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DAY 1: Arrive & Relax

Welcome to our Thailand culinary tour! Thailand is a fascinating, exotic, friendly country with something for everyone. Since you are reading this, you already know how delicious Thai food is, and Thailand is the perfect destination to learn to cook. We will pick you up at Bangkok International Airport and drive you to our 5-star Bangkok hotel perched on the banks of the Chao Phraya River. We have specifically chosen this hotel for its excellent location. Each room has a panoramic river view, and there are two swimming pools overlooking the river as well. You may wish to enjoy your first dinner in Thailand at one of the hotel’s many restaurants or venture out to discover Bangkok’s rich dining scene. As guests will be arriving throughout the day and evening, we have scheduled our first group meal for Day 2 of the tour.

Drive Time: Approximately 45 minutes, depending on traffic
Meals included: None

DAY 2: Sightseeing in Bangkok

We’ll begin our Thailand culinary tour this morning with a visit to Wat Po in time to hear the monks’ morning chanting. One of the oldest temples in Bangkok, Wat Po is home to the famous 45m reclining Buddha and is considered to be the birthplace of traditional Thai massage. From there we’ll hop in a tuk-tuk (a three wheel, open-air taxi) via Pak Klong Taland flower market as we head towards the spectacular Grand Palace, Thailand’s most important monument. One of the most spectacular palaces in Southeast Asia, construction was begun in 1782 by King Rama I, after he moved the capital from Thonburi to Bangkok. The complex houses not only the Royal residence and throne halls, but also government offices and the renowned Wat Phra Kaew, containing the Emerald Buddha, the symbol of the country. The palace and temple are an architectural wonder of golden stupas, walls and pillars encrusted in shining and colorful mosaics, glittering under the tropical sun.

Next we’ll head to our welcome and orientation lunch, where our trip leader will give an overview of the tour and what to expect each day. After dining on delicious local cuisine, we’ll cross the river and drive to Chinatown for a first-hand look at Old Bangkok. Walk along Yaowarat Road, where shops sell everything from gold and garments to antiques and musical instruments. Dating back to 1782, this neighborhood will allow us the chance to enjoy unique and treasured local experiences. Enjoy a cup of Chinese tea with the locals in an old tea shop and explore the bustling Talad Kao Market, where a variety of food, fresh and dry fruits, and Chinese herbs are on offer before returning to your hotel.

One of the best ways to experience the true flavor of a city is to walk its streets. This evening we’ll go for a walk through Bangkok’s Chinatown, one of the most densely populated and richly ethnic neighborhoods in the city. We’ll become Thai food insiders as we enjoy a behind-the-scenes adventure, indulging in the local sights and flavors of this “foodie” neighborhood.

While walking along narrow lanes, peer into the doorways of Chinese pharmacies with their medicinal herbs and natural cures, or watch fresh Chinese delicacies being prepared and served, savoring the aromatic fragrance of spice and herbs that saturate the air. Pay special attention to the “funeral shops” where paper models of worldly items are sold, ensuring the deceased will have the comforts of home on their journey to the after world. Sample delicious treats from some of Bangkok’s favorite street vendors and local eateries as you have a walk and explore style dinner.

Meals included: Breakfast, lunch, dinner

DAY 3: Thai Cooking Class by Boat

Get ready for your first Thai cooking class. After a light breakfast we will journey from the hotel to a local pier to take a cruise along Chao Phraya River. We’ll pass through the Temple of Dawn and into Bangkok Yai Canal, taking in the serene and simple lifestyle of riverbank dwellers along the way. Once arrive at Chef Amita’s house, you will be greeted with a fresh herbal drink before enjoying a brief introduction to the dishes that you are going to prepare for your lunch. Bring your appetite, because we’ll have the opportunity to cook three local dishes and one typical famous Thai dessert. After our cooking class, we’ll head back to the hotel to freshen up.

Later this afternoon, we’ll take the hotel’s shuttle boat and then the sky train to visit Jim Thompson’s magnificent Thai-style house, containing a collection of Thai art objects and antiques. Jim Thompson was a famous American businessman who came to Thailand at the end of the World War II and rediscovered the Thai silk industry. His “House by the Klong”, which is now a museum, consists of six separate old Ayutthaya period Thai teak houses joined together in one complex. Mr. Thompson disappeared in 1967 in the jungles of the Cameron Highlands of Malaysia, and what happened to him remains a mystery to this day.

Tonight is our last night in Bangkok, and you are free to venture out on the town or relax at the hotel.

Meals included: Breakfast, lunch

DAY 4: Golden Triangle & Transfer to Ban Tha Ton

We drive to the airport for a short 1.5 hour morning flight to Chiang Rai. Upon arrival, we will head to the infamous Golden Triangle, renowned for centuries as the center of the opium trade. From a hilltop viewpoint, we’ll marvel at the splendour of the mighty Mekong joining with the Ruak to form the actual “triangle” with Laos, Myanmar and Thailand. From there we will continue to Mae Sai, the northernmost point in Thailand. As this is one of just a few official land crossings between Thailand and Myanmar, Mae Sai is an important trade hub, and it’s an excellent place to observe border life and interactions between local tribes engaged in trade. Many Burmese come over daily from Tachilek to work or do business and then hurry back before the sun sets. Burmese lacquerware, gems, jade and other goods from Laos and Burma are sold in shops along the main street. After we’ll drive to our riverside resort at Ban Thaton, on the banks of the Mae Kok River, just a few miles from the Myanmar border. Relax at the pool before dinner, or simply wander the beautiful gardens and enjoy the sweeping views across the valley. After the hustle and bustle of Bangkok, you’ll enjoy the change of pace in the Thai countryside.

