Thailand may be the comeback player of the year in the travel industry. Nearly a year after the tsunami's devastation, the peaceful country known for its natural beauty has returned as a bustling tourist nation. The Northern Territories of Chiang Mai are busy with trekkers; Bangkok remains crowded with tourists seeking gems and tours of religious temples; and most southern beaches (80 percent of the hotels on the island of Phuket are operational) have restored their beachside huts and resorts. In short, Thailand is open for business.
Thailand Vacation Tour (tel. 866/842-4874; www.thailandvacationtour.com) has a five-night "Explore Thailand" package with air out of Los Angeles and all accommodations starting from $992 for travel through November 18, 2005 (prices for the package increase through the winter but levels off to $992 again between January 27 and March 31, 2006). In addition to air and five nights in a superior room at the three-star Eastin Bangkok hotel, the package includes airport transfers in Thailand, daily breakfast at the hotel and a half-day tour of the city including two temples and a jewel factory. Upgrades to more luxurious hotels are available including five-nights in the ultra-luxurious riverfront Royal Orchard Sheraton for $300 extra per person. The above package has a buy-by date of October 31, 2005.
Add-ons can be had through Thailand Vacations as well. A three-night add-on to Chiang Mai including airfare, accommodations, transfers and a half-day tour of the area comes to $199 per person based on double occupancy. In Chiang Mai and Bangkok, the hotel can arrange other daily and half-day excursions. If you prefer the beach to the mountains, a seven-day air/hotel package that stays in Bangkok and visits Pattaya starts at $369. The trip includes transportation from Bangkok to Pattaya by air conditioned bus (you get a close-up look at the countryside), three nights in Bangkok and two nights in Pattaya, city tours in both locations, five breakfasts and one lunch, and all hotel service charges and taxes.
For a great bang for your buck, Gate 1 Travel (tel. 800/682-3333; www.gate1travel.com) has a 12-day tour of Thailand base-priced from just $899. The tour starts and ends in Bangkok, making an inland circle visiting religiously important and the tribal areas of Phitsanulok, Lampang, Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai. The guided tour, different than Gate 1's very affordable self-guided air-land deals that let you see the sites yourself, includes airfare out of Los Angeles, inland travel, ten nights in first class hotels, ten breakfasts, one dinner, daily sightseeing, an English-speaking tour guide, all entrance fees to sights, optional tours for small fees, all transfers, and hotel service charges and taxes. As with all above tours, departure fees and air security fees are additional. Departure fees out of Thailand come to $14 plus an $8 intra-Thailand fuel charge. The Northern provinces are known for high-tribe villages, hamlets, river, and mountain villages, wildlife and Jade factories and local markets along the Thailand-Myanmar border. It's an enchanting trip that looks at peaks of the past opium trade and country life in peaceful and devout Thailand.
Djoser Travel (tel. 877/356-7376; www.djoserusa.com) gives you a 17-day voyage into the heart of Thai culture, with excursions into Cambodia as well. Starting in Bangkok (after a stopover in Singapore), this in-depth voyage visits Thailand central cities, Northern provinces (including the bridge over the River Kwai for you movie buffs), and spends a few days down South on the remote island of Koh Samet, known for its still secluded beaches and the whitest beaches in Thailand. This Djoser trip departs out of New York for $1,575 and Los Angeles for $1,475. Also included in the trip are all accommodations and all meals during the two-day trek portion of the journey. All other meals are additional as is travel insurance, admission fees, airport tax, and any personal expenses. A single-supplement costs $265 with a land-only price of $1,095. The trip departs once monthly from November 2005 through May 2006 with January being high-season when travel comes to an additional $245. During the trek portion of the tour, you'll stay in local huts with local Thai people, which the Djoser site calls "thrilling."
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