are magnificent buildings to explore here, including the Emerald Buddha Temple. Make the most of free time to explore the city this afternoon. B


 Day 11 Bangkok

Spend today at leisure exploring Bangkok and afterwards enjoy dinner at the Blue Elephant restaurant, an elegant yet traditional Thai dining experience. B, D


 Day 12 Bangkok

Enjoy another day at leisure; perhaps take advantage of the hotel's facilities and take a dip in the outdoor pool or treat yourself to a massage at the spa. Enjoy dinner at the hotel this evening. B, D


 Day 13 Bangkok

Spend this morning at leisure or perhaps join another included tour of the city to explore Chinatown and visit Wat Mangkon Kamalawat, the largest Chinese Buddhist temple in Bangkok. Sample some Thai delicacies over lunch in a local restaurant, then visit the Italianate marble Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall, now a museum.The rest of the day is at leisure. Later you might like to join an optional evening cruise on the Grand Pearl along the Chao-Phraya river to see the city and its great palaces and temples illuminated in a blaze of colour. B, L


 Day 14 Ayutthaya

Visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Ayutthaya. This once prosperous capital is now partially in ruins but there is still much to admire here. You'll visit the monastery, Wat Phra Sri Sanphet, and the large chedi (dome-shaped Buddhist shrine) at Wat Yai Chai Mongkol. Continue to Wat Mahathad with its iconic and much-photographed Buddha head in the tangled roots of a tree. A boat trip takes you to Bang Pa-In Palace, the 17th-century former Royal Summer Residence, to see fine examples of Thai architecture. Lunch is included at a riverside restaurant. B, L


 Day 15 Bangkok to Kanchanaburi

Depart Bangkok this morning for Mahachai, home to one of the biggest seafood piers in the Gulf of Thailand, and stroll along the river to watch fishermen unload their catch. Visit Mae Khlong Railway Market where the train passes right between the stalls, causing the vendors to lower their awnings swiftly! Your tour continues to Kanchanaburi famous for the bridge over the River Kwai. After lunch, you can explore the poignant interactive Thailand-Burma Railway Centre before visiting two well-kept war cemeteries. These contain the graves of an estimated 9000 allied soldiers who lost their lives building the bridge and the notorious 'Death Railway' which the Japanese had hoped to stretch to the Burmese (Myanmar) border. Stay two nights at the Felix River Kwai Resort (3Q), on the bank of the Rver Kwai. B, L


 Day 16 Kanchanaburi

Spend the morning at leisure. After lunch, board the local train for a scenic 45-minute train ride alongside the river and across the wooden Wang Pho Viaduct, which clings to a cliff face and was the stretch where most fatalities occurred during construction. Afterwards, you'll visit Prasart Muang Singh Historical Park, an ancient Khmer sanctuary built between 857 and 1157 but later abandoned. Restoration work has revealed some of the structures including the main shrine, the 'Tower of the City of Lions'. B, L


 Day 17 Kanchanaburi to Hua Hin

Leave Kanchanaburi for the beach resort of Hua Hin. En route, pause at one of Thailand's oldest settlements - Phetchaburi. Here you can see many palaces that attest to its royal past, and lively temples including Wat Mahathat. Lunch is included in a local restaurant. Afterwards you'll learn about the Royal Project of Hubkrapong, a community farm where local farmers can learn sustainable methods of food production. Continue to Hua Hin, where you'll spend two nights at the Amari Hua Hin Hotel. (4Q). B, L


 Day 18 Hua Hin

There's plenty to discover here in Thailand's oldest beach resort on the Gulf of Thailand. Originally a fishing village, it was after the Thai royal family built summer palaces here and the railway arrived in the 1920s that visitors started flocking to the coast. Now its a fashionable modern resort, but with some unique architecture. The royal summer residence Maruekhathaiyawan Palace with its many verandahs was built in the 1920s from special golden teak wood, while the historic Hua Hin Railway Station features traditional Thai architecture that takes on a slightly Victorian feel thanks to its brightly painted facade. In the afternoon, indulge in an elegant afternoon tea in the colonial recesses of the former Railway Hotel. To see a different side of this charming town, join an optional evening rickshaw ride. B


 Day 19 Hua Hin to Prachuap Khiri Khan

Today, travel even further south stopping along the way at the sleepy fishing village of Pranburi for a delectable seafood lunch and visit to a pineapple plantation. Feel the wind in your hair during a boat ride along the lush mangrove-lined river of Pranburi before continuing to the NishaVille Resort and Spa (4Q) in Prachuap Khiri Khan, where you'll spend the next two nights. This contemporary beachfront resort offers bright and airy suites perfectly designed for a peaceful hideaway. B, L, D