Travel Time: Approximately 4.5 hours
Meals included: Breakfast, lunch

DAY 5: Hike & Mae Kok River Boat Ride

After breakfast, start at a Karen village and walk along a well made track through the hills where local hill tribe people work the land to produce rice and corn. The route passes through the Lahu village of Huay Pha Khaem, a village undergoing some modernization, but which still reflects the Lahu way of life with its stilted houses made of wood, split bamboo and straw thatch. The route then passes through an interesting area of agriculture where you can see for yourself what hard work is needed to cultivate the land. The trek ends at the village of Pha Thai (about 2 to 2.5 hours) where we take a long-tailed boat for an hour’s trip up the Mae Kok River to return to the resort.

Afternoon is at your leisure to relax and enjoy the resort.

Travel Time: About 1 hour
Meals included: Breakfast

DAY 6: Chiang Mai Sightseeing & Loy Krathong

This morning we are headed to the charming northern city of Chiang Mai, which is the principal religious center in northern Thailand and the focal point of temples and monasteries. The moat bounding the historic old city is still intact, but the walls were largely destroyed during World War II. Here we will visit Wat Prathat, built some 600 years ago, this temple is Chiang Mai’s most important and visible landmark, located near the summit of Doi Suthep, at 3,520 feet above sea level. After a drive up the mountain’s winding road, the final climb to the site is via a magnificent Naga (dragon-headed serpent) staircase of 306 steps. The climb up is rewarded with a superb panoramic view over the city.

We’ll enjoy lunch today at an authentic local restaurant that specializes in “Khao Soi” or Chiang Mai curry noodles. It is often made with chicken served over Chinese egg noodles, and garnished with fried noodles, shallots, cilantro, pickled mustard greens, fried whole chilis and a squeeze of lime juice. This dish is a combination of strong flavors, each distinct yet blended harmoniously into one delicious bowl.

After lunch we’ll check in to our stunning 4-star boutique hotel, designed and decorated with impeccable style, inspired by traditional wooden homes found in Chiang Mai and intended to be as comfortable as your own home. The hotel is located in a heritage zone that is home to the city’s greatest concentration of antique wooden buildings, yet is within walking distance of the commercial center of Chiang Mai and the famous Night Bazaar.

You’ll have a little while to rest and refresh before we have dinner and then join in the festivities of the most famous Lantern (Loy Krathong) Festival in the world. Walk along the Ping River with the locals to see fireworks, parades, floating lanterns and even release your own paper lanterns into the sky at night. The Loy Krathong Festival is a colorful festival held every year on the full moon of the twelfth month in the Thai Lunar Calendar.

Drive time: 4 hours
Meals included: Breakfast, lunch, dinner

DAY 7: Full Day Visit to Elephant Sanctuary

Today we will take a picturesque drive through the countryside to an elephant sanctuary. This conservation center is home to many rescued animals – including elephants, buffalo, and even birds. We will spend a relaxing day with these majestic animals, hearing about their pasts and learning how we can help with elephant conservation.

Saying goodbye to the animals, we will return to our hotel to relax. Those who are interested in Thai handicrafts may join our guide for an optional visit to local handicrafts factories including silk and lacquerware. You will see the artisans at work and will have an opportunity to shop in the factory showrooms. Please note that the quality of the merchandise is better than at the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar, and the prices are commensurately higher. If you would also like to visit the night bazaar, please let our guide know and we will arrange a visit. The Night Bazaar is a great place to pick up gifts and hill tribe crafts, but be ready to bargain.

Meals included: Breakfast, lunch

DAY 8: Thai Cooking Class

Today we will have our final Thailand culinary class where we’ll learn to make healthy papaya salad, steamed fish and more. Our private chef, Yui, will also teach us how to carve raw vegetables. By the end of this class you’ll be ready to throw a dinner party back home. The class will end around 2pm with a farewell lunch.

After lunch, we’ll take a rickshaw from our hotel into the old city, getting a glimpse of how the locals live and work. In the late afternoon, you may choose to get a Thai massage. Traditional Thai massage includes both stretching of the joints and muscles and applied pressure to the major channels of the body to aid regional blood flow, relieve aches and pain, and relax you mentally and physically. Otherwise you can take the rest of the afternoon to pick up some souvenirs, relax by the pool, or stroll around Chiang Mai’s old town.

Meals included: Breakfast, lunch

DAY 9: Thailand Cooking Tour Ends

Today our Thailand culinary tour ends. You can choose to stay on in Chiang Mai, head back to Bangkok for your flight home, or fly to Phuket or Ko Samui for a few days in the island sun.

Meals included: Breakfast

Please note: This itinerary is designed to give you an idea of what to expect during our trip but is not set in stone. What we actually do on a given day is flexible and can be tailored to the interests of the group.