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The Golden Triangle: Northern Thailand and Kengtung

Embark on a thrilling, scenic journey that will take you from Thailand's vibrant cities, majestic mountains, ancient temples and scenic waterways, across the border to Myanmar's Kengtung, a colorful, age-old culture with a fascinating assortment of hilltribes. You'll fly, drive, hike, and boat through Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, and finally Kentung. Expect this exciting 11-day journey through the past and present of these two similar, yet different cultures to leave you with incredible insight into Southeast Asia and its friendly people.

Highlights   Pricing
  • Learn the ancient art of Thai kickboxing, and see if you've got what it takes in the ring
  • Explore the ancient ruins of Thailand's ancient capital, Ayutthaya
  • Trek through some of the best natural terrain the north of Thailand has to offer
  • Meet and converse with the unique, fascinating tribes people of Kengtung
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Day by Day Itinerary

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Day 1

Arrive in Thailand's throbbing capital, Bangkok, and transfer to one of Bangkok's best hotels – The Siam, the Peninsula, or the Mandarin Oriental, all perched on the banks of the River of Kings, the Chao Phraya. Once settled in, head out on a half-day tour of the city, checking out some of its top sits, from the shining Grand Palace, to the much-adored Wat Arun, to Wat Po, resting place of the Reclining Buddha. In the evening, take a stroll through the colorful and fragrant flower market. If time allows, squeeze in a Thai cooking class before retiring to your hotel to relax for the night. 

Day 2

Learn the revered and culturally-important art of Thai kickboxing this morning. Many say it's the toughest workout they've ever done, so be prepared to sweat. The afternoon is spent leisurely meandering Bangkok's romantic canal system on a private boat, followed by a visit to the well-known Jim Thompson house. Head back to your hotel for the evening, or stay out to experience some of Bangkok's world-famous nightlife. 

Day 3

Hit the road today, driving from capital to ancient capital, Ayutthaya. Take a stroll, or ride on the back of an elephant, through the city's ancient ruins, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and imagine what life must have been like when they were in their prime. You can't leave without trying some of the city's famous giant river prawns – enjoy them at a local restaurant before returning to Bangkok and your luxury hotel for the night. 

Day 4

Board a plane for Chiang Mai today, known as the capital of the North. You'll be transferred to your luxury hotel, either the Mandarin Oriental Dhara Dhevi, or the Four Seasons Chiang Mai. You'll get right into Chiang Mai's local culture with a trip to Doi Suthep village, nestled into the bottom of the majestic mountain. Move on to the powerful Huay Kaew Waterfall, before heading back to your hotel to freshen up for the night ahead. You'll be sitting down to a Khantoke dinner, an entertaining feast that is characteristic of northern Thailand. End the night on a high note, literally, as you make a wish and release a lantern into the sky. 

Day 5

Get up-close and personal with fearsome creatures today – Chiang Mai's Tiger Kingdom is a place where you can pet a fully-grown tiger in safety. Wat Umong is your next stop, an ancient Buddhist temple at the feet of Doi Suthep. Learn about local industry and even do some shopping, moving from a local textile workshop to Chiang Mai's night bazaar. Return to your hotel for a restful sleep. 

Day 6

Take a roadtrip to Chiang Rai today, enjoying the rugged and stunning landscape you pass along the way. You're now in what's known as the Golden Triangle, connecting Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar. Begin your Chiang Rai experience by checking in to one of two luxury hotels that have gone the extra mile to blend in with their natural surroundings, either Anantara Golden Triangle, or Four Seasons Tented Camp. Once settled in, head to the Hall of Opium, for insight into the local opium trade. Next, you'll learn to ride and care for an elephant in a mahout training class, followed by a trek through the mystical jungle of the north. 

Day 7

Start your day in fresh, mountain air at Doi Mae Salong, and take in the incredible panorama offered by this viewpoint. Lunch with a local hilltribe family, and learn about their traditions and day-to-day life. Later in the afternoon, explore a tea plantation, breathing in the fresh, fragrant air. Return to your hotel to relax for a final night in Chiang Rai. 

Day 8

Check out of your Chiang Rai hotel today. You'll drive to Mae Sai, where you'll cross the border to Tachilek in Myanmar. Enjoy a three-hour scenic drive from here to Kengtung, winding your way through Myanmar's epic countryside. Kengtung possesses a unique culture, populated by Tai people, and the influence of both Burmese and Thai cultures is apparent. Check in to your room at the New Kyaing Tong Hotel, and get acquainted with your new surroundings, exploring the town at your leisure. 

