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THAILAND: Wildlife & Culture in the Land of Smiles

At the present time EcoQuest Travel does not have a trip to Thailand scheduled. The following itinerary is an example of trips we have conducted in the past and is similar to trips we intend to offer in the future. Please keep in mind that EcoQuest offers a variety of trips to Thailand and the itinerary below is just one example. If you are interested in Thailand as a destination please contact us for further information.

THAILAND

Wildlife & Culture in the Land of Smiles

17 Days from February 5 through February 21, 2013

The ancient land of Thailand offers a unique blend of rich cultural history and exquisite natural beauty. It is a land which overloads the senses with ancient temples and pagodas, emerald waters, a seemingly endless patchwork of rice paddies, busy cities, incredible forests, fantastic wildlife and cuisines full of pungent smells and dynamic tastes. Join us as we explore the best of Thailand from the bustling streets of modern Bangkok to the atmospheric ruins of Ayuthaya and the green hills of Chang Mai. We will ply the waters of the Chao Phraya River, seek the splendor of royal temples and watch elephants create portraits. We will also visit Doi Inthanon and Khao Yai, two of Southeast Asia’s premier national parks. Doi Inthanon is Thailand’s highest mountain and its forested slopes are home to an immense variety of birds. Khao Yai is home to one of the largest tracts of monsoon forest left in Asia and is home to an incredible diversity of wildlife including wild Asian Elephants, Sambar Deer, Wild Boar, Gaur, gibbons, Sun Bear and even Leopard and Tiger. This park is also a haven for birds, reptiles and amphibians. EcoQuest Travel proudly invites you to journey with us as we discover the natural wonders, cultural sites and magic of Thailand.


Days 1 & 2, Tuesday and Wednesday, February 5 & 6: Raleigh to Our US Gateway City and on to Bangkok, Thailand

We will depart from Raleigh in the morning and fly to our US gateway city where, depending on our flight schedule, we will transfer to either our flight to an Asian gateway city or directly to Bangkok, Thailand. Please plan to arrive at our departure gate in Raleigh no later than two hours prior to our scheduled departure time. Remember that your luggage should be checked all the way to Bangkok. We will arrive in Bangkok late in the evening on the 22nd. After clearing customs and immigration we will transfer to our accommodations at Aurum The River Place for a much needed night of sleep.

Day 3, Thursday, February 7: Arrival and Our First Day in Bangkok

We will likely be fairly jet lagged this morning, but it is important to reset our clocks by getting up and having an active day. After breakfast we will walk to Wat Pho. This temple contains the largest reclining Buddha and the largest collection of Buddha images in Thailand. The temple is also the national headquarters for the teaching and preservation of traditional Thai medicine, including Thai massage. After a leisurely morning at the temple we will walk down to the Chao Phraya River for lunch at a riverside restaurant. The Chao Phraya was historically, and remains today, an important part of life in Bangkok. After lunch we will board our boat for a trip on this famous river. Along the way we will visit the Royal Barges Museum that contains many fantastically ornamented barges used for traditional royal ceremonies. We will also visit the striking temple of Wat Arun. Wat Arun’s most prominent feature is the 270-foot tall Khmer-style prang or tower. The view of this historic and beautiful temple against the setting sun is incredibly dramatic. After a full day we will have dinner overlooking the river before returning to our hotel for overnight. (B,L,D)

Day 4, Friday, February 8: Bangkok – Palaces and Temples

After breakfast we will travel to the old royal district of Ko Ratanakosin to visit Bangkok’s most stunning attractions. Our first stop will be the Grand Palace and Wat
Phra Kaew (the Temple of the Emerald Buddha). The Grand Palace is the former residence of Thailand’s king and is now used by the monarchy only for special occasions. The Temple of the Emerald Buddha is an architectural marvel of gleaming stupas, polished roof tiles, mosaic laden pillars and ornate murals. All of this decoration is a shrine to the Emerald Buddha which is guarded by pairs of mythical giants. The Buddha image itself is diminutive and likely made of jade rather than emerald, but nevertheless holds a prominent place in Thai Buddhism and has been fought over for centuries. After Wat Phra Kaew we will drive to a local restaurant for lunch. After lunch we will travel to another Bangkok landmark – Jim Thompson’s House. This house, turned museum, belonged to a former American silk merchant and is a great example of Thai residential architecture. It also houses one of the largest private collections of Southeast Asian art. Later in the afternoon we will also visit Wat Traimit – the Temple of the Golden Buddha. This temple is famous for its 10-foot tall, 5 ½ ton solid gold image of Buddha. Even more fascinating than the image itself is the story of its discovery. It was found 40 years ago when a large stucco Buddha was being moved into a new building and fell from the crane. The stucco cracked revealing the golden Buddha beneath it. It is thought that the golden image was covered in stucco to protect it from being stolen by the marauding Burmese. After a full day we will have dinner tonight at Chidlom Chom Saphan restaurant before returning to our hotel. (B,L,D)

