Our fascinating Thailand and Laos tour combines one of Asia’s best-loved destinations with its least well known neighbour.
Selected departures February to October 2017
We explore some of the lesser known corners of Thailand - the scenic far north and the Golden Triangle, as well as the haunting remains of the Burma-Thailand railway. We finish by spending some wonderfully relaxing days on the beaches of the Gulf of Thailand. Selected departures continue to Luang Prabang in Laos - with its quaint French colonial buildings and a charmingly slow pace of life set in a charming riverside location on the upper reaches of the Mekong.
Bangkok is one of Asia’s most vibrant cities. Outwardly it’s ultra-modern, with soaring glass skyscrapers and luxury shopping malls, yet at heart it’s a traditional Buddhist society, full of hushed street corner shrines and neighbourhoods of small houses nestling around communal courtyards. We visit all the major sights including the extensive Grand Palace, home of the revered Royal Family, site of the amazing Emerald Buddha, as well as discovering the city’s more intimate riverside life.
Heading west to the province of Kanchanaburi, better known by its most famous river, the Kwai, you’ll see the poignant site of the Bridge over the River Kwai. This was just one of many bridges, viaducts, cuttings and embankments built under horrific conditions by thousands of Commonwealth POWs on the 415-mile ‘Death Railway’ between Thailand and Burma. You’ll cross the bridge itself and visit Hellfire Pass: a walk along the huge railway cutting is a deeply moving experience.
Remarkably, Thailand was the only country in SE Asia not colonised by the West, so an exploration of its unique history is an intriguing journey: our tour visits Ayutthaya, the ancient capital city of Siam for five centuries. Going back in time even further to Thailand’s golden age we’ll discover the ancient 13th century Sukhothai kingdom, exploring some of the most interesting sites in its beautifully maintained Historical Park.
Chiang Rai, bordering Burma and Laos, is located in Thailand’s beautiful ‘Golden Triangle’. Once the centre of extensive illicit opium production, today the region’s ethnic communities have transformed their way of life – mainly through the efforts of the present King’s mother. A keen gardener, she supervised the creation of a beautifully landscaped garden that’s arguably Thailand’s finest. The cooler temperate climate is perfect for a huge range of highland flora, including rare orchids.
One of the highlights is the two days we spend in the hills just outside the city of Chiang Mai, the slightly higher elevation affording a welcome respite from the tropical temperatures. A walk through the old city gives a glimpse of its glorious past as capital of the 18th century Lanna Kingdom. You’ll visit Chiang Mai’s most famous temple, Doi Suthep, with its superb views and there will also be time to relax in our beautiful resort.
Then we fly back down to Bangkok and drive to the Gulf of Thailand for three relaxing days on the tropical shores of Hua Hin at the five-star Dusit Thani Resort.
On these selected dates we explore Thailand’s lesser known neighbour, Laos. After decades of isolation under communist rule, Laos has gradually opened up and is wonderfully devoid of mass tourism – it’s like stepping back in time! Luang Prabang is its cultural capital – it’s a unique and remarkable blend of traditional Lao wooden buildings and intricately decorated temples with delightful French colonial villas. At dusk, the main street metamorphoses into a charming open-air market attracting the many minority tribes from the surrounding hills. Stroll along ‘food street’, a long narrow lane full of sizzling barbequed Mekong fish, multi-coloured salads, noodles and vegetables, all freshly prepared in a vibrant kaleidoscope of colour, rushed activity and mouth-watering aromas.
One of the real highlights of any visit to Asia is its cuisine. You’ll have plenty of chances to sample some typically Thai and Lao dishes, both in your hotels and at the bustling food stalls at the night markets, especially in Chiang Rai and Hua Hin. Bangkok has virtually every kind of cuisine you could wish for, whilst Luang Prabang is famed for its excellent restaurants offering a fusion of French and Asian menus.
It’s no surprise that Thailand is known as the land of smiles – the people are genuinely friendly, polite and welcoming. So come with us and explore the cultures, scenery, cuisine and people of these two amazing and very different countries.
