PRICE

$2,995

SCHEDULE

Fall / Winter
October 23 – November 1, 2020
Loi Krathong Festival of Light
Lead Guide: Thong Chai

DETAILS

10 days in Thailand
Trekking Grade: Beginner

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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OVERVIEW

Known as the Land of a Thousand Smiles, Thailand is a perfect destination for those seeking excellent food and rich culture with a dash of outdoor adventure. While most travelers in Thailand opt to spend their time on the beach, we’re proud to offer another choice: a journey along a unique and less traveled path into the northern province of Chiang Mai, the heart of the ancient Lanna Kingdom. Lush rainforests, tumbling waterfalls, tall mountains and tranquil lakes home to floating villages characterize this landscape and offer outdoor activities unique to the region. In Northern Thailand, you’ll find a mixture of adventure travel and cultural immersion – and memories to last a lifetime.

Thailand Northern Explorer • 10 Days

Our trip begins in Bangkok, the capital of Thailand and the international economic hub of Southeast Asia. This city is home to more than eight million people, among them the Thai royal family. We set out in local tuk-tuks and long boats to explore Bangkok’s busy streets and picturesque canals, stopping along the way to visit local craftsmen, grand Buddhist temples, and other landmarks. We then fly north to Chiang Mai, where the people are friendlier and the pace of life slower. Did we mention the food is amazing too?

Founded in the 13th Century by King Mangrai, Chiang Mai served as the seat of the Lanna Kingdom for centuries. It is now the capital of the mountainous Chiang Mai Province, home to the important Ping River, rich wildlife conservation areas, national parks and ancient Lanna culture. We explore the old city of Chiang Mai with its medieval fortifications, vibrant shops, restaurants, and famous Sunday Night Market. We then travel outside of the city to a sanctuary for elephants formerly used for logging the area’s endemic teak forests. Teak is prized for its strength and rot resistance. When logging was banned in 1989, many of the elephants lost their homes. They are now cared for at local sanctuaries where visitors can learn more about them and interact with them.

From Chiang Mai, we drive a couple of hours north to a beautiful mountain lake on the Mae Ngat River, where we take a boat to a floating hotel surrounded by views of waterfalls and rainforest. We swim, kayak and enjoy dinner, then fall asleep to the sound of the gentle waves around us. In the morning, we transfer to the Mae Teang River for a day of exciting whitewater rafting, or an ATV excursion, before driving to our next lodge nestled at the foot of the Doi Luang Chiang Dao Mountains.

Doi Luang Chiang Dao is the second highest point in Thailand at 7,135 feet. We trek up its pristine slopes to our camp in the rainforest, then we enjoy a sunset and a sunrise from high on the mountain, with views across Northern Thailand and into Myanmar. It is possible to climb to the summit of Doi Luang Chiang Dao only from November to January. In other months, we instead visit a tribal mountain village where we can immerse ourselves in the ancient culture of this famous limestone massif.

We conclude our journey with a visit to the Mae Rim Valley, where we take a zipline through old growth forest home to rare wild gibbons. We return to Chiang Mai to relax with a Thai massage or stroll through the shops, restaurants and temples of the old city before flying home the next day.

Loi Krathong and Yi Peng Festival of Light

Fly your lantern in Chiang Mai! Every year, people throughout Thailand celebrate the beautiful lantern festival of Loi Krathong by floating lotus shaped baskets, decorated with candles and flowers, on rivers after dark. In Northern Thailand, another light festival, called Yi Peng, is celebrated alongside Loi Krathong on the same evening. For Yi Peng, paper lanterns are released into the sky instead of onto rivers. The largest Yi Peng festival occurs in Chiang Mai, where thousands of lanterns decorated with wishes and good luck prayers float into the night sky.

Loi Krathong and Yi Peng are usually celebrated on the full moon of the 12th month of the traditional Thai lunar calendar, which usually falls in November. The light festivals are thought to have originated as an expression of gratitude and homage to the spirits of the rivers and the water god who brings rain. Yi Peng was celebrated in the ancient Lanna Kingdom, which had its capital in Chiang Mai.

Unforgettable highlights of Loi Krathong and Yi Peng:

  • Thousands of baskets with candles floating on the river at night
  • Flocks of lanterns flying into the sky over Chiang Mai
  • A Buddhist purification ceremony to cleanse your spirit
  • Make a private wish among huge crowds of people making their own
  • Candles flickering on the streets at night
  • Traditional Thai dance shows

Since the festival happens only once each year and lasts several days, Mountain Gurus offers the festival as an optional event which may require an additional night in Thailand. Options range from simply floating your lantern and watching a free parade and fireworks, to attending an exclusive event with thousands of sky lanterns or a cultural Lanna festival.

