A Journey from Bangkok to Chiang Rai

Your Journey from Bangkok to Chiang Rai is experiencing Thailand in your way. You are the one who decides which places we are visiting, where we will have lunch, what time we will leave the hotel, and what time we will come back. This is your private tour. This itinerary is a sample itinerary based on our preferences. Those preferences are: travel as much as possible by local transportation such as horse carts, samlors, boats, and trains and spend as little time as possible stuck in traffic.

Thailand has stunning sights, and we have included those in this itinerary. The greatest attraction though of the country is its people. Where can you meet people? At the markets and in local transportation, for instance. We prefer to have meals in local restaurants, not in restaurants only catering to tourists. We don’t like crowds so we will take you to places that few people visit.

You can book your hotel, or we can do that for you.

White temple Journey from Bangkok to Chiang Rai
Wat Rong Khun aka the White Temple in Chiang Rai

Your Journey from Bangkok to Chiang Rai

Day 1 – Arrival in Bangkok

Total distance today about 35 km, driving time about 1 hour

Your guide and driver will meet you at the airport and transfer you to your hotel. Fresh up and relax before you will start your Journey from Bangkok to Chiang Rai.
Overnight at your Bangkok Hotel

Buddhist temple with blue sky Journey from Bangkok to Chiang Rai
Wat Phra Kaew in Bangkok

Day 2 – Bangkok

Total distance today about 20 km, driving time about 1 hour

Today is the first full day of your Journey from Bangkok to Chiang Rai. We will explore Bangkok, which was known as the “Venice of the East.” In the morning, you will visit the Pak Klong Talat market, a fascinating riverside market. From the market, we walk to Wat Pho, a temple known for its reclining Buddha and Thai massage school. In 1955 Wat Pho became the home of the first school for traditional Thai medicine, recognized by the Ministry of Education in Thailand. We will continue to the jewel in the crown: Wat Phra Kaew, the temple of the Emerald Buddha. This is the most famous temple in the country.

After this, we will walk along the riverside with its boats, amulet markets, and street vendors. Here we will have lunch in a local restaurant. After lunch, we will board a private longtail boat, made famous by the James Bond movie “The Man with the Golden Gun.” We will show how people still live along waterways and canals as they did a century ago. We will stop by Wat Arun, the temple of Dawn, and at the Royal Barges museum. Then it is time to return to the hotel with the rest of the day free as leisure.

Overnight at your Bangkok Hotel

We will adjust the itinerary to the location of your chosen hotel. That makes a big difference in Bangkok where we don’t want to waste time in traffic jams.

Day 3 – Bangkok – Ayutthaya

Total distance today about 120 km, driving time about 2 hours

Your guide and driver will meet you at the hotel and take you to Bang Pa In in Ayutthaya province. Here we will visit Wat Niwet Thammaprawat. This unique temple, with its stained glass windows and unusual European style, dates back to the period of Rama V (1853-1910). Then board a private long-tailed boat and enjoy a lovely ride on the River of Kings, the Chao Phraya. The boat trip ends at Wat Phanan Choeng, a temple older than Ayutthaya itself with an impressive sitting Buddha, the largest in the province. It is time for lunch at a local restaurant.

Afterward, we will explore the Ayutthaya Historical Park, a magnificent UNESCO World Heritage Site. Our guide will show you the temple ruins of Wat Mahathat, Wat Lokayasuttharam, and Wat Phra Sri Sanphet (a royal temple similar to Wat Phra Keaw in Bangkok). Wat Chai Wattanaram, located on the riverside, is one of our favorite temple ruins. After this, we will check in to your hotel.
Overnight at your Ayutthaya hotel.

Day 4 Ayutthaya – Phitsanulok – Sukhothai

Total distance today about 80 km, driving time about 2 hours

Your hotel can arrange the transfer to the railway station. The day train from Ayutthaya to Phitsanulok departs at 0947. Enjoy this train ride. You will get a meal on board. On arrival in Phitsanulok at 1321, your guide and driver will meet you. We will drive to Sukhothai, where we will start the tour immediately.

After breakfast, we will start our exploring the Sukhotai Historical Park. Together with Kamphaeng Phet and Sri Satchanalai, Sukhotai is a UNESCO World Heritage site under the name “Historic Town of Sukhothai and Associated Historic Towns.” It is one of the highlights of your journey from Bangkok to Chiang Rai.

In 1238, Sukhothai became the capital of the Thai kingdom. Thai people consider Sukhothai the cradle of Thai civilization. You will start your visit at the Ramkamhaeng Museum, which is the perfect introduction to our exploration of Old Sukhothai. Opposite the museum is the most important temple ruins within the moat: Wat Mahathat, Wat Sri Sawai, Wat Trapang Ngoen, and Wat Sa Si. We rent bicycles and visit these magnificent temple ruins.

