This two-week adventure will take you from the cosmopolitan city of Chiang Mai to holy Buddhist temples, and from pristine island beaches to quaint Thai homes. Your adventures will be anchored in daily mindfulness practices, taught by our very own Jessica Van Antwerp (see her bio here), highlighted by the amazingly delicious Thai food, and accentuated by the best of Thai activities!
Day 1: Meet your fellow travelers in Bangkok and get to know each other before boarding a charming overnight train to Chiang Mai, Thailand’s northern metropolis.
Days 2-5: Spend three days exploring Chiang Mai and the surrounding areas, while getting familiar with Thai culture. Recover from jetlag with traditional Thai massages and herbal steam baths. Get your blood pumping with a moderate hike to two beautiful temples. Spend a day bonding with rescued elephants at the Elephant Nature Park. Dance and shop at the local night bazaar. Learn to cook traditional Thai dishes in a cooking class so you can bring a taste of Thailand home with you!
Days 6-7: Spend 2 days in a Buddhist monastery, meditating and chanting alongside the monks and exploring the the philosophical principles of this ancient spiritual tradition.
Day 8 – Fly to Southern Thailand to continue our journey! Learn about the mission of Andaman Discoveries and how they are empowering locals with Community-Based Tourism.
Days 9-11: Enjoy a speedboat ride out to the Surin Islands, where you will see some of the clearest, most crystal blue water you have ever seen! Be welcomed into the village of the Mokhen people, learn their traditional way of spearfishing and how to row their traditional boat. Enjoy snorkeling in these pristine waters as you scope the seascape for turtles, lobsters, and if you’re lucky, reef sharks! (Don’t worry – they’re harmless.)
Days 12-13: Enjoy three days living with Thai families, experiencing their culture and way of life. They will teach us to cook authentic Thai cuisine, to weave the leaves of the nypa palm in the traditional fashion, to dye fabric Batik-style, to net fish in the traditional way, and to make soap. You might also get to enjoy some of the best ice cream you’ve ever had!
Day 14: Our journey ends at the Surat Thani airport in Southern Thailand. We say goodbye to one another as we each set off on the next leg of our unique adventures.
This journey is for anyone interested in expanding their perspective on health, deepening their sense of self, strengthening their ties to the global community and cultivating new skills and friendships in an exotic and magical Kingdom affectionately known as the “Land of Smiles.”
No yoga, qigong, or meditation experience necessary!
This journey is limited to 15 participants, so apply early to avoid disappointment!
February 24: ARRIVAL/ORIENTATION
Arrive inBangkok and meet your traveling companions for the next two weeks at the airport. Exchange currency and get your phone situation set up as you begin getting to know one another. Get oriented to Thai culture, learn some basic Thai language skills, and set the tone for a safe and satisfying journey as we enjoy an overnight train ride to Chiang Mai.
February 25: CHIANG MAI | Thai Massage & Herbal Steam Baths
Arrive on the night train, check in to your hotel, and enjoy some downtime settling in. After lunch, head out for some relaxing Thai Massages and Herbal Steam treatments to help you recover from your jetlag. Get a little firsthand experience of Thai culture and dive a little deeper with the group.
Accommodation for the next four nights: INA House | Run by the indigenous tribes in Thailand and nestled on the river east of Old City, we will be three to a room with a shared bathroom, equipped with air conditioning and WiFi.
February 26: CHIANG MAI | Hike, picnic lunch and night on the town!
Continue to call your spirit into your body with your first morning mindfulness practice, an intuitive mix of yoga, qigong and meditation. After breakfast, embark on a moderate hike to the forest temple of Wat Phalat where you will enjoy a picnic lunch. Then continue up a monk’s trail to the sacred temple of Doi Suthep. Catch a ride back down to town for dinner and a night out.
Deepen your inner exploration during your morning practice. After breakfast, you will be whisked away to the Elephant Nature Park to spend a day bonding with these gentle giants. You will hear the personal stories of rescued and orphaned elephants. See how they became a proud herd and free from abuse for the first time in their lives. Relish river bathing with these majestic creatures, feeding them, and if you’re lucky, you might even get blessed with an elephant kiss!
February 28th: CHIANG MAI | Thai Cooking Class and another Thai Massage
After your morning practice and breakfast, go to the market to start your culinary adventure by buying fresh ingredients. Spend the afternoon learning to cook a delicious and traditional Thai meal of Pad Thai, Panaeng Curry or Tom Yam Goong and Sweet Sticky Rice. Spend the afternoon relaxing with another Thai massage and finish the evening with a special treat, available ONLY to Integral Travel participants.
