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The most difficult decision you may have to make when visiting Thailand is whether to be adventurous and ride elephants through the jungle in the north, go shopping crazy in the markets and malls of cosmopolitan Bangkok, or totally chill out and laze on the beach, swimming in crystal clear waters on one of the dozens of tropical islands that line Thailand's east and west coasts. Can't decide? Perhaps a combination of all three would create the perfect Thai getaway. Add to that some of the best cuisine in the world made from the freshest exotic ingredients and you begin to understand why anyone who has traveled to Thailand will tell you that they are dreaming about returning.

Thailand Vacation Tour (tel. 800/ 842-4777; www.thailandvacationtour.com) has an eight-day "May Manager Special" to Bangkok and Chiang Mai departing on May 18, 2006, base-priced from $799. The package includes international Airfare from Los Angeles to Bangkok, Chiang Mai to Los Angeles), two-nights' accommodation at Easin Hotel in Bangkok, three-nights at the Empress Hotel in Chiang Mai, one night on the sleeper train (2nd class), round-trip airport transfers in Bangkok and Chiang Mai, half-day city and temples tour in both Bangkok and Chiang Mai, daily breakfast, English Speaking tour guide throughout the trip and all entrance fees. Airlines and airport taxes, fuel surcharges and a visa fee are additional. Add $70 per person if you would prefer to fly Bangkok to Chiang Mai with one additional night's hotel accommodation.

The "Grand Invitation Tour" (Adobe Acrobat required) departs on June 3 or 4, 2006 and commemorates the 60th anniversary celebration of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadij's accession to the throne. Prices start at $1,399 plus taxes from Los Angeles (other gateways are available) and include round-trip airfare, domestic intercity airfare (Bangkok to Chiang Mai & Chiang Rai to Bangkok), four-nights' accommodation at the Grand Mercure Fortune Hotel in Bangkok, one-night at Empress Chiang Mai Hotel, two-nights at Amari Angkhang Hotel or Royal Agricultural Station Angkhang and one-night at Rimkok Resort, daily breakfast, eight dinners, six lunches, sightseeing and airport transfers. Highlights include visiting the Royal Project, the Grand Palace and Emerald Buddha in Bangkok, handicraft villages at San Kampeng and Bor Sang, the hill tribes of Khopdong village Baan Kop Dong School, Norlae village, Long Necked Karen hill tribe at Fang District, Yapa village, Doi Tung Palace and Royal Garden, Golden Triangle and Opium Museum, the Mae Sai border district and Taa Kee Lek market in Myanmar.

They also feature a Bangkok-Chiang Mai or Bangkok-Phuket 10-day/eight-night "Delight Thailand Package" (Adobe Acrobat req.) priced from $992 per person for departures until the end of May, and in September and October 2006. The June 5, 2006 departure is $1,042 and from June 6 to the end of August 2006 is $1,142 and departures from November 1 to 23, December 6 to 14, 2006 and January 9 to 31, 2007 are $1,092. The package includes round-trip airfare from Los Angeles to Bangkok, domestic airfares (round-trip Bangkok to Chiang Mai or Phuket to Bangkok), eight-nights' accommodations at three-star hotels, transportation, sightseeing, English speaking tour guide and admission fees.

For an introductory taste of Thailand, Go-Today (tel. 800/227-3235; www.go-today.com) has a five-night special to Bangkok that includes round-trip airfare from Los Angeles, and five-nights' stay at the Bangkok City Inn from $719 per person based on double occupancy. This price is valid for travel until May 20 and from September 5 to October 25, 2006. Unfortunately departures from the east coast and several other locations throughout the U.S. incur a hefty surcharge -- add $510 from New York, Miami, Dallas, Boston, Detroit, Denver and Washington, D.C. -- so you may prefer to arrange your flight to the Los Angeles departure point separately.

The "Bangkok and Koh Samui Special" is priced from $1,189 and includes round-trip airfare from Los Angeles, domestic airfares, and seven-nights' accommodations at the Miracle Grand Convention Hotel in Bangkok and the Fair House Beach Resort in Samui. This price is valid for travel from September 5 until October 31, 2006. Travel before May 20, 2006 and pay $1,209 or $1,339 from May 21 to June 6 or August 21 to September 4, 2006. These are all great times of the year to travel to Koh Samui and islands on the east side of the Thai peninsula as they enjoy sunshine through the middle months of the year, whereas those on the west coast (e.g. Phuket and Phi Phi) are preferable weather wise from November until April. Reverse season can be rainy in each destination.

