Thailand: The Golden Kingdom12 days
95.0% of reviewers recommend this tourRead Reviews 
About This Experience
Discover the “Golden Kingdom” in Thailand’s glittering palaces and Buddhist temples; then experience the “Land of Smiles” in the warm, welcoming people. From bustling Bangkok, you’ll travel north to ancient ruined capitals, hill tribe villages and mountaintop temples to investigate all sides of this vibrant country of contrasts. The spice and rice will nourish your body; the scenery and history will nourish your soul.
Look for this symbol throughout the tour itinerary to discover sustainable highlights. Sustainable highlights include activities that benefit indigenous cultures or help protect local wildlife.
Your Tour Includes
Round-trip airfare & transfers
10 nights in handpicked hotels
Breakfast daily, 2 lunches, 4 three-course dinners with beer or wine
Multilingual Tour Director
Private deluxe motor coach
Select entrance fees
Why You'll Love It
Spicy, sweet, salty & sour—Thai food at its finest
Bangkok’s canals & floating markets
Interacting with the hill tribes outside Chiang Rai
Soaring to the summit of Doi Suthep
Up-close encounters with elephants
Ornate Buddhist temples, stupas & ruins
Overnight Flight1 night
Bangkok3 nights - hotel info
Wander the wats, examining thousands of holy images
Grand Palace, Temple of the Golden Buddha, Temple of the Reclining Buddha, canal cruise
This morning, your Tour Director leads a sightseeing tour of Bangkok featuring the Grand Palace, Temple of the Emerald Buddha (Wat Phra Kaew), Temple of the Reclining Buddha (Wat Po), and Temple of the Golden Buddha (Wat Timitr). In the afternoon, enjoy a tour of Bangkok’s klongs, or canals, on a speedboat and converted rice barge. This evening get acquainted with your fellow travelers at an included welcome dinner.
Sample the exotic fruits at Damnoen Saduak Floating Market
World War II Museum
Discover the unique and fascinating culture of Thailand today, as you experience the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market. Here, locals sell exquisite produce, like Malacca grapes, Chinese grapefruits, mangoes, bananas and coconuts—all from their small boats. Then journey west to Kanchanaburi, home to the River Kwai and its infamous bridge, and Nakorn Pathom, the largest pagoda in southeast Asia. Next, visit the World War II Cemetery, resting place of over 9,000 Allied soldiers.
Phitsanuloke1 night - hotel info
Explore the evocative ruins of the old capital at Ayutthaya
Optional Excursion - Rickshaw Ride & Market
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Wat Chantaram Temple, Ayutthaya Ruins
Journey to Ayutthaya, Thailand’s capital from 1350 to 1767. Here, you’ll tour the ruins, decorated with beautiful images of the Buddha draped in saffron robes, just like living monks. Continue on to Uthai Thani to visit the beautiful Wat Chantaram Temple. Enjoy an included lunch before transferring to Phitsanuloke, where you’ll enjoy an included group dinner. For a night you won’t forget, consider joining our exciting Rickshaw Ride and Phitsanuloke Night Market optional.
Rickshaw Ride & Market $29* pp
Take a cycle rickshaw to the Phitsanulok Night Market, where you’ll find fresh food cooked and served to order. Watch as local cooks perform their signature "flying vegetables show," in which vegetables are fried in a wok, then tossed high into the air. Be sure to try the finished product, Pak Boong Loy Fah (or "Flying Morning Glory" in English). In addition to the food, you’ll discover an astounding variety of local handicrafts, souvenirs and clothing for sale.
Chiang Rai2 nights - hotel info
Discover the remnants of Sukhothai palace and dozens of temples
Sukhothai Historical Park
On your way to Chiang Rai today, stop to tour the Sukhothai Historical Park. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this park includes classical Buddha statues and temple ruins. Here you’ll enjoy an included lunch, before continuing on to your destination, known for its hill tribe villages. The rest of the day is free to explore Chiang Rai on your own.
