The Tuk Tuk Club has a very simple purpose – to help travellers to Northern Thailand get a truer picture of this most beautiful and welcoming part of the country. We’ll help you get away from the usual tourist routes and make a truer more personal connection with the people, the land and the culture. You’ll experience places, people and food that you’d never see on a normal trip in Thailand.
Off the beaten track, remote mountainous Thailand at it’s very best. Travelling by Tuk Tuk, long tail river boat and even 4 wheel drive trucks this journey takes you into the soul of mountain communities and delivers an unforgettable travel experience.
During this 7 Day Adventure you’ll meet elephants in their natural forest habitat, travel winding mountain roads by specially built Tuk Tuks, hike in the foothills of Thailand’s highest mountain, float downstream on bamboo rafts and spend two days with an incredibly remote traditional mountain community – a rare and unique privilege.
With authentic Thai food throughout, superb expert guides, a real range of overnight accommodation – from charming rural resorts and riverside hotels to genuine Hill Tribe Homestays – and a fascinating villages throughout, this is a trip deep into the areas that lead to the phrase ‘Amazing Thailand’!
If you’re looking for the real travel experience in the real Thailand then look no further.
Our base camp is in a stunning valley about an hour from Chiang Mai. This is where you’ll meet your Tuk Tuk and driver, explore rural farming villages and spend some time with elephants at a local elephant home. A great start to your Nothern Thailand adventure.
Doi Inthanon National Park
Wind your way up back country roads and catch up with remote mountain communities before arriving at the towering Doi Inthanon – Thailand’s highest mountain at over 2,500m. A authentic hill tribe village near the National Park is our base for two nights while we explore the area, swim under beautiful waterfalls and trek through the untouched forest.
Surrounded by forests, mountains and rivers and inhabited by Lawa, Karen and other Hill Tribe groups, Mae Sariang is a lovely little town with fascinating Temples, friendly people and the untouched river to sit by having a well-deserved cold beer.
Karen Mountain Village, Tak Province
Travel doesn’t get more ‘wow’ than this. 30km up tiny winding roads deep into the mountains we reach a small Karen community of around 20 families which is our home for2 nights. Unbelievable views, traditional culture unchanged for generations, towering forest and elephants. Not only the highlight of this trip but the highlight of any trip to South East Asia. Unforgettable!
Our team will pick you up from The Chiang Mai Gate Hotel (our meeting point) at 09:00 to get this unique adventure started. We’ll then transfer by private minivan to our base for the next two days, Mae Wang, around 60 minutes South of the city.
Once in Mae Wang the adventure really gets started. You’ll be introduced to your Tuk Tuk (your vehicle for the next 4 days!), guide team and drivers and then head straight off to start experiencing rural Chiang Mai. Heading through small farming villages our first stop is the remote mountain side Temple of Wat Tham Nam Hu where you’ll have the chance to learn about Buddhism, the life of the monks and also ‘make merit’ for the adventure ahead.
Next we follow the valley North through lovely scenery to a small, highly ethical elephant home. On arrival you’ll be introduced to the elephants and their mahouts before sitting down to a tasty Thai lunch right next to the elephants. After lunch it’s time to help the mahouts feed the elephants before then walking with them down to the local river where you can help bathe these lovely animals.
The elephants themselves decide when they’ve had enough and then it’s time for us to take a slightly different mode of transport as we board bamboo rafts (with expert ‘driver’) to float gently downstream enjoying the cool water and breezes.
Finally we head back to the elephant home, say goodbye to the elephants and jump back in your Tuk Tuks to be driven gently back to our base for the night – the charming and relaxing Khum Khun Wang Resort.
In the evening we’ll head out to a real ‘country pub’. Very popular with the local community and with some of the best food you’ll come across, a great night is ahead.
Transfer from Chiang Mai Gate Hotel to our ‘base camp’
Rural village and remote Temple visits
Meeting and learning about elephants
Bamboo rafting on the local river
Lunch and Dinner
Twin / double share accommodation in a charming resort in Mae Wang – air-conditioning, en-suite rooms (single rooms can be requested with a surcharge)
Heading off after breakfast the Tuk Tuk Convoy spends the day winding our way high up into the mountains today, taking remote, rarely travelled mountain roads giving a real sense of the beauty of this part of the world
Our first stop is the valley of Mae Sapok where we’ll take a short hike through the forest to a very pretty waterfall, great to cool off by, and explore the local Karen community. The road then winds ever upwards with hairpin bends until we reach what feels like another world. It’s noticeably cooler up here and the scenery is simple stunning. We pass through numerous small Karen farming communities and will stop for a late lunch at a small roadside eatery – it might not look like much but the food is fantastic. And remember, all along this journey you’re in the prime position to experience everything. This isn’t travel cut off from the world in an air-conditioned mini-van. The beauty of the Tuk Tuk is that you can sense and smell everything as you pass by – plus the novelty of seeing visitors travelling by bright orange Tuk Tuk guarantees a great reception wherever you are.