Rise and shine with the sun to head to a temple for a truly special experience living with and among monks at a traditional Buddhist monastery. The Wat Umong Meditation Center was founded for the propagation of theoretical and practical Buddhism, and for the promotion of peace to happiness among all human beings. The center is a forest monastery at the the foothills of Doi Suthep that all meditators are invited to retreat and practice among peacefully natural surroundings.
Rise before the sun to start your “day in the life of a Buddhist monk.” Deepen your exploration of your inner world and watch the busy-ness and hecticness of your daily life back home begin to recede into the background as you continue your exploration of the philosophical underpinnings of Buddhism and gain understanding about your life, its circumstances and cleansing harmful karma.
March 3: TRAVEL DAY | Chiang Mai to Boon Piya
After your morning meal and meditation, you will hop on a plane from Chiang Mai to Surat Thani in Southern Thailand. After a three-hour van ride to the tiny town of Boon Piya, you will be greeted by your guide from Andaman Discoveries for this truly unforgettable portion of your journey, who will provide an orientation about Andaman Discoveries, their mission, and vision.
March 4: SURIN ISLANDS | Plant Medicine Hike, Snorkel
After your morning practice and breakfast at the local market, you will head to the pier, where you will catch a speedboat to the Surin Islands, where you will camp on the beach for two nights, under a canopy of wild monkeys and birds. You will spend the afternoon touring the Moken village, learning their history and being inspired by their strength and adaptability. Take a guided hike through the forest to learn about uses of the native plants and try your hand at their traditional method of spearfishing.
March 5: SURIN ISLANDS | Spearfish, Thai handicrafts, Snorkel
Our morning practice will take us right into a delicious breakfast at the National Park headquarters, after which we will head around the bay to spend the day with our Mokhen friends. Today, they will teach us their traditional spearfishing methods, how to weave the leaves of the pandanus plant into bracelets, and take us snorkeling in these aquamarine waters.
March 6: HOMESTAY | Village Tour, Welcome dinner
Enjoy your morning practice on the edge of the ocean, followed by breakfast at the National Park Headquarters. Catch a speedboat back to the mainland for transfer to your homestay! Take a walking tour of the community with your local guide to learn about the history and lives of these villagers. See an area of the village that was destroyed by the 2004 tsunami and learn how this event affected the community.
March 7:HOMESTAY | Batik, Palm Frond Weaving, BBQ on the Beach
After your morning practice on the beach and a delicious breakfast, you will learn the art of Batik, a technique of hand-dyeing fabrics by using designs drawn in wax. Enjoy a delicious lunch – the first of many amazing home-cooked meals – and in the afternoon, weave nypa palm fronds to create roofing for their traditional houses. Our hosts will cap the night with a barbecue dinner on the beach, usually graced by the day’s catch from the sea, be it crabs, clams, or fish.
March 8: HOMESTAY | Mangrove tour, Soap-making, Thai cooking
Your morning practice next to the water will set the tone for a beautiful final day with your host family. You will enjoy another full and yet, slow, day experiencing the activities that they have hand-picked to share with you! Explore the mangrove forest in a long-tail boat, where you have the chance to spot various birds, monitor lizards and monkeys. You will learn how to make the soap they sell to high-end resorts for their livelihoods. Try your hand at making tasty Thai snacks.
March 9: FAREWELL
One final morning practice and breakfast with our host family leads you into your van transfer to the airport at Surat Thani where we will say our goodbyes! Back to Bangkok for the bustling city culture? Farther south to Phuket to experience the surfer/beach life? Perhaps you’re heading to some other country in the region: Laos, Cambodia, or Burma. Or maybe it’s time for you to head home. This international airport will serve as the gateway to wherever you want to go next! Bon voyage!
This is an adventure, not a tour, therefore, the itinerary is subject to change.
Participation is limited to 15 people so apply now to secure your place in the program!
This journey will officially begin at 2pm PM on February 24th at the Bangkok Suvarnabhumi International Airport (BKK), and will end at 2:30PM on March 9th at the Surat Thani International Airport (URT). Travel to and from Thailand is your responsibility, but we are happy to advise you if you have any questions.