Take your overnight flight to Bangkok.
Transfer to the four-star Rembrandt Hotel for two nights with breakfast. The rest of the day is free to enjoy the hotel’s excellent pool and restaurants. Exploring the city is easy, as the hotel provides a tuk tuk shuttle service to the busy shops of Sukhumvit Road.
This morning we’ll explore the astonishing Grand Palace, Bangkok’s most famous landmark, for 150 years the Siamese Kings’ home and seat of government. Adjacent is the city’s largest temple, the astonishing Wat Pho, with its 46-metre long reclining Buddha, completely covered in gold leaf. You’ll also discover Bangkok’s delightful klongs (canals), explored by small boat, which lead to an enchanting water-borne world, full of verdant orchards, palm trees and picturesque paddy fields.
We set off from Bangkok to see one of the most iconic images of the ‘Land of Smiles’ – the famous Floating Market at Damnoen Saduak. The jostling boats are filled with colourful flowers, fruit, food and drink, plying their trade as they have done for centuries. We soon arrive at the River Kwai, immortalised by David Lean’s iconic film. Constructing the bridge was just one of many tasks set for the thousands of allied POWs as they laboured to build the infamous ‘Death Railway’ under the most terrible conditions. We stay for two nights with breakfast at the lovely riverside eco-friendly River Kwai Resotel surrounded by jungle.
This morning we board the local train which travels along the line and viaducts built by the POWs. We continue upcountry by road to Hellfire Pass: a deep railway cutting only 300ft long which took a thousand Allied POWs more than three months to dig out of solid rock. Only 300 survived. A trail leads to the pass where you can observe the simple black granite memorial and the excellent museum is operated by the Australian Office of War Graves.
Today we arrive at the ancient Siamese capital of Ayutthaya. This was Thailand’s capital up to 1767, when an invading Burmese army razed it to the ground. During our tour of the city you’ll see some of the ancient palaces and temples, now lovingly preserved, as well as the beautiful 19th century Summer Palace. We spend the night at the four-star Classic Kameo Hotel with breakfast.
Our journey into Thailand’s history continues as we drive to the ancient capital of Sukhothai. The Sukhothai kingdom ruled up to the mid-1400s – a time during which the Thai alphabet was created and Buddhism was established as the official religion. The Historical Park has some of the best ancient temples in the country. Our hotel is the charming four-star Legendha, with breakfast.
Continuing our journey we head for Thailand’s most northern province of Chiang Rai. Today we break our journey in Lampang, where we have a traditional sightseeing tour by horse carriage. We arrive at the four-star Dusit Island Resort in Chiang Rai in the afternoon for a two nights with breakfast.
Today we explore the rainforest-covered hills deep in Chiang Rai province where the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s mother spent many years overseeing numerous agricultural projects, thus enabling villagers to eradicate opium cultivation. We visit her Royal Villa with its museum and delightful gardens at Doi Tung. Thailand’s most northerly point is the small market town of Mae Sai and with Burma just across a small river, its streets are crammed with Burmese products and handicrafts. This afternoon we explore the nearby Golden Triangle where the borders of Thailand, Laos and Burma meet.
This morning we see the work of one of the province’s most famous sons and now one of Thailand’s foremost artists, Chalermchai Kositpipat. His remarkable White Temple, is undoubtedly Thailand’s most unusual – it’s mostly white and silver with just one room of another colour: the public toilet, which is gold! In the afternoon we arrive in Chiang Mai and after a tour of the city we head to our home in the hills for two nights with breakfast, the delightful four-star superior Panviman Resort, in the Mae Rim valley.
A day at leisure to enjoy the many facilities of our hotel. Temperatures in the hills are 5 to 6 lower cooler than in the city, and despite this being tropical Thailand, between November and February it can be a little cooler in the mornings and evenings, so be sure to bring some warmer clothing such as a light jacket or fleece.