Then we continue to wind our way through the mountains to where we’ll spend the night in the Karen Hill Tribe village of Mae Khlang Luang. This location of this village is awesome – looking out over rice fields, surrounded by forest and mountains it really is a special place and the family who run our accommodation for the night are some of the friendliest people you could wish to meet.
But that’s not it for the day – once we’ve checked in we’ll head by ‘songtaew’ (a local taxi!) to Thailand’s highest peak, Doi Inthanon at over 2,500m. Taking in the huge ‘chedi’s’ built in honour of King Rama 9 and his Queen, we’ll also explore the cloud forest before actually walking to the top of the mountain itself (don’t worry – it’s an easy walk suitable for everyone).
In the evening we’re enjoy a traditional Thai BBQ in the village whilst overlooking the rice fields. Travel doesn’t get much better than this.
Hike to a forest waterfall and small Karen community
Tuk Tuk convoy along remote mountain roads
National Park entry fees
Explore the summit of Thailand’s highest mountain
Breakfast, lunch and dinner
Twin / double share accommodation in a small Hill Tribe village – en-suite, fan cooled and with fantastic views across the rice terraces
A superb day hiking and exploring the forest surrounding the village. We’ll head off around mid-morning by pick up truck to the start of the hike accompanied not only by your guide team but also a local forest expert who can bring everything to life.
The hike is only around 6km and we take it nice and easy meaning it’s suitable for all. The first few hundred metres are uphill but after than the trail is either downhill or flat! We’ll head through the towering forest, stopping to learn about how the local communities use different plants for traditional healing, and then reach fantastic waterfalls and follow the stream heading down the mountains.
Lunch is eaten in a forest clearing and there’s even the opportunity to cool off swimming in the chilly waters under one of the waterfalls.
Eventually we start to hit human habitation again and walk along rice terraces back to the village where we spend the night, stopping first for some of the freshest most traditional coffee you’re ever likely to have had.
There’s time to explore the village and learn about the life of the community before we have another Thai feast in the Hill Tribe village this evening.
Trek and trekking guide
Breakfast, lunch and dinner
The same accommodation as on night two
We’re back on the road today as the Tuk Tuk convoy, expertly driven by our professional driving team, take you due West to Mae Sariang, our overnight destination. The route today starts by winding down the side of Doi Inthanon – fantastic roads and incredible views – and then we head through very remote countryside and areas that few overseas visitors ever see. There are plenty of stops at local coffee shops, viewpoints and just to stretch legs before we have lunch in another great roadside eatery.
We then start climbing again and passing through more Hill Tribe communities before we start the descent to Mae Sariang.
Mae Sariang is a very pleasant small town which is effectively the last stop before the border with Myanmar. With a real ethnic mix in the community – from Thai to Karen, Hmong to Burmese – the town is a fascinating place to explore with very friendly locals. There are even a couple of great bars if you need a refreshing cold drink to end this adventurous day.
We stay in the best hotel in the town – River House Resort – which has pleasant rooms all with nice balconies and there’s even a riverside swimming pool (who said adventures couldn’t have a bit of luxury) and in the evening head for yet more great Northern Thai food in the best restaurant in town fortunately only a couple of minutes walk away.
Tuk Tuks convoy and drivers
Breakfast, lunch and dinner
Twin share riverside accommodation in Mae Sariang – air-conditioning and en-suite bathrooms
For the early birds this morning is a great opportunity to visit the local morning market, a fascinating experience, and you can also buy some food to donate to the Monks on their morning alms round – a real Thai tradition.
