Exotic Isan: Khmer Ruins, Elephants, Silk and the Mekong
5 Days/4 Nights
Routing: Bangkok – Khorat – Ban Than Prasat Excavations – Phi Mai Khmer Temple Site – Night Market – Khorat – Dan Kwien Pottery Village – Muang Tham & Phnom Rung Khmer Temples – Surin – Tha Klang Elephants – Kvao Sinarin Silks & Silver – Sikhoraphum Shrine – Otop Handicraft Shopping – National Museum #8 – Ubon – Chong Mek Border (Laos, No Visa Needed) Market – Khong Jiam – Pha Taem Historical Park – Mekong Riverbaot Ride – Ubon Ratchathani
Note on ‘Getting There & Away’: You may combine this Tour with others, or enjoy it as a ‘stand alone’ tour. This tour starts with pick up at the Bangkok airport, or your Bangkok hotel. The trip ends in Ubon Ratchathani at the airport (4 flights to & from Bangkok daily). Our guide and driver will pick you up at your Bangkok hotel unless otherwise instructed.
DAY 1: BANGKOK – LUNCH IN KHORAT TOWN – BAN PRA SAT BRONZE AGE EXCAVATIONS – PHI MAI KHMER EMPIRE RUINS – KHORAT (NAKORN RATCHASIMA) – NIGHT MARKET (L,D)
Your guide will pick you up at your hotel for transfer to Khorat. When driving thru this “gateway” to Isan (Khorat), only 2 hours out of Bangkok one starts to see many lovely viewpoints, some Buddhist shrines, coffee houses and other where once can stop for refreshments, to use the bathrooms, or to stretch one’s legs. Once in Khorat, enjoy a lovely Isan & Thai lunch at a local restaurant called “Look Mai”. Khorat boasts many hidden eateries with excellent cuisine like this one.
Continue after lunch to the Ban Than Prasat. This archaeological dig is in the center of a small village. Local people had for decades found ancient bracelets, human bones and fragile ‘whorl’ style pottery in their gardens, then the Fine Arts Department declared the dig of national importance. Visit the most interesting of the excavations, and meet one of the village elders of whom you may ask questions. This 3500 year old Bronze-age excavation is one of over a dozen known sites throughout Isan ranging in age from 2000-5500 years old, and is one of the best preserved. Experts maintain that Isan was in fact the cradle of SE Asian civilization. Another interesting and important issue regards the dynamics around such discoveries and the rights of the local people on whose land the discoveries are made, who in many cases have been tossed off of family land they regard as ancestral after owning it for 4-5 generations! The Fine Arts Department is not popular in such cases, and one can see why sale of ancient artifacts is rampant.
Phi Mai Khmer Temple is our next stop, probably the most famous and best restored of the Khmer temples in Thailand. Built in the most common “5 Mountain style”, which mirrored the Khmers’ perception of heaven, with Mt. Meru at the center, Phi Mai also was the terminus of Emperor Jayavarman’s (VIII) Royal Road. Peaking in power and influence around the year 1200, the Royal Road followed a path meandering north, then east, and doubling back west again from the center of Khmer civilization – the Angkor Wat. Some experts argue that the Royal Road was built following or along astronomical lines, and some even compare the construction patterns of the Khmer temples throughout Cambodia and Thailand with the pattern of the Pyramids in Egypt and those built by South American Indians. This temple was the first of those restored in Thailand (begun in the 1970s) and has a small museum there as well, which helps us in the understanding of this mighty culture. Return to Khorat to check in at the hotel for the evening. After relaxing and freshening up, enjoy an Isan dinner at the Sima Thani Hotel. Then those who wish to may join our staff for a visit to the night market.