Day 9

Enjoy personal encounters with tribe members in Akhu, Lahu, and other nearby areas this morning. Next, trek through the countryside to meet the Loi tribe, noting their longhouses made of wood, often housing more than one family. Continue your journey, this time up Hokyin Mountain, to Wanpauk, home of the Silver Palaung hilltribe, and learn about their daily life and customs. Drive back to Kengtung at sundown and relax at your hotel this evening. 

Day 10

Start your day off with a trip to the Akhu village of Wan Sai, where centuries-old traditions are still practised today. Your journey to the next hilltribe will take you through some picturesque nature, including lush rice and vegetable fields. Your next destination is the home of the animistic Ann tribe. Spend some time with them to gain insight into their unique culture. Return to Kengtung once again for a final night. 

Day 11

After breakfast, head to the local market, where you'll walk past stalls upon stalls of fresh produce and other nutritional staples used in local cuisine. You may even choose to pick up some souvenirs like silver coins or a traditional headdress. Finally, it's time to say goodbye to Kengtung, as you drive back to Chiang Rai, and fly to your next onward destination. 


Suggested Accommodations

Mandarin Oriental, The Peninsula Bangkok, The Siam Hotel

Mandarin Oriental

For almost 140 years, royalty, celebrities, dignitaries and distinguished travelers from Graham Greene to Rudyard Kipling have stayed in the legendary Oriental on the Chao Phraya River. The 368 rooms and suites, with views over the river and the city, are sumptuous. The 10 restaurants and bars, serving all types of Asian and Western cuisine, are in a class of their own: Le Normandie is one of the best French restaurants in all of Asia - with an opulent setting and a superb menu - and is frequented by members of the Thai Royal Family. The Oriental Spa and fitness center are fabulous, with world-class treatments, equipment and facilities. This richly historical hotel has been consistently ranked by top publications as one of the world's finest hotels. The Oriental is a one-hour drive from Suvarnabhumi International Airport (BKK).


The Peninsula Bangkok

Overlooking the Chao Phraya river, the iconic Peninsula’s commanding views of the city’s skyline make it one of the most elegant choices in Bangkok. Designed with a blend of modern and traditional Thai decor, the hotel provides all of the comforts of home with an exotic flair, all with the level of quality service and amenities that define the Peninsula. The hotel boasts three restaurants: Mei Jiang for Cantonese cuisine; Thiptara for Thai home-style cooking on an open-air pavilion; and the River Cafe and Bar, located on the banks of the river. The excellent spa, ESPA, offers state-of-the-art treatments, and an extensive fitness center includes a pool set in a garden complex. The Peninsula is located approximately 45 minutes by car from Suvarnabhumi International Airport (BKK).


The Siam Hotel

The Siam Hotel is set on 3 acres of verdant lawn along the city side of Bangkok’s main river, the Chao Praya. The Siam is a private 39-room luxury retreat with its own unique historical background located in Bangkok’s royal Dusit district. Designed by internationally acclaimed architect Bill Bensley, the property is Art Deco inspired with infusions of Thai antiques and traditional architecture. Guests have an array of amenities at their fingertips: restaurants, a cooking school, bar, café, spa, gym, yoga terrace, Muay Thai boxing ring, beauty salon, library/cinema, infinity pool, gift/antiques gallery, conservatory and traditional Thai houses. The Siam’s 39 suites and pool villas are noticeably spacious and well equipped with modern conveniences. All rooms are outfitted with plush furnishings, super-sized king beds and lofty ceilings. Each suite is individually designed with original turn-of-the-century Oriental artwork and antiquities and is catered for by a personal butler. Complimentary WiFi is available property-wide. Onsite dining options include a Thai restaurant, international cuisine bistro, bar and coffee and cakes shop. The Siam Hotel is approximately 50 minutes from Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK).

