A journey rich in rural culture
You journey from Chiang Rai to Chiang Mai, a marvellous exploration of the rich diversity of North Thailand's cultural swirl. You experience different peoples, richly varied landscapes, and a range of villages and towns. You begin in Baan Tha Sob Van in Chiang Kham District. This is a Thai Lue community, originally from Laos, where traditional lifestyles are still adhered to and visitors can spend a day with the community in the fields, should they wish to. Head west to the lakeside town of Phayao, before spending a night in a homestay in Ban Dok Bua, an organic, self-sufficient farming community. Walk in the beautiful lush Doi Luang National Park, and continue to Ban Maena, a Black Lahu ethnic minority community in Chiang Dao District, where visitors stay in a simple thatched hut guest camp, with cooking and guiding provided by villagers. Finish the village discovery in Chiang Mai, taking the overnight train back to Bangkok.
Homestays and small hotels
We love the comfortable homestays of Northern Thailand, which are well-appointed and relaxing places, and give you a real insight into local life in the villages. You get to spend time with your hospitable hosts, and enjoy some delicious home cooking, too. There are also some friendly small hotels on the itinerary.
In the company of your experienced local guide, you experience the incredibly varied cultures of Northern Thailand, as well as some of its beautiful mountain landscapes.
Arrive at the airport of Chiang Rai (frequent daily flights from both Bangkok airports), where you are met by your guide, and are transfered (around 2-3 hours) to the community of Baan That Sob Van in Chiang Kham District. The Thai Lua here are an ethnic minority Thai people originally from Laos. On arrival at the village meet your host family and check into your homestay. Time to relax before enjoying a local dinner with your host family.
If you arrive at Chiang Rai in the late afternoon, we recommend you stay in the city on your first night, with a transfer the following morning.
After breakfast take a tour on foot to explore Baan That Sob Van village and learn about the way of life of the local people. The Thai Lua are notable for their adherence to a traditional lifestyle and the old ways of doing things. They are also meticulous about cleanliness. Enjoy some shared experiences, for example by helping to make Khao Khuob, sticky rice with coconut wrapped in banana leaves, a famous local dessert.
You leave your host family after breakfast and travel on to Phayao province, a drive of about 1½ hours. On the way, stop to see the rock carvings of the Buddha in the cliffs at Wat Huai Pha Kiang (Thumninit Temple). Check-in at the Cozy Nest, a family-owned hotel near Phayao Lake. In the evening, before sunset, take a scenic cruise on a Thai-style punt on the Kwan Phayao lake. Dinner is at a Thai-Chinese local restaurant opposite the hotel.
After breakfast you drive to the village of Ban Dok Bua, winner of a national award for self-sufficiency. On the way visit Wat Analayo Thipphayaram, with its Sukhothai-style Buddha images carved into the cliffs, in a variety of postures: reclining, walking, and seated. Mythical seven-headed Nagas, or sea serpents, guard some of the cherished statues. You overnight at a homestay in Ban Dok Bua, a community guided by the principle of being economically self- sufficient and where organic farming is practised. Enjoy dinner with your homestay host family and learn how they maintain their self-sufficient lifestyle.
After breakfast at your homestay, set off for a day of easy walking through the local countryside. Pass small villages and bamboo plantations, stopping along the way to learn about the local agriculture and way of life of the local people. Bamboo is mainly used here to make a variety of handicraft products such as boxes, trays and kitchen items. Maybe try your hand at basket weaving. After a picnic lunch, walk up the mountain in Doi Luang National Park to a waterfall and then continue up to a wonderful viewing point. Dinner and overnight at the homestay.
After breakfast you set off by car to visit Mae Kachan hot springs and geyser, and have lunch at the springs. Continue for another 2 hours to Ban Maena, a Black Lahu community in Chiang Dao District. Check in to your farmstay, a simple thatched hut guest camp just outside the village. Cooking is provided by the villagers. You stay two nights here.
After an early breakfast spend the morning bird watching in the forest, visiting farm activities or learning about about the Lahu way of life and tribal customs.
After lunch take the 2-hour drive to the city of Chiang Mai and check in to the Thapae Guesthouse. Free time to explore until dinner.
Day 9: Chiang Mai sight-seeing and departure for Bangkok (B/L/-)
After breakfast there are various optional activities: take walking tour of the old city, take a Thai cooking lesson, shopping, enjoy a relaxing spa session or just relax by the pool. In the late afternoon transfer to the station for the overnight train to Bangkok in 2nd AC (1st-class AC may be possible if berths available). Dinner available on train (not included).
Departure from Bangkok or add a city stay.