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Old Siam and the River Kwai + Koh Samet Extension

Thailand - Trip code OSK Discovery
Days 15
Deposit From £200
Price from £1995
Flights not included

Why book this trip?

Discover the cultural side to Thailand as we explore hilltop temples, cruise on a converted rice barge and unwind on the island of Koh Samet. We discover the ruined temples of the former royal capital Ayutthaya and visit the renowned 'Bridge over the River Kwai'. We take a longtail boat along the Kwai Noi River to our jungle raft houses , visit a Mon village and try bamboo rafting. Finally we travel to the tropical beaches of Koh Samet, an unspoilt National Park, where we can relax on the pristine beaches, snorkel in the clear waters or enjoy a boat trip around secluded bays.

    • Included meals

      Breakfast: 13

      Lunch: 2

      Dinner: 3

    • Trip staff

      Explore Tour Leader

      Boat Crew


      Local Guide(s)

    • Transport




    • i


      1 nights simple homestay

      10 nights comfortable hotel

      1 nights simple overnight train

      2 nights simple raft house

    • i

      Trip pace:

      Full on

    • i

      Group Size:

      10 - 16


    Itineraries on some departure dates may differ, please select the itinerary that you wish to explore.

    Day 1 - Join tour in Bangkok

    Arrive Bangkok and check-in at the hotel. The rest of the day is free. You may choose to take an optional cruise along the city's Klongs (canals) in a traditional longtail boat. This is the ideal way to explore Bangkok's network of meandering waterways that branch off from the main channel of the Chao Phraya River. The excursion will also include visits to the Royal Barge Museum and the iconic Wat Arun, the Temple of the Dawn, which was built to represent the towering slopes of Mount Meru, the home to the gods of Khmer mythology.


    Grade: Comfortable Hotel

    Single room available

    Swimming pool available

    Meals Provided: None

    Day 2 - In Bangkok, visit Grand Palace; sleeper train to Chiang Mai

    Our sightseeing tour this morning is on foot and includes the Grand Palace with its stunning Emerald Buddha and Wat Po (Temple of the Reclining Buddha). The afternoon is left free, then in the evening we board the overnight train for Chiang Mai.


    Grade: Simple Overnight Train

    Meals Provided: Breakfast

    Day 3 - Arrive in Chiang Mai; visit Doi Suthep temple; walking tour of Old Town

    Chiang Mai offers a complete contrast and relief from the heat and noise of Bangkok. Its elevation is just over 300m, so the climate is most agreeable. Founded in the 13th century, it owes its prosperity mainly to the teak trade. Our sightseeing will include the famous Doi Suthep temple and an orientation walk of the old town.


    Grade: Comfortable Hotel

    Single room available

    Swimming pool available

    Meals Provided: None

    Day 4 - In Chiang Mai, included visit to Elephant Nature Park

    This morning we head out to the Elephant Nature Park, one of the largest elephant conservation centres in Thailand. The park comprises of huge swathes of land for the elephants to roam in, along with an elephant nursery and hospital caring for sick and abandoned elephants. Its main function is for the treatment and care of rescued elephants although visitors and tourists are now admitted to assist and volunteer with the valuable conservation work. Our plan for the day will need to be flexible around the needs of the elephants, but is likely to include helping to feed the elephants from a viewing platform in the morning and in the afternoon we will walk down to the river with the elephants and centre's staff. Here we can witness these gentle giants as they happily splash around in the river, washing and cooling themselves down from the midday sun.

    There are no elephant shows or elephant riding here, the day is all about spending quality time with these beautiful creatures and observing their natural behaviours when they are with their herd.


    Grade: Comfortable Hotel

    Single room available

    Swimming pool available

    Meals Provided: Breakfast

    Day 5 - Drive to Si Satchanalai temple ruins en route to Sukhothai

    Today we head south to Si Satchanalai the twin city to Sukhothai. Although architecturally very different, it is just as impressive in many ways with a variety of outside influences noticeable in the construction of the wats and chedis (religious memorials). The most impressive and most sacred is Wat Chang Lom. Situated in the heart of the old city it is decorated with 39 standing elephants and is unusual due to its Ceylonese-style chedi - the earliest of its kind in Thailand.

