Day One: Chiang Mai's Night Bazaar & Gay Nightlife
Arrive in Chiang Mai and transfer to your hotel. If you arrive early you might like to relax at your hotel or explore the temples, shops, and winding alleys inside the moat-ringed fortress walls of the Old City. This evening your guide will accompany you on a treat-filled evening tour of the city. Why not start with a cocktail by the quiet Ping River, or a feast of Northern Thai specialties, while being pampered with Lanna hospitality? Afterwards, enjoy our introduction to the bustling bazaars and delightful charms of Northern nightlife.
Day Two: A Golden Temple, a Bowl of Noodles, & a Walled City
After breakfast your guide and private car will transport you to the mountain summit of Doi Suthep to visit a spectacular golden temple that can be seen from practically anywhere in Chiang Mai. Climb the undulating dragon stairway to Chiang Mai's famous temple-in-the-clouds for a sweeping view of the gorgeous countryside and an up-close look at one of Thailand's most revered religious places. Later, return to the city for a lunch of khao soi, a uniquely Chiang Mai dish of both boiled and crispy noodles and tender chicken in a thick and flavorful soup. (It is perfectly OK to have a second or third or even a fourth bowl.) Next, your guide will take you to explore sacred shrines and ancient temples which dot the city, and introduce you to the town's historic and shopping areas. Your evening is free to dine at an historic teakwood mansion, a riverside beer garden, or a street-side food stall. Sharpen your bargaining skills to obtain arts and crafts hawked in the colorful, circus-like Night Market, or try some of the local beer bars, which attract many friendly local people.
Day Three: Elephants, Butterflies & a Lazy River
This morning we whisk you off into the great green mountains North of the city to get closer to nature in an unspoiled rural valley on the edge of one of Thailand's most beautiful national parks. The forest here is hundreds of years old and tiny farms overlook a gentle, sparkling river. The valley is also home to one province's best elephant training camp, where the population is preserved and visitors learn to appreciate the strength and intelligence of this dwindling species. After an educational show, you take an elephant ride through the nearby forest. Your first elephant ride? You will never forget it. After lunch, you enjoy a lazy trip on a river raft made of giant bamboo to soak in the dazzling scenery. On the way back to the city you also make a brief stop to admire the grower's skills at a local orchid nursery. Your evening is free to enjoy the city's great restaurants and nightlife.
Please note that today's activities are by van on a "joiner" basis, which means you share transportation with other people. If you prefer to travel by car with your private guide, you can do so at a small surcharge. Having your own transportation will enable you to skip the orchid nursery and instead visit a nearby hill-tribe village to see how ethnic minority people have lived in these hills for centuries.
Day Four: The Next Adventure
Free time until we take you to the airport. From Chiang Mai it is a short plane ride to the UNESCO World Heritage site of Luang Prabang, one of the Wonders of Asia. Or, connect to Phuket Island for some fun in the sun, or back to Bangkok, which is Indochina's principal hub for transportation to Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar and other surrounding countries.
Or You Can Stay Longer!
You can easily add extra nights and see even more of Chiang Mai. Take a walking tour on your own, or discover natural wonders in the surrounding countryside, or visit the nearby ancient cities of Lampang and Lamphun. You can even enjoy a half-day bicycle safari to see some of the sleepier and less-visited parts of Chiang Mai.