Updated: May 20
Thailand is an amazing country. We visited the North, Bangkok, Kanchananburi and the South. We had the opportunity to do this trip together with local friends which made it even more special and authentic. A trip to never forget!
This first blogpost will cover the best places and things to see in the North of Thailand.
How to get there
As most people will be arriving in Bangkok, you have a few options to go to Chiangmai.
- The night train from BKK -> Chiang Mai (takes about 11 hrs/ cheap, but make sure to take first class): bookings
- Flight from BKK -> Chiang Mai (takes about 1h./ very cheap with Airasia)
- Car (hired) but then you will need to make a few stops, pass Ayutthaya and Sukhothai (takes 10 hrs. without stops)
As I like to experience all kinds of public transport in a country, we decided to take the night train
Pro’s and con’s:
- it’s an easy way to get to the North (when booking a first-class coupe) you will arrive early in the morning after a good sleep.
- You don’t need to pay a hotel night
- On board you have a toilet/shower and your bed is made up by the train staff
- When traveling as a family you have the option of taking two coupes that are connected
- The train stops a lot, also during the night
- As it is being dark at 6.30 pm you don’t see much of the landscape outside
- There was no food available on the train, so you need to buy it before getting on
- Although in first class, sleeping isn’t very comfortable
It’s best to book a car hire or a private driver to get around in the North. Chiang Mai has a lot of temples to visit, and they are not all close to each other.
Visited in the North:Chiang Mai – Doi Suthep – Chiang Dao – Pai – Doi Inthanon
In Chiang Mai you need at least 5 days to get around. If you can include a weekend, so you can visit the Weekend Night Market.
We stayed in Chiang Mai at Lamphu House and I would absolutely recommend it. This budget friendly hotel was very close to the city center and the airport. Very clean rooms, industrial design, nice swimming pool and great breakfast. About 25 USD/ night/room breakfast included. The only thing that was less is that the hotel has no elevator. (we stayed at the 2nd floor)
Fun things to do:
- Visit the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary . We did a lot of research to find an ethical and Ecological sanctuary where the elephants are well-treated. This elephant sanctuary convinced us because of the good work they have done to create a positive change in the perception of elephants. (no poaching, riding, overworking or abusing) We did the morning tour and had a lot of fun feeding, bathing and washing the elephants there. Pick-up from your hotel in Chiang Mai is included in the price and you get a well-cooked Thai lunch.
To read more about how to choose an ethical elephant sanctuary and the elephants in Thailand, take a look at this article from my dear friend Jenny Wren.
- Follow a Thai cooking Class: We did the Akha Kitchen evening Class and loved it!
We cooked 11 dishes and could make a choice between several main dishes. If you like to buy your own ingredients at the local market, you better choose the morning class.
It’s a fun way to learn more about the Thai kitchen and taste different dishes. While cooking you learn more about the Thai kitchen and the history of Thailand. The Akha kitchen was delicious and it was a great cultural experience as well.
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep
Doi Suthep is the most famous temple in Chiang Mai. As ‘Doi’ means ‘mountain’ you know this temple is to be found way up the in the mountains surrounding Chiang Mai. We visited in the evening, just in time to see the sunset. The view over the city is amazing from there.
Remember: visiting temples in Thailand have some restrictions:
- always take off your shoes
- arms and legs need to be covered
This small village is to be found at the end of Doi Chiang Dao Mountain (75 km from Chiang Mai). The most famous place to visit here is Chiang Dao Cave. This cave is almost 12 km’s long and can be visited by yourself, but only the lighted areas. If you want the full experience like us, you can go deeper into the cave with a guide and a small oil lamp. Beware of the many bats that live there!
The best place to stay near Chiang Dao is without any doubt: The Tree House Hideaway This fabulous experience was one of the highlights of our trip. Look at the website to see alle the possibilities they offer.
Pai is a very little village in the Northwest. There’s a cool, laidback bohemian atmosphere as it is a very popular spot for backpackers. There are a lot of shops and bars in the main street, in the evening the food stalls arrive with delicious streetfood.
Things to visit in the neighborhood: Yun Lai Viewpoint (10 minute’s drive)
and the White Buddha Temple. A meditative walk up of 353 stairs leads to this majestic white Buddha overlooking Pai. Free entrance, open daily from 6 am to 6pm.
A visit to this highest mountain (2565 m) of Thailand is a must. Doi Inthanon National Park also known as “The Roof of Thailand” covers an area of 482 km2. As we visited Thailand in April this visit was so welcome because the temperatures are always low here. We had around 16 °C during our hike. While hiking you will encounter some beautiful waterfalls, many bird species (around 500 different species have been spotted).
Entrance fee: 300 Bath, Car: 30 Bath
Opening hours: daily from 5:30 am to 6:30 pm (Except for Kew Mae Pan Trail: closed from June to October)
We very impressed by the beauty and nature of Northern Thailand. As April is the hottest month of the year and it’s also burning season, it’s not the best period to visit here. From November until February is considered the best period to visit Thailand.
Want to read more about our trip? Stay tuned. My next blogpost will be about Bangkok & Kanchananburi.