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Chang Mai and surrounding area

  • crashland

    Joined Travelfish
    31st December, 2010
    Posts: 2

    Hi, I'm a long-time reader, fist time poster.

    In a few weeks I'm heading to Chang Mai. I arrive there on the Monday and depart the following Wednesday. Essentially I'll have 8 full days, plus a couple of half days when I fly in and out. I'd appreciate any suggestions in regards to the following:

    What to see and do?
    I want to spend at least a two days exploring the city and I also plan on visiting Doi Suthep. My other ideas are leaning towards trekking (any recommended treks or companies?), rafting, meditation retreat, cooking course, nightlife (I'm travelling solo, but will hopefully meet people along the way) and general sight seeing. I am also considering visiting Pai and Mae Hong Son; given the restrictions on time, is it worth visiting both, or just the one?

    Accommodation
    Is it best to book ahead prior to arrival in Chang Mai? I've heard stories about some hostels "losing booking info", but I'm presuming these are the exception, rather than the rule.

    All suggestions are welcome!

    #1 Posted: 31/12/2010 - 16:34

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  • Captain_Bob

    Click here to learn more about Captain_Bob
    Joined Travelfish
    27th May, 2006
    Location Thailand
    Posts: 1530

    No real need to pre-book a room unless you have a particular place or level of room in mind. There are hundreds of inexpensive guesthouses, mostly scattered around the old city and surrounding the Thaphae gate area. You'd have time for a side-trip to Pai and best if you can give it at least 2 days / 2 nights. It's pretty touristy these days, but nice to take a bike (plenty to rent in town) and cruise to the outskirts of town or do a day ride to Soppong and check out the huge Lod Cave (or stay a night Soppong).

    Activity-wise in CM it's all on display at hundreds of travel agents around town. It's good practice to ask first at your guesthouse, as they can arrange whatever you like and if trekking they will store your big bag and hold a room for your return. Just compare a few agents to see you're getting a fair price. Group-based treks of 6-12 people will run about 1500 baht pp for a 3-day/2-night affair. Cooking courses run about 800-1000b/day as do most daytrips (Golden Triangle, Elephant Safari, Doi Inthanon, etc). There are more specialised activities like zip-lining ("Flight of the Gibbon" and "Jungle Flight") that are pricier.

    You can do an intro to meditation course at Wat Suan Dok temple, out the Suthep road from the Suan Dok Gate. They also do "Monk Chat" there, where you can spend a dedicated hour or so with an english-speaking monk to learn more about Buddhism and the life of a monk. Several other temples offer monk chat, and pretty much every temple in the area welcomes visitors, just observe some basic formalities and feel free to drop a few coins in the donation box.

    Most treks include some elephant riding and whitewater rafting but you can do these activities on a more concentrated basis, for example spend a day with an elephant or do a bigger whitewater trip of a few hours. Again you're looking at more money (personal day with elephant starts around 2200 baht, Rafting with "The Peak" starts around 1500 baht). And there's "Chiang Mai Mountain Biking" with good quality bikes, gear and guides, doing full-day trips in the surrounding hills starting around 1800 baht.

    Personal fav is to grab a small motorbike and get out of town. Lots of cool little "unseen" places to discover and avoid the crowds. Go up the Doi Pui road and find the coffee growing place or visit Ban Chang Khian Hmong village. Wat Umong a "forest temple" on the edge of town, or keep going to Wat Doi Kham with huge seated Buddha and big views of the Ping valley. Or do the Samoeng Loop road which is a nice twisty lonely road around Doi Pui mountain, doable in a few hours but can take a whole day if you like. Loads more possibilities like that...

    #2 Posted: 31/12/2010 - 19:10

  • himji

    Joined Travelfish
    24th November, 2010
    Posts: 29

    Hey there, I just left Chiang Mai.
    You could pretty much do the city itself in a day, two if you take it leisurly.

    The trip to Pai is a great idea, You can either rent a scooter/bike and bike it i\up, it's quite a trip tho, lot's of hills, dips and curves but some spectacular scenery. Or you can always bus it up.
    Once in Pai, you'll need to hire transport as it's the only real way to explore the area, you could easily spend 3-4 days doing the countryside around there.

    I stayed a Spicy Thai Backpackers, it's a little out of town but very friendly. It was really like a home from home experience there, the hosts really triend to ensure people had a safe place and I made some good albiet short lived friendships. I here Mojito in the old town is nice too but not checked it out.

    It's a great part of Thjailand if you want adventure activities and beautiful scenery. Pack a zip up top tho and jeans tho as it get's chilly at night (this is coming from a Londoner so believe it)

    #3 Posted: 3/1/2011 - 10:34

  • callum89

    Joined Travelfish
    12th August, 2010
    Posts: 3

    Hey I'm in Chiang Mai at the moment! You won't need long to explore the old city itself. Hire a bicycle and ride around for the day unless you are an avid walker. I've got a trekking tour booked to leave in two days so I can't comment on the company just yet but I'll let you know when I get back.

    As for the accommodation - if you arrive by train you will surely be inundated with guest house owners/employees at the exit all vying for your custom. I'm currently staying at 'Libra Guesthouse' which is a family run place with about 30 or 40 rooms. Very friendly and funny people and I'm only paying 100 Baht/night.

    #4 Posted: 10/1/2011 - 22:13

  • crashland

    Joined Travelfish
    31st December, 2010
    Posts: 2

    Thanks for the replies!

    I read it gets a bit nippy in the evenings, but as it's been below freezing for most of the winter in Scotland, chilly will be positively tropical!

    At the moment, I think I'll spend the first couple of days exploring Chang Mai before looking at activites I can do beyond. I'd like to do a trek, so I'd be interested to hear how yours went Callum. Also, has anyone done the Flight of the Gibbon, Mountain Bike trails around Doi Suthep?

    I definately want to go to Pai and have thought about doing the rafting down to Mae Hong Son or maybe doing some trekking there instead of CM. Worthwhile? Himji, how easy was it to get accomodation in Pai? Did you book in advance or on arrival?

    Finally, any recommended tailors in Chang Mai?

    #5 Posted: 24/1/2011 - 18:27

  • callum89

    Joined Travelfish
    12th August, 2010
    Posts: 3

    Hey Crashland,

    Our trek ended up being great fun! It was just an overnight one organised through the place we were staying (Libra Guesthouse - which I highly recommend). I think it cost us around 2000 because we wanted to do white water rafting at the end of it. The group was just myself and the three friends I'm traveling with plus the one guide 'toto' who kept passing around "happy water" (rice whisky) as we went on the bamboo raft down the river. The mahouts that were in control of the elephants that we rode were clearly still using some of the old methods (such as smacking them with a bamboo stick when they misbehaved) which I didn't really like.

    Overall though, definitely a good experience and one I would recommend. I've got a blog which I'll be posting more about the trek and the rest of my trip if you're interested. http://walkaboutworthington.wordpress.com/

    Enjoy Chiang Mai - It's a wonderful place!

    #6 Posted: 25/1/2011 - 00:42

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