With a giant lying Buddha and ancient temples dominating busy Bangkok, adventurous trekking up north in Chiang Mai, and too many small islands to count with beautiful beaches and clear blue water down south, the country is pulling together its travel industry and attracting tourists to its many sites after the tragic tsunami. If you haven't booked your late summer or fall travel yet, take a look at these package options that examine the many different faces of the usually benign and always beautiful Thailand.
Gap Adventures (tel. 800/708-7761; www.gapadventures.com) has a 28-day, land-only tour of northern and southern Thailand that covers a good portion of the country's most visited sites and also hits some less-charted territory. Specializing in small groups of no more than 12 travelers per group with excellent guides, Gap Adventures exposes tourists to the authentic country life of the nation it visits with top-notch tour guides who immerse their groups into a grassroots type traveling experience. With seven trip styles, Gap tries to accommodate all kinds of travel experiences. This particular 28-day trip offers an authentic travel experience that shows the country from a mole's eye view. Departing often with spots available on the August 21 to September 17, 2005 trip as well as the August 28 to September 24, 2005 trip, the package starts at $1,025.This is a land-only trip, so airfare to Thailand is left up to you. Included in your price, however, are accommodations at guesthouses, on rice barges, raft houses, simple bungalows, overnight trains as well as two nights in a native's home; transportation on barges, bicycle, by canoe, local bus, minibus, ferry and train; seven breakfasts, seven lunches and seven dinners; as well as the numerous sightseeing excursions including an opium museum, an elephant ride, jungle walks, tours of many of Thailand's important temples, a day trip to Koh Samui, a full dinner and a cruise on an authentic rice barge. Travelers are encouraged to be in pretty good aerobic shape for this trip, as some treks last up to 4 to 6 hours, and other physical activity may be required during the course of the trip. Also, bring about $200 for extra meals and food and beverages.
If you're looking for a shorter trip, Gap Adventures has a 10-day "Thailand Gourmet Traveler" that focuses on food and cooking. Offering departures on August 29, 2005 and October 3, 2005, this land-only tour costs approximately $855. Included in this cuisine-focused tour are such highlights as cooking classes, market tours, temple tours and a detailed cooking demonstration. Accommodations are in hotels, guesthouses, as well as a home stay with a Thai family. This tour visits Bangkok, Chiang Mai, the site of the Bridge over the River Kwai, and the ancient Khmer outpost of Ayutthaya.
Djoser USA (tel. 877/356-7376; www.djoserusa.com) has several trips to Thailand including a 12-day package tour that costs approximately $1,495 from New York or $1,395 out of Los Angeles. The price includes all international flights, transportation within Thailand, all hotels and meals during your excursion. The trip starts in Bangkok before heading to Kwai and other small cities before two days of exploring in Chiang Mai before returning to Bangkok for the flight home. Fall departure dates leave on October 5 and November 16, 2005.
For a very short trip to Thailand that economizes on time and value, Gate One Travel (tel. 800/682-3333; www.gate1travel.com) offers a seven-day/five-night package that covers as much of Bangkok as possible in a week starting at $749 for a September 1 to 4, 2005 departure or $659 for a September 4 to November 18, 2005 departure, both out of Los Angeles. The trip includes round-trip airfare, five nights in a hotel of your choice and daily breakfast. As with all the above listed tours, airport departure fees and security taxes are not included in the package price.
Ritz Tours (tel. 212/286-1096; www.ritztours.com) has a 15-day "Tantalizing Thailand" package that leaves from New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. It's a seven-day exploratory tour of Bangkok, Chiang Mai, the Golden Triangle and Chiang Rai. Trips leaving through September and October are just $1,399 out of the California departure cities and $1,499 out of New York. This trip includes hotel, airfare, intra-Thailand transportation, some meals including daily breakfast, sightseeing excursions with a professional tour guide and some entertainment specials as well. Taxes for this trip will come to around $162 in total.
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