Then it’s back to the hotel for breakfast before we say goodbye to our Tuk Tuks (and their drivers) and start to next part of this adventure. We’ll transfer a short way South by minivan before boarding a local ‘long tail’ boat which will take us down river to the community of Tha Song Yang. The river is the exact border between Thailand and Myanmar and winds it’s way through jagged cliffs and forested hills with the odd small community making a simple living on the river banks. Some great photo opportunities and a real travel experience as we head down river for around 3 – 4 hours (with the odd stop to stretch your legs). NOTE – when the river conditions are not suitable this journey will be replaced by a minivan to Tha Song Yang (sometimes towards the end of the dry season there isn’t enough water or in the middle of the rainy season the river may not be safe to navigate).
On arrival at Tha Song Yang we then transfer into 4WD vehicles to head high into some of the most remote mountains in the country to the Karen community which is our base for the next two nights. You’ll soon see why we need 4WD vehicles as rather than winding around the hills the road simply heads up and over any mountain in it’s way with incredible views and a real sense that we’re heading into the wild. The trip takes around 60-90 minutes and is truly spectacular and there will eb stops to stretch legs / take photos / soak up the scenery and atmosphere.
By the middle of the afternoon we’ll arrive at the very small Karen settlement. Made up of around 20-30 families this community was the first to settle in the local area and is the highest village in the surrounding hills. The population have made their living through subsistence farming over the years and this is about as wild as you can get in Thailand. This community has literally only just opened up to receive visitors and it’s an immense privilege to be one of the pioneer visitors in such a stunning and remote area.
Whilst facilities are simple – we’ll stay with different families in the community in curtained off rooms with mattresses on the floor and mosquito nets (don’t worry – there is access to ‘western’ style toilets and simple shower facilities) – the experience more than makes up for it. It’s incredibly rare to be able to even visit a community such as this, let alone stay with them.
When we arrive in the village we’ll be joined by local experts who know the village inside out and speak English, Karen and Thai (many people in the village only speak Karen) to allow you to get the most out of this time. We’ll explore the village, meet our hosts and then sit down with the local families to have a traditional mountain Karen dinner together.
It’s then time to sit out, look at the incredible stars from this high up and enjoy the evening.
River boat trip
4WD transfer up into the mountains
Breakfast, lunch and dinner
Simple homestay accommodation with village family – a real privilege
After an early breakfast – village life starts early! – we will head out for what is a real highlight of this adventure, being able to observe elephants in their natural habitat. The community where we are staying have ‘owned’ elephants for generations and refuse to sell their elephants / rent them to the tourist camps in the lowlands (and your stay in the village goes a long way to helping the community ensure that they can sustain not only the village but also these wonderful animals) and today we will hike through the hills to observe the elephants going about their daily lives. The length of the hike depends on where the elephants are at any given time – the community send people to watch over the elephants making sure they don’t get ‘into trouble’ – but is usually around 90 minutes or so walking through the forest and mountain farmland. When we reach the elephants we can marvel at just how magnificent they are. We will be accompanied by expert mahouts who, through our translators, can tell you all about the history of these elephants and their relationship with the local community. Lunch will be in forest and in the afternoon we’ll hike back to the community picking various plants and vegetable that will be cooked up this evening for another amazing dinner.
The ‘wow’ moments aren’t quite over however. We’ll walk up to the mountain top Temple in the late afternoon perched on a ridge overlooking the hills into Myanmar and lived in by one solitary monk. A great opportunity to learn more about the importance of Buddhism in this part of the world to see, weather permitting, a spectacular sunset.
Then it’s back to the village where everyone will work together – community and us – to cook a fantastic farewell feast, share stories and enjoy each others company. It really can’t be stressed at just how incredible this village is – the number of visitors is highly regulated and there’s a genuine sense of fascination and intrigue from both the community wanting to learn about their visitors and vice versa. The evening ends with yet more star gazing and a final night with your homestay family. Again, facilities are very simple (but clean) but the experience more than makes up for any lack of mod-cons.
Hike into the forest to observe elephants in their natural habitat
Sunset mountain Temple visit
Breakfast, lunch and dinner
The same Homestay accommodation as on Day 5
After breakfast it’s time to say goodbye to our hosts of the last two nights, soak up the atmosphere one more time and then we jump into our 4WD’s for the trip back down the mountains – just as exciting as on the way up – and to the town of Mae Sot where the adventure ends.
The transfer to Mae Sot takes around 2.5 hours and we’ll arrive in the town by 2:00pm taking you either to the airport (it’s less than an hours’ flight to Bangkok from here) or to your hotel for the night. The adventure ends when we say goodbye at either your hotel or the airport as you begin the rest of your travels in Thailand and South East Asia.
Transfer to Mae Sot (airport or hotel drop off)