Thailand

If you are looking for an invigorating and exotic adventure, consider our Northern Thailand Explorer. Our trips to Southeast Asia are led by local Thai guides and coordinated by Mountain Gurus’ Director Dennis Broadwell, who has spent decades travelling in Thailand and connecting with its people and culture. Thailand is the perfect venue for a thrilling vacation, where you can enjoy tropical jungles, thriving marketplaces, delicious food, and a deep cultural experience. To maximize your enjoyment, we recommend that you visit Thailand during the cool season, from November to January.

What can I do in Thailand?

The better question would be: what can’t you do in Thailand? The Land of Smiles is known for its temperate climate and friendly people and is the perfect destination for those looking for more than your typical tourist destination. Because of the wide variety of activities available, our Thailand Explorer trip focuses on the ancient Lanna Kingdom in the north. For those who prefer to go off the beaten path alone, we can organize a self-guided tour personalized just for you.

What outdoor sport adventures are available in Thailand?

If you’re looking for a vacation that includes outdoor sports, Thailand is an excellent choice. The beautiful waters of Thailand are perfect for scuba diving, paddle boarding and snorkeling. Sports like rock climbing, caving, kayaking, canoeing, cliff-jumping and whitewater rafting are readily accessible.

Thailand’s mountainous terrain is perfect for hiking. Or join an elephant trek and ride high into the lush hills of Chiang Mai to explore tribal villages and spectacular vistas. If speed and heights are your thing, why not zip line through the canopy of the ancient Thai rainforest? No matter what type of multi-sport adventure you crave, we can fulfill it in Thailand!

What about exploring the local culture?

Thailand’s rich history is well worth the journey. In ages past, this beautiful country was known as the Kingdom of Siam. Its culture has been heavily influenced by India, Laos, Burma, Cambodia and China, and by local, historic empires such as the Lanna Kingdom. Our Northern Thailand Explorer immerses you in this cultural legacy. We begin among the bustling streets, quiet canals, royal buildings, and ornate Buddhist temples, or “Wats,” of the capital city of Bangkok. We then travel to the northern city of Chiang Mai, seat of the historic Lanna Kingdom. We hike to tribal villages in the mountains on the border of Myanmar, visit craftsmen who have plied their trade for generations, and browse bazaars where we soak up the local culture and gain a glimpse into everyday, modern life in Thailand.

What are some nearby destinations I can include in my customized tour?

Angkor Wat in nearby Northwestern Cambodia – one of the Seven Wonders of the World – is the largest religious monument in the world. As you explore this ancient temple you will see both Hindu and Buddhist iconography and statuary. This Wat is in Siem Reap, which is also home to a historic French Quarter, nightlife, local culture, and markets.

Also close to Thailand is Laos – a perfect addition to your Thailand trip. There you can enjoy the romantic city of Luang Prabang and its ancient temples. For more adventure, the hill country of Laos offers multi-sport activities. We also offer a Golden Triangle tour that includes two days travel via slow boat from the Thai border down the Mekong River.

Why travel with Mountain Gurus?

Mountain Gurus has deep roots in Thailand. Our staff have lived and worked in Thailand for many years and have forged strong bonds in the communities we visit. We draw on our decades of experience to offer you deeper insights into Thai culture, as well as dining opportunities, sights, and experiences that most visitors overlook. If you want romance, we can design a trip featuring beachside candlelight dining, relaxation in the sun on pristine beaches, and low impact hikes. If you are seeking luxury, we can plan a five-star journey to pamper you as you explore. For those who prefer the wild outdoors, we offer the best multi-sport outings in Thailand.

Thailand is an adventurer’s dream come true. On our custom tours, you do not have to choose between sports or culture or romance – we can customize a trip for you that combines any or all of these.

