Depart the U.S. and travel to Thailand. The particulars of your arrival are detailed with your flight itinerary and airline tickets.
Day 2 - Arrive in Bangkok this evening
Arrive in Bangkok this evening at approximately 11:00 pm. Claim your luggage and clear customs. Then meet your VBT representative (who will be holding a VBT sign) in the arrivals hall. Suvarnabhumi Airport is a single terminal airport with three exits from the secure area into the public arrivals hall. International arrivals will exit through Gate B or C into the arrivals hall. The VBT representative will know in advance which exit you will be coming through based on your flight details and will be waiting in the appropriate area. In case you do not connect with the VBT representative, please proceed to the ATTA desk located at exit door 10. The representative here will help you transfer to your hotel, a 50-minute drive.
VBT provides you with City Information in your Final Travel Booklet that includes information and recommendations on what to see and do during your stay.
Day 3 - Golden Triangle / Bike fitting
VBT No-Air Package guests: Your VBT Trip Leaders and the rest of the group will meet you outside the domestic arrivals area at the Chiang Rai airport at 10:00 am. If you are scheduled to arrive at the airport in Chiang Rai later than 10:00 am, or if you are delayed, you must take a taxi at your own expense to the Imperial Golden Triangle Resort (address 222 Golden Triangle, Chiang Saen. Tel (0) 5378 4001) at an approximate cost of 1800 Thai baht/60.00 USD.
VBT Pre Trip and Air Package guests: After breakfast, we transfer to the Bangkok airport for our short flight north to Chiang Rai.
On arrival, we meet our VBT Trip Leaders and transfer by minivan to the ancient town of Chiang Saen. This area is commonly called the Golden Triangle. En route to the hotel, we'll stop at Wat Rong Khum Temple. This temple is a contemporary, unconventional Buddhist temple. It was designed by Chalermchai Kositpipat, and construction began in 1997. It isn't expected to be completed until 2070.
After our visit, we'll have lunch and check into our resort along the Mekong River. In the afternoon, our Trip Leaders provide a briefing of the week ahead followed by a safety and bike-fitting session. Tonight dine with your fellow travelers and Trip Leaders.
Day 4 - Explore the Golden Triangle / Tour the Hall of Opium
After breakfast, we ride a scenic loop from the resort through the countryside surrounding Chiang Saen. Our ride passes fruit plantations, temples and farming villages. We'll have a chance to stop at family-operated rice mills or distilleries that are common in this area. Visit the hilltop temple, Wat Phra Tat Chom Tikki, which offers a unique and spectacular view of the Mekong River, Laos and Chiang Saen. You may choose to pedal up the short but steep road, walk up the many steps or ride in the shuttle.
Have lunch at a local riverside restaurant, and then return to the hotel for an afternoon nap or a swim. In the late afternoon, head over to the Hall of Opium, a state-of-the-art museum telling the story of the millennia-long history of opium cultivation and its effect on culture and society. Dinner is on your own this evening. Options for dinner include the resort's restaurant or other establishments within walking distance.
Day 5 - Follow the Mekong River toward Chiang Khong
After breakfast, a short shuttle takes us to Ban Saeo, the starting point for today's ride. We wind along the Mekong, and ride east, north, then south from Chiang Saen towards Chiang Khong. Our destination is Huai Sai Man View Point, offering a spectacular view across the Mekong into Laos. Along the way, we'll ride through plantations of lychee, banana, chili, eggplant, corn and more.
En route we stop for a relaxing lunch. Our hosts gave up careers in Bangkok to build and operate a very comfortable resort. Much of lunch is prepared with produce from their gardens. We return mid-afternoon by shuttle to Sop Ruak and our resort.
Day 6 - Ride to Mae Chan / Horse Temple
We shuttle out of Chiang Saen this morning, and then begin cycling to our resort. Garlic and ginger are farmed in the fields we'll ride past. Deep in the countryside, we'll visit the Horse Temple, Wat Tham Pa Archa Thong. The monastery at the Horse Temple is unique in that horses are kept and used by the monks here for merit making. We speak with the Abbot and a resident nun and learn why the novice monk's day starts at 4 am.
We continue riding to our resort. The last two miles of our ride is a rewarding climb to the resort's front door but the VBT support shuttle is also available. Dinner is at the resort tonight.
