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Day by Day Itinerary

Small Groups: Never more than 10-16 travelers—guaranteed!

Travel to Thailand—once called Siam—where independence, hospitality, and the traditional philosophy that "life is pleasure" weave a spell over every visitor. Visit Bangkok with a small group, have personal encounters, and make unique cultural discoveries on an Asian adventure. Exploring Thailand from the cosmopolitan south to the remote northern hill tribes, you'll witness Buddhist monks receiving alms at a dawn ceremony ... ride an elephant through the jungle ... maybe even buy some fresh lemongrass in Bangkok's floating market. And get an insider's perspective into Thai culture as you take part in a cooking class, dine in a local home, and ride on a traditional bamboo raft. Discover what captivates so many visitors in this tropical nation.

Bangkok Chiang Mai Expand All
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    Your hotel room in Bangkok is reserved so that you can check in immediately upon arrival, very late in the evening today. An OAT representative greets you at the airport and assists with transfer to the hotel, where you'll meet the travelers who joined the pre-trip extension to Burma & the Irrawaddy River.

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    • Meals included:
    • Accommodations:

    After breakfast this morning, your Trip Leader, who will be with you throughout your trip, will give you a briefing on Bangkok at our hotel. Then you’ll have the chance to see the floral market, Pakklong Talad. Next, we board a motorboat to cross the Chao Phraya River and visit Wat Arun, a tiered monument whose name translates to Temple of the Dawn.

    Explore the canals of Bangkok at sunset

    After lunch at a local restaurant, we'll go to the Royal Barge Museum, where we'll see colorful and ornately carved vessels that once ferried kings and queens along the city's klongs, or canals. To get there, we sail aboard motorboats down the river and along one of the remaining klongs, which takes us through residential areas on the outskirts of town. We become part of Bangkok’s lifeblood as we cruise its network of waterways—a part of Bangkok many travelers never see—passing small, sampan-style boats used by local people as their families’ transportation, water taxis, small wooden homes, and luxurious teak houses on stilts.

    A motorcoach will then bring us to our hotel, where we'll take a brief orientation walk. Tonight, enjoy a Welcome Dinner at a local restaurant.

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    Following breakfast at our hotel, enjoy a tour of Bangkok. Step into the Old Kingdom of Siam at the Grand Palace of Thailand, a sprawling compound of ceremonial halls, gilded spires, and ornate buildings. The ancient city’s defining landmark since 1782, the palace became the centerpiece of a new Thai capital called Krung Thep (City of Angels), known outside of Thailand as Bangkok. It was King Mongkut (or Rama IV) who ruled from this palace, expanded trade with the West, and was romanticized in the musical The King and I.

    See the Temple of the Emerald Buddha in Bangkok

    The focal point of the palace is the Emerald Buddha. Carved out of jade and adorned with gold, the Emerald Buddha made a dramatic appearance in 1434, when it was found hidden in a temple stupa. Since 1785, the Emerald Buddha—the most highly revered image of the Buddha—has resided in the Royal Chapel of the Grand Palace.

    You can spend the afternoon at leisure making your own discoveries in Bangkok, with lunch and dinner on your own.

    Or, this evening, you can join an optional excursion to see the beautifully painted murals at the Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall, watch an epic Thai musical production, and have dinner at a local restaurant.

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    See the Floating Market of Damnern Saduak in Bangkok

    This morning, we have breakfast and then depart Bangkok, stopping to see the Floating Market of Damnoen Saduak. Then we arrive in Kanchanaburi Province, a green region where the riverside scenery belies its dramatic history, portrayed in the film The Bridge on the River Kwai. It was here that Allied POWs and Asian conscripts were forced to build the infamous World War II railway. In the summer of 1942, World War II was raging across Europe and Asia. The Allies were rapidly capturing the sea routes to Burma, forcing the Japanese to develop an overland supply route from the east to support their troops. The Japanese decided that the most viable option was a railway that followed the River Kwai through the dense jungle on either side. About 200,000 Asian laborers and 61,000 Allied prisoners of war built this 260-mile stretch of rail in abominable conditions—for every half-mile of track laid, 38 POWs perished.

