Thailand and Angkor Wat Cultural Journey
For centuries, visitors to the Angkor Wat temple complex have trudged through the steamy, wildlife-laden jungles to stand in awe of this architectural wonder of the world. Those who make the trek are usually left wanting for words to describe the complex’s near-perfect symmetry, the intricate designs of its limestone bas reliefs and its eternal serenity.
As awe-inspiring as it may be, Angkor Wat is just one of South East Asia’s many cultural treasures. The dynamic region has endured centuries of political, cultural and social successes and upheavals, its borders constantly redrawn, its populations and landscapes constantly transforming.
For adventure travelers, a long period of political stability has turned South East Asia into a destination hotspot as local governments have increasingly welcomed tourists with open arms. While some arrive in search of a different sort of adventure experience, most leave boasting the experience of a lifetime. Globetrotters who set out on Discovery Adventures’ remarkable 14-day Thailand and Angkor Wat Cultural Journey tour can bank on an unforgettable trip visiting highlights such as Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Sukhothai, Lampang Elephant Centre, Ayuthaya, Siem Reap and Angkor Wat.
The authentic, culture-driven adventure kicks off with two days of excitement and sightseeing in Thailand’s bustling capital, Bangkok. Once a quiet fishing village, the thriving metropolis of more than 11 million was designated as Siam’s capital in 1768, and retained the title when the country was officially renamed Thailand in 1949. Although it has since come to be recognized as one of South East Asia’s most important commercial hubs, Bangkok is also well known for its many temples, where the itinerary begins with a visit to give alms to local Buddhist monks. From there, local guides escort Discovery Adventurers to the colourful local flower market before exploring downtown’s vibrant Chinatown area and a morning voyage on the intriguing klongs—or canals—that snake their way through the city.
From there, a short flight to the north brings globetrotters to Thailand’s cultural heartland and Chiang Mai. The capital of the namesake province—best known for its handcrafted goods, jewelry and woodcarving—offers a range of riveting sightseeing such as the Doi Suthep Temple. One of the most sacred Buddhist temples in Thailand, travelers can climb the shrine’s more than 300 steps for panoramic hilltop views of the city. The next day, travelers are rewarded for their hard work with a trip to the Thai Cooking School to learn how to prepare a wide range of local delicacies—naturally, the visit wraps with a chance to taste the fruits of their labour before setting out to enjoy Chiang Mai’s night market.
Over the next five days, Discovery Adventurers explore some of Thailand’s top destinations beginning in Lampang, where they’ll visit the Elephant Conservation Centre to learn about the country’s regal relationship with the mammoth mammals and enjoy a ride on one of their new-found, big-eared friends. From there it’s off to Sukhothai—meaning ‘dawn of happiness’—and a chance to bike around Sukhothai Historical Park. The capital of the Sukhothai kingdom in the 13th and 14th centuries, the park and its extensive temple complex are now listed on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites, offering incredible insight into Thailand’s golden age. Those hoping to enjoy the country’s picturesque scenery are almost always amazed by Kanchanaburi’s Erawan National Park and its seven-tiered waterfall. After a day spent relaxing in the refreshing waters, trekking through the jungle or exploring area caves, the trip visits the nearby Allied war cemetery. The final resting place of POWs who died building the Thai-Burmese railway, the poignant memorial takes travelers on an ominous journey back in time to the darkest days of the Second World War.
The unforgettable itinerary then travels by air to Cambodia’s Siem Reap, gateway to Angkor Wat. Another UNESCO World Heritage Site, the ruins of the former capital of the Khmer kingdom is one of Southeast Asia’s most popular tourist attractions. One major, photo-friendly reason: sunsets which dance off the sandstone buildings and provide unique and ever-changing views of this expansive temple complex. Over the next two days, Discovery Adventures travelers have access not only to the towering structures of Angkor Wat, but can also wander the walled city of Angkor Thom, explore Preah Khan and delve into Ta Prohm—best known as the Tomb Raider temple. And as on any Discovery Adventures tour, this visit to Cambodia includes plenty of opportunities to interact with locals, sample exquisite local cuisine and enjoy the most authentic experience possible.
The trip returns to Bangkok for final days of shopping, eating and sightseeing and a chance for travelers to process all the culture, scenery, wildlife and memories from the previous two weeks. Most will try to pick a favourite highlight from the journey, but are inevitably left with a pleasant predicament—a stubbornly long list.