We take a short flight back to Bangkok, from where we head for the shores of the Gulf of Thailand. We spend three nights with breakfast at the superb five-star Dusit Thani, near the beach resort of Hua Hin, known for its vibrant night market and numerous fish restaurants. The Dusit Thani is a 10 minute drive away, set in lush tropical gardens and boasting three restaurants, two superb pools and excellent spa. Several world-class golf courses are close by.
A free day to enjoy the wonderful pool and facilities at your hotel.
A further free day to enjoy the wonderful pool and facilities at your hotel.
Transfer from Hua Hin to Bangkok Airport for the short flight to Luang Prabang. After checking in at the three-star superior Luang Prabang View Hotel there’s a short city tour and the more energetic can climb the 328 steps of Mt Phousi to enjoy a spectacular panoramic view of the small city and the hills beyond. At the base of the stairs is the charming night market with its food street and handicraft stalls.
This morning you can witness and even partake if you wish, in the early morning ritual of ‘Tak Bat’, or offering alms to the monks, a wonderful photo opportunity! Our walking tour explores this UNESCO-protected small town, with its quaint Royal Palace Museum and fusion of beautiful French colonial buildings and traditional Lao houses. Not far from town is the picturesque Kuangsi waterfall, where you can cool off with a refreshing swim and walk along the woodland trails. A picnic lunch is included under the shade of the lush tropical forest. Just adjacent is the Bear Rescue Centre whose mission is protecting the rare Asiatic black bear.
Fly back to Bangkok with onward connections to the UK, arriving at Heathrow later the same day.
The price of this holiday is per person, based on two people sharing a twin room. Scheduled return flights to Bangkok; domestic flights as mentioned; all transfers; fifteen nights accommodation in four & five star hotels, plus an eco-lodge; daily breakfast & nine lunches; guided tour of Bangkok, visit to a floating market, visit to the River Kwai bridge & train trip, Hellfire Pass, guided tours of Ayutthaya, Sukhothai, Lampang, Chiang Rai, the Golden Triangle & Chiang Mai; guided tour of Luang Prabang; hotel porterage of one item of luggage per person; the services of a Riviera tour manager.
Not included: Laotian visa
Visa for Laos: All British passport holders require a visa for Laos. This is available on arrival at the airport in Laos at a cost of US$36 per person. Please ensure your passport is valid for at least 6 months from your arrival date and that there is at least one completely empty page. Visa fees are subject to change without notice.
British passport holders do not require a visa for visiting Thailand. Other nationalities should contact their locally embassy.
Whilst care has been taken to ensure that the information provided relating to visa requirements is true and correct at time of publication, changes in requirements after the time of publication may impact on the accuracy of this information. Therefore, whilst we strive to provide the most up-to-date information, we strongly suggest that you re-confirm requirements with the relevant embassy prior to application.
Health: There is no specific health advice for this tour, though it is always advisable to contact your GP six to eight weeks prior to travel. For mobility related queries please contact the reservations team.
Comfortable shoes such as trainers, pumps or walking boots are advisable for the walking tours. Closed toe shoes are essential when walking along the railway line at Hellfire Pass as there is loose gravel and multiple steps. We recommend that you bring lightweight, loose-fitting cotton clothes with pale colours as they tend to be cooler.
When visiting temples or other religious monuments, visitors should be modestly dressed - it is very important that knees and shoulders are covered and females should not wear shorts or vest style tops in such places. Since shoes and socks have to be removed for all visits to pagodas and temples, we recommend wearing sandals or other slip-on shoes which are easy to put on and take off for these types of visits
Hats and sunglasses are strongly recommended throughout the year. Formal style clothing such as a jacket and tie are not required for this tour. A sarong with its many uses is a very handy item to bring.
I have just returned from a truly amazing holiday in Thailand and Laos. The group was led by two amazing guides in Thailand, Frances and We and in Laos Lewis joined Frances. All the hotels chosen by Riveria were fantastic and diff...
Mrs Diane Jessop
Hallo I have just had a wonderful holiday to Thailand and Laos. We saw some amazing places, and stayed in some beautiful hotels. Francis our tour manager, was excellent,she made sure everyone was comfortable and enjoying themselv...