    Following lunch at a local restaurant, we visit Kanchanaburi's War Cemetery and have a chance to walk on the original bridge on the River Kwai. We continue to our lodge by motorcoach, and settle down for dinner upon arrival.

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    Explore the Kanchanaburi region of Thailand

    We start with breakfast at our hotel and then drive to Hellfire Pass for a 45-minute walk on a woodland trail. (The trail has many stairs, but you can avoid them by turning back after walking through Hellfire Pass.) The area is now peaceful, but many lives were lost during the World War II construction of one of the most difficult sections of the River Kwai Railway: To lay track here, Allied POWs and Asian conscripts carved through solid rock—almost entirely by hand. We visit the sobering Hellfire Pass Museum. Then, we board our longtail speedboat for an hour-long cruise on the River Kwai, disembarking at Paksaeng Pier. After our cruise, we enjoy lunch together at a local restaurant before returning to our lodge for some time at leisure.

    Dinner tonight is at a local restaurant.

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    Explore Uthaithani on a rice barge cruise

    We set out for Phitsanulok early this morning after breakfast. Driving through rice-growing country to Uthaithani, we stop to visit a town market, where local farmers sell live fish and fresh vegetables.

    We then board the Khiri Nava, a large traditional wooden rice barge, and cruise past peaceful scenes of river life. Many local people live on the raft houses that line both sides of the Sakae Krang River, and you might see farmers tending their small fish farms. We enjoy lunch as we cruise on the river for about an hour and a half. We then continue to Phitsanulok. Late in the evening, we check into our hotel and have dinner at a local restaurant.

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    Explore 13th century Sukhothai

    After breakfast this morning, we head for Sukhothai, Thailand’s largest collection of historic ruins. This is the place where the Thai nation was born, the kingdom’s magical and spiritual center. With its cache of remarkably preserved columns, shrines, temples, and palaces, it epitomizes old Siam. We ride a tram through the well-kept grounds of this historical park to see the monuments, and learn about its most famous king, Ramkamhaeng. Not only did this legendary ruler leave a great legacy of art and architecture, he left stones inscribed with a chronicle of his achievement. King Ramkamhaeng is credited with inventing Thai script, as well as with amazing skill at hand-to-hand combat on elephantback, the spread of Theravada Buddhism, and developing relations with China. But even his colorful legend pales in comparison to the evocative palette of Sukhothai, “Dawn of Happiness.” Then we enjoy lunch together at a local restaurant.

    In the afternoon, we travel approximately five hours to Phrae, where we visit a cloth-dyeing workshop and end the day with dinner at our hotel.

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    Encounter local children in a northern Thailand community

    Today, we have a special treat: A Day in the Life of a northern Thai community. First we explore the stalls of a local market, seeing fresh produce and the popular snacks of the region. Next we have a chance to meet the children of a village school (when in session, May-Sep and Nov-Feb), sponsored in part by Grand Circle Foundation, and enjoy a student performance. We continue on a walking tour to the senior center, and learn how to make local crafts in a nearby workshop. Later, we join in a roundtable discussion with the women of the village, and stop by a house that provides traditional medical treatment. Finally, we enjoy a Home-Hosted Lunch with a local family.

    Saying goodbye to the village, you can rest on a two-hour ride as we travel to Chiang Rai. We arrive at our hotel in time to take an orientation walk of the neighborhood before dinner at a restaurant in town.

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    Encounter the Salong Hill Tribe in northern Thailand

    Today we tour the mountain villages of local hill tribes. More than 20 distinct, semi-nomadic tribes inhabit northern Thailand and the borderlands of Burma and Laos. Some have obscure origins; most have their own language; and all have unique customs. We ride to the small village of Mae Chan and switch to open songtaew taxi trucks to climb a narrow road to Mae Salong, a rural town situated high in the mountains. Here we will visit hill tribe known as “Long Neck” for the golden rings the women wear to push down their collar bones. Take note of their compact huts, their traditional clothing, and a way of life that has changed little in centuries. We also visit the Akha, who wear elaborate headdresses accented with vivid colors.