Trek Highlights

  • 10 days exploration in Thailand
  • Immersion in Northern Thai Lanna culture
  • Traditional Northern Thai food
  • Elephant sanctuary
  • Whitewater rafting
  • Trekking the second highest point in Thailand, Doi Luang Chiang Dao
  • Led by local Thai guides
  • Coordinated by an American director
  • Lanna Thai Welcome Dinner in Chiang Mai
  • 9 Breakfasts, 5 Lunches, 2 Dinners
  • Guided tours of Bangkok and Chiang Mai
  • Shopping and exploration in the Chiang Mai’s Night Bazaar or Saturday Walking Street
  • Loi Krathong Festival of Light
  • Friendly MG office staff will help you prepare for your adventure

Day to Day Itinerary

Day 1 • Arrive Bangkok
Day 2 • Explore Bangkok
Day 3 • Flight to Chiang Mai, Night Bazaar
Day 4 • Elephant Discovery Park
Day 5 • Mae Gnat Dam
Day 6 • River Rafting
Day 7 • Doi Lunag Chiang Dao Trek
Day 8 • Doi Lunag Chiang Dao Trek
Day 9 • Zipline Tour
Day 10 • Explore Chiang Mai

ITINERARY

Northern Thailand Explorer

Trek begins in Bangkok and ends in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Day 1 • Arrive Bangkok

After arriving in Bangkok, transfer to the hotel on your own. We stay near the Chao Phraya River in the historic district of Old Bangkok, a short walk from the backpacking district of Khao San Road. We will explore the surrounding area and get our first taste of Thai culture and food.

Accommodations: Hotel in Bangkok

Day 2 • Explore Bangkok

Our day begins early at the Buddhist temple of Wat Saket, the “Golden Mountain.” We then visit the Ban Bat community, thought to be the last place in Thailand where craftsmen still produce beautiful metal alms bowls for monks by hand. We climb into Tuk Tuks and drive past the iconic Democracy Monument down the famous Ratchadamnoen Avenue to the Grand Palace. We tour Wat Phra Kaew, the “Temple of the Emerald Buddha.” On the way to lunch we pay a quick visit to the historic Tha Tian Market. After lunch, we relax on a longtail boat ride down the canals of Old Bangkok. Our day concludes with a tour of Wat Pho, the Temple of the Reclining Buddha.

Accommodations: Hotel in Bangkok
Meals Included: Breakfast (B)

Day 3 • Flight to Chiang Mai • Explore

After breakfast, we take a quick early morning flight to the northern capital of Chiang Mai. After checking into our hotel, we explore Chiang Mai’s fortified old city surrounded by ancient stone walls and a moat. We visit the temples of Wat Chedi Luang and Wat Phra Singh. In the evening, we’re free to explore the colorful Night Bazaar or Sunday Night Market along Walking Street on our own. We may also visit Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, a Buddhist temple perched high above Chiang Mai, at additional expense.

Accommodations: Hotel in Chiang Mai
Meals Included: Breakfast (B)

Note: If your visit coincides with the Loi Krathong festival in November, we may adjust the itinerary to make the most of this special event, while still enjoying the Sunday Night Market and other year-round attractions. Loy Krathong is based on the lunar calendar and seldom falls on the same day of the week.

Day 4 • Elephant Sanctuary

For centuries, elephants, “chang,” were used for traditional logging in Northern Thailand. With the abolishment of the teak logging industry many of these elephants were left to fend for themselves. The peaceful Elephant Sanctuary protects retired elephants as they live out the rest of their lives. In the evening, we enjoy a traditional dinner of Northern Thai cuisine and Lanna Thai Dance.

Accommodations: Hotel in Chiang Mai
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Lanna Thai Welcome Dinner (B, L, D)

Day 5 • Mae Ngat Dam

As part of a major initiative to stabilize rice farming in Chiang Mai Province, the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej built a series of dams, including on the Mae Ngat River in the late 1980s. The Mae Ngat Dam created a beautiful mountain lake that lies within the western edge of Si Lanna National Park. We take a boat to our hotel, floating in the middle of the lake! We relax on the water at our mountain float house, swimming and kayaking until dinner. On the way to Mae Ngat in the morning, we also take a short stop at Wat Ban Den known as the Blue Temple.

Accommodations: Floating House Boat in Mae Ngat
Meals Included: Breakfast (B)

Day 6 • Whitewater Rafting or ATV Ride

We pack our things, jump back on the boat, and then drive deep into the mountains of Northern Thailand to the Mae Teang River, a spectacular tributary of the Chiang Mai River. We listen to a safety briefing, then climb into our rafts to descend the Mae Teang. Depending on the season, we encounter Class III or IV rapids. We transfer to Chiang Dao, a quiet village a few hours farther north.

Accommodations: Hotel in Chiang Dao
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch (B, L)

Note: ATV trips are available in place of whitewater rafting at additional expense. The ATV ride travels a mix of road and off-road jungle terrain.

