The Northern parts of Thailand are significantly different to the South. The islands are full of beautiful beaches, but are much more westernized full of jaded locals who are trying to capitalize on tourists at all times. In comparison to the Northern villages and cities that are encompassed by mountainous jungles populated with welcoming locals. Below are a couple of my favorite spots!
Chiang Mai was easily one of my favorite stops in Thailand! I recommend flying AirAsia from Krabi to Chiang Mai, as it is the same price as a twenty four to thirty six hour long bus ride. I purchased a ticket for 1,023 baht ($33) and it was one of the greatest decisions I made while in Thailand, as it saved me a day of travel and was hassle free. I got a tuk tuk from the airport for 60 baht ($2) to Deejai Backpacker Hostel which was only 150 baht ($5) per night including free breakfast! This was a perfect place to meet people and they even had a pool to swim in when the high temperatures got to uncomfortable to walk around town. My favorite part about Chiang Mai was the number of activities they offered and the great nightlife!
Spending a full day with elephants at the Elephant Retirement Park was definitely a highlight. These animals were saved from the circus and we spent all day feeding, bathing and loving on these immaculate creatures. I am not one to preach my beliefs on others, but if you visit Thailand please do not ride the elephants. They are not treated well and they are not happy when there is a wooden bench and two full size humans sitting on its back. Instead give your money to the parks that protect and care for the elephants in a humane way.
Things to do:
- Grand Canyon - Take a tuk tuk to the Grand Canyon and rent a tube to float in all day. If you get a group of people together it shouldn't be more than 150 baht ($5) for transportation.
- Cooking Class - You make five different dishes and you get to enjoy it after! Chang Cooking & Restaurant was very good and I highly recommend checking them out!
- Elephant Retirement Park - You can do half day, full day, or multi day tours with elephants that were saved from the circus. You bathe, feed and hang out with them all day. The food was delicious and they even had a little baby elephant we could play with. DO NOT RIDE ELEPHANTS WHILE IN THAILAND!
- Lady Boy show - This is an experience you shouldn't miss. You can barter for a cheaper price. If you aren't feeling like a lap dance then do not sit in the front!
- Night Bazaar - Huge market in the main part of town.
- Spicy - Club in Chiang Mai to dance with your fellow travelers. The booze is incredibly expensive once you get in so have a few before you go to save some cash.
- Have a spa day - Massage, manicure, and pedicure. Watch out as they aggressively crack your back if you ask for a Thai massage.
- Walk around the city visit the pagodas and temples.
Where to stay:
- Deejai Backpacker Hostel - 150 baht ($5) per night. Great place to meet people! They have a pool and offer many activities!
- SpicyThai Hostel - Another great social hostel.
- Guesthouse down the street from Deejai Backpacker. There are heaps of guesthouses that offer private rooms for almost the same price as a hostel. If you want more privacy, I highly recommend checking some out!
- Rainforest Boutique Hotel - If you feel like spending a bit more money this hotel comes highly recommended. 992 baht ($32) per night!
Although this was the coldest part of my trip, Pai was also a highlight of my month in Thailand. The bus ride from Chiang Mai is not the best for those who suffer from car sickness as it is four hours of very windy roads, but it was definitely worth it. We stayed in the hills of Pai at a hostel called Circus, where they teach you to do circus tricks for two hours everyday. They have dorm bungalows and private rooms, a beautiful communal area with a pool table and couches, live music circles, a swimming pool, and a restaurant. The staff there is really what makes this place so amazing. Everyone was incredibly welcoming and genuine!
One of my favorite activities in Pai was visiting the non touristy hot springs. It is about a 45 minute drive along the winding mountainous rides of Northern Thailand. The ones closer to town are 450 baht ($15) and highly overrated because of the crowds. The hot springs further away cost less than 60 baht ($2) and the motorbikes shouldn't cost you more than 200 baht ($6) per day. It was so nice to relax in the springs in the middle of the jungle.
Another one of my favorite days in Pai was when we went Mekong Cat fishing. We rented motorbikes for a day and found a sign along the side of the road that said "FISHING" with an arrow. We found the lake, rented poles and bought bait from a nice local man and spent an hour fishing. It was extremely random but incredibly fun. We each caught a fish, but of course threw them all back! We ended the day at a beautiful little spot for sunset. The mountains looked like they continued on forever and it was a perfect beginning of a fun filled night at Don't Cry Bar!
Things to do:
- Rent a motorbike and drive around the winding hills of Northern Thailand.
- Big Buddha
- Hot springs
- Mekong Catfish Fishing
- Don't Cry Bar
- Sunset Bar - Fun place to play pool and hang out with friends.
- Night markets
Where to stay:
- Pai Circus Hostel
- Spicy Pai
Chiang Rai & Slow Boat to Luang Probang, Laos
If you are not on a huge time constraint and plan to go from Thailand to Laos or vice versa then I recommend taking the slow boat. This is a three day extravaganza along the Mekong River. You can organize this from Chiang Mai or Pai or you can get there yourself. It shouldn't cost you more than 1000 baht to 1500 baht for everything depending on where you book your tour from.
This includes a bus to the Ice Palace in Chiang Rai, accommodation at the border of Thailand, transport to the border, transport from the border to the boat, a two day boat trip along the Mekong River and tons of memories. You do have to pay for the guesthouse on the first night of the boat ride, but it will not cost you more than 150 baht ($5). Be sure to sit at the front of the boat! If you sit in the back you won't be able to hear anyone and it will reek of gas.
Honestly, it was such a fun way to travel rather than your typical night bus or flight. We met an amazing group of people on the showboat that we actually all ended up traveling together for a couple of weeks and now I have a few more life long friends!
Enjoy Northern Thailand and please be careful on the motorbikes!