    For lunch, we’ll drive to a local restaurant.  Afterwards, we visit the House of Opium Museum and hear stories about the opium warlords who once held sway in in this region, formerly known as the Golden Triangle. At one time, the hill tribes in this region relied on the cultivation of opium for survival—including several bands of Chinese nationalist followers of Chiang Kai Shek, who have been living here (somewhat in hiding and in dwindling numbers) since the Revolution. But times have changed. The government has established many programs to introduce more viable crops, and most of the people are law-abiding farmers. Today, tourism has become a preferable alternative to drug smuggling, and the hill tribes are more concerned about preserving their old traditions.

    We dine at a local restaurant tonight.

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    Discover the night bazaar in Chiang Mai

    Relax and enjoy the passing landscapes as we travel most of the morning to Chiang Mai—the principal city of the north, a major cultural center, and a favorite with visitors. The city’s medieval walls encircle more than 30 active Buddhist temples, and the metropolitan region boasts another 80 religious sites.

    Lunch will be in Chiang Mai at a local restaurant. This afternoon, join your Trip Leader on a visit to a gem gallery. Chiang Mai holds some of the leading miners of sapphires, and it's the world's largest cutter of colored stones.

    Dinner tonight is on our own. Later, explore the well-known Night Bazaar on foot to experience a cavalcade of sights and sounds. You’ll find costumed dolls, carved teakwood artwork, and hill tribe crafts, as well as modern items from DVDs to lamps. Chiang Mai is the nation’s premier crafts center, and you'll have an opportunity to learn how local craftsmen created their products throughout your stay here.

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    Explore the forest of Thailand on an elephant trek

    This morning we visit the Mae Taman Elephant Camp for show of trained elephants, and then we embark on a forest trek by elephantback. We ride for about an hour on the backs of these gentle giants, enjoying a grand view of the forest. We return to camp by elephant and then board small bamboo rafts and float downstream. We'll enjoy lunch at the camp.

    Because so many of our travelers have fallen in love with Thai cuisine, we’ve arranged a cooking class for you at a local Thai home later this evening. Upon arrival, we meet our instructor. For one hour, she shows us how to prepare delicious Thai food, which we then enjoy for dinner.

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    Encounter Buddhist monks during a tour of Thailand

    Before breakfast this morning, you have the option of visiting a local temple to witness traditional Buddhist alms giving. After breakfast, we’ll visit the temple of Wat Chedi Luang and have a discussion with its Buddhist monks. Then we’ll see the most magnificent of the city’s temples, Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep, which we reach by riding up its mountain slope and negotiating hairpin turns until we come to a flight of 306 stairs, flanked by snarling naga serpents whose tails coil up to the temple. From this vantage point, Chiang Mai seems minute below. We'll have the option to walk up the stairs or take a funicular.

    You’ll have the afternoon to explore Chiang Mai on your own, perhaps sampling the renowned northern dish, khao soi (yellow noodles and meat in a spicy, coconut-curry broth) for lunch. In the evening, we enjoy making personal connections with the Thai people as we have a special dinner in the home of local residents.

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    Explore a street market in Bangkok

    This morning, we head to the airport to board our flight for Bangkok.

    After checking in to our hotel in Bangkok, spend an afternoon at leisure making your own discoveries in the city. You are free to choose a local restaurant for dinner on your own this evening.

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    • Meals included:
    • Accommodations:

    Today, we explore the city of Bangkok. We begin with a walk through a traditional market in Chinatown, filled with colorful shops selling fruit, snacks, incense, and items used in local rituals. Then we pay a visit to Wat Trimitr and its Golden Buddha, the largest Buddha made of pure gold in the world.

    See Bangkok’s oldest temple Wat Po

    Continue your explorations with a visit to Bangkok’s oldest temple, Wat Po, where you’ll see the colossal statue of the reclining Buddha.

    After lunch on your own, we arrive at the Jim Thompson House, former home of a mysterious American turned silk merchant, for a tour of the traditional teak houses whose pieces were moved here from various parts of the country. Jim Thompson is credited with revitalizing Thailand’s silk industry and expanding its international markets. We’ll return to our hotel by public transportation in late afternoon.

    Tonight, we gather for a Farewell Dinner cruise on a river rice barge, and return to our hotel for the evening.