Day 7 • Summit Doi Luang Chiang Dao at Sunset

After a hearty breakfast, we check in with park rangers and start our hike up the pristine slopes of Doi Luang Chiang Dao, the second highest mountain in Thailand at 7,136 feet. This area was once the location of poppy fields that fed the Golden Triangle heroin trade. We reach camp, take a short break, then complete the final ascent to the summit, where we watch a spectacular sunset over the mountains of Northern Thailand. We return to camp and settle in with a delicious dinner.

Altitude ascent: 2,600 feet
Trekking times: 5-6 hour hike to camp, 30-minute hike to summit

Accommodations: Tented Camp on Doi Luang Chiang Dao
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner (B, L, D)

Day 8 • Summit Doi Luang Chiang Dao at Sunrise

We eat breakfast early, turn on our headlamps and hike to the sunrise viewpoint on top of Doi Kiew Lom. The rising sun illuminates a breathtaking view over the plains of Northern Thailand to the east and into Myanmar to the west. We descend back to camp, pack up and make our way down to the trailhead.

Altitude ascent: 400 feet
Trekking times: 1-hour hike to sunrise viewpoint, 4-hour descent to trailhead

Accommodations: Hotel in Chiang Mai
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch (B, L)

Note: Outside of the winter season from November through January, it is not possible for us to visit the summit of Doi Luang Chiang Dao. Instead we visit a tribal mountain village at lower elevation, where we experience the ancient culture of the Chiang Dao Massif. See Alternate Day 7-8 Itinerary below.

Alternate Day 7-8 • Chiang Dao Tribal Mountain Village • Hiking

After a hearty breakfast at our hotel, we transfer to our trailhead and hike to a tribal village set among the rich flora and fauna of the Chiang Dao Massif. Our excursion leads past water buffaloes lounging in rivers, waterfalls and terraced rice fields, to a traditional village of houses built on stilts. We sleep here, immersed in the mountain culture of the region on the edge of the Chiang Dao Wildlife Sanctuary, which is home to more than 300 bird species, including the rare Hume’s pheasant and the giant nutchatch. Then we descend back to the trailhead and our hotel in Chiang Mai.

Accommodations: Mountain Village (sleeping bag not needed) then Hotel in Chiang Mai
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner (B, L, D) on Day 7. Breakfast, Lunch (B, L) on day 8

Day 9 • Zipline Tour

This morning we transfer to the old growth forests of Mae Rim Valley. After a safety check, we zip through the canopy, viewing some of the last wild gibbons in the area. In the evening, we have another opportunity to explore Chiang Mai’s old city. Depending on your interests, you can visit Buddhist temples and vibrant markets, enjoy a Thai massage, or relax with a stroll through this fascinating city.

Accommodations: Hotel in Chiang Mai
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch (B, L)

Day 10 • Depart Chiang Mai

Departure day. Transfer to the airport on your own or stay and explore more of Thailand. If your visit coincides with the Loi Krathong festival, you can opt to stay an extra night and join the Lanna Thai celebration.

Meals Included: Breakfast (B)

Itinerary Notes
Mountain Gurus makes every effort to uphold the scheduled itinerary, although our guides are given discretion to adapt the itinerary for reasons beyond our control or due to the needs of the group. Meal schedule: (B) Breakfast (L) Lunch (D) Dinner

DETAILS

Price

$2,995

Optional: The Loi Krathong and Yi Peng Festival of Light may require an extra night in Chiang Mai at additional cost.

Rates are quoted based on double/twin sharing hotel accommodations while in Thailand. Single room fees apply.

Deposit and Payments

  • $700.00 deposit includes a $500.00 non-refundable registration fee, due with application.
  • Balance due 120 days prior to start date.
  • The balance can be paid by check, wire transfer, or by credit card with a surcharge of 3.0%

Price Includes

  • Scheduled land transportation in Thailand
  • Hotels and camping in Thailand based on the itinerary
  • Tour entrance fees in Bangkok and Chiang Mai
  • Scheduled meals based on the itinerary
  • Doi Luang Chiang Dao park fees
  • All support staff and mountain guide staff
  • All group equipment (including tents, stoves, etc.)

Price Does Not Include

  • International airfare and meals during travel
  • Domestic airfare (Bangkok – Chiang Mai – Bangkok)
  • Visa fees
  • Airport transfers
  • Non-scheduled meals and drinks, such as alcoholic beverages
  • Personal gear
  • Non-scheduled porter services
  • Trip cancellation insurance (highly recommended)
  • Single room supplement (hotels only) $450
  • Medical and evacuation coverage
  • Early departure fees
  • Tips and gratuities

GEAR LIST

A complete clothing and equipment list specific to your trip will be sent to you in the PreClimb information upon reservation.