Getting to Bangkok, Thailand: Please make your own travel arrangements to Bangkok’s Suvarnabumi Airport (BKK) and plan for your plane to land no later than 12pm on February 24th, 2019. This will allow you plenty of time to deplane, get your bags, get through customs and to our meeting place by 2pm. We will assist you with currency exchange and setting up in-country cell service once you arrive.
Don’t worry about arriving a day or two early unless you really want to, as time is allotted for jetlag recovery.
We suggest looking for flight deals on the following websites:
Returning to Bangkok: Experience has shown that by the end of our journey together, participants have come to LOVE Thailand and feel quite comfortable navigating it on their own; so not surprisingly, they don’t want to leave. We recommend that if you have the opportunity to build a few extra days or weeks into your itinerary, DO IT! Plan your travel arrangements from the Surat Thani International Airport. It provides easy access to wherever you may want to go!
In-country flights from Surat Thani run very regularly and one-way fares are reasonably priced.
Early Bird Price: $2700 (when paid in full by Sept. 30th)
Trip Cost: $3000
Payment Plans available: $500 reserves your spot, full balance due by Jan. 24th. Monthly payments split evenly between the time of your registration and Jan. 24th.
Price includes: all of your accommodation, meals (drinks not included), in-country transportation, instructor fees, activities (including receiving Thai massage), and entrance fees from February 24th through March 9th.
Price DOES NOT include:
$495 – $1325 Pre-Trip Expenses:
$75-$125: Travel Insurance (required – we recommend World Nomads)
$420 – $1200: Flight to/ from Thailand
$328 – $411 During the Trip Expenses:
$20-$50: Phone, in-country (SIM cards or service through your domestic provider)
$100: Gifts / souvenirs
$20: Various Gratuities ($6 for Homestay Family + others as desired)
$8/$11: Rent/Buy white clothes for meditation retreat
$50: In-country flight from Surat Thani to Bangkok
$90-$400 Optional Expenses:
$85: Thai Visa – only required if you’re staying in country for more than 30 days
$4: Laundry (1x)
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Please bring: yoga mat, meditation shall, journal, pens, head-lamp, thin sleeping-bag liner, pack-towel, alarm clock, watch, conservative clothing (covered shoulders and legs) to wear during visits to Wats (temples), comfortable clothing to practice yoga, a warm layer (wool hat, socks, fleece) for cool nights and mornings in the mountains, sun-hat, sunglasses, day-pack or shoulder bag, bathing suit (maybe even 2 if you don’t like putting on a wet bathing suit), sleepwear, sandals or flip-flops, walking shoes, toiletries, medications, camera.
Don’t bring: anything fancy or valuable – you won’t need it!
Will I have Internet and cell phone access?
Internet connection: Internet cafes are plentiful in Thailand so you won’t have any trouble communicating with loved ones at home while we are on most of our journey. However, once we get to the Surin Islands, internet access is quite slow and unreliable.
Mobile Phones: If you have an unlocked mobile phone, we suggest that you bring it with you. It is very easy and inexpensive to buy a Thai SIM card and pay-as-you-go minutes at any 7/11. The public phones in Thailand are not very reliable or easy to use, so if you expect to call home during your time in Thailand, bringing your own unlocked phone is the easier and cheaper option.
Should I exchange money?
Money: The exchange rate is approximately 31 baht to 1 US dollar. ATM’s are conveniently located everywhere in Chiang Mai and tend to offer a very good exchange rate. Most small shops, local markets and restaurants only take cash, but occasionally Visa and MasterCard are accepted at higher-end hotels and boutiques. PLEASE tell your bank and credit card companies the dates that you will be in Thailand to avoid having your accounts frozen due to “unexpected activity”.
How much money should I bring?
Budget: This journey includes all of your accommodation, meals (drinks not included), transportation within the country, activities, and entrance fees from your arrival at the Suvarnabhumi International Airport on February 24th through noon on March 9th. We suggest that you budget about $500 to pay for laundry, phone service, gifts, massage treatments, tips and drinks.
Do I need a visa?
You only need to get a Thai tourist Visa if you are planning on staying in the country for longer than 30 days.
Passports: You must have a passport valid for at least 90 days following your departure from Thailand to enter the country. If you are an EU, Australian or American citizen you will receive a tourist visa on arrival good for 30 days. If you are from another country or plan on staying in Thailand longer than 30-days please read about visa requirements and other important details at https://thailand.visahq.com
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If you still have questions or would like to speak to us more about this journey.