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    Very early this morning, we accompany you to the airport. If you’re taking our post-trip extension in Phnom Penh & Angkor Wat, Cambodia, you’ll fly to Phnom Penh; otherwise, you’ll fly home. You cross the International Date Line, arriving in the U.S. on the same day, in time to make connecting flights home.

Extensions

Traveler Reviews

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Striving for Excellence

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Our #1 commitment is delivering the best travel experience at the best value, so we take feedback from our travelers seriously as we strive to improve what we do. And one of the best ways for us to measure how travelers have rated our trips—including their experiences and the value we offer—is from our post-trip surveys, sent in by travelers.

Ratings based on percentage of travelers who rated these features "Excellent".

Overall Trip Excellence
73%
Trip Leader Excellence
94%
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Weather & Regional

Before you travel, we encourage you to learn about the region of the world you'll discover on this trip. From weather and currency information to details on population, geography, and local history, you'll find a comprehensive introduction to your destinations below.  Visit our “What to Know” page to find information about the level of activity to expect, vaccination information resources, and visa requirements specific to this vacation.

What to Know

For more detailed information about this trip, download our Travel Handbook below. This document covers a wide range of information on specific areas of your trip, from passport, visa, and medical requirements; to the currencies of the countries you’ll visit and the types of electrical outlets you’ll encounter. This handbook is written expressly for this itinerary. For your convenience, we've highlighted our travelers' most common areas of interest on this page.

Download the Travel Handbook

What to Expect

Pacing

  • 6 locations in 15 days with two 1-night stays
  • International flights from Los Angeles to Bangkok depart around midnight, crossing the International Date Line, and internal flight that requires early wake-up
  • Airport transfers in Bangkok take approximately 1 hour

Physical requirements

  • Not appropriate for travelers using wheelchairs, walkers, or other mobility aids
  • You must be able to walk 3 miles unassisted and participate in 5-7 hours of physical activities each day
  • Agility and balance are required for embarking boat, raft, and barge, and riding songtaew taxi truck and elephant

Climate

  • Daytime temperatures range from 80-90°F
  • March-May are hottest during the day, with high levels of humidity. Heavy rains are possible between August and October

Terrain

  • We’ll travel over bumpy, unpaved roads at times, on foot and by bus

Transportation

  • Travel by 24-passenger coach, 30-passenger boat, raft, barge, songtaew taxi truck, and elephant back
  • 1 overland drive 7 hours long and 1 internal flight of 1.5 hours

Accommodations & Facilities

  • All accommodations feature private baths and Western-style toilet facilities
  • Throughout touring, only Asian-style toilets (squat-style rather than seats) may be available

Travel Documents

Passport

Your passport should meet these requirements for this itinerary:

  • It should be valid for at least 6 months after your scheduled return to the U.S.
  • It should have the recommended number of blank pages (refer to the handbook for details).
  • The blank pages must be labeled “Visas” at the top. Pages labeled “Amendments and Endorsements” are not acceptable.

Visas

U.S. citizens will need a visa (or visas) for this trip. In addition, there may be other entry requirements that also need to be met. For your convenience, we’ve included a quick reference list, organized by country:

  • Thailand: No visa required.
  • Burma (Myanmar) (optional extension): Visa required.
  • Cambodia (optional extension): Visa required.

Travelers who are booked on this adventure will be sent a complete Visa Packet— with instructions, applications, and a list of visa fees—approximately 100 days prior to their departure. (Because many countries limit the validity of their visa from the date it is issued, or have a specific time window for when you can apply, we do not recommend applying too early.)

If you are not a U.S. citizen, do not travel with a U.S. passport, or will be traveling independently before/after this trip, then your entry requirements may be different. Please check with the appropriate embassy or a visa servicing company. To contact our recommended visa servicing company, PVS International, call toll-free at 1-800-556-9990.

Vaccinations Information

For a detailed and up-to-date list of vaccinations that are recommended for this trip, please visit the CDC’s “Traveler’s Health” website. You can also refer to the handbook for details.