 Day 20 Prachuap Khiri Khan

At leisure. Perhaps head to the beach or pool, or treat yourself to a pampering treatment at the resort's onsite spa. Or head out on an optional excursion. B, D


 Day 21 Prachuap Khiri Khan to Koh Phangan

Bid farewell to the relaxed charm of Prachuap Khiri Khan and transfer by catamaran to the blissful island of Koh Phangan. A packed lunch will be served on board the catamaran. On arrival at Koh Phangan you'll check into the Buri Rasa Resort (4Q) for a three-night stay B


 Day 22 Koh Phangan

While Koh Phangan's beaches are legendary, its jungle-covered mountains are just as alluring. Today, head out on an organised half-day excursion into the mountains to learn how local villagers harvest coconuts to sell to the mainland. You'll also visit the beautiful Kuan Yin Shrine, an ornate Chinese temple set and striking island landmark set high in the hills. B


 Day 23 Koh Phangan

The day is at leisure. Stretch out on the beach or stroll through the shallows. If you'd like to venture further afield it's about a 15-minute walk to the lovely Than Prawet Waterfall. B, D


 Day 24 Koh Phangan to Bangkok to UK

In the morning, take a short catamaran transfer to the nearby island of Koh Samui. Transfer to the airport for your flight to Bangkok and on to the UK. B


 Day 25 UK

On arrival at the airport take your included UK door-to-door travel service home.


 Day 1 UK-Chiang Rai

After taking Saga's included UK door-to-door travel service to your departure airport, fly overnight to Thailand, often referred to as 'The Land of Smiles'.


 Day 2 Chiang Rai

Arrive and check into the Dusit Island Resort Chiang Rai (4Q), where you stay three nights. Enjoy dinner at your hotel. D


 Day 3 Chiang Rai

Spend the morning at leisure enjoying the hotel's facilities. In the afternoon, take a short orientation tour of Chiang Rai city. Soak up the welcoming atmosphere of the city, passing the glistening clock tower recently built by Thai national artist, Chalemchai Kasitpipat. Afterwards, visit the local market to witness every day Thai life. Continue on to visit Wat Phra Kaew, a temple that housed the original Emerald Buddha during the 13th century. B


 Day 4 Chiang Rai

This morning we drive to Doi Wawee, a long-established Chinese community in the northern part of Thailand. Here, tea drinking is an important part of the culture and the process of planting tea has been taught through generations. Walk through one of the tea plantations where you will have hands-on experience of tea leaf picking and be able to chat with tea growers and learn more about the different qualities of tea leaves. Continue to a production factory to see the tea-drying process, enjoy a tasting and the opportunity to buy some Thai tea products. After lunch at a local Chinese restaurant, drive to Wawi town for a brief walk through the local market, followed by a visit to a hill tribe village. B, L


 Day 5 Chiang Rai-Phayao-Phrae-Nan

Drive to Phayao, stopping en route at Wat Rong Khun, the 'White Temple' and Phayao Lake. Continue to Nan where you stay two nights at the Sasidara Resort (3Q) B, L D


 Day 6 Nan

Begin the day with a city tour of Nan and its National Museum, featuring exhibits on Nan history and architecture, along with Thai silverwork and tribal costumes. Afterwards, drive to Wat Phumin monastery to admire its beautiful wood-carved doors, followed by Wat Phra That Chae Haeng temple, boasting a 55-metre high golden chedi containing a holy relic. After lunch at a local restaurant, return to the hotel for some free time.B, L


 Day 7 Nan-Phrae-Sukhothai

Leave Nan and head to Sukhothai, stopping at Phae Mueang Phi along the way, otherwise known as the 'Grand Canyon' of Thailand. Enjoy lunch at a local restaurant, then visit Wat Phra That Suthon Mongkhon Khiri temple with its 86 metre-long reclining Buddha. Enjoy dinner at The Legendha Sukhothai Resort (4Q) where you'll stay for the next two nights.B, L, D


 Day 8 Sukhothai

This morning take a trip to Sukhothai Historical park, capital of Thailand's first kingdom. It is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site due to its historical significance and can easily be explored by tram or on foot. After lunch at a local restaurant, enjoy further free time in the park. B, L


 Day 9 Sukhothai-Uthai Thani-Bangkok

If you're up early enough, perhaps visit a local market before returning to the hotel to check out. Depart for Bangkok, stopping at Uthai Thani en route where you can visit Wat Tha Sung temple with its spectacular 'Crystal Hall'. After lunch at a local restaurant, continue to Bangkok, arriving early evening at The Ramada Plaza Menam Riverside hotel (4Q) where you'll spend the following five nights.B, L