Day 7 - Doi Mae Salong / Traditional Thai Massage
Many guests choose to take a break from cycling today to enjoy the services and tranquility of the resort. However, a supported ride in the surrounding hills is available. Vans take us this morning to the hilltop town of Doi Mae Salong. The village is almost entirely populated by the descendants of Chiang Kai-shek's Chinese Nationalist Kuomintang Army, and has the look and feel of Yunnan, China, rather than Thailand.
Enjoy an included lunch at Mae Solong Villa, then head back to the resort, retreat to the spa and relax with an included traditional Thai massage.
Day 8 - Biking and Paddling in Sri Lanna National Park / Shuttle to Chiang Mai
Today we shuttle to Sri Lanna National Park, stopping en route at Royal Project for local brew coffee. We'll hop on our bikes for a gentle ride through the countryside and its fruit orchards, rice fields and groves of bamboo. At Mae Ngud Reservoir we'll board a long-tail boat to Ekkachai Raft House before breaking for lunch in this lovely setting. After lunch, take the opportunity to view the reservoir from a different perspective – in a kayak.
In the late afternoon, we board a minibus and travel to Chiang Mai, the most well-known city in the north.
Day 9 - Cycle through the countryside / Hot Springs / Cooking class / Free time in Chiang Mai
Enjoy a morning ride out of Chiang Mai. This part of the country is known for its abundant production of charming housewares and handicrafts and we have many opportunities during the early part of our ride to observe those famous handicrafts being fashioned. Along the quiet back roads, cottage industries have sprung up and we'll take time to see some of them as we ride through.
Later, field after field of local crops unfolds before us, filling the valley between the scenic hills surrounding Chiang Mai. Our destination is the San Kamphaeng Hot Springs, where we stop and take a soak.
After some leisure time back in Chiang Mai, we'll make our way to the Chiang Mai Thai Cookery School for an exciting cooking class.
Day 10 - Cycle to Lamphun / Wat Phra That Doi Suthep
This morning we ride to Lamphun. Predating Chiang Mai by several centuries, Lamphun is the original seat of the Lanna Empire. A corridor of Yang Trees once lined the entire road between Chiang Mai and Lamphun. We'll see that some still stand, and they'll mark our progress as we enter the city. Once in Lamphun, we visit Wat Cham Devi, the largest and oldest surviving temple of its type in the country. Then cycle on to the highly revered Wat Phra That Haripunchai. This was an important destination for pilgrims in ancient times. Today we visit its adjoining school for novice monks.
After lunch on your own in Lamphun, we have time to explore two interesting museums. The Haripunchai National Museum contains remnants of the Lanna Kingdom's first city as well as some very curious memorabilia commemorating the current King and Queen's visit to the city. Just behind the national museum is the Lamphun Community Museum, offering a glimpse into everyday life in rural Thailand over the past century.
We shuttle back to Chiang Mai and visit Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, the site of Chiang Mai's most important temple. Its location offers a spectacular view of the city and the surrounding valley.
We enjoy a final, memorable dinner together with our Trip Leaders and our fellow travelers, indulging, once again, in delectable Thai food.
For those with shopping left to do, let loose in the city's famous night bazaar. Haggling is part of the process, but everything is a bargain when you compare prices to those at home!
Day 11 - Morning at leisure in Chiang Mai / Depart for the U.S. or begin your Post-trip Extension to Laos
VBT No-Air Package guests: Your trip ends midday at the Chiang Mai hotel. You are responsible for your own transfer to the Chiang Mai airport for your flight home. You can book a taxi directly from the hotel.
VBT Air Package guests: Morning and lunch in Chiang Mai are on your own. Then meet in the hotel lobby three hours prior to your departure time to catch your transfer (approximately 30 minutes) to the Chiang Mai airport. You'll fly back to Bangkok, where you'll connect with your flight to the U.S.
VBT Post-Trip Extension guests: Meet in the hotel lobby three hours prior to your departure time to catch your transfer (approximately 30 minutes) to the Chiang Mai airport. Upon arrival in Luang Prabang, claim your luggage and clear customs. Then meet your VBT representative, who will be holding a VBT sign. This representative will help you transfer (approximately 20 minutes) to your Luang Prabang hotel. VBT provides you with City Information in your Final Travel Booklet that includes information and recommendations on what to see and do during your stay.
Please note: VBT transfer times and departure points are finalized in advance and cannot be modified for individual guests. If you extend your stay beyond the scheduled program dates, return transportation to the airport will be at your own expense.
Day 12 - Arrive in the U.S.
You will arrive in the United States today.