Before Your Trip

Before you leave on your adventure, there are at least four health-related things you should do. Please check the handbook for specifics, but for now, here’s the short list:

Step 1: Check with the CDC for their recommendations for the countries you’ll be visiting.
Step 2: Have a medical checkup with your doctor.
Step 3: Pick up any necessary medications, both prescription and over-the-counter.
Step 4: Have a dental and/or eye checkup. (Recommended, but less important than steps 1-3.)

What to Bring

In an effort to help you bring less, we have included checklists within the handbook, which have been compiled from suggestions by Trip Leaders and former travelers. The lists are only jumping-off points—they offer recommendations based on experience, but not requirements. You might also want to refer to the climate charts in the handbook or online weather forecasts before you pack. Refer to the handbook for details.

Insider Tips

Accommodations

Main Trip

  • Tawana Hotel

    Bangkok, Thailand

    The 265-room Tawana Hotel is centrally located in Bangkok, very close to both Skytrain and subway stations, whether you walk or use the hotel’s complimentary tuk-tuk. Rooms are air-conditioned and include a safe, minibar, coffee and tea-making facilities, and private bath. Amenities include an outdoor pool and three on-site restaurants.

  • Hin Tok River Camp

    Kanchanaburi, Thailand

    Perched on the peak of Hintok Mountain, with inspiring views of the River Kwai and the lush local flora, the Hin Tok River Camp in Thailand features an on-site open-air restaurant and a swimming pool fed by a natural spring. The 32 tented, air-conditioned rooms feature a minibar, refrigerator, and private bath.

  • Wangchan River View

    Phitsanulok, Thailand

    Newly constructed in 2013, this modern hotel is located in the city center of Phitsanulok, close to the Nan River with easy access to public transportation. Nearby attractions include Wat Phra Sri Rattana, the King Naresuan Bridge, and Phitsanulok's popular night market. Each of the 116 air-conditioned rooms features TV, WiFi, and a private bath. Try to make time to relax at the hotel’s Thai massage center.

  • Maeyom Palace Hotel

    Phrae, Thailand

    This 104-room hotel provides basic amenities in an off-the-beaten-path location. In your down time, relax at the outdoor pool, bar, or the on-site restaurant with garden seating. Rooms are air-conditioned and feature TV, minibar, and private bath with shower.
  • Golden Pine Resort & Spa

    Chiang Rai, Thailand

    Golden Pine Resort & Spa in Thailand is in the heart of pineapple country, far from the busy city streets, surrounded by fields and rice paddies. The 90-room resort features an outdoor pool, restaurant, bar, and spa. Rooms are broken into individual, air-conditioned cottages and include TV, minibar, shower, and tub.

  • The Park Hotel Chiang Mai

    Chiang Mai, Thailand

    With its central, entertainment district location, The Park Hotel is well-situated for city discovery. Each of the 176 rooms features A/C, satellite TV, wireless internet access, and private bath with hairdryer. The hotel offers an authentic Thai restaurant, a lounge/bar, and an outdoor swimming pool. The Park also boasts panoramic views of the city from its upper floors.

Extensions

  • Tawana Hotel

    Bangkok, Thailand

    The 265-room Tawana Hotel is centrally located in Bangkok, very close to both Skytrain and subway stations, whether you walk or use the hotel’s complimentary tuk-tuk. Rooms are air-conditioned and include a safe, minibar, coffee and tea-making facilities, and private bath. Amenities include an outdoor pool and three on-site restaurants.

  • Parkroyal Yangon Hotel

    Rangoon, Burma

    The Parkroyal Yangon is located in the heart of Rangoon within walking distance of Shwedagon Pagoda and the Bogyoke Aung San Market (Scott Market). The hotel features a lobby bar, three restaurants, outdoor swimming pool, and fitness center. There are 267 air-conditioned rooms, each with minibar, safe, coffee- and tea-making facilities, and private bath with hair dryer.

  • Myanmar Treasure Resort

    Bagan, Burma (Myanmar)

    Situated inside the Bagan Archaeological Preservation Zone, the Myanmar Treasure Resort is within easy reach of the surrounding temples. Resort amenities include landscaped gardens, restaurant, coffee shop, terrace bar, and swimming pool. There are 94 air-conditioned rooms, each with mini bar, safe, satellite TV, and private bath with hairdryer.

