Day 1 – USA to Bangkok
Today you will begin your Swain Destinations customized itinerary. Please note, international air has not been included in this package price.
Day 2 – Welcome to Bangkok, Thailand
Upon arrival and after clearing customs and immigration, a driver will meet you and transfer you directly to your downtown hotel.
The city of Bangkok provides sensory indulgence overload with ornate temples, spectacular food and endless activity. The city shines with color from its lavish temples including Wat Trimitir featuring a 5.5 ton Golden Buddha, Wat Po which is the largest and oldest temple in Bangkok, and of course, the magnificent Grand Palace. The tastiest cuisine is served up at the street stalls and tiny sidewalk restaurants where food is cheap and safely prepared so fill up on curries soups, fresh fish, rice, noodles, and fruit shakes. The night markets are a great time to experience the culture of the city that never sleeps.
An exciting brew of traffic and temples, luxury hotels and labyrinth-like streets, the “City of Angels,” is a hectic heaven. This inexhaustible energy is part of Bangkok’s charm, and it has made this feisty capital one of Asia’s favorite tourist destinations. Cutting through the heart of the city, the magnificent Chao Phraya River, “the River of Kings” provides easy access to Bangkok’s numerous Buddhist temples and the Grand Palace, as well offering insight into Thai life.Starting Accommodation:
Royal Orchid Sheraton Hotel & Towers
Day 3 – Klong Cruise and Grand Palace
This morning be transferred from your hotel and take a boat ride along the Chao Phraya and its canals via Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn) and ending at the Grand Palace. Wat Arun is a 260 ft. high, Khmer-inspired tower, the centerpiece of which rises majestically from the banks of the Chao Phraya, across from Wat Po. This religious complex served as the royal chapel during King Taksin's reign (1809-24), when nearby Thonburi was the capital of Thailand.
The Grand Palace complex, which includes the Temple of the Emerald Buddha (Wat Phra Keow), is unquestionably one of the wonders of the world today. Within its enormous grounds is the most exotic Buddhist temple and at the heart of the temple itself is a fabulous Buddha image, carved from one piece of Jade, which is the holiest and most revered of religious objects in Thailand today.
Bangkok City & Temples Half-Day Tour
Thailand has over 26,000 temples (or Wats). This tour will bring you to three of the most distinguished temples in Bangkok. Wat Trimitr, the temple of the Golden Buddha, features a statue made from solid Gold weighing 5.5tons. It is a fine example of Sukhothai art and was discovered by chance from a layer of stucco during construction of the temple.
Passing through Chinatown your next stop is Wat Po, the temple of the reclining Buddha which is the largest and oldest in Bangkok. Your last stop is at Wat Benchamabopit or the marble temple. This magnificent monastery was built with white Italian marble from Carrara.Starting Accommodation:
Royal Orchid Sheraton Hotel & Towers (B)
Day 4 – Damnoen Saduak Floating Markets
Thailand's floating markets are among the most-photographed destinations in the country. The river and 'klong' markets give a realistic glance of how daily life must have been in earlier times. The floating markets are where the sellers, their boats laden with a wide variety of tropical fruits, flowers, vegetables and fresh produce, come to meet and barter their products with other traders. These days, modern supermarkets and department stores have largely replaced the traditional floating markets, but a few still survive.
The most popular floating market, one of the must-see one-day trips from Bangkok, is at Ratchaburi, about 60 miles to the west of Bangkok. The Damnoen Saduak market is the largest of its kind, attracting a large number of tourists each day. The lively and colorful images of boat vendors trading their agricultural products is one of the most fascinating and endearing images of Thailand.Starting Accommodation:
Royal Orchid Sheraton Hotel & Towers (B)
Day 5 – Bangkok to Siem Reap
Transfer to the airport for your flight to Siem Reap. On arrival you will be met and transferred to your accommodation by private vehicle.
Protruding from steaming jungle, the ancient city of Angkor Wat is the main attraction to visitors of Siem Reap. The city’s proximity to the legendary sandstone complex makes it the ideal gateway or base camp for day trips and longer itineraries. Relax and unwind in a local restaurant after a long day of exploring the world’s largest religious monument, or stock up on necessities before tackling the 60 square miles of passageways and palaces.
Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom
Start today’s tour with a visit to Angkor Temple, including Angkor Thorn, a forbidden Royal City and The Bayon. See the Victory Gate, Baphuon, Elephant Terrace and Leper King Terrace. Return to town for lunch.