Day 5, Saturday, February 9: Spoon-billed Sandpiper Sites

This morning we will depart very early to visit Laem Pak Bia and Pak Thale which consist of extensive salt pans along the coast south of Bangkok. Here we hope to find one of the rarest shorebirds – the incredible Spoon-billed Sandpiper. Named for its enlarged spatula-tipped bill, this critically endangered sandpiper winters in small numbers at this site. After tracking down the sandpiper we will have a chance to search for additional species. The mudflats and salt pans here are home to vast numbers of shorebirds, herons and terns. In addition to the Spoon-billed Sandpiper, this area also attracts other rarities including Chinese Egret, Nordmann’s Greenshank, White-faced Plover and sometimes Black-faced Spoonbill. Flocks of Great Knots, Malaysian Plovers, stints and other wintering shorebirds feed along the pond edges and along the beaches. We will have a picnic lunch somewhere along the way and after a full day of birding will return to Bangkok for dinner and overnight. (B,L,D)

Day 6, Sunday, February 10: The Ancient Royal Capital of Ayuthaya

After breakfast we will depart on our bus journey north to the incredible archeological ruins of Ayuthaya. The World Heritage site of Ayuthaya was formerly Thailand’s royal capital that was destroyed by the Burmese. After our tour of the ruins we will have lunch at a riverside restaurant. After lunch we will head to the boat docks and our exhilarating long-tail boat ride to Bang Pa In – the summer palace. We will have a brief tour of the palace and then board our overnight rice barge for the cruise back to Bangkok. The Mekhala is a luxuriously restored teak rice barge that is the nautical equivalent of the Orient Express complete with air conditioned sleeping cabins. Once onboard we will begin retracing the route of former royal processions as we glide south from the summer palace toward Bangkok. At dusk we will dock for an overnight stay at Kai Tia Temple. After a candlelit dinner on the deck we will have a relaxing evening under the stars before retiring to our rooms. (B,L,D)

Day 7, Monday, February 11: Rice Barge Cruise back to Bangkok and Fly to Chang Mai

This morning we will have an optional wake up call at 6:00 am to offer alms to the monks of Kai Tia Temple followed by a sumptuous breakfast. Slipping past the countryside again we will arrive back in Bangkok in the late morning. After disembarking we will have lunch and transfer to the airport for our afternoon flight to Chang Mai. Upon arrival in Chiang Mai we will check into our accommodations at Karinthip Village – our hotel throughout our stay in Chiang Mai. In the late afternoon we will visit one of the most sacred temples in northern Thailand. Wat Suthep is perched on the summit of a beautiful mountain and the views from the top are outstanding. Dinner tonight will be a traditional northern style meal. (B,L,D)

Days 8 & 9, Tuesday and Wednesday, February 12 & 13: Doi Inthanon National Park

This morning we will depart early as we travel to Doi Inthanon National Park for two days of bird watching. Doi Inthanon is Thailand’s tallest mountain and the thickly forested slopes are home to nearly 400 species of birds. The Park is also home to mammals such as gibbons, leaf monkeys and Asiatic Black Bears, but we will have to be extremely lucky to see any of the mammals. As soon as we arrive we will drive to the park and begin our explorations. We will spend what remains of the morning high on the mountain birding near the summit and will bird our way down through the changing habitat types taking a break along the way for a packed picnic breakfast. We will also break for lunch at Mr. Deang’s Café. The Sphagnum bog near the summit is home to some of the mountains specialty birds including Rufous-throated Partridge, Ashy Wood-Pigeon, Rusty-naped Pitta, Chestnut-tailed Minla, Yellow-browed Tit, Green-tailed Sunbird and Dark-breasted Rosefinch. Further down the road we will be on the lookout for Slaty-bellied Tesia, Grey-sided Thrush, Grey-cheeked Warbler, Spectacled Barwing and the near mythical two species of Cochoa – Purple and Green. At the Vachurathon Waterfalls we will search for Slaty-backed Forktail and Plumbeous Redstart. The rest of the afternoon will be spent birding the dry deciduous Dipterocarp forests that carpet the lowest slopes of the mountain. These forests support a completely different avifauna including some spectacular species such as Collared Falconet, White-rumped Falcon, Black-headed Woodpecker and in the streams – Black-backed Forktail. On our second day we will depart early in order to arrive near the summit close to dawn. We will once again work our way down the mountain searching for species we may have missed on our first day. Once we reach the bottom of the mountain we will drive back to Chang Mai for a late dinner and overnight. (B,L,D)