  • Mandalay Hill Resort

    Mandalay, Burma

    Located at the foot of Mandalay Hill, the First-Class Mandalay Hill Resort offers views of the nearby pagodas, iconic Royal Palace, and Irrawaddy River. Hotel amenities include a lounge, café, and restaurant. Each air-conditioned room features a TV, safe, coffee- and tea-making facilities, and private bath with hair dryer.

  • Town View Hotel

    Phnom Penh, Cambodia

    The Town View Hotel is situated in the heart of Phnom Penh, close to the Royal Palace and the National Museum of Cambodia. Each of the 98 air-conditioned rooms include a TV, Internet access, minibar, coffee- and tea-making facilities, safe, and hair dryer. The hotel also features an outdoor swimming pool and bar, rooftop terrace, fitness center, and restaurant.

  • Angkor Paradise Hotel

    Siem Reap, Cambodia

    The elegant Angkor Paradise Hotel is located in the heart of Siem Reap, just a short distance from Angkor Archaeological Park. Each air-conditioned guest room features a spacious bathroom, TV, minibar, coffee- and tea-making facilities, and safe. There is a swimming pool, fitness center, and spa on the premises, and the on-site restaurant serves Khmer, Asian, and Western cuisine.

Flight Information

Flight Options to Personalize Your Trip

Whether you choose to take just a base trip or add an optional pre- and post-trip extension, you have many options when it comes to personalizing your air—and creating the OAT adventure that’s right for you:

Personalized Air Routing

  • Work with our expert Air Travel Consultants to select the airline and routing you prefer
  • Upgrade to business or premium economy class
  • Customize your trip by staying overnight in a connecting city, arriving at your destination a few days early, or spending additional time in a nearby city on your own
  • Combine your choice of OAT adventures to maximize your value

Your Own Air Routing

  • Make your own international flight arrangements directly with the airline
  • Purchase optional airport transfers to and from your hotel
  • Extend your Land Tour-only Travel Protection Plan coverage and protect the air arrangements you make on your own—including your frequent flyer miles

OR, leave your air routing up to us and your airfare (as well as airport transfers) will be included in your final trip cost.

Standard Air Routing

w/out standard air $1695
w/ standard air $2995

Partner since: 2000
Total donated: $439,025

Making a difference in Thailand

Simply by traveling with OAT, you support the work of the nonprofit Grand Circle Foundation. Alan and Harriet Lewis created the Foundation with the mission of changing people's lives through travel—which includes both the travelers who journey with OAT, and the local people who welcome us so warmly into their homelands.

Learn more about our work in Thailand, and what you'll experience during your itinerary:

A Day in the Life of Ban Phu Toey Village

Meet the People of Don Chum Agricultural Cooperative

OAT was founded upon the principle that travel needs to be about more than just sightseeing if it's going to change people's lives—which is why most OAT adventures feature a day of in-depth cultural exchange through Grand Circle Foundation’s A Day in the Life program. By continuing to expand our worldview through exposure to other cultures, we are learning and growing throughout our lives—and the more we engage ourselves in the daily lives of the villages we visit, the more valuable our learning becomes.

Read More

A Day in the Life of Ban Phu Toey Village

OAT was founded upon the principle that travel needs to be about more than just sightseeing if it's going to change people's lives—which is why most OAT adventures feature a day of in-depth cultural exchange through Grand Circle Foundation’s A Day in the Life program. By continuing to expand our worldview through exposure to other cultures, we are learning and growing throughout our lives—and the more we engage ourselves in the daily lives of the villages we visit, the more valuable our learning becomes.

Meet the People of Ban Phu Toey Village

Meet the People of Ban Phy Toey Village

In Thailand, you'll experience A Day in the Life of  Ban Phu Toey Village, a rural farming community in western Thailand. You'll learn about the role of agriculture in this village, especially corn and banana crops, and discuss local customs, health care and politics with members of the community.

Next you have a chance to meet the children of a village school (when in session, May through early March; closed in October), sponsored in part by Grand Circle Foundation. You'll help prepare lunch and dine with the students, and have a conversation about education with the school principal. You'll then be treated to student performance before visiting the village's handcraft workshop. 

