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Say sawadee ka to the land of smiles, starting your Thai adventure in Bangkok. Transfer to your hotel where this evening, we meet our Travel Director and fellow guests for a Welcome Reception drink with local appetisers.
Rise early and join the locals for a graceful T'ai Chi practice in Lumpini Park to kick-start your day. Alternatively, enjoy a leisurely start before joining your fellow travellers on a City Tour, which begins with a visit to Bangkok's Grand Palace, where you'll visit the most sacred Buddhist temple in Thailand, Wat Phra Kaew. See the largest-reclining Buddha in Thailand in Bangkok's oldest temple, Wat Pho, and enjoy a traditional Thai massage in the temple's massage centre. Return to your hotel by express river boat, cruising down the Chao Praya past beautiful Wat Arun, the Temple of the Dawn.
Immerse your senses in the five flavours of Thai as you join a 'Local Specialist' for a traditional cooking class in a colonial-style house. Visit a local market nearby to source the freshest ingredients that reveal the sweet, sour, salty, bitter and hot flavours of Thai cuisine. Sample the results later, then spend the afternoon exploring the City of Angels on your terms, or consider joining an Optional Experience to Jim Thompson's House, home to an impressive collection of Asian art.
A riot of colours greets us this morning as we embark on a visit to the famous floating market at Damnoen Saduak. Connect with the friendly merchants who paddle along the congested canals in their sturdy canoes, laden with fresh fruit and vegetables to sell to shoppers on the banks. En route, we'll 'Dive Into Culture', stopping at a coconut palm sugar plantation where we'll discover how the farmer extracts the sap from his palm trees to create palm sugar. After lunch in a local restaurant, we'll visit the Thailand-Burma Railway Museum, revealing insights into the history of the infamous railway line built during WWII by the Imperial Japanese army. Our final stop today sees us pay tribute to the thousands of allied prisoners of war who were laid to rest at the War Cemetery.
This morning, we visit Hellfire Pass, a section of the Thailand-Burma "Death Railway", so named for the tortuous conditions that prisoners of war endured during WWII to build it. After lunch, we embark on a thrilling train ride across wooden viaducts, skirting the winding waters of the Kwai River. We'll disembark and see the wooden viaducts first-hand walking across one. This evening, we enjoy dinner at a local restaurant.
After breakfast, we travel to the UNESCO-listed Ayutthaya, once the second-most important ancient capital of Old Siam and the largest city in the world. Here, we'll delve into the trading heritage of a mighty city that was all but raised to the ground by an 18th century Burmese invasion. We'll enjoy lunch at a local restaurant, then return to Bangkok for our flight to Sukhothai, Thailand's first capital.
Gain insights into a powerful kingdom that enjoyed its golden age during the 13th and 14th centuries and shaped modern Thailand as we know it today. Start the day with a visit to the UNESCO-listed Sukhothai Historical Park which reveals thousands of years of history and a 15-metre seated Buddha secreted within its walls. Your choice of exploring will see you engage with the historic complex by bicycle or on the internal tram. This afternoon, visit the home of a local family and learn how to make amulets which are thought to protect the owner from harm.
Our day begins with a visit to the village of Natonchan, where we 'Make A Difference' with our visit by supporting the community's eco-tourism project. We'll interact with the locals and meet one of the villagers to learn about 'gymnastic doll' making and the villagers' traditional cotton clothes which are soaked in mud to protect them from fading. We continue north, enjoying lunch en route and make a brief visit to the 'Friends of the Asian Elephant' Hospital, a foundation that cares for wounded elephants. Arriving in Chiang Mai, we enjoy an evening walk with our Travel Director and visit the colourful Sunday market. Our hotel tonight is located in the old town of Chiang Mai.
Admire the delicate hand-painted fans and colourful paper umbrellas that are famously crafted in Chiang Mai's Sankamphaeng district and meet the children and teachers at a local school to which Trafalgar will donate much-needed supplies. We continue to a small village nearby where we'll 'Connect with Locals', joining a family in their typical stilt house for a northern Thai-style 'Be My Guest' lunch. Next is a visit to Wat Suan Dok where we'll meet a local monk and learn about Buddhism, against the backdrop of the temple's magnificent golden chedi.
Your morning is free to spend as you please or consider joining an Optional Experience to the Ban Tong Luang Hilltribe Village. Later, we visit Wat Doi Suthep, one of Thailand's most sacred temples. As the sun sets over this mystical temple, listen quietly to the tranquil sounds of the monks chanting. This evening, we join fellow travellers and Travel Director for a Farewell Dinner at a traditional Thai restaurant located next to the river.
Transfer to the airport for the short international flight to Bangkok and onward to Siem Reap. On arrival meet your Cambodia Travel Director and check in to your hotel. This afternoon is at leisure.
Today, we venture deep into the Cambodian jungle, through a pyramid-shaped gateway into an ancient world. Serene stone faces watch over us as we cross the causeway suspended over a moat into the spiritual heart of the ancient lost city of Angkor. A 'Local Specialist' and renowned Khmer scholar brings to life the stories behind the intricate carvings and murals of celestial nymphs and mythical serpents along the abandoned hallways of Angkor Wat. Our next stop are the terracotta-hued walls of Banteay Srei Temple - the "Citadel of Women" dedicated to the Hindu God Shiva. We'll have time to admire the 10th century carvings of women, said to have been too delicate to have been carved by a man, hence its name. We'll return to Siem Reap and this afternoon embark on a walking tour. We 'Make A Difference' to the lives of rural youths during our visit to Artisans d'Angkor, where we'll witness the revival of Khmer arts and crafts. Later we'll visit Wat Damnak and participate in a private blessing ceremony during which a sacred thread will be tied around our wrists to protect against evil spirits. Our final stop today is to the labyrinthine Old Market, where the locals spend their early mornings shopping for fresh fruit, vegetables and spices. Wander past the busy stalls and smell freshly baked baguettes, a remnant of the country's French heritage.
Our intimate encounter with a lost empire continues today, as we uncover other iconic sites of the ancient abandoned city of Angkor that have been devoured by the Cambodian jungle. We explore its ancient ruins in the company of saffron-clad monks and monkeys that clamber up and over the roots of centuries-old trees that have carved their way deep into the Great City's walls. Our first stop today is a visit to the fortified Angkor Thom, where we'll see such iconic sites as the Terrace of Elephants, the Royal Enclosure and the Temple of Bayon with its giant smiling faces of Buddha. We venture underneath the dense tree canopy to the crumbling, moss-covered ruins of the Buddhist temple of Ta Prohm, which featured as the location for the film 'Tomb Raider', exploring its towers courtyards and corridors to uncover the intricate stone reliefs that are shielded by the surrounding foliage. Enjoy an afternoon at leisure or consider joining an Optional Experience to learn the secrets of Khmer cuisine.
We begin the day in the company of local Khmer villagers and 'Make A Difference' with a visit to their local school (term time only) for an opportunity to chat to some of the children who will join us on our walk through the village to see how they spend their day-to-day lives. We'll 'Dive Into Culture', gaining insights into their time-honoured craft traditions, such as palm leaf weaving. After the rest of the day at leisure, we'll join our Travel Director and fellow expeditioners for a Farewell Dinner with Apsara dance show.
Transfer to the airport for your onward flight.
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