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initial planning stage for trip for 5 to Thailand/Cambodia

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I am just starting to plan a trip for our family of 5, with three adult students. My husband, 16 year old daughter & I have 3 weeks, while my son & his fiance have only 10 days. We are going in mid-December. Due to the short length of time my son & his fiance can be with us, we thought we would confine ourselves during that time to Thailand and then move on to Cambodia when they left. I am wondering what you Thailand experts would suggest for us. We all like wildlife viewing, would like to see temples and enjoy cultural activities & boat rides. A couple of days on a beach would probably be enjoyed by my kids. We have all traveled together throughout Peru and visited the Amazon, as well. We have never been to Asia.

I thought we would spend 4 days in Bangkok, then head to a beach resort and then north to Chiang Mai. The girls would really like to visit an elephant reserve. Any suggestions? Also, since I have not yet booked flights, any suggestions on the cheapest way to fly from San Francisco to Thailand?

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