Head and Face

  • Sun Hat or Baseball Cap
  • Sunglasses: Essential eye protection at altitude.
  • LED Headlamp: Bring one extra set of batteries.
  • Sunscreen: SPF 30+
  • Lip Balm: SPF 30+

Upper Body

  • Baselayer Tops: Cotton or synthetic short-sleeve shirts.
  • Mid-layer Top: This is a synthetic or fleece top.
  • Softshell Jacket: A breathable but wind-and-weather resistant jacket. Hoods are highly recommended.
  • Poncho or Light Rain Jacket: Quick and handy protection for body and rucksack

Lower Body

  • Quick Dry Shorts: Good for camp or hiking at lower elevations in the mountains.
  • Trekking Pants: One pair. Synthetic, stretchy, non-insulated (Required while trekking in the jungle)
  • Rain Pants: Bring a good pair of rain/wind pants.

Footwear

  • Trekking Socks: Two pair synthetic light weight
  • Trekking Shoes: One pair medium weight hiking boots/shoes large enough to be comfortable with your sock.
  • Sport Sandals: These are for tour days.

Packing and Backpack

  • Backpack: One 30L pack with good support, adequate to carry personal.

Sleeping

  • Sleeping Bag: Bring a warm bag (rated to 20ᵒ fahrenheit).

Personal Health and First Aid

  • Small personal first-aid kit and medications

TRAVEL & FITNESS

Travel

Program Location:
Begins in Bangkok and ends in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Visa/Entry Information:
Passport must have six months or more validity remaining at the time of entry. American citizens may obtain entry on arrival for no fee, valid for 30 days.

Health & Immunizations:
Immunizations are not required for entry into Thailand

Flight Travel Information:
Suvarnabhumi International Airport (BKK), Thailand

International Departures:
Itineraries reflect the date and time you will need to arrive in-country for a program. Mountain Gurus programs begin and end in the country’s destination city. When booking your flight, you will need to account for travel time and crossing the international dateline if applicable. It is easiest to give your booking agent the day and time you will need to arrive.

Meals and Food:
All meals are provided as per meal schedule. See itinerary.

Gear:
A complete clothing and equipment list specific to your program will be sent to you in the pre-departure packet upon reservation. For your safety and comfort, it is extremely important that you adhere strictly to the equipment list.

Northern Thailand Explorer Fitness & Training

Trekking Grade: Beginner

Basic fitness is needed for this trip. Most of our activities will be day trips with adequate time to recover each night.

Prior to the expedition we recommend running, hiking local peaks, backpacking and trekking to gain strength and stamina for the climb.

Here’s a suggested progression before joining the Northern Thailand Explorer:

  • Backpacking and international travel experience a plus
  • Mount Fuji, Machu Picchu, optional

Frequently Asked Questions

How much will my pack weigh?

Pack weights usually range between 20 – 25lbs for the Doi Luang Chiang Dao trek.

Do I need to treat the water?

All water will be treated chemically or boiled. We recommend that you drink bottled water while in cities or staying at hotels.

What if I would like to arrive early or stay longer?

If you arrive early, or stay in Thailand beyond the end of our scheduled itinerary, we would be happy to book extra nights at our hotels, or help you arrange a personalized itinerary for your extra time in Thailand and the beautiful, fascinating terrain of Southeast Asia. For maximum flexibility, please prepare by purchasing travel insurance or a flexible return ticket.

How much extra cash should I bring?

If you plan to purchase non-scheduled services, meals or drinks, bring between $300 and $500 USD in cash. Remember, gratuities for guides and camp staff are not included in the trip fee. It is customary to tip guides 10% of the trip cost. Credit cards are also accepted at most ATMs in Chiang Mai and Bangkok. Remember to alert your bank that you will be out of the country.

What is the skill level required for this trek?

Most of the day trips are fairly easy, with ample recovery time between activities. The hike up Doi Luang Chiang Dao is moderately strenuous. We recommend that you prepare by working on your aerobic fitness starting at least three months before departure. Running, hiking, backpacking and cycling are all excellent ways to train for a trip to Thailand. Anyone with moderate physical fitness is welcome to join the trek.

For those interested in rock climbing, we offer the option of basic rock climbing instruction in place of the zipline tour at additional expense. Climbers will gain knowledge of basic rock climbing terminology, gear, and climbing movement on the beautiful limestone formations of Thailand.

Who will my guides be?

Our Northern Thailand treks are led by local Thai guides with extensive experience leading our teams.