 Day 10 Bangkok

This morning pay a visit to Pak Klong Talad, the 'Flower Market', by long-tailed boat from the hotel pier to Yodpiman pier. Afterwards continue on to the Grand Palace, a beautiful ancient Siamese court, formerly the residence of Bangkok kings. There are magnificent buildings to explore here, including the Emerald Buddha Temple. Make the most of free time to explore the city this afternoon. B


 Day 11 Bangkok

Spend today at leisure exploring Bangkok and afterwards enjoy dinner at the Blue Elephant restaurant, an elegant yet traditional Thai dining experience. B, D


 Day 12 Bangkok

Enjoy another day at leisure; perhaps take advantage of the hotel's facilities and take a dip in the outdoor pool or treat yourself to a massage at the spa. Enjoy dinner at the hotel this evening. B, D


 Day 13 Bangkok

Spend this morning at leisure or perhaps join another included tour of the city, sailing by boat from the hotel pier to explore Chinatown and visit Wat Mangkon Kamalawat, the largest Chinese Buddhist temple in Bangkok. Sample some Thai delicacies over lunch in a local restaurant, then visit the Italianate marble Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall, now a museum. The rest of the day is at leisure. Later you might like to join an optional evening cruise on the Grand Pearl along the Chao-Phraya river to see the city and its great palaces and temples illuminated in a blaze of colour. B, L


 Day 14 Bangkok to The River Kwai to Kanchanaburi.

Today you'll learn the haunting story of the 'Death Railway', immortalised in the film Bridge on the River Kwai. Visit the War Museum, a POW cemetery and travel part of the route by train. Stay one night at the Felix River Kwai Resort (3Q) which lies on the riverbank, close to the bridge. B, L


 Day 15 Kanchanaburi to Phetchaburi to Hua Hin

Today you'll head for the beach resort of Hua Hin. Stop at Phetchaburi, one of Thailand's oldest settlements en route. The area is dominated by the former royal palace and temples of King Mongkut, then Siamese ruler of The King and I fame. See the Khmer architecture at Wat Mahathat, a monastery at Phetchaburi. Stop for lunch in a local restaurant and later learn about the Royal Project of Hubkrapong, which aims to help local farmers. Enjoy a two-night stay at the Amari Hua Hin Hotel (4Q). B, L, D


 Day 16 Hua Hin

Thailand's first beach resort, historically favoured by the country's royalty, has many whimsical buildings; see the sugar-almond tones of the Maruekhathaiyawan Palace; visit the royal railway station and look forward to afternoon tea in the elegant, colonial recesses of the former Railway Hotel on today's tour. Maybe join an optional evening rickshaw ride around Hua Hin. B


 Day 17 Hua Hin to Prachuap Khiri Khan

Travel south, stopping en route at the fishing village of Pranburi for a seafood lunch and a visit to a pineapple plantation. Enjoy a boat ride along the mangrove river of Pranburi back to the village. Continue to the Nishaville Resort and Spa (4Q) for a two-night stay. The hotel's free bar is open 12 hours daily. B, L, D


 Day 18 Prachuap Khiri Khan.

Today is at leisure. You might like to join an optional excursion to see Wat Tang Sai Temple, a magnificent Buddhist temple, which lies on Thongchai mountain, and to visit the Dan Singkhon Border - Thailand's narrowest point and the checkpoint into Burma - where there is a large market. B, L, D


 Day 19 Prachuap Khiri Khan to Chumphon to Koh Phangan

Transfer by catamaran to the beautiful island of Koh Phangan. Stay three nights at the Buri Rasa Resort (4Q). B, L,D


 Day 20 Koh Phangan

Today you can enjoy an included half day excursion into the mountains to see how villagers peel and dry coconuts to sell to the mainland. You'll also visit the Kuan Yin Shrine, a beautiful, ornate Chinese temple set high in the mountains and now an island landmark. B


 Day 21 Koh Phangan

Spend today at leisure. B


 Day 22 Koh Phangan to Koh Samui

This morning, a short transfer by catamaran takes you to nearby Koh Samui, Thailand's third largest island. Travel to the Samui Palm Beach Resort (4Q), with its 270m long beachfront. You'll stay two nights on an all-inclusive basis; the hotel's free bar is open 12 hours daily. The afternoon is at leisure. B, L, D


 Day 23 Koh Samui

Visit island attractions including 'Big Buddha', the scenic viewpoint of Grand Ma and Grand Pa rocks, Namuang waterfall, Na Thon town and Wat Khunaram temple on an included tour. The afternoon is at leisure and dinner this evening is at the hotel. B, L, D


 Day 24 Koh Samui to UK

Transfer to the airport for your flight back to the UK via Bangkok. On arrival at the airport take your included UK door-to-door travel service home. B