Meals: Lunch, Dinner Accom: Sima Thani Hotel (http://www.simathani.com )
DAY 2: KHORAT – BAN DAN KWIEN POTTERY VILLAGE – NANG RONG AREA VILLAGE WALK – PHNOM RUNG & MUANG THAM KHMER TEMPLES – SURIN (B,L,D)
After a leisurely breakfast drive to the pottery village of Ban Dan Kwien just south of Khorat. These village people have for the last 10 years made a very successful pottery export business to places like USA and Australia. Old styles here mix with the new, and one is as likely to see ceramic mobiles to be sold in Paris, Sydney or Cape Cod USA, as well as pottery made along ancient traditional lines which may be sold locally or internationally as well. First visit the retail market on the roadside, then – time permitting, walk thru the village to see some of the process. Then continue East through southern Isan to the area of Nang Rong. Here we’ll stop for an hour to walk thru a village and get a taste of local life. Isan people in villages like this are always very friendly, and if happen to be in the village around mealtime, they will almost invariably invite you to join them. Such hospitality is just one charming characteristic of Isan culture. Then continue to Nang Rong town for lunch at a local restaurant. Spend the afternoon visiting the impressive Phnom Rung & Muang Tam Khmer Temples. These temples were built in quite different styles over a period of hundreds of years. They were important points on the above mentioned “Royal Road” to Phi Mai. Over 110 temples, guest houses and hospitals dotted the Royal Road and these two temples were very important pilgrimage points. Both temples today have been very well restored by the Thai Fine Arts department. Muang Tham – the lesser known and visited of the two – is next to an ancient “Baray” or reservoir built at the same time. Today it is still full of water!Continue to Surin where we will stay for the night. Dinner will be at a local restaurant near the hotel. These days Surin has a vibrant local night life nearby the hotel. There are burgeoning ‘farang’ services nearby as well. Ask our staff for details.
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner Accom: Thong Tarin Hotel (http://www.thongtarinhotel.com/ )
DAY 3: SURIN – ELEPHANT RIDE AT BAN THA KLANG – KWAO SINARIN SILK & SILVER HANDICRAFTS – MUSEUM & TEMPLE – UBON RATCHATHANI (B,L,D)
After an early breakfast (depart hotel no later than 0730 this day!) drive up to the Moon River and Ban Tha Klang, where the Suai minority people make their living with elephants. Unlike northern elephants, these pachyderms were never used in logging work, but rather as war elephants in the service of the early Rama Kings of Thailand. The advent of modern technology signalled the decline in their use and thus, the elephants have found it harder and harder to make a living. ‘Phu Yai’ (Chief Village Elder) Pakit will give us explanations and pointers when near the elephants. Enjoy an early morning ride on local elephants along the Moon River before visiting the village itself and the small elephant museum there.
Suai people speak a language un-related to Thai or Lao, and the linguistic heritage is not well known. But the tribe has branches scattered all over Laos and Thailand. Learn what makes these people different & special. There are a couple of traditional Suai houses left in the village where this can be illustrated and Phu Yai Pakit will explain for us. Then continue to visit the silk handicraft village of Kwao Sinarin, which is famous for Cambodian style silk weaving. The mechanics of silk weaving are very similar in Thailand and Laos, but the designs, motifs, and detail one can find vary greatly according to the locale. Silk from this village is arguably the best in Thailand; certainly it is the best of its type. You will meet Granny Nuan, whose fine designs won her the 1st and 3rd prizes for silk weaving at the contest held by Her Majesty the Queen every year. Since this is rice planting time, you will not see every step of the silk process (many local people are working in the fields now), but you will begin to understand exactly the level of complexity and detail needed to produce such fine pieces of silk. You will have a chance to purchase silk here directly from the weavers themselves; deals textile lovers must not pass up. Then drive a little farther to visit a silversmith at work. The Surin area is famous for this kind of silverwork, and has had some chances to export their work. Other parts of Isan