Day 1 - UK to Bangkok
Depart on your overnight flight to Bangkok, arriving on day 2.
Day 2 - Bangkok
We'll arrive in Bangkok this morning and transfer to our hotel for a three-night stay. There's plenty of time to relax at leisure this afternoon, before we get to know one another better over dinner at the hotel this evening. Later we'll head out to discover the delights of Bangkok at night. Travelling by tuk-tuk we'll soak up the atmosphere and aromas of the city's streets and see famous landmarks including the spectacular Grand Palace, the Wat Pho temple and Sanam Luang Park, also known as the Royal Field.
Day 3 - Bangkok
Situated on the Chao Phraya River, Bangkok is Thailand's exciting capital and we'll see many of its highlights on today's included sightseeing tour. We begin with a visit to Wat Pho, one of the city's largest temple complexes and home to a leading school of massage. We'll hear the morning chant of the saffron-robed Buddhist monks and see the 46-metre-long golden reclining Buddha. Next we'll head to the magnificent Grand Palace, Bangkok's most famous landmark and for 150 years the home of the Thai kings, the Royal court and the government. Within its grounds we'll see the sacred Wat Phra Kaew, the temple containing the Emerald Buddha, a small revered image carved from a single piece of jade.
After lunch we'll take things at a slightly slower pace as we step aboard a long-tail boat for a cruise on the Thonburi klongs. Thonburi is the old capital of Bangkok and on our journey along the klongs, or canals, we'll see traditional wooden townhouses and local people going about their daily life. Along the way we'll visit the Royal Barges National Museum and you can admire the stunning exterior of the Wat Arun temple with its majestic spires rising from the water's edge.
This evening we'll gather together and enjoy dinner at an authentic Thai restaurant. We'll be able to sample a variety of local dishes and afterwards we'll enjoy a performance of Thai classical dances.
Day 4 - Ayutthaya
After breakfast this morning we'll begin our explorations at the beautiful Bang Pa-In Palace, which was once a royal summer residence. We'll then continue on to the UNESCO-listed ruins of Ayutthaya. Once a wealthy and glittering city, this was the capital of Siam between 1350 and 1767. It fell to the Burmese army in 1767 and was all but abandoned when the capital was transferred to present-day Bangkok. We'll take a stroll around Ayutthaya's impressive remains which include a head of Buddha embedded in a tree trunk surrounded by tangled roots. Lunch is included at a restaurant today.
Day 5 - Phitsanulok
We'll depart Bangkok after breakfast and drive to Phitsanulok, one of Thailand's most historic cities. En route we'll make a stop at Uthai Thani to enjoy lunch on board a boat. On arrival in Phitsanulok we'll visit the 14th century Wat Yai, a stunning temple which houses a bronze statue of Buddha and an array of decorative features.
After checking into our hotel, we will meet with our fellow travelling companions for dinner this evening at the hotel.
Day 6 - Sukhothai/Phrae
Our journey continues today as we drive to the ancient city of Sukhothai, which flourished during the 13th and 14th centuries. This walled city was the birthplace of some of Thailand's finest art and architecture, and as we explore the UNESCO-listed site we'll discover magnificent Buddha images, wall paintings and beautifully carved elephants supporting a towering stupa. Next we'll meet a local history expert to learn about the heritage and traditions that live on in this area, before we sample Sukhothai noodles – rice noodles served in a broth, usually with meat and green beans – for lunch.
This afternoon we'll drive to Phrae, a friendly and charming city famous for its old wooden buildings and attractive temples. This evening dinner will be served at Vongburi House, an intriguing teak building which is decorated with ornate balconies, doors and windows and furnished with antiques from the 19th century. The owner of the house will prepare some of her favourite local dishes for us to try.
Day 7 - Chiang Mai
This morning we'll experience everyday life in a Thai town when we step aboard cyclos, three-wheeled bicycle taxis, for a tour of Phrae – once an important trading post for teak wood. We'll visit local homes and call at workshops to see how handicrafts such as woven hats and wood carvings are made.
Later we'll learn all about the traditional dyeing process known as Mo Hom, where we visit a workshop in a nearby village and then we will transfer to the historic and colourful city of Chiang Mai for a three-night stay. Upon arrival you'll have some time to relax at leisure and dinner will be served at the hotel this evening.
Day 8 - Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai was once the capital city of the Lanna Kingdom, which covered much of northern Thailand in the late 13th century. Today we'll visit a local family to learn about Lanna traditions which live on to this very day. The family will be happy to tell you all about local architecture, handicrafts and food, and after we've explored the traditional houses and gardens we'll enjoy a meal cooked over a fire.
This afternoon we'll take the winding road up to the sacred temple of Doi Suthep. Considered to be the most important temple in Chiang Mai, it sits on a hilltop overlooking the city below. En route we'll stop at Wat Palat, a peaceful temple tucked away in the jungle and surrounded by hills, forest paths, shrines and a tumbling waterfall. When we reach Doi Suthep there will be plenty of time to explore this intriguing site and we'll get an insight into the importance of religion in Thai society at a private monk blessing ceremony.
This evening has been left free for you to dine at leisure. Why not head out with your travelling companions and sample the delicacies on offer at one of Chiang Mai's outstanding eateries.
Day 9 - Chiang Mai
Today we will spend the day at the Elephant Nature Park, a rescue and rehabilitation centre which has cared for dozens of vulnerable elephants. Here we will hear touching stories about the rescued animals and will learn more about how the park is helping to protect them. If you wish, there will be an opportunity to feed and bathe the animals as they splash around in the river – so it's probably a good idea to bring your swimming costume and maybe a change of clothes.
Day 10 - Cha-Am
After breakfast we'll transfer to Chiang Mai airport for our internal flight back to Bangkok. Upon arrival we'll transfer to the laid-back coastal resort of Cha-Am, our base for the next three nights. The rest of the day is free for you to relax and explore at your own pace and dinner will be served in the hotel restaurant this evening.
Day 11 - Cha-Am
Spend today enjoying the facilities at your hotel, perhap s take a dip in the outdoor pool or go for a stroll along the beach with your travelling companions. If you wish, you could join our optional excursion to nearby Hua Hin where we'll visit the local market and explore the Maruekhathaiyawan Palace – a restored teak-wood palace designed by King Rama VI. Lunch and a wine-tasting are also included.
Day 12 - Cha-Am
Enjoy a final day at leisure. You could choose to soak up the sun and enjoy a drink from the pool bar or perhaps head out with your travelling companions to one of the nearby seafood restaurants.
This evening we'll gather as a group for a farewell dinner and drink, the perfect way to round off our holiday.
Days 13 and 14 - Cha-Am to UK
We'll transfer to the airport in Bangkok for our flight back to the UK, arriving on day 14.