There will be a welcome briefing this evening with dinner at a local restaurant.
Heading out of Bangkok we drive to Amphawa (approx 1½ hours) and from here we cycle through orchards and canals before arriving at one of Thailand's many floating markets. Here we get a glimpse of daily life as we pass locals selling their wares from boats packed with fruits, vegetables and plants, where samples are hung from the tops of long poles so that buyers can see what is for sale from a distance. From here we continue cycling to Ratchaburi. Ride approx. 62km.
Cycling past fields of corn, rice and scattered temples we reach the foot hills of Suan Phung which is surrounded by mountains near the Thai/ Burmese border. Arriving in Suan Phung this afternoon we will drive to Kaew Chan Waterfall otherwise known as the Nine Level Waterfall, where we can swim before heading to our hotel. As the name indicates, the water cascades from the ninth level down the central valley of a steep cliff. Ride approx. 71km.
Today's ride takes us up a couple of small hill climbs and passes farm's that produce tapioca, corn and sugar cane en route to Kanchanaburi. The area is made famous by the film 'Bridge on the River Kwai'. Kanchanaburi province is a pretty area and a favourite with travellers for its caves, waterfalls and river trips. Ride approx. 90km.
We will cycle as well as take a ride on the infamous Death Railway today. First we drive (approx 1 hour) to visit Hellfire Pass so called because POW's were forced to chisel through solid rock, working by firelight on a particularly difficult section of the line resulting in a heavy loss of life. The film 'Bridge on the River Kwai' is fictional but uses the construction of the Burma Railway in 1942-43 for its historical setting. The Japanese used Allied POW's to build a railway from Thailand to Burma so they could supply their army without the dangers of sending supplies by sea. Thousands of POW's died under appalling conditions during its construction, and the line became known as the 'death railway'. We cycle on roads and trails near parts of the old railway before catching the train back to the bridge itself, which was reconstructed after the war and is used today to take tourist trains over the river. Ride approx. 90km.
After breakfast we first drive and then cycle to Ayuthaya, the 2nd royal capital of the Kingdom of Siam. At its peak the Kingdom encompassed large parts of present day Laos, Cambodia and Burma. Diplomatic and international trade missions found their way to Ayuthaya from countries as far afield as Europe. It was not long before Ayuthaya became one of the most important trading centres of the region. The population grew to over 1 million people by the 17th Century, more than any European capital at the same time. Following decades of wars and then a siege that lasted nearly 2 years, Ayuthaya was invaded and destroyed by the Burmese army. Temples were ransacked and statues of gold stolen and carried off to Burma. Following this devastating defeat the Siamese Kingdom relocated its capital to Thonburi (now a suburb in Bangkok) on the banks of the Chao Praya River.
In Ayuthaya we explore the temples that still remain today as part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. Early evening we board our overnight sleeper train bound for Chiang Mai. Ride approx. 45 km.
In the early morning the train pulls into Chiang Mai, 'The Rose of the North', known for its temples, markets and the many colourful hill tribes that live in the area. After transferring to our hotel, the rest of the morning is free to relax or explore on your own.
Chiang Mai is a former religious and cultural centre, twice coming under the control of the Burmese, there is a strong Burmese influence reflected in the architecture of the city. In the afternoon we visit the hilltop temple of Doi Suthep, the most revered Buddhist shrine in the Chiang Mai region. The climb up to the temple is well worth the effort as on a clear day it affords an excellent view over Chiang Mai and its striking temple landscape. In the evening we can visit the night market where many of the local hilltribe's handicrafts can be seen.
In the morning we drive (approx 1½ hours) to the Chiang Dao elephant conservation centre. In the past elephants have been used as beast of burden in the logging industry but over two decades ago the Thai government banned logging leaving the elephants and their mahouts out of work. This is a centre set up for the long term care of these graceful animals and we get to go on a ride on one of them while we are there. The nearby caves are full of stalactites and we visit these before head towards Doi Mae Salong, passing tea plantations and Yunnanese villages that are home to the descendants of the Chinese KMT army, who fled the revolution in China. From December to February the hills here are full of colour with white plum blossoms and pinkish sakura cherry blossoms. It also gets misty and cold during this time, so pack a fleece.
After a short bus transfer (1 hour) we start cycling to the border town of Mae Sai which is the most northern city in Thailand. From here we continue cycling along the Thai/Burma border into the heart of the Golden Triangle, previously the most extensive opium-producing area of Asia, until Afghanistan became the world's largest producer. At the end of the day we will take a scenic boat ride on the Mekong River and also cross the border into Laos, to see a village that allows tourist visits without the need to obtain a visa. From here it is a short drive to our hotel. Ride approx. 84km.
The Opium Hall our first stop today highlights the history of opium from its natural properties to its illegal uses, and gives historical information on the Opium Wars that led to the fall of the Manchu Dynasty. Continuing on back roads we cycle to Chiang Rai. If time allows at the end of the day we can visit the Population Development Association (PDA) Hilltribe Museum (optional), where it is possible to make a blanket and sweater donation. The group can also choose to have dinner at the Cabbages & Condoms restaurant in Chiang Rai where all proceeds go to PDA's various charities. Ride approx. 84km.
Our last day of cycling takes us to Wat Rong Khun or the White Temple an unconventional temple compared to the previous Buddhist temples we have passed. Continuing on through the rolling hills that divide Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai provinces we end the day back in Chiang Mai. Ride approx. 56km.
Today is free to relax or for personal exploration, there's plenty to do, wander around town and visit the many temples, get a massage, some retail therapy or enjoy even more of the sensational traditional Thai cuisine.
This morning we fly back to Bangkok where the afternoon is free for any final shopping or sightseeing.
Fly to London.