The kingdom of Lanna
At the foot of the Green Mountains, which constitutes the last foothills of the Himalayan chain, the provinces of Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai have in the past been the heart and the capitals of the kingdom of Lanna, before it was linked to Siam. Today, these are 2 booming modern cities that have been able to develop while preserving their cultural heritage. All around lies a region rich in attractions: magnificent landscapes, botanical gardens, elephants camps, temples, museums, markets, a smiling and welcoming population, traditional homes converted into charming homes and luxury hotel shops, which will help you discover the art and the softness of life in this lost kingdom.
Day 1: Chiang Mai
Arrival in Chiang Mai during the morning, transfer, and settling into the hotel. Former capital of the kingdom of Lanna, Chiang Mai is located in the heart of a lush valley, surrounded by verdant mountains. In the afternoon the first City discovery involves a climb to the summit of Doi Suthep hill (1053 mt). A monumental staircase of 304 steps leads to the temple: Pilgrims go up on foot, but there is also a tram. From the esplanade there’s a superb panoramic view over the valley and the old town, where one can see a section of its walls. The temple is much revered by the Thais because it contains a sacred Buddha relic; its central stupa is covered with gold, and it is the most dazzling monument in Northern Thailand. Not far from there, you can visit a beautiful rose and orchid garden.
2nd Day: Chiang Mai
Trip to Wiang Khum Kham, a small village 4 km from Chiang Mai, to discover by horse drawn carriage its temples and old houses. Back in town and a visit the central market of Warorot, just at the entrance to the Old City. A stroll in the historic center to visit more local temples. Along the way there is the Kuan U sanctuary, a small Chinese temple which contrasts well with the complex Thai style; then onto Wat Mahawan, Wat Chedi Luang and especially Wat Phra Sing, the most famous and important in the city. Then a visit to the plant market which is rarely seen by tourists. In the afternoon, a visit to Queen Sirikit’s tropical greenhouses and botanical gardens, where orchids and other plants from all over Thailand thrive.
3rd Day: CHIANG MAI – CHIANG RAI
In the morning a visit to a center where a number of tigers are kept, including some pups: we can enter into their cages and caress them, an experience which is quite unique and unforgettable. Then: Departure for Chiang Rai (180 km of main road) with stops along the way. Long penalized by the war with Burma, Chiang Rai has suffered from the closure of its borders with this neighboring country. First the growing of opium then tourism development has brought new wealth to the city which today is once again prosperous. On arrival a visit to the large white temple of Wat Rongkhun, a complex built since 1997, with gardens and old buildings from the Rai Mae Fah Luang foundation, which is home to one of the most beautiful botanical parks in the country.
4th Day: CHIANG RAI
One entire day spent in the jungle. Going up the Kok river by boat (45 mn), and then a walk of approximately 1 hour in to the jungle up to an elephant camp. A real and full 2 hour elephant ride crossing through mountain villages. Mid afternoon returning to base and to Chiang Rai by public transport.
Lunch during the tour.
5th Day: CHIANG RAI
Leaving for the Golden Triangle and the banks of the Mekong River passing by the border town of Mae Sai, main location for the sale of traditional Burmese crafts and precious stones (rubies, sapphires). Crossing the border for a getaway into Burma with a visit to view an important temple and the Chinese market of Tachilek. Returning to Thailand by road to Chiang Saen, where the borders of Burma, Thailand and Laos meet and is at the heart of the famous Golden Triangle. A visit to the opium museum followed by a boat tour on the Mekong River. A further option is to go and visit Don Sao island, on the shore side of Laos, and so tread the soil of 3 different countries in a single day. Returning to Chiang Rai at the end of the afternoon in time for the evening flight to Bangkok.
End of suggestions.