This afternoon tour Angkor Wat, which features the longest continuous bas-relief in the world running along the outer gallery walls, narrating stories from the Hindu mythology. In 1992, UNESCO, declared the monument and whole city a World Heritage Site.Starting Accommodation:
Le Méridien Angkor (B)
Day 6 – Banteay Srei and Ta Prohm Temples
True temple buffs won't want to miss the distinct complex of Banteay Srei. Located some 23 1/2 miles north of the main temples, the 10th-century buildings of Banteay Srei are done in a style unique to the high spires of Angkor. The site is a collection of low walls surrounding low-rise peaked structures of deep red sandstone.
Translated as 'The Citadel of Women,' it has well-preserved relief carvings on the squat central buildings and the intricate telling of ancient Hindu tales. Go with a guide who can explain the finer details of temple inscriptions.
The jungle foliage still has its hold on the dynamic temple of Ta Prohm, the only that was left in such a ruinous state when early archaeologists started freeing the temples from the jungle. Ta Prohm is a favorite for many; in fact, those very ruinous vines appeal to most. As large around as your average oak tree, the vines cleave massive stones in two or give way and grow over the top of temple ramparts. It's quite dynamic, and there are a few popular photo spots where the collision of temple and vine are most impressive. Sadly, Ta Prohm was looted quite heavily in recent years, and many of its stone reliquaries are lost.Starting Accommodation:
Le Méridien Angkor (B)
Day 7 – Siem Reap to Phnom Penh
Transfer to the airport for your flight to Phnom Penh. On arrival you will be met and transferred to your accommodation by private vehicle.
Phnom Penh is a vibrant and bustling capital city where 10,000 cycles still share the street with motorbikes and cars, and a culture of sidewalk cafes established in recent years is thriving. The city is conveniently located on the banks where three rivers - the Mekong, the Tonle Sap and the Bassac, converge, known to Cambodia as Chatomuk, or four faces. Phnom Penh’s era of modern development and planning took place after independence in 1953, with the addition of tree lined avenues, gardens with fountains and several distinctive monuments reflecting the city’s new found sense of freedom.
Phnom Penh City Tour
Cambodia’s capital sits at the confluence of the Mekong, Bassac and Tonle Sap rivers. Considered the loveliest of the French-built cities of Indochina, it was founded as a small monastery in 1372 by a rich Khmer woman called Penh, after she found four Buddha statues in a tree trunk on the banks of the Mekong. She set up the monastery on a nearby hill or ‘phnom’ in Cambodian.
Today you will venture to Wat Phnom, National Museum, Silver Pagoda Elephant Room and Toul Sleng Museum. Wat Phnom is both a temple and location of the first pagoda built in 1372 by ‘Penh’ to house the four Buddha statues found on the banks of the Mekong. It is the only hill in the capital.
Next, visit the Royal Palace which stands on the site of the former citadel, Bantey Kev (built in 1813). Visitors are not allowed into some portions of the grounds, as the palace is the official residence of King Sihanouk.
The silver pagoda is often called the Pagoda of the Emerald Buddha or Wat Preah Kaeo after the statue housed there. The wooden temple was originally built by King Norodom in 1892 and inside its floor is comprised of more than 5000 silver blocks which together weigh nearly 6 tonnes.
Finally, tour the National Museum, designed by a French archeologist and painter, George Groslier, in Khmer style in 1920 to exhibit works previously scattered throughout the country. It contains a collection of Khmer art including the beautiful 6th century bronze statue of Vishnu.Starting Accommodation:
Day 8 – Phnom Penh to Vientiane
Transfer to the airport for your flight to Vientiane. On arrival you will be met and transferred to your accommodation by private vehicle.
Laos is a country of ornate temples and shattering poverty, colorfully clad monks and unforgettably friendly villagers. Over 55% of the landscape is untouched rainforest that shelters elephants, leopards, gibbons, and black bears. No city captures Lao’s rustic charm better than its capital, Vientiane. Lovingly restored temples share the skyline with internet cafes and international-standard hotels. French colonial mansions house the World Bank and UN agencies, while the Parisian Patuxay victory monument proudly crowns one of the city’s rare paved roads.
Soak up Vientiane’s laid-back atmosphere at the Morning Market by mixing with the city’s most endearing attraction – its people. Pose in the arms of a gigantic Buddha at Buddha Park, or meditate under a sacred bodhi tree in the impressive Phra That Luang temple.
Vientiane Private Half-Day Tour
Today’s’ sightseeing tour will include visits to Phra That Luang, Patuxay (Victory Monument) and the Talaat Sao Morning Market, the bustling hub of local commerce.