Dhara Dhevi Hotel, Four Seasons Chiang Mai

Dhara Dhevi Hotel

A successful truck dealer with a taste for art, Suchet Suwanmongkol underwrote the $75-million dream of a young, unknown architect to build an ancient Asian city within the confines of Chiang Mai. The resulting 60-acre confection from the now-famous Rachen Intawong includes 142 suites decorated in a colonial mansion style, and individual villas built in various Thai vernaculars. At the heart of the resort is the sumptuous Dheva Spa, a multi-tiered Xanadu with 18 treatment rooms and five residences. Throughout, the bedrooms are huge: 16-foot ceilings are the norm in the colonial wing, as are private verandas and adjoining living rooms, all lavishly fitted with silk-covered chaise lounges and hill-tribe textiles. Superlatives extend to the two pools (enormous) and library (more than 5,000 books and 1,500 DVDs). Kids can also plant rice.


Four Seasons Chiang Mai

The Four Seasons Chiang Mai blends with its natural surroundings seamlessly, with trees growing between and around the resort, overlooking terraced rice fields and the mountains of the Mae Rim Valley. The resort has 64 boutique pavilions, each with a private veranda, as well as 16 private luxury residences. The Sala Mae Rim serves Thai cuisine and offers sweeping views of the valley below, and the Terraces have international dishes with a view of the Doi Suthep mountain range. The hotel has a health club with state of the art equipment, including a sauna, herbal steam room, whirlpool, cold plunge pool, 20-meter infinity edge swimming pool, a business center and wi-fi access. There are also mountain bikes available for use, along with maps of trails through the surrounding forest. The Spa at the Four Seasons Chiang Mai has seven treatment suites with rain shower massage tables and private herbal steam rooms. Professional spa therapists can help you choose the best treatment package for your needs. The hotel is 25 minutes from Chiang Mai International Airport.

Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp & Resort, Four Seasons Tented Camp

Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp & Resort

The Anantara is a chic luxury retreat perched atop a high mountain ridge overlooking the confluence of the Mekong and Ruak rivers, and close to Thailand's borders with Laos and Myanmar. It has 58 guest rooms and 19 suites decorated in a style that blends the best of the area's rich fabric and woodcarving traditions with contemporary design. The resort includes a sybaritic spa, an infinity pool that looks over the tree canopy to the Mekong River and up towards the hills of Myanmar and Laos, a fitness center with steam rooms, saunas, squash and tennis courts, a Thai cooking school, and an elephant camp, where you can learn about the importance of the elephant in Thai culture and arrange a ride through the surrounding jungle. The Anantara is also home to three food and beverage establishments: Sala Mae Nam (international buffet breakfast and Northern Thai specialties for dinner), Baan Dahlia (authentic Italian cuisine with a wine selection from vineyards around the globe), and The Elephant Bar and Opium Terrace, the perfect setting for a night cap.


Four Seasons Tented Camp

An exotic getaway reached by riverboat, the Four Seasons Tented Camp is set in a bamboo jungle at the meeting point of three countries: Thailand, Laos and Myanmar. Fifteen freestanding, luxurious tents are spaced along a half-mile-long hillside trail over the Muak River, each with a large outdoor deck to take in the lush surroundings and the sounds of the forest. The rooms are outfitted with hand-hammered copper bathtubs, and custom-made furnishings that hearken back to the style of 19th-century explorers. The spa offers simple luxury with traditional Thai massages in open-air salas that seem to float in the air amid the trees. The treatments include mountain botanicals and warming spices for a unique and restorative experience. Private yoga classes are also available. A variety of dining experiences are offered and are shared by the small group of guests: breakfast is served at Nong Yao, the camp's restaurant; lunch might be a picnic in the jungle with folding tables, stools and linen napkins; dinner could be a barbecue, a five-course formal meal or a dinner by the campfire. There is a pool and attached whirlpool at the camp that has been integrated into the landscape, surrounded by granite boulders and lush plants. The camp is 90 minutes from Chiang Rai International Airport (CEI).

New Kyaing Tong Hotel

New Kyaing Tong Hotel

Once the site of a palace occupied by the concubines of ethnic Shan chieftans, the New Kyaing Tong Hotel offers a modicum of luxury in the remote reaches of Myanmar’s Shan state. The hotel is comprised of 12 Junior Suites, 24 Superior rooms and 72 Standard rooms, many of which include spacious terraces that overlook the adjacent Noung Ton Lake and the mountainous landscape beyond. In-room amenities include satellite television, mini-bar and air conditioning. The hotel also has a charming pagoda and outdoor swimming pool on its grounds. Dining options are limited: there is a dining hall that serves Chinese and Western cuisine in addition to local specialties. The New Kyaing Tong Hotel is approximately 30 minutes by car from the Kengtung airport.
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