Day 10, Thursday, February 14: Chiang Mai Thai Cooking School

Throughout this trip we will have the opportunity to embrace Thai cuisine – one of the most unique and diverse in the world. Today we will have the chance to learn more about this cuisine as we participate in a one-day course in Thai cooking at the famous Chiang Mai Thai Cooking School. Taught by a renowned chef our morning will begin with an introduction to Thai ingredients. After that we will learn how to prepare traditional Thai culinary treats such as hot and sour prawn soup (tom yam goong), green curry with chicken and Thai fried noodles (Phad Thai). With all this food lunch will consist of our morning’s work. After lunch we will learn how to make a few more dishes. At the end of the course we will each receive a cookbook full of recipes. Dinner, if anyone is hungry, will be on our own this evening. Tonight, after dinner we will visit Chang Mai’s Night Bizarre with its endless shopping possibilities. (B,L)

Day 11, Friday, February 15: Travel to Lampang and the Thai Elephant Conservation Center

This morning we will depart early for Lampang and the Thai Elephant Conservation Center. Elephants are revered in Thailand and have played an important part in Thai culture for centuries. Unfortunately Asian Elephants are endangered in Thailand, and throughout their entire range, with habitat loss and human persecution playing the lead roles in this decline. Domesticated elephants have also suffered due to lack of work brought about by the collapse of the logging industry in Thailand. The Thai Elephant Conservation Center was established to help preserve elephants in the wild and to give domesticated elephants jobs in the ecotourism industry. We hope to arrive by 9:45 so we can watch the elephants being bathed in the river. We will learn about the Center’s work, tour the facilities and have the chance for an optional elephant ride into the jungle. We will also visit an elephant hospital. After spending most of the day at the Center we will travel back to Chiang Mai stopping at Wat Lampang Luang on the way. Wat Lampang Luang is believed to have been built in 1476 and is one of the most beautiful wooden Lanna temples in northern Thailand. Once back in Chiang Mai dinner tonight will be at the Huan Kha Jow restaurant and will feature a traditional Lanna dance performance. (B,L,D)

Day 12, Saturday, February 16: Fly Back to Bangkok and Travel to Khao Yai National Park

After breakfast we will travel to the airport for our flight from Chang Mai to Bangkok. Once in Bangkok we will travel northwest of the city to Khao Yai National Park. The relative solitude of Khao Yai will be welcome change from the bustle of Bangkok and Chang Mai. We will arrive in the late afternoon or early evening and should have a bit of time to bird before we settle into our accommodations and have dinner. (B,L,D)

Days 13, 14 & 15 – Sunday, Monday & Tuesday, February 17, 18 & 19: Khao Yai

We will have three full days to explore this wildlife-rich park. Located three hours northeast of Bangkok, Khao Yai is Thailand’s oldest park. The park’s forests protect an incredible diversity of wildlife – including 200-300 wild Asian Elephants making Khao Yai one of the best places to see elephants in Southeast Asia. The mosaic of habitats in the park also support Sambar Deer, Barking Deer, Gaur, Wild Boar, Sun Bear, Pig-tailed Macaques, White-handed Gibbons, Leopards and even Tiger. Most of these large mammals are shy and we will need a little luck, but with patience and persistence we should see some of them. Far more conspicuous is the birdlife and Khao Yai is home to nearly 400 species. Among the bird species are the spectacular hornbills, colorful barbets and trogons, gaudy pheasants and elusive pittas. Reptiles and amphibians are also well represented especially snakes, lizards and frogs. We will spend our days slowly driving the roads, hiking the trials and viewing from watch towers situated near water or mineral licks. We will also have some night drives to spot nocturnal mammals and birds and one evening we will visit a cave to watch the emergence of thousands of Wrinkle-lipped Bats as they begin their nightly foraging. (B,L,D)

Day 16 – Wednesday, February 20: Khao Yai and Return to Bangkok

We will have another full morning in Khao Yai, and eat lunch, before returning to Bangkok. Once in Bangkok we will settle into our accommodations, have dinner and prepare for our long journey home. (B,L,D)

Day 17 – Thursday, February 21: Bangkok to Our Asian Gateway City and Home

If we did not have an overnight flight we will have an early morning transfer to the airport for our flight from Bangkok to the US. Because of the magic of crossing the International Dateline we arrive back in the US on the same day we departed.

* Please note that EcoQuest Travel, Inc. will make every effort to adhere to this itinerary, but dates, times, activities and prices are subject to change depending on scheduling and availability.