    After visiting the site we make our way to the small community of Natonchan, a rural village set amongst lush rice paddies where we will enjoy the warm hospitality of a homestay for the night. After being greeted by our hosts and having some time to settle into our rooms we head out to explore the village on foot. The villagers here still practice many cottage industries, and as we walk from house to house we will see how clothes are stitched on a bamboo sewing rig, cups and chopsticks are made from surrounding bamboo and ornaments are skilfully carved by local artisans. There will be plenty of opportunity to engage with the villagers whilst each of them demonstrates their craft. We return to our homestay for a sundowner and a hearty meal cooked by our hosts.

    The homestay in Nathon Chan is simple but clean, comfortable and homely. Rooms are twin share with mattresses on the floor, all bedding and mosquito nets are provided and there are shared western toilets and showers. Please note that larger groups may be split between two nearby homes.


    Grade: Simple Homestay

    Meals Provided: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

    Day 6 - In Sukothai, explore old city ruins by bicycle; drive to Uthai Thani via UNESCO site of Kamphaengphet.

    This morning we make the short drive to Sukothai, and once here we plan to explore the old city by bicycle. Sukothai was the first capital of Siam; which was at the pinnacle of Thai civilisation for over 200 years up to the end of the 1400s. It then went into decline as Ayutthaya took over as the most important city in the area, and was deserted until it was discovered as a lost city in the jungle in the 19th Century. The city has now been fully excavated and it comprises 21 historical sites within the city walls and a further 70 outside. Leaving Sukhothai by bus, we continue our journey south towards Uthai Thani. Along the way we make a stop at the historical site of Kamphaengphet, a UNESCO World Heritage site and little-visited town which contains a wealth of 13th-17th century temples, statues and buildings. The ancient walled town featured as an important city under the Sukothai Kingdom by protecting it from invaders, and we will spend time exploring the old royal palace and temples before driving onto Uthai Thani. Upon arrival, the rest of the afternoon is free.


    Grade: Comfortable Hotel

    Single room available

    Meals Provided: Breakfast

    Day 7 - Visit morning market; travel by boat and bus to Ayutthaya; visit Royal Palace

    This morning we plan a visit to a local market before boarding a traditional boat for a trip along the Sakraekrang River . As we drift down the sleepy meandering waters we get a real insight into the authentic life of the indigenous river dwellers and boat people. There's plenty of time to relax and enjoy the passing scenery. The trip ends back at Utahai Thani for lunch. We then head south by bus where we reach another of Siam's stunning ancient capitals, Ayutthaya. Situated on an island at the confluence of three rivers, the Chao Phraya, Pa Sak and Lopburi Rivers, Ayutthaya had a very strong defensive position and retained its power for over 400 years, during which time it became extremely wealthy. Now a UNESCO World Heritage site, the city is still a stunning complex of palaces, shrines, stupas and monasteries. We will include a walking tour to visit the Royal Palace and a few wats.


    Grade: Comfortable Hotel

    Single room available

    Meals Provided: Breakfast

    Day 8 - Drive to Kanchanaburi; journey on Death Railway and by boat on River Kwai; overnight in raft houses

    An early morning drive, by-passing Bangkok takes us to the River Kwai and Kanchanaburi, where we visit the war cemetery and the famous Bridge over the River Kwai. The building of the bridge and the Death Railway as it has become known, is one of the most infamous episodes of the Second World War. The Japanese built the railway to link Siam and Burma (Myanmar) using Prisoners of War between June 1942 and October 1943. It was to carry supplies to their fast expanding empire and by doing so it would cut almost 1300 miles off the sea route from Japan. The working conditions were atrocious and over 16000 allied troops lost their lives as well as an estimated 75,000 Asian forced labourers. We then take the train along part of the original route. We continue by bus to the Hellfire Pass and visit the Memorial Museum. Finally we transfer to longtail boats for a journey up the River Kwai to our Raft Houses, set in a tranquil location on the river's edge.


    Grade: Simple Raft House

    Single room available

    Meals Provided: Breakfast & Dinner

    Day 9 - In Kanchanburi, take bamboo rafts on River Kwai; visit Mon minority village

    We spend a full day here exploring the jungle and the river both on foot and by bamboo rafts. There is also the option to visit a nearby Mon minority village, or the eerie Lawa cave complex. Alternatively you may prefer to simply relax in your raft house and watch the world go by.