Encounter the hill tribes of Mae Kok and Mae Salong
Karen Hill Tribe Village
This morning, venture along the Mae Kok River to a Karen Hill Tribe Village. Learn about the traditional life of the Karen people, as you marvel at their bamboo houses, which are raised on stilts. They, like all the tribes, are skilled at crop rotation and hunting with spears and crossbows. Next, you’ll visit the Golden Triangle, where the three countries of Burma, Thailand and Laos meet on the Mekong River. In the afternoon, drive across upper Northern Thailand to Mae Salong, an ethnic Chinese town set in the hills. Here, various Chinese agricultural products are produced—the most well-known being its tea. You’ll see the 1949 Kuomintang soldier settlement, founded by soldiers who fled China after Mao Tse Tung’s victory in the Chinese Civil War.
Chiang Mai3 nights - hotel info
Taste khao soi and see the view from Doi Suthep
Optional Excursion - Thai Massage
Temple of Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep
Today on your way to Chiang Mai, enjoy the stunning scenery before stopping to visit Wat Suan Dok. Built by King Keu Na of Lanna, the temple was constructed for a revered priest visiting from Sukhothai. Here, you will have the unique opportunity to learn about Buddhism from one of the resident monks. Later, discover the dominating presence on the horizon, Doi Suthep. This regal mountain overlooks the city from the northwest and is home to some of the most deeply loved symbols in the Kingdom. As the Thai saying goes, “If you haven’t tasted Khao Soi or seen the view from Doi Suthep, you haven’t been to Chiang Mai.” On this exciting excursion to Doi Suthep, walk the 290 steps skyward or take a cable car to the Temple of Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep. The temple is a major pilgrimage destinations during the important Buddhist holidays of Makha Buja and Visak. Later, arrive in Chiang Mai. Later this afternoon, let all your tension melt away with an optional Thai massage. Dinner is included this evening.
Thai Massage $29* pp
Let your tension melt away as a skilled Thai masseuse unknots weary muscles. Using traditional Thai massage techniques, your masseuse will help you relax and achieve a balance between mind and body. Believed to have been developed by the Buddha's physician more than 2,500 years ago in India, what we know as Thai massage gradually made its way to Thailand, where the Ayurvedic techniques and principles blended with elements of traditional Chinese medicine. Muscle compression, joint mobilization, and acupressure are may also used during Thai massage, leading to a relaxing experience some adherents compare to yoga.
Travel in high Thai style—on elephant backs and bamboo rafts
Optional Excursion - Khantoke Dinner
Orchid Farm, Chiang Dao Elephant Camp
Spend the morning at Chiang Dao Elephant Camp. Watch the elephants take their morning bath and demonstrate their amazing skills for you. Keep in mind the years of arduous training that give these regal animals and mahouts the skills to impress you. After your elephant ride, take a bamboo raft trip down the Ping River and admire the scenery and absorb the tranquility (weather permitting). This afternoon, come face-to-pistil with some of the world’s loveliest orchids at the Orchid Farm, center of cultivation and development of both precious and new orchid flowers. This evening, join an optional Khantoke Dinner.
Khantoke Dinner $39* pp
Revel in a delectable, entertaining khantoke dinner. The customary northern Thai style of eating, khantoke-style dining became popular in the early 1950s, though it has been a Lanna Thai tradition for centuries. You’ll sit on floor mats at low-top tables, while food is served in large platters. Relax and enjoy your meal as you are entertained by a variety of cultural performances. Please note: If you are unable to sit on the floor, please inform Go Ahead prior to departure so we can arrange a chair.
Run your fingers over the fine fabrics at San Kamphaeng silk factory
Optional Excursion - Thai Home-Hosted Dinner
This morning, you’ll visit the artisans and silk factories of San Kamphaeng. Later, opt for a traditional Thai home-hosted dinner.
Thai Home-Hosted Dinner $65* pp
Travel outside Chiang Mai to get a taste of authentic local flavors at a home-hosted dinner. Before your meal, explore the hosts' own gardens and gallery of terra-cotta clay art. Then, sit down for a dinner of regional Thai specialties and listen to the stories of the hosts' crafts and culture.
Bangkok1 night - hotel info
Flight homefor a day
Extend Your Stay
Add Cambodia & Bangkok $999*
Learn about the dramatic history of the Khmer civilization and see how Cambodia is reinventing itself today. Wander among Angkor’s temples and terraces and discover one of humankind's most astonishing and enduring architectural achievements. From the layout of the temple sites to the intricate bas-relief and the iconographic sculpture, the sites of Siem Reap will mesmerize and amaze.