The "Bangkok and Phuket Special" is priced from $1,109 for travel from September 5 until October 31, 2006. The package includes round-trip airfare from Los Angeles, domestic airfares, and seven-nights' accommodations at the Manhattan Hotel in Bangkok and the Burasari Resort in Phuket. Travel before May 20, 2006 and pay $1,169 or $1,269 from May 21 to June 6 or August 21 to September 4, 2006.

Gate 1 Travel (tel. 800/682-3333; www.gate1travel.com) also has a five-night Bangkok trip with Monday departures from Los Angeles on May 1, 8 & 15; September 11, 18 & 25; and October 2, 9, 16 & 23, 2006, priced from $699. The price goes up $100 for May 22 and 29, 2006 departures and $150 more for June 5, August 21 and 28 and September 4, 2006 dates. Included in this price is round-trip airfare from Los Angeles, airline fuel surcharges, five-nights' accommodations at the centrally located three-star Bangkok City Inn and breakfast daily. Add approximately $93 from Seattle, $155 from New York or $476 from Detroit, Miami or Chicago.

The escorted 10-day "Bangkok and Phuket" deal includes round-trip airfare from Los Angeles to Bangkok, airline fuel surcharges of up to $180, domestic round-trip flights from Bangkok to Phuket, eight-nights' first-class accommodations (three at the Radisson in Bangkok, four at the Phuket Orchid and one at the Miracle Grand in Bangkok), a half-day tour of Bangkok and a half-day tour of Phuket, services of English-speaking local guides, all transfers and breakfast daily. This package is priced from $1,099 per person for departures on September 24 and October 15, 2006, or you can pay $1,199 for departures on November 5 & 19, 2006; January 14 & 28; February 18; and March 4 & 18, 2007. Book by May 19, 2006 to save over $100 off the regular price.

Ritz Tours (tel. 800/900-2446; www.ritztours.com) has a 14-day "Exotic Asia" package with prices starting from $1,899 per person. The trip features round-trip airfare from Los Angeles or San Francisco (or $1,999 from New York), intra-Asia transportation, 12-nights accommodation, sightseeing in air-conditioned motor coaches, breakfast daily, two dinners, entertainment per the itinerary, and the services of knowledgeable tour guides. Visit Bangkok (Grand Palace and Coronation Hall, the Emerald Buddha, and the Damnern Saduak floating market), Chiang Rai, Chiang Mai, Chang Saen, the "Golden Triangle" where Myanmar, Laos and Thailand meet, Mae Sai, the northernmost town in Thailand, Chiang Dao Cape and Meo Village. Then complete your Asian journey with visits to both Singapore and Hong Kong (with a half-day tour and sunset harbor cruise with dinner). Departure dates are available from now until December 22, 2006. Add-on airfares are available for departures from various cities in the U.S. and Canada.

Thai Fly (tel. 800/773-7126; www.thaifly.com) offers a number of discounted airfares, hotels and land-only tours in Thailand. Sample round-trip base-fares (before taxes) during the months of April and May 2006 include:

  • Honolulu to Bangkok flying JAL: $515
  • Los Angeles to Bangkok flying JAL: $595
  • Seattle to Bangkok flying Eva Air: $728
  • New York to Bangkok flying JAL: $745
  • Boston or Washington, D.C. flying American Airlines: $745
  • Dallas or Atlanta flying American: $815

Sample three-star hotel prices per person per night based on double occupancy include:

  • Royal Lanna Hotel in Chiang Mai: $26
  • Royal Peninsula Hotel in Chiang Mai: $28
  • Mandarin Hotel in Bangkok: $30
  • Montana Grand Phuket Hotel in Phuket: $33
  • Prince Palace Hotel: $43
  • Fortune Hotel in Bangkok: $45
  • Chiang Mai Orchid Hotel: $46

If you'd like to see more of this fascinating country and still be on a budget, Thai International Airlines (tel. 800/426-5204; www.thaiair.com) has a sensational "Discover Thailand Fare" that gives you a special pass with three domestic airfare coupons which can be can be used to fly to any domestic airport in Thailand over a period of three months. This pass is available for only $169 and you can pay an additional $59 for each additional flight coupon with a maximum of eight coupons permitted. These special passes must be purchased in association with an international ticket by December 31, 2006, and are valid for travel until March 31, 2007. Children aged two to 11 pay 50%.

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