Throughout,, you'll see firsthand the progress of improvements made possible by Foundation support—and the support of travelers like you. 

By the end of your Day in the Life, we hope you'll come away with a true sense of what life like in rural Thailand—and of the warm and welcoming spirit of the people who call this area home.

Grand Circle Foundation

Supporting a World Classroom: Thailand

With children in classroom

By seeing how children are educated all over the world, we gain a rare understanding of different cultural values—as well as the common values that unite us all. That’s why your Discover Thailand adventure features visits to three  local schools, all supported in part by Grand Circle Foundation.

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Supporting a World Classroom: Thailand

By seeing how children are educated all over the world, we gain a rare understanding of different cultural values—as well as the common values that unite us all. That’s why your Discover Thailand adventure features a visit to a school in Ban Phu Toey Village, supported in part by Grand Circle Foundation.

Ban Phu Toey School:

Partner since: 2014

When you visit Ban Phu Toey School, which Grand Circle Foundation has just begun to support, you'll see how badly help is needed. The Foundation is thrilled to be part of the future of this school, consisting of five teachers and four classes of 65 students aged 4 to 12 years old. We plan to build a new covered walkway to the facility’s dining area and purchase books for the library, musical instruments for the marching band, school supplies, and uniforms for the students. We also plan to support repairs to ensure that students can continue their studies in inclement weather.

School in session:

Mid-May through early March; closed for vacation during the full month of October.

Gifts to bring if you're visiting:

  • llustrated English dictionaries
  • Books of English fairytales
  • Coloring books
  • Word/Mathematic games
  • CDs/DVDs of children's cartoons
  • Vocabulary picture books (places, people, food, things, etc.)
  • Socks for students (plain white for girls and plain brown for boys)
  • Photos of families and hometown to share
Grand Circle Foundation

Alan and Harriet Lewis founded Grand Circle Foundation in 1992 as a means of giving back to the world we travel. Because they donate an annually determined amount of revenue from our trips, we consider each one of our travelers as a partner in the Foundation’s work around the world. To date, the Foundation has pledged or donated more than $97 million in support of 300 different organizations—including 60 villages and nearly 100 schools that lie in the paths of our journeys.

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Solo Traveler Stories

Why Travel Solo on Discover Thailand

We're proud to offer the best value for solo travelers in the industry, guaranteed, with FREE Single Supplements on your base trip and all extensions. Travel with the leader in solo-friendly travel on Discover Thailandand save up to $1220 per person versus the competition.

Our small group size and expert, resident Trip Leaders help solo travelers make personal connections and ensure peace of mind. Here are some thoughts from solo travelers about why this adventure was right for them.

"We had an exceptionally compatible group, and people mingled well. Every day was active, varied, and interesting, and I enjoyed them all. The home visits and neighborhood restaurants felt special. We even dined in our Trip Leader’s home in Chiang Mai! From exploring floating flower markets to seeing the making of coconut oil, our discoveries were superb, but the visit to the village school was the best! The children were so excited to welcome us. As an educator, I really appreciate the good work of this school and the staff."

Elizabeth Drew, 3-time traveler, Port Orchard, Washington

"Mai, my Trip Leader, was fantastic! She communicates well and is so energetic—you can’t help but have fun. I was traveling alone but always felt safe. We learned every day, visiting the ‘Long Neck’ hill tribe, the River Kwai, and a village school. Maybe the most memorable experience for me was when we tasted bugs at a street market."

Nancy Cox, 5-time traveler, San Diego, California

"The elephant ride and watching the elephants paint was excellent, and my Trip Leader, Nop, had knowledge, enthusiasm, and generosity. He provided exotic fruits for us to taste, like mangosteen, durian, dragon fruit, jackfruit, and rambutan. He was open and willing to speak and answer questions on any subject."

Leonora Hiu, 5-time traveler, Honolulu, Hawaii

"There are too many great moments on this trip to choose just one favorite: hiking Hellfire Pass, the cooking class, interacting with local people on home visits, participating in Songkran New Year’s festivities … On our village visit, it was a thrill to receive a treatment by a local shaman (and my knee has felt better ever since). My Trip Leader, Pe, provided extra activities that weren’t on the itinerary, including donating breakfast to student monks. She was amazing!"