Siem Reap2 nights - hotel info
See the sun set behind the magnificent temple mountain of Angkor Wat
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Fly to Siem Reap and enjoy an included lunch upon arrival. At sunset, tour the majestic temples of Angkor Wat. Honoring Hinduism and Buddhism, its five inter-nested rectangular walls and moats represent mountains and the ocean. Return to Siem Reap later for an included dinner.
Investigate the evocative temples and terraces of Angkor Thom
This morning, see Angkor Thom, the Elephant Terrace, Terrace of the Leper King and the Bayon Temple. Lunch is included this afternoon before you tour the Buddhist monastic complex Ta Prohm, where the architecture blends in with original vegetation from its founding in the 12th century.
Bangkok1 night - hotel info
Passport & Visa
In order to enter Thailand (as well as Cambodia on the tour extension), U.S. and Canadian citizens need a valid passport with an expiration date extending at least six months beyond the date of reentry. A visa is also required for U.S. and Canadian passport holders to enter Cambodia on the tour extension. You have the option to obtain a Cambodian visa upon arrival (you will need $20 USD and two passport-sized photos). You may choose to obtain your individual visa in advance by applying directly to the Cambodian consulate or by using a visa provider, such as our partner company, VisaCentral. If you are not a U.S. or Canadian citizen, you must contact each country’s consulate for your specific entry requirements.
Airlines have varying weight restrictions on luggage. Some airlines may impose additional charges if you choose to check any baggage; be advised that you are responsible for any such costs. Contact your airline for detailed information regarding luggage size and weight restrictions for your flight, but please note that Go Ahead travelers are restricted to one checked bag per person due to storage limitations on motor coaches and other internal transfers, which may include train connections or flights. One carry-on bag is also permitted, provided that it does not exceed 45 total inches (length + width + height). Make sure you label your baggage and carry valuables, medication and documents in your carry-on bag.
There are no major health risks when traveling to Thailand. It is always advisable to check with your doctor or health-care provider for the latest updates and overseas travel requirements. More information on vaccinations and other health precautions can be found via the CDC website.
Transportation / Walking on tour
Round-trip flights arrive in and depart from Bangkok. Included transportation on this tour is by private motor coach and internal flights. Your tour to Thailand does involve some moderate walking around historic sites. Walks are leisurely paced. However, be aware of some climbing of steps and winding, narrow passageways.
Clothing & Packing Tips
Light, loose-fitting clothing that provides comfort when exploring the sights is essential for your tour. A sun hat, sunglasses and a sturdy pair of walking shoes or sneakers are recommended for sightseeing. It’s always a good idea to be prepared for any eventuality—a lightweight sports jacket and emergency rainwear are advised. Remember that it is preferable not to visit churches or other religious sites with bare legs and shoulders (and entrance may be denied on this basis).
The currency in Thailand is the baht. It is best to bring only major currencies, such as US Dollars or Canadian Dollars, to exchange. Also, Visa, Amex, Diners Club and Mastercard are accepted in Thailand and Cambodia, the extension destination.
At the conclusion of your tour, it is customary to offer your Tour Director and driver a gratuity. We recommend tipping in your tour country’s currency, the equivalent of $3USD/CAD per person per day for your driver, $2USD/CAD per day for your bus attendant and $6USD/CAD to $9USD/CAD per person per day for your Tour Director. If applicable, we also recommend the equivalent of $2USD/CAD per local guide. Tips can only be paid in cash. Please keep current local currency exchange rates in mind when tipping.
More about the Chiang Dao Elephant Camp: The Elephant Training Center was founded in 1969 and was one of the first elephant camps in Chiang Mai and has one of the most beautiful natural settings, surrounded by small hills and the Ping River running through it year round. Manas Yaviraj was the founder of the elephant training center, which he started by renting three elephants from neighboring Karen hill tribes to showcase to tourists elephants’ working skills, such as teak logging. The center expanded over the years and Chiang-Dao Chiang Mai Elephant Training Center began to purchase its own elephants, as well as implementing a breeding program. The camp works elephants in the mornings only, allowing all elephants to enjoy their afternoons and nights in the beautiful and bountiful natural environments so they can return to their natural habitats, breed and enjoy a natural, fulfilling life. Because of the importance put upon their natural habits, baby elephants are adopted by the herd and the natural behaviors of the elephants allow them to behave as they would in the wild. Baby elephants are cared for and grow into members of the herd which in turn care for the future young.