which also have these skills have not been so lucky. Continue thru the village of Sikoraphum where there is a minor, but significant Khmer Temple by the same name. Stop if time permits. Continue to the town of Srisaket for lunch. Then continue to the town of Ubon Ratchathani. Stop just outside town at a handicraft center selling products of the One Tambon, One Product project. Despite this being a government initiative, there are some lovely things for sale here, and the profits go to the people who made the items. In Ubon visit the National Museum #8, which houses several of Thailand’s most important inscription stones, which came from the Khong Jiam area where you will be tomorrow. En route to the hotel, also visit Wat Thung Si Muang, which is home to one of Isan’s most unusual temple buildings; the library here is built in a mixture of Burmese, Lao and Thai styles. Then continue to check in at the hotel to relax until dinner time. Then transfer to the Moon River, and enjoy a boat ride to the restaurant at which we will eat dinner on the Moon River. Dinner will be at a riverside restaurant. Ubon is a large town with much night life. Let us know if you wish to experience some of this, and we will direct you to it if you do not fancy exploring on your own. Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
DAY 4: UBON – CHONG MEK MARKET (LAOS NOTE: NO VISA NEEDED) – KHONG JIAM – PHA TAEM HISTORICAL PARK – MEKONG RIVERBOAT RIDE – THOSAENG KHONG JIAM RESORT (B,L,D)
After breakfast check out and continue to the Chong Mek border market on the Laos border. The border market here is one of the best. You can buy inexpensive duty free wine, liquor and beer at the duty free shops, or shop for textile, antiques, and other. Many people only look at the Lao side of the market, but there is much to see and buy on the Thai side too! Then drive into the twn of Khong Jiam for a delicious lunch at a local restaurant on the Mekong in Khong Jiam town. Check in at the hotel to relax for a couple of hours. Leave the resort to drive up to the short distance up to Pha Taem Historical park at 1600hrs. The ancient paintings here are so old, they are considered ‘pre-historic’. History in the Thai sense begins with the life of the Lord Buddha, 2547 years ago…therefore these paintings are between 5-7 thousand years old. You can see what clearly are fish and other animals painted here, but some other figures are not so clear. Listen to what the Fine Arts Department has to say, and make up your own mind. Afterwards, we will drive by bus or local transport down to Ban Goom village on the Mekong, to board a local style riverboat for the River trip to the resort. This is a lovely little ride, as this part of the Mekong is narrow and full of interesting features. Arrive in the late afternoon / early evening at the Thosaeng Khong Jiam Resort. Dinner at the resort.
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner Accom: Tohsang Khong Jiam Resort (http://www.tohsang.com )
DAY 5: KHONG JIAM – KHAO PHRA VIHARN (PREAH VIHEAR) KHMER TEMPLE COMPLEX ON THE CAMBODIAN BORDER – UBON RATCHATHANI (B,L)
After breakfast drive to the Cambodian Border. Note that today’s experience is a physical
experience that will require some walking and mild climbing. Khao Phra Viharn Khmer temple complex was started even before its big brother, the Angkor Wat in the heart of Cambodia! Unlike other Khmer Temples in Thailand, this one has not undergone the restoration efforts of the Fine Arts Department. This adds immeasurably to the already very significant sense of drama one feels here! If Indiana Jones were real, he would have found this place! Walk up steps to graded causeways through awesome “gopuras” and arrive at the extensive but dilapidated center, which is on a cliff-top overlooking the virgin Cambodian countryside for miles. On the way back, stop off for a look at Maw- I-Daeng cliff carvings. These carvings exhibit many similarities to some of the Hindu subject matter
at Khao Phra Viharn, but experts disagree exactly which site preceded the other. Lunch will either be at a local restaurant in Kantaralak, or a picnic lunch on the mountain, or in a shady grove en route back to Ubon, depending in timing. Transfer to the airport or train station for your next destination.
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch Accom: none
END OF SERVICE
TOUR COST – All Tours or combination of Tours,are subject to an Acceptance Payment/Deposit of £200 per person.