Overnight at your Sukhothai Hotel

Day 5 – Sukhothai

Total distance today about 30 km, driving time about 1 hour

The countryside around Sukhothai is lovely and authentic. After breakfast, we will embark on a half-day bicycle ride to explore the backroads. It is almost like time has stood still here. We pass through villages and often stop to chat with local people along the way. You will get a good impression of life in this typical Asian rural landscape. We will take some single-track dirt roads through rice paddies and enjoy the quietness of a world far from the hustle and bustle of the city. When there are opportunities, we will stop and do some rice planting or harvesting, depending on the season. Enjoy the ride.

Then it is time for lunch at the hotel. After you have taken a shower will, visit more temple ruins such as the must-see Wat Phra Phai Luang and Wat Sri Chum. We can then turn back to the hotel so you can relax at the pool. If you want, we can explore some of the remote forest temple ruins such as Wat Saphan Hin and Wat Phra Bat Khao Noi we can keep on touring. These temple ruins are located on a range of hills overlooking the historical park and are well worth visiting.

Overnight at your Sukhothai Hotel

Day 6 – Sukhothai – Lampang

Total distance today about 220 km, driving time about 3,5 hours

Our destination today will be Lampang, the city of horse carriages. We will skip Si Satchanalai, but if you wish, we can include it. After all, this is your tailormade Thailand tour. Our first top will be the Dhanabadee Ceramic Museum and factory. Even if you have no interest at all in ceramics, this is an outstanding and very interesting place. Next is the nearby Wat Mon Cham Sin, a seldom visited temple with a huge chedi and a restored wooden Shan/Burmese style temple. 

After lunch, we will make a tour by horse carriage. Lampang has many historic houses, such as the Moung Ngwe Zin House. We will cross the Wang River to the former Forestry neighborhood where some of the British teak firms used to have their offices before World War Two. We will visit the restored Louis Leonowens House, the former office of the Louis Leonowens Company. Near this heritage house, there is the quaint Horse Carriage center of Lampang, an unusual place with interesting exhibits.

We will continue by vehicle to Wat Sri Chum, the best example of a Burmese-style temple in Lampang. The British teak firms brought employees from Burma to Lampang.  Return to the hotel.

Overnight at your hotel in Lampang

Day 7 – Lampang – Chiang Mai

Total distance today about 120 km, driving time about 2 hours

Departure from Lampang. Our first stop will be the hospital of the Friends of the Asian Elephant Foundation, home of two elephants who both have one prosthetic leg. We watch a short video and meet Mosha, the younger elephant. Continue to the Mae Tha “jungle” market, where there are products for sale, some of which are sampled from the forest.

The town Lamphun is hundreds of years older than Chiang Mai, but few tourists visit this charming town. We stop by the local market and start a tour by bicycle taxi along the old city walls to Wat Hariphunchai, one of the most revered temples in the North of Thailand. Opposite the temple is a covered bridge with a charming market inside. We pass the bridge to a restaurant that specializes in dishes with lamyai aka longan, the dominant fruit of Lamphun.

After lunch, we drive to Ban Jang Nak, the “house of many elephants”. This is the house and museum of Peth Viriya, the master wood carver of elephants. It is a remarkable place that few people visit. That finishes our day. We will drop you off at the hotel.

Overnight at your Chiang Mai Hotel.

Day 8 – Chiang Mai

Total distance today about 40 km, driving time about 3 hours

Today we will give you some free time in the morning and have a relaxing day. You can adjust this day as well. It is your Journey from Bangkok to Chiang Rai, after all.

We will depart at 1000 and visit Kad Luang, the “big market” of Chiang Mai. This complex contains two markets: the Warorot and the Ton Lamyai markets. This is the beating heart of Chiang Mai, a small city in itself. After that, we will visit Wat Chedi Luang, the most impressive temple in the Old City. The giant chedi towers above all other buildings in the Old City. After lunch, drive to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, undoubtedly the most popular attraction of Chiang Mai. We walk up the famous Naga staircase to the temple, where you have a majestic view of the city. After paying respects to the Buddha, we descend and continue to another day’s highlight: Wat Pha Lat, Chiang Mai’s “jungle temple.” This temple has become popular during the past five years, after decades of neglect.

Of specific interest is the Ho Prachao Rim Nam, a Burmese-style building that holds old Buddha images. The Fine Arts Department restored this building in 2019 after it collapsed over time. This beautiful temple is our last stop today. After this, we will drive back to Chiang Mai and drop you off at your hotel.

Overnight at your Chiang Mai Hotel.

Day 9 – Chiang Mai

Total distance today about 200 km, driving time about 3,5 hours

Today we will drive to Doi Inthanon National Park, one of the most stunning protected areas in North Thailand. Our first stop will be the thundering Vachirathan Waterfall. We will drive up to the summit of Doi Inthanon, the highest mountain in Thailand (2,565 m). Here where we will visit the two chedis, built to honor the 60th birthday anniversary of King Bhumibol Adulyadej in 1987 and the 60th birthday anniversary of Queen Sirikit in 1992, respectively.

Lunch will be at a local restaurant. After lunch, drive for five minutes to the starting point of our hike: the famous Pha Dok Siew trail.