Pay a visit to Chatuchak Weekend Market, where people buy and sell thousands of local products, including food, clothing, art, collectibles, handicrafts and potted plants. It operates on Saturdays and Sundays. From Wednesday to Fridays, the market becomes a venue for wholesale of various plants. Also, be sure to visit the Suan Lum Night Bazaar and test your bargaining expertise. Thousands of local products, like antiques and handicrafts, are up for grabs.
95.0% of reviewers recommend this tourRead Reviews 
Best trip we have taken!
We just returned from our trip to Thailand and Cambodia. And what a trip. The best we have taken. Our tour director Kong was fantastic, always full of energy and ready to help in any way to make our adventure better. He showed utmost patience and respect toward all of us and you could see his love for his country . He needs to be commended, as he, along with the bus driver Nuk and the bus boy Nop made this an unbelievable adventure. He was even up at 2 A:M: to see us off at the hotel, and to make sure the driver knew where we needed to go at the airport, on the day we left for home. The temples and Grand Palace in Bangkok were unbelievably beautiful. All the food and fresh fruits were delicious. The trip to the Damnoen Saduk floating market was an interesting experience, as was the visit to the bridge over the river Kwai . Chiang Rai was great with it’s visits to the hill tribe villages, The Golden Triangle, Chinese tea plantations and the boat ride to Laos At Chiang Mai, The Chiang Dao Elephant Training Camp, the ride was loads of fun, and the bamboo raft relaxing and serene.. Not to forget the Golden Buddha, the chat with a Buddhist Monk; the White Temple in Chiang Mai The extension to Cambodia was definitely worth the price. The steep narrow steps at the temple ruins were difficult for older people, but we made it , the early morning trip back to see the sunrise over Angkor Thorn was beautiful. The only con for the whole trip was the very long flights.
Best Vacation Ever!!
I've wanted to go to Thailand and Angkor Wat for years and finally booked this trip 6 months before my departure date. I was sure my extreme level of anticipation would make the tour a let-down, but the tour, especially the tour leader Kongka, totally went above and beyond my expectations. Thailand is full of vibrant colors, smells, flavors, people, sounds... all competing for your sensory attention. It's awesome in the fullest sense of the word. I thought I would get sick of all the temples but each one was more impressive than the last. Our tour group was only 12 people which was great; I can't imagine trying to do what we did with 40 people. The food was really good if you are willing to try new foods and eat Asian-style food, but if you only want to eat Western food, you might be disappointed. The hotels were beautiful, but often had mold in the showers and iffy internet. One hotel smelled bad all over, but the food was really good and we only stayed one night. I cannot emphasize how amazing Kong is as a tour director. He was constantly adding little extras into our tour, like going to an island in Laos for a bit, or visiting a school. He also bought us Thai street food, so those members of our group who didn't like to purchase street food on their own could try Thai specialties and fruits. The trip to Cambodia was great, but a little overpriced - you're only there for 1 full day plus a few hours on two other days. I didn't like eating in the hotel for every meal. The guide was knowledgeable, but even though there were only 6 of us on the extension, he didn't do a good job of keeping us together at the sites. However, it was great that he was willing to take us to Angkor Wat at Sunrise, which is not in the program (but it really, really should be). Also, it's exhausting at the end of the trip. Still, I'm really glad I did it. Just be forewarned: it's hot, exhausting, and the poverty is breathtaking. I think the trip to the River Kwai museum should be optional, as it's not really that interesting and is a total Debbie Downer and a long ride. I would much rather have had more time in Bangkok exploring alone. I really think that if there is no choice of where to go for the meal, it should be included in the price of the tour (this was for Thailand). There is a high transaction cost for getting Baht and if we paid upfront we would avoid that. Also, Thailand ONLY uses Baht and Cambodia ONLY uses US Dollars (and make sure they don't have rips or tears in the bills). Also, don't pay the service fee to get your Cambodian visa ahead of time. It's much easier and cheaper to get it at the border; just bring a passport photo from home and it's US$20. Finally: Pay attention to the information provided by Go Ahead Tours regarding clothing. Northern Thailand does get cool, and you cannot wear shorts, short skirts, or sleeveless shirts in the temples. Also, you can never go wrong learning how to say "please" and especially "thank you" in your host country's language.