Cost per person on twin share basis as per itinerary
On application for the current Tour Cost for travel after 31 October 2009
Special Exclusive Prices !!
One Person – Thai Baht 48,089
2 Persons – Thai Baht 26,638 per person
3-5 Persons – Thai Baht 20,255 per person
PLUS – Acceptance Payment/Deposit of £200 per person.
Tohsang Khong Jian Resort surcharge as follows;
– Songkran Festival (13-15 Apr 09) @ THB 500 /room/night
– Candle Festival (18 Jul 08) @ THB 500 /room/night
– Compulsory Gala Dinner on 31 Dec 08 @ THB 1,400 /person
– Peak Season surcharge (24 Dec 08 – 3 Jan 09) @ THB 500 /room/night
Sima Thani Hotel surcharge for compulsory gala dinner on 31 Dec 08 @ THB 700 /room/night
Thong Tarin Hotel surcharge as follows;
– Elephant Round-up Festival (Nov 21-24, 08) @ THB 1,000/room/night for SGL and THB
1,400 /room/night for TWN/DBL
Lai Thong Hotel surcharge as follows;
– Songkran Festival (13-15 Apr 09) @ THB 200 /room/night
– Candle Festival (18 Jul 08) @ THB 200 /room/night
– Compulsory Gala Dinner on 31 Dec 08 @ THB 350 /person
– Compulsory Dinner on Candle Festival (18 Jul 08) @ THB 600 /room/night
– Peak Season surcharge (30 Dec 08 – 2 Jan 09) @ THB 200 /room/night
1.On acceptance – £200 per person Acceptance Payment (non refundable) by cheque payable to “S W & M Miller”
Your Contract for all tour arrangements is directly with North by North East, Thailand to whom payment for the tour is made.
2. Eight weeks prior to arrival in Thailand, or on Acceptance – 50% payable in thai Baht, by Credit Card or International Bank Transfer, direct to North by North East, Thailand.
3. On arrival in Thailand – 50% payable, in Thai Baht, by Credit Card or Cash.
A credit card charge may apply
35 days prior to arrival a cancellation fee of US$200 per person will be applicable.
30 days notice of cancellation a fee of 25% of the total amount will be applicable.
25 days notice of cancellation a fee of 50% of the total amount will be applicable
Less than 25 days notice incurs the full amount.
Acceptance Payment non refundable
Included in the Cost
- Accommodation on a twin sharing basis in the hotels mentioned above or equivalent – subject to availability. Accommodation in air conditioned room with bath (room with shower at Maekok River Village Resort) and meals as mentioned in the programme
- Any single room subject to supplement shown.
- Room and breakfast basis – or meals as indicated in the itinerary (B), (L) and (D)
- Transfers, entrance fees, and tours by air conditioned car/minibus
- Services of an English Speaking Guide throughout the tour from the start of the tour in Bangkok to the end of the tour at Ubon Ratchathani.Entrance fees at monuments and parks where applicable
- Train journeys where applicable –
- Domestic economy airfares, indicated in the itinerary, are subject to change –
- Basic porterage at airports, rail stations and hotels (not tips).
- All currently applicable taxes.
- Where US$ or Thai Baht are quoted, the UK pounds price shown is for comparison only and is subject to change.
- Excluded from the Cost
- Expenses of a personal nature: table drinks, laundry, telephone calls, Internet charges, mineral water, tips, shopping etc.
- Any other meals or services not mentioned in the itinerary or ‘includes’ list.
- Any international airfares to India and Asia
- Any airport taxes where applicable in each country
- Any subsequent increase in airfares, fuel costs, monuments/sightseeing fees.
- Any other taxes subsequently introduced by Government, State or Tourist Ministry.
- Travel Insurance
- Visa Fees, if applicable, in any country
- Any Christmas, New Year and Gala Dinners
All elements included in this quotation are subject to availability until the booking is made. The hotels/ services as quoted may change when giving you the final confirmation, based on current availability.