Vicki Wood, 3-time traveler, Oak Grove, Oregon

Private Adventures—New for 2015

How do you arrange a Private Adventure?

It’s simple: You choose the people you travel with. You choose the departure date. You choose the size of your group. OAT does the rest.

Your lifelong memories are only a phone call away: Call us toll-free at
1-800-955-1925

Group Size Additional Cost
4-6 $900 per person
7-9 $400 per person

Now you can reserve an EXCLUSIVE departure of Discover Thailand with just 8 travelers. Enjoy a truly special adventure—starting from only $400 per person more than our published trip price.

The benefits of your Private Adventure …

  • Travel in an exclusive group of friends or family members
  • Work with your Trip Leader to create unique experiences and special memories
  • Tailor the pacing of activities—spending more time doing what interests your group most at the speed that fits your comfort level
  • Enjoy the security of knowing we have regional offices nearby

This program is available on new reservations in 2015 only, and cannot be combined with any offers, including our Vacation Ambassador Referral program. The additional cost of a Private Departure is per person, on top of the departure price and varies by trip. Private Departures do not include any changes or additions to our standard itineraries. Age restrictions may apply to some itineraries and must be at least 13 years old to travel with Overseas Adventure Travel. Ask your Group Sales Team for details. Additional taxes and fees will apply. Standard Terms & Conditions apply. Every effort has been made to present this information accurately. We reserve the right to correct errors.

Thai Spirit Houses

Keeping Animism alive in Thailand’s front yards

by Andrea Calabretta

Though 95 percent of Thai people identify as Buddhists, many of their unique spiritual traditions spring from a long history of Animism.

Walk along any street in Thailand—be it an alleyway in Bangkok or a rural road in the countryside—and you’re sure to see tiny, ornate structures like dollhouses or birdhouses perched atop pedestals. These miniature buildings are known as san phra phum, or “spirit houses.”

Their purpose is exactly what the name suggests: dwelling places for the spirits of the dead, as well as the celestial beings that inhabit the land, air, and trees. Though 95 percent of Thai people identify as Buddhists, many of their unique spiritual traditions spring from a long history of Animism.

Over time, animist rituals have become intertwined with Buddhist and even Hindu practices to create a religion quite distinct from, for instance, Theravada Buddhism as it is practiced in Sri Lanka. As a result, most Thai office buildings, homes, bars, restaurants, and other businesses have corresponding spirit houses. In a city like Bangkok, with more than six million people, this can get a little crowded. You’ll even find spirit houses right beside Buddhist temples—the idea being that if the spirits have a place of their own to dwell, they won’t need to come into the temple to make mischief.

When a new building is constructed, a spiritual advisor must be called in to consult on the exact position of a house for the spirits displaced by the building. The shadow of the main structure must never reach it, and its architectural design and degree of grandeur should be on par with those of the main building. Another expert does the work of actually constructing the spirit house, often from teak wood, which is indigenous to Thailand. And once it is built, the owners host an elaborate housewarming party for it—presided over by monks who bless the spirit house and sometimes loop a string from it to the main house to symbolize their connection. If the owner neglects to hold a proper celebration, he or she may be the victim of unhappy spirits, who can cause misfortunes like marital disputes, financial ruin, fires, robberies, and even death.

Families keep the spirits appeased with regular offerings, which are placed on the tiny balcony that surrounds the house. These might include sticks of incense, flower garlands, bowls of rice, bananas, tea, bottles of Fanta, sweets—and even small figures to act as servants to the spirits and carved wooden elephants so they can travel. And it’s of utmost importance that the food items be prepared especially for the spirits—never leftovers from the family meal.

Passersby may stop to wai (bow with the hands pressed together in prayer position) before the spirit house as a sign of reverence, particularly at places like schools or airports, where the spirits might influence a score on an exam or a safe journey. In fact, a traditional spirit house even stands at the ultramodern international airport in Bangkok—just so travelers can stop to pay their respects.