Along the way, we will stop at the Hmong market, where products from the Royal Project are for sale.  We will trek for about two hours, first along a majestic waterfall and then through the fields of the Karen people. A local Karen guide will accompany us. We will have to cross the river several times. This multi-tiered waterfall cascades towards the Karen village Ban Mae Klang Luang, where our trek ends. Here we will enjoy a cup of locally brewed coffee. Return to Chiang Mai. Along the way, we will stop at the Vachirathan waterfalls. After another exhilarating day of your Journey from Bangkok to Chiang Rai, we will drop you off at the hotel.

Day 10 – Chiang Mai – Chiang Rai

Total distance today about 210 km, driving time about 4 hours

We leave Chiang Mai and drive to the Mae Kachan Hot Springs, where we will stop briefly. Our first stop will be at Wat Rong Khun, the White Temple. A National artist, Chalermchai Kositpipat, founded the White Temple in 1997. Since then, it has become the most popular tourist attraction in Chiang Rai province and is world famous. Over time they added more buildings to the White Temple. It is a dazzling, exceptional place where we will spend at least an hour. Besides the main temple, there is much more to see at Wat Rong Khun. Several museums exhibit the works of Chalerm, who is a magician and an incredibly talented individual.

After this, we will continue to Wat Huay Pla Kang, a remarkable, Chinese-style temple with a giant statue of Kuan Im, the goddess of Mercy. This temple complex is unlike any other in North Thailand. The temple functions as a center of social welfare. It raises donations that the temple uses to care for more than 500 orphans. Apart from that, donations pay for the construction of a hospital on the temple compound that will offer free medical treatment to local people. After this temple, it is time for a delicious Thai lunch.

Next is Wat Rong Suea Ten, aka the Blue Temple. This is also a Buddhist temple that was developed in this century. Thawan Duchanee, the Thai national artist who created the Black House, designed the dragon statues that are in front of the assembly hall. It has been a long day already, so we will drop you off at the hotel.

Overnight at your hotel in Chiang Rai

Day 11 – Chiang Rai – Akha village – Chiang Saen

Total distance today about 90 km, driving time about 1,5 hours

Good morning on the penultimate day of yourJourney from Bangkok to Chiang Rai . It is time for a boat trip on your Journey from Bangkok to Chiang Rai. We will drive to the boat landing on the Kok River, where we will board a local boat. We pass some of the stunning limestone scenery on the river upstream to Ban Ruammitr. Our vehicle is waiting for us to bring us to the Akha village Ban Apha.

Along the way, we will visit Wat Tham Phra, a centuries-old cave temple with Buddha images located along the Kok River. Most of the Akha people in Thailand live in Chiang Rai province. We visit a local house and enjoy lunch here. We will ask you to help prepare lunch with the local people. They will also show you their stunning traditional dress. After lunch, we will drive to Chiang Saen on the Mekong River, our final destination today.

We take a recently constructed and very quiet road until we meet the Mekong River, the border between Thailand and Laos. We follow the river and visit two seldom visited ruined temples in an area known as “Little Chiang Saen.” Next is the remarkable Wat Phra That Pha Ngao. This is a popular and impressive temple complex with many structures and two small museums. The biggest attraction of this temple is a white chedi on a hilltop, from where you have an amazing view of the Mekong River and Laos.

We prefer to stay in Chiang Saen because here you can appreciate the views of the river better than any other place. One of the best experiences is having dinner on the pavement along the Mekong River.

Overnight at your hotel in Chiang Saen

Day 12 – Chiang Saen – Mae Sai – Chiang Rai

Total distance today about 100 km, driving time about 2 hours

After breakfast, we will visit some of the highlights of the ancient city of Chiang Saen. We will drive along its still impressive city walls that have been reconstructed. Chiang Saen must have been a formidable military strongpoint in the past. Wat Chedi Luang and Wat Pasak are the two most visited temple ruins, which we have included. There are a lot more interesting temple ruins in and around Chiang Saen. If you are interested, we can adjust the program. After all, this is your own tailormade Thailand Tour.

The Golden Triangle is a must-visit place in North Thailand. What once was a crossroads of drug-trafficking routes is now a tourist attraction. We board a local boat and travel to the place where the borders of Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar.

Making a boat trip on the Mekong River is an essential activity! There are two interesting opium museums at the Golden Triangle. We will visit the small one because of time restrictions. We will have lunch at a local restaurant overlooking the river.

Mae Sai is an interesting Bordertown. Even without crossing the border, you can have a look into Myanmar from the White Buddha terrace of Wat Tham Pha Chom, where you have great views of Tachilek, the border town of Myanmar. It is time to return to Chiang Rai. Along the way, we will visit Wat Tham Pla, a rather bizarre cave temple with lots of pigtailed macaque monkeys, and the Black House aka Ban Dam, the dark creation of Thai national artist Tawan Duchanee (1939-2014). In Chiang Rai, we will drop you off at your hotel. End of your Journey from Bangkok to Chiang Rai.