Wat Chai Wattaranam, Sukhothai, Thailand. Image courtesy of HGH Travel.
Nothing like an energetic start to a long trip, and Thailand’s high-octane capital of Bangkok fills the bill. You’ll begin with a full-day sightseeing tour through the Royal Grand Palace, Emerald Buddha Temple, Wat Pho, Museum of Siam, the Flower Market, and the Bangkok Noi Canals. And yes, you’ll also get to do some shopping.
The pace slows down as you head to Ayutthaya, Thailand’s former capital and home to many temple ruins including Wat Chai Wattanaram, Wat Phra Sri Sanpetch & Viharn Mongkol Borphit, the former Royal Temple.
Moving to Chiang Mai, the “Rose of the North” allows access to other magnificent temples, getting treated to traditional northern cuisine, and going up close and personal with elephants at the Mae Sa Elephant Camp.
Drive up to remote Mae Hong Son to meet Thailand’s diverse tribes in person, starting at the morning market, and continuing at the Karen Long Neck Villages where the women wear heavy bronze rings around their necks.
On the way to the mountain town of Chiang Rai, stop at Mae Kha Chan Hot Springs where you can soak your weary legs in the warm mineral water. Sightseeing in Chiang Rai means a visit to Wat Rong Khun or the famed White Temple, the Phra Kaew temple, and taking in its relaxed atmosphere.
You will also make a trip to the picturesque ancient city of Chiang Saen before making your way to the Golden Triangle, where the borders of Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar meet.
Cross the border to Laos and take a traditional boat for a cruise down the Mekong to Pakbeng, where you can observe rural life along the river. You’ll also get to stop at some H’mong villages and Tam Ting “Cave of a thousand Buddhas” before arriving at the pier in Luang Prabang.
The former capital of Laos will charm you with its dreamy elegance and relaxed atmosphere. Two nights will have you visiting the former King’s Palace, which is now the National Museum; Mount Phousi to explore the sacred, gilded stupa; the awe-inspiring architecture of Wat Xieng Thong and other temples; the amazing waterfalls of Khouang Sy set amidst a lush jungle; and the night market of the town where you’ll find hilltribes and other craftsmen selling their local products.
Buffet in Night Market, Luang Prabang, Laos. Image courtesy of HGH Travel.
Proceed to Vientiane, Laos’ capital that remarkably retains a laid-back pace. You’ll enjoy visiting the gorgeous 200-year-old Wat Sisaket temple, the former royal temple of Wat Prakeo, and the breathtaking Patouxai and That Luang Stupa, a spectacular monument to Buddha.
Fly off to Pakse for a cruise down the Mekong River to Champassak, where intriguing pre-Angkorian ruins are located; and to Don Khong, known as the 4,000 islands, one of the most scenic areas in Laos. You’ll also get to ride a long-tail riverboat through a maze of waterways and into the tropical paradise of Siphandone. You will also get to visit Khone Island for some colonial vestiges, Liphi Waterfall where a colony of fresh water dolphins live, and the largest waterfalls in the Mekong Khone Phapeng.
As a break from the heat, you’ll head up to the Bolaven Plateau. Known for its cooler temperature, the plateau provides a refreshing break that allows you to observe the cultivation of coffee, tea, and other crops that are grown in the area.