Phra That Luang is the preeminent stupa in Laos, a national symbol and imposing at 144 ft. in height. It is not the original; the first, built in 1566 by King Setthathirat over the ruins of a 12th-century Khmer temple, was destroyed when the Siamese sacked Vientiane in 1828. It was rebuilt by the French in 1900, but the Lao people criticized it as not being true to the original. It was torn down in 1930 and remodeled to become what you see today.
Patuxay is the monument was completed in 1968 and dedicated to those who fought in the war of independence against the French. Ironically, the monument is an arch modeled on the Parisian Arc de Triomphe. Its detailing is typically Lao, however, with many kinnari figures - half woman, half bird.Starting Accommodation:
Green Park Boutique Hotel (B)
Day 9 – Vientiane to Luang Prabang
Today you will travel from Vientiane to Luang Prabang and be transferred to your accommodation by private vehicle. Laos’s ancient capital, Luang Prabang, is a sleepy town with a sumptuous past. Since its heyday as Laos’s first capital in 1353, this riverside hamlet has enchanted everyone from monks to monarchs with its splendid temples and serene mountain landscape. Literally meaning “great holy image,” Luang Prabang has over 30 well-preserved temples adorned with fascinating mosaics and intricately carved wooden columns that hum with the chants of the faithful.Starting Accommodation:
Le Sen Boutique Hotel (B)
Day 10 – Luang Prabang City Tour
Luang Prabang, the ancient capital city of the Lan Xang Kingdom, is famous for its historic temples and beautiful setting surrounded by mountains. In 1995 it was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Today you will spend a day sightseeing around Luang Prabang, visiting the following sites:
Wat Xieng Thong – built in 1560 and situated on the banks of the Mekong River, it is the most beautiful monastery in Luang Prabang and shows the typical Lao art style with old religious artifacts and some ancient masterpieces of Lao art.
Wat Wisunalat (Vat Visoun) was built in 1513 during the reign of Chao Wisunalat and is the oldest operating temple in Luang Prabang with a collection of gilded wooden Buddhas from the 15th and 16th centuries.
Wat Mai was constructed in 1821 during the reign of King Manthatourath and was once the residence of Phra Sangkharaj (the Patriarch of the Buddhist clergy).
Wat That Luang holds the ashes of King Sisavang Vong which are interred inside the large central stupa, erected in 1910. The inside of the huge sim dating back to 1820 contains a few Luang Prabang Buddhas and other artifacts.
Wat Saen is a Thai style temple built in 1718 and restored in 1957. The abbot Ajannn Khamjan who was ordained here in 1940 is one of the most revered monks in Luang Prabang and perhaps in all of Laos.Starting Accommodation:
Le Sen Boutique Hotel (B)
Day 11 – Luang Prabang to Chiang Mai (Via Bangkok)
Transfer to the airport for your flight to Chiang Mai via Bangkok. An English speaking representative will meet you in your hotel lobby for your private airport transfer for your flight to Chiang Mai. On arrival you will be met and transferred to your accommodation by private vehicle.
Chiang Mai is the gateway city to Thailand’s lush north and its rustic hill tribe villages. Dating back 700 years, the focal point is “Old City,” the walled and moated remains of an imposing fortress. Surrounding this historic site is a blossoming city containing all the characteristics of a modern town. Starting Accommodation:
Ratti Lanna Riverside Spa Resort (B)
Day 12 – Morning Sunrise Tour
One of the most unique experiences in Thailand is a visit to a Buddhist temple to offer alms to the Buddhist monks. Each morning before dawn, the monks put on their distinctive saffron robes and quietly pad in their bare feet along the streets, carrying alms bowls and receiving boiled rice and condiments from the citizens of Thailand In return people receive the monks’ blessings. You can participate in this very special Thai custom by personally presenting alms; a brief exploration of the temple may be made as well, religious festivals permitting.Starting Accommodation:
Ratti Lanna Riverside Spa Resort (B)
Day 13 – Chiang Mai City & Temple Tour
This morning your guide will meet you in your hotel lobby, and you will depart for the tour. The city of Chiang Mai has a wealth of beautiful and historic Buddhist Wats (temples), 36 Wats within the old city walls and many more in the surrounding countryside, and on this tour a visit to the most fascinating Wats is made. You will visit famous landmarks of Chiang Mai, such as Wat Chiang Man, Wat Pra Singh, Wat Chedi Luang, Wat Suan Dok and Varoros Market.
In the afternoon, you will transfer back to Bangkok for your last night in Thailand.Starting Accommodation:
Hotel Novotel Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport (B)
Day 14 – Bangkok to USA
Transfer from your hotel to the airport for your departure flight to the USA. (B)