This was both my first trip with GoAhead Tours and my first trip to Asia. Let me tell you, the bar is now set very high. Our tour director was amazing. Mr. Kongka was so knowledgeable, so kind, so generous, and so very patient. If it is at all possible to request tour directors, I would ask for him hands down. The length of the tour, is just right. The activities on the tour are fantastic. There is something there for every one - the spiritualist, the nature lover, the animal lover, the shopaholic, and more! Since I am speaking so highly of the tour and would recommend it to anyone, you might be wonder why I only gave the tour 4 stars. First, there was one bad hotel in Phitsanulok. Thankfully we are only there for a night, but compared to the other hotels that were absolutely gorgeous, this one really was bad. Second, although I appreciated the Buddhist temple visits, I do think there were too many. It was hard to keep track which temple was which as the tour went on. But don't get me wrong, there are some that are worth seeing, namely the Temple of the Reclining Buddha and the White Temple. They were beautiful. Third, the beaches in Thailand are suppose to be beautiful and amazing. I think this tour would benefit from at least one day at a beach town.
Marvelous views of Temples, Museums, and historic trails through the mountains. Be prepared to climb lots of stairs and walking on beautiful trails as well as adventurous boat rides on rivers and lakes. Meet with elephants and tigers and view lots of rice and corn farms. Be prepared to shop for lots of artistic items and jewels. Also the cities are crowded with people and interesting buildings of new and old architecture. The food is great and includes lots of Thai and Chinese as well as western foods.
We had no idea what to expect on this trip... What an amazing experience!!!! The food, culture and scenery were all breathtaking. Lek was a wonderful tour director, showing us all the great sights and providing in-depth information...beyond what many of the on-site directors provided. Riding an elephant was an awesome experience all in itself. I would highly recommend this tour for anyone seeking adventure, culture and a desire to see a fascinating part of the world. If possible, definitely do the extension to Cambodia...again, another wonderful country!
We had a great time. Tour director was very knowledgeable and very generous, with lots of little tastings and gifts. The elephant rides were the highlight. Chat with monk was interesting. Temples were all different and some surprisingly ornate. Only problems were in the cassettes which did not always work, and some confusion regarding hotel reservations, but we were nicely compensated with a free massage! Hotels were clean and up to scale. Would highly recommend, but beware the flights are very long.
Thailand: The Golden Kingdom is hands down the best tour I've ever taken. Kong, the tour director, made this tour memorable and fun. Thailand is not only a beautiful country, but the people are warm, friendly and accommodating.
A trip of a life time!
I just returned from this 12-day fabulous tour on Monday. Everything went perfect..what a country, what kind, polite and respectful people...astounding that there was amidst all these cars, bicycles, rickshaws and trucks, never a horn blasted.We saw no accidents, no road rage...a very polite nation...so many impressions, so much to digest yet...the Elephant Training Camp, the ride, OMG, the boat ride to Laos, the Grand Palace, the Golden Buddha, the chat with a Buddhist Monk; the White Temple in Chaing Rai, the visits to tribal villages, to see how they live, and the shopping....unbelievable...oh not to forget the Night Market/Bazaar, and the Festival of Lights....Our Tour Director Mr. Kongkaa went above and beyond to make this trip as informative and enjoyable for all of us 35 travelers, no small task he had...He showed utmost patience and respect toward all of us and the love of his country was crystal clear. He needs to be commended, as he, along with the bus driver Nuk and the bus boy Nop made this an unbelievable adventure. Thank you!
Trek thru Buddhism
I learned a lot about Buddhism. The temples are amazing. Elephant ride and Bamboo raft trip were so much fun. Beautiful country. The extension to Cambodia is well worth the cost and effort. The temple ruins are breathtaking!!
Thailand:The Golden Kingdom
My husband and I went to Thailand on this tour in March 2013. I cannot say enough good things about it. Although this was our first Go Ahead Tour, we have traveled quite a bit with other companies. We were very impressed on this tour. Our tour director Tony was wonderful. He was knowledgeable, kind, personable and included so many extras. Thailand was a beautiful country with such friendly, delightful people. Of course, the elephant ride was a highlight. However, the entire tour was filled with beautiful sights, remarkable experiences, fascinating history. . . and a lot of fun. This will not be our last Go Ahead Tour.