The hospitality of Thai people is well known, and the kingdom of Thailand continues to be a popular destination. A number of companies specializing in travel deals to this Asian locale are offering deals and last-minute opportunities.
Go-Today (tel. 800/227-3235; www.gotoday.com) is running a great package that includes a stop in Thailand that's hard to pass up. Starting from $799 for departures out of Los Angeles, you get your airfare and six nights' accommodations (3 in Bangkok and 3 in Hong Kong); departures out of other gateways include but are not limited to San Francisco starting from $859, New York-JFK from $999 and Miami from $1,124. The price includes round-trip airfare, hotel accommodations, daily breakfast, hotel taxes and service charges. The trip is good for travel between September 5-22, and air taxes, fees and surcharges are not included.
For those who are able to act quickly, the company also offers a trip to two Thai cities, Bangkok and Hua Hin, available from $1,049 for travel between May 28 - September 4; the purchase deadline is Monday, May 23, but may be extended. The quoted price is for Los Angeles and San Francisco departures; add on $60 for New York-JFK, $180 for Cleveland, or $250 for Atlanta. At least a dozen other cities are available; check the fine print.
Other deals available at press time did not reflect an updated purchase deadline of June 16, but a representative from the company assured us that many of the deals' buy-by dates would be pushed further out, including the very popular nine-day "Experience Thailand," which starts from $1,099 (plus tax) for travel through June 6 (purchase deadline is May 31), per person based on double occupancy, an English speaking guide, stays in Bangkok, Pitsanulok, Lampang, Chiangrai and Chiangmai. A cooking class, visit to local village and trip to the first capital, Sukhothai, are included. Round-trip airfare is included (airport taxes and fees are not), and the price reflects departures from Los Angeles but others are available for an additional fee. Other travel dates are available -- between June 13 and August 29 -- but the price goes up to $1,299 and the purchase deadline is June 16.
Another popular choice, "Explore Thailand," starts from $1,149 for departures from Los Angeles for travel through June 2, with a booking deadline of May 27. This trip includes an English-speaking tour guide, round-trip airfare and transfer fees, and stay at many of the same cities as the previous offer, with the exception of an evening at a River Kwai resort. For later travel departures, from June 9 through September 1, the prices goes up to $1,329.
The California-based Asian Affair Holidays (tel. 800/742-3133; www.asianaffairholidays.com) is offering at least a half dozen specials to Thailand including four nights from $988 for Bangkok, or Singapore and Bangkok for six nights from $1,078, or Singapore and Phuket, for six nights, from $1,219. All deals include accommodations, round-trip airfare and transportation to and from the airport. Bangkok is a city full of temples, palaces; a contrast of old and new architecture, and the trip is good through March 31, 2006, but the others offered here are more time sensitive if you're a last-minute, impulsive sort. The Singapore and Phuket trip combines a coastline trip with opportunities provided by a cosmopolitan city; however, you must travel by June 5. Or if a beach-only vacation is more what you're looking for, spend four nights in a four-star hotel in the island of Phuket from $799, good for travel until May 31. There are other add-ons possible, such as an upgrade to executive economy class from $860, which offers passengers wider seats and more legroom, or a stopover to Singapore for an additional $160, which is unbeatable considering the fact that round-trip airfare and two nights' accommodations are covered.
The other way to travel, a.k.a. Djoser (tel. 877/356-7376; www.djoserusa.com), offers a few deals to Thailand and Cambodia, including 12 days from $1,395 (New York) or $1,295 (Los Angeles). Departure dates include May 25, June 29, July 27 and August 31. Land-only prices start from $795, but if you do the math that means that you'd have to find a flight for less than four hundred dollars to beat it -- unless of course you are already in Thailand. Nevertheless, the trip includes a tour through the River Kwai area, a trip to Chiang Mai, a night train to Bangkok from Chiang Mai. A lengthier trip, seventeen days, is offered as well, from $1,575 from New York and $1,475 from Los Angeles. Other departure cities are available -- just search carefully -- and t he package price excludes travel insurance, airport taxes, and the like. All meals, round-trip airfare, hotels and transportation to and from such places are included. The trip is basically the same, except there are stops planned for Sukhothai and Koh Samet.
GAP Adventures (tel. 800-465-5600; www.gapadventures.com) is a company devoted to mindful, sustainable tourism, offers about a dozen tours to Thailand and its surrounding environs, including a unique chance to learn the basics of Thai cuisine at a Chiang Mai Cooking School, for five days from $290 per person, for two people; if it's one person the price is $375. Because this is an independent trip, daily departures are available based upon availability; you must call to book (prices are not available through the website). All of this will be taught in the relaxed comfort of a family home, but you'll stay in a hotel. Additionally, they offer a "Taste of Thailand" trip, for eight days starting and ending in Bangkok, starting at $475 (airfare not included) for departures between May 23 - 30, with accommodations at Thai guesthouses, transportation that includes bus, bicycle rickshaw, elephant and train, and four meals. For those who want to experience the landscape in the most natural way possible, the "Taste of Adventure" will take you on an eight-day trip with trekking through northern Thailand by foot or bicycle, and by staying in simple huts and Thai guesthouses. The next available departure dates, June 6 - 13, start at $450, not inclusive of round-trip airfare.
Grand Circle Travel (tel. 800/959-0405; www.gct.com), a Boston-based company that caters to Americans over 50, is offering August departures from $75 a day on its 16-day "Jewels of Thailand" tour. The package starts from $1,195 and includes round-trip international airfare from Los Angeles, Seattle and San Francisco but reasonable add-on rates are available for over 100 other departures. According to a representative from the company, more than 30,000 older Americans have traveled to Thailand since 2001. This tour includes the klongs, or canals of Bangkok, and the Chiang Mai countryside, less humid than the city, with a visit to its market and a farm. Special events on this tour include a Thai cooking class, a lecture on the culture and festivals, and other events. Travelers spend seven nights in Bangkok and seven in Chiang Mai, and 22 meals are also included. If August won't do, the deal is also good in September (from $1,295), October (from $1,395), November and December ($1,495). There is not a wide range of departure dates available though, so choose your airport wisely. There are also opportunities to add on other destinations and extend the trip in Chiang Mai for five more nights from only $345 per person.
For information about festivals, events taking place in Thailand, and tips on etiquette (don't photograph any statue of Buddha!), attractions and the differences of the north versus central part of the country, visit the Tourism Authority of Thailand (www.tourismthailand.org).
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