    Grade: Simple Raft House

    Single room available

    Meals Provided: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

    Day 10 - Return to Bangkok by boat and bus

    We leave the peaceful surroundings of the Kwai Noi River this morning as we join the road and head back towards the capital. On our way back will we stop by the small town of Maeklong, home to one of the most unusual spots in Thailand. The Maeklong Railway Market was established in 1905 to better transport the fresh seafood from the nearby port to the city and surrounding provinces. The market has been built, quite literally, on top of the railway and each time the provincial train rumbles through a mind-boggling spectacle unfolds; the shades and canopies are all folded back, produce is deftly rolled away from the tracks and then train slowly passes through, mere millimetres from the surrounding markets and vendors. We plan to arrive today in time to witness this bizarre but fascinating event, with time left to look around the market and the variety of fresh produce on offer.

    We then continue on to Bangkok, where the rest of the afternoon has been left free for some last minute shopping or further exploration of this Asian metropolis.


    Grade: Comfortable Hotel

    Single room available

    Swimming pool available

    Meals Provided: Breakfast

    Day 11 - Early morning transfer by minibus and ferry to Koh Samet

    Please note: whilst on Koh Samet this extension is unescorted.


    Grade: Comfortable Hotel

    Single room available

    Meals Provided: Breakfast

    Day 12 - On Koh Samet; free time

    This is essentially a time for rest and relaxation. You could swim and unwind on the beach or there are various optional excursions such as boat trips and snorkelling that can be paid for locally. The next two days are free to do as little or as much as you like.


    Grade: Comfortable Hotel

    Single room available

    Meals Provided: Breakfast

    Day 13 - On Koh Samet; free time

    Today you have another opportunity to swim, snorkel or simply relax on the beach enjoying the sunshine.


    Grade: Comfortable Hotel

    Single room available

    Meals Provided: Breakfast

    Day 14 - Return to Bangkok

    Today we transfer by boat back to the mainland and drive to Bangkok.


    Grade: Comfortable Hotel

    Single room available

    Swimming pool available

    Meals Provided: Breakfast

    Day 15 - Tour ends in Bangkok

    Tour ends after breakfast. If you have time you may wish to wander through Chinatown for a different flavour of the city.

    Meals Provided: Breakfast

    Trip information

    Country information



    Generally hot with high humidity. There is some rainfall from April to September with most days being hot (around 33 Degrees) and a light breeze on the islands. If it does rain, it will be more of a heavy tropical downpour that lasts a few hours. Additional information and climate charts can be accessed at

    Time difference to GMT



    2 Pin Round





    Budgeting and packing

    Optional activities

    The following excursions and/or activities are usually available and may be arranged locally. Estimated costs are provided below for guidance only, are on a per person basis unless shown otherwise, and may depend on the number of participants. Prices quoted are correct as of the date these tour notes were originally issued but may change at any time due to currency fluctuations. Please note: These activities are booked and paid for direct with the supplier and do not form part of your Explore holiday contract.

    Bangkok - Longtail boat excursion on klongs including visit to Royal Barge Museum US$ 18
    Chiang Mai - Evening Folklore Show and Khan Toke Dinner US$ 14; Thai cooking course US$ 23;


    Pack essentially for hot weather. Lightweight rainwear is advisable all year. Shorts, open backed sandals and bare shoulders are not permitted in the Grand Palace in Bangkok.


    Comfy shoes, trainers & sandals.



    Luggage: On tour

    Should consist of a main piece of baggage and a daypack large enough to carry clothes for an overnight stop.


    Bring a torch and waterbottle.


    Explore leader
    Tipping isn't compulsory, and we work hard to ensure that our leaders all receive a fair wage. You may however, want to recognise a leader that's done a great job or really added to your trip by giving them a tip. We're often asked about the recommended amount. It's a tricky one, and down to personal preference, but we'd recommend between £15 to £20 per person per week as a guideline.
    Local crew
    Although entirely voluntary, tipping is a recognised part of life in this region of the world. Some local staff will look to members of the group for personal recognition of particular services provided. Accordingly, you should allow approximately £25.

