Our trip begins today in beautiful Chiang Mai, Thailand. Guests arriving this morning are met at the Chiang Mai airport and transfer to our hotel. After our trip orientation, we enjoy the first of many delicious Thai meals. Our afternoon includes a tour of Chiang Mai. We start in bustling Chinatown with its intricate maze of shops to weave through. Next, we visit the stunning Wat Suan Dok Temple, known for its beautiful white pagodas and chedis. Our final stop is at Wat Chedi Luang in “old town” Chiang Mai. This towering stupa sits on a sprawling compound and is believed to have been the largest structure in ancient Chiang Mai. Before dinner, we return to our hotel to freshen up. Lunch and dinner included.
Today is quite special as we learn about Asian elephants firsthand. We drive outside of Chiang Mai to scenic Mae Taeng Valley to visit a rescue center that provides a sanctuary for Asian pachyderms. On this full-day experience, we get up close and personal with these majestic creatures by feeding and walking the grounds with them and learning their plight. Returning to Chiang Mai in the afternoon, venture out on your own and explore the acclaimed Chiang Mai night bazaar. As Thailand's primary handicraft center, the bazaar offers fabulous displays of goods including silk, paper, wood, textiles, and culinary delights. Breakfast and lunch included; dinner on your own.
HDriving: up to 3 hours.
We're heading for the mountains today, but first we stop at Baan Tong Luang's hill tribe village. The village offers insight into the history and traditions of Thailand's minority northern hill tribes. Next, a short transfer into the mountainous region leads us to the Mae Tang River Camp for lunch. It is also the starting point for our three-day trek. Our afternoon hike includes a beautiful waterfall, open vistas and bamboo forests. The hiking trails are made by the local villagers to access their farmland and other villages. Trails are primitive and the terrain is rugged with several long, steep sections. Our trek ends at the tiny Lahu hill tribe village where we spend the night. It is time to relax and soak up the incredible beauty of the surrounding valley from our private longhouse as our guides prepare a Thai dinner. All meals included.
Hiking: 3+ hours over hilly, forested terrain with steep ascents; trails can be slippery. The heat and humidity can make the hike more challenging.
Note: Lodging at the tribal village is very rustic. All guests share one sleeping room in a longhouse made of thatched walls and metal roof. Sleeping bags/pads and mosquito netting are provided. We suggest bringing your own sleep sheet. Bathrooms are basic outhouses with a makeshift shower. There is no electricity.
We bid our Lahu hosts farewell after breakfast and head out for our longest and most challenging trekking day. The terrain is again rugged with steep uphill sections and stream crossings. We hike through fields, orchards and heavy jungle forests, but we have the trails to ourselves and are rewarded throughout the day with truly spectacular views including refreshing streams and local villages. This evening we stay at a charming “Shan” home. For dinner, our guides treat us again with their outstanding culinary skills. All meals included.
Hiking: 7+ hours; 11 miles with significant elevation gains on rugged, unmaintained trails.
Note: Accommodations are basic. All guests share one or two sleeping rooms in a local villager’s home. Sleeping bags/pads and mosquito netting are provided. Bathrooms and showers are shared. There is limited electricity.
On our last day of hiking we follow jungle trails through large stands of bamboo, coconut and banana trees, and local farmland. Periodic views into the verdant valleys below captivate us along the way (trekking poles are advised for the steep descent on this section of trail). After a delicious homemade lunch, we transfer to a local lodge where we can enjoy a well-deserved hot shower and cold beverage, a dip in the pool, or a Thai massage (spa services at hotel are an optional expense). Dinner tonight is at the lodge. Laundry service is available tonight and tomorrow. All meals included.
Hiking: 3 – 4 hours; jungle trails with hills and a steep descent.
Switching gears today, we cycle right from the lodge to the ruggedly beautiful Sri Lanna National Park, pedaling quiet backroads through the Thai countryside. We ride through villages, plantations and small farms with our support vehicle following behind. Much of the biking is on flat land following the irrigation channels used to water rice paddies and orchards. This afternoon we swap out our bikes for sit-on-top kayaks and paddle on an expansive, pristine lake. Our destination is a floating restaurant where we enjoy lunch in a gorgeous outdoor setting. We’ll work off our lunch by paddling back to the dock where we’ll hop on our bikes again. We take a new route back to the hotel, which is just as quaint and scenic as our morning ride. All meals included.
Cycling: 10-20 miles depending upon group and conditions; Terrain: a network of small unpaved roads, fairly flat to rolling. Kayaking: 2 hours on flat water.
We depart for the nearby Chiang Dao valley, where we bike to a fabulous cave system of five interconnected caverns extending some seven miles into the mountains. Local legend has it that this complex was inhabited by Burmese hermit monks for thousands of years. After our cave visit, we’re back on our bikes traversing orchards, paddy fields, plantations and local villages. The beauty of the countryside never gets old. Several routes are possible and will be determined, in part, on the group’s makeup. We end our day at a small “eco-lodge” which is located close to a Palong hill tribe village. There will be free time to relax, explore the local village or enjoy some additional riding. Our rustic lodge is located in an out-of-the-way setting and provides private rooms with shared bathrooms. All meals included.
Cycling: 2 to 3 hours on paved and dirt roads with some singletrack trails.
This morning there are two options: participate in a traditional Thai cooking class (enjoying the fruits of our labors, of course!) or jump back on our bikes for an amped-up ride on challenging trails through the surrounding countryside. After lunch, we bid farewell to our hosts and depart for Chiang Mai. This evening we celebrate a great journey's end with a final banquet at our preferred venue. All meals included.
Optional Cycling: mountain biking for 1 to 2 hours on rolling hills and flat paved and dirt roads, and singletrack trails.
If you are not joining REI Adventures for our Angkor Wat Extension, then the journey ends in Chiang Mai this morning. Breakfast included.