    In order to make things easier for you, the Tour Leaders may organise a group's tips kitty and if this is the case, they will account for it throughout the tour.


    Food and drink

    The costs for meals may vary depending upon location, type of restaurant and number of courses eaten and so the prices given are an average guide. Local restaurants located off the beaten track may be less expensive, whereas an upmarket restaurant located in the centre of a major city may charge more.

    Dinner price
    £4.00 - 8.00
    Beer price
    Water price
    Foreign Exchange
    Local currency
    Thai Baht
    Recommended Currency For Exchange
    We recommend that you bring your money in GBP or US$.
    Where To Exchange
    Most major towns and on the islands - your Tour Leader will advise you on arrival.
    ATM Availability
    ATMs are available in Bangkok but are limited on the islands.
    Credit Card Acceptance
    Major stores and restaurants.
    Travellers Cheques
    Can be exchanged at banks and exchange offices throughout the tour although rates may not be as favourable.
    Transport, Accommodation & Meals

    Transport Information

    Bus, Boat, Train

    Essential Information

    FCO Advice

    We strongly recommend that you check your government's travel advisory for up-to-date information and advice about your destination: safety and security, entry requirements, health, local laws and customs. For UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office advice click here.

    For more information from Explore about travel advice, click here

    Under 18 immigration guidance

    Please note that some countries require proof of parental consent when travelling overseas with under 18s. Please check requirements with the relevant embassy or consular office well in advance of travel if this applies to your party.

    Price Guarantee

    Once your booking has been confirmed we guarantee the price will not increase, whatever the circumstances. Before booking please ensure you have read our important tour pricing information.Booking Conditions

    Visa and Passport Information

    Thailand: Visas are not required by UK, Australian, New Zealand, US and Canadian citizens for a stay of less than 30 days. All passports must have at least 6 months validity remaining on entry to Thailand. Other nationalities should consult their local embassy or consular office.

    You should confirm all visa related questions with the relevant Embassy prior to departure.

    If you do require assistance in obtaining a visa then you may be able to apply through Explore's recommended visa service in the UK, Travcour. See to download the relevant visa application for your trip, if applicable (UK citizens only), along with details of how to apply for your visa through Travcour. The Team at Travcour will be happy to answer specific questions relating to visa applications, please call them directly on 0208 5431846.

    It is your responsibility to ensure that you are in possession of a full passport, with the correct validity for your chosen destination.

    Booking conditions

    Before booking your Explore trip, please ensure that you read both our Essential Information and Booking Conditions.


    Find out more about Trip Transfer Terms and Conditions before you book.

    Booking a land only package with Explore

    Customers who have chosen to book on the ‘Land Only’ arrangements of our tour, please ensure that you have checked your tour specific ‘Joining Instructions’ prior to booking your own travel arrangements. Your joining instructions can be found below in the dates and prices information. 

    You may also be eligible for the Free Explore Transfer.

    Joining Tour Abroad

    Customers booked on the ‘Land Only’ arrangements will now receive a Free Transfer, provided you arrive and depart on the tour only itinerary start and end dates. The complimentary transfers will be arranged from the Explore designated airport or train station to your trips joining point, and then back from the ending point to the designated airport or train station. Generally the airport or station that Explore have selected will be the one that is closest to the town or city where the trip starts, or the one nearest to the joining point. It will be either an airport or train station but not both.

    The exception to this rule is customers who are booked on a tour where the joining and ending point is at the designated airport or train station.  

    Free transfers are not available for Self-Guided, Polar, Tailormade or Tours for Churches customers.

    If you are not eligible for the Free Transfer then you will need to make your own way through to the joining and ending point. On a majority of our tours Explore will be able to provide a private transfer at an additional cost. Please ask for a quote at the time of booking.  

    For more information regarding the Explore Free Transfer click here


    It is a condition of booking with Explore that you have adequate valid travel insurance. It is your responsibility to arrange appropriate travel insurance and ensure you have read and understood the full terms and conditions of your travel insurance policy to ensure that you are covered for all activities you intend to undertake whilst on the tour, including all optional activities. Your Insurance Policy must fully cover you for medical expenses and emergency repatriation to your home country. Please ensure your policy includes medical emergency helicopter evacuation in the event of illness or injury and covers the entire duration of your holiday. If you are trekking at altitude please ensure that there is no upper altitude limit which may limit or exclude cover for your trip. The cost of many of our Polar Voyages will exceed the capped amount covered by standard insurance premiums and you will be required to pay an additional premium to cover the full value of your trip. Please ensure that you are covered for the full amount of your holiday cost, as insufficient cover could invalidate a claim under the policy. Medical and repatriation insurance cover is not mandatory for UK residents who are travelling on trips within the United Kingdom.
    Read more information about what travel insurance is required.

    Flight information

    Explore offers a wide range of flexible flying options to make joining and leaving our trips easy. Read more about them here.

    Flight Information

    You are able to book this tour on a 'land only' basis or as a ‘flight inclusive’ package. Your flight inclusive package will be fully protected by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) ATOL protection scheme.


    Booking a flight inclusive package with Explore

    We have a good selection of flights not only from London but from many regional airports around the UK allowing us to compare fares between scheduled carriers as well as low cost and charter airlines. Our dedicated flights team will match the best flight options to your arrival and departure airport.

    On our website we display a UK flight inclusive package guide price which is generally based on a London departure. To avoid paying supplements or to secure your preferred flight option, we recommend booking as early as possible, especially for peak travel dates.

    Ability to swim

    An ability to swim is essential for your safe enjoyment of the water based activities on this trip. If you wish to participate in these activities then we insist that you are able to swim.



    Nothing compulsory, we recommend protection against malaria, typhoid, tetanus, diphtheria, polio and infectious hepatitis. Although not compulsory, travellers may also wish to immunise themselves against Japanese encephalitis. Consult your travel clinic for latest advice on Dengue, Malaria and Zika Virus. Please take preventative measures to avoid mosquito bites - these include mosquito repellent as well as long trousers and long sleeve shirts to cover up when necessary. Please check the latest requirements with your travel clinic or doctor prior to departure. The above is not an exhaustive list. Further information regarding vaccinations and travel health advice can be found by following the NHS and NaTHNaC links at Explore Travel Health and from your local healthcare provider. Visa and vaccination requirements are subject to change and should be confirmed by you before travelling.

    Additional Information

    Why book this trip

    As one of our best selling tours this adventure to Thailand really gets under the skin of the destination and gives travellers an in-depth discovery of the history and culture of the country. Often associated only with beaches this trip is a revelation, as you will see ancient lost cities, explore glittering temples, and spend a night in a raft house on the legendary River Kwai. This is a great holiday for history lovers who want to understand the 'real' Thailand as well as spend a couple of days relaxing on the beach afterwards.

    Dates, prices and booking

    All holidays are subject to availability and prices are subject to change
    Sun 22 Dec 2019 - Sun 5 Jan 2020 Guaranteed departure
    OSK_2019 Please call us
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    On request
    All customers that travel on an Explore Group or Private Journey trip will be provided with a complimentary transfer, provided they arrive and depart into the designated airport or train station on the trip start and end dates. Generally the airport or station that Explore have selected will be the one that is closest to the town or city where the trip starts, or the one nearest to the joining point. It will be either an airport or train station but not both. The exception to this rule are customers who are booked on a trip where the joining and/or ending point is the airport or station. In this particular case there will be a specific time provided for when the trip starts and ends. On these particular trips, only one arrival and departure transfer will generally be provided for the whole group. Please see free transfers for terms and conditions.

    These trip joining details are provided on a provisional basis and may change prior to this tour departing. Any changes to these details will be updated on this page.
    For those not eligible for a free transfer the joining / ending time and location for your trip are detailed below:
    Joining Point
    Time and place
    13:00 at Hotel Reception
    Ending Point
    If you have booked a pre or post trip accommodation directly with the hotel, or through any other intermediaries, please ensure you regularly check this page in case of any changes.

    Add a flight with Explore

    • Full Explore refunds in the event of FCO cancellations or major disruption at your UK departure airport
    • Rearranged flights and transfers in the event of delays, missed connections, or cancellations (including accommodation overseas)
    • ATOL protected
    • No surcharge guarantee


    Award Winning Explore Leaders
    Find out more
    Price Guarantee Promise
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    Airport Transfers
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