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Thailand in April - should we include the north?

  • vermishel

    Joined Travelfish
    29th January, 2014
    Posts: 6

    Hi All,

    I'm planning a trip to Thailand in April (yes, I heard it's going to be hot!) for 2 weeks. We're a couple in our early 30's, and we enjoy exploring nature and trekking (but don't mind relaxing on a beach here and there). In terms of budget, we prefer staying in hostels and traveling by night trains/night buses where possible, but can afford a flight to save time.
    I really wanted to include a visit to the north to places like Pai, Nan or Soppong to do some independent trekking, but because of the expected weather I'm wondering whether it would be better to focus just on the islands (starting from Krabi - Ko Lanta - Ko Mook and Trang). If you think that the north is "visitable" at this time of year, we might consider to make it a 3 weeks trip and explore both the north and the south without rushing anywhere... So here are 3 possible itinirearies, which one do you think is best for a first visit to Thailand in April?

    1. 14 days in Thailand
    2 days Bangkok and surroundings
    5 days north
    7 days south

    2. 14 days in Thailand

    2 days Bangkok and surroundings
    Spend all 12 days in the south starting from Krabi.


    3. 20 days in Thailand
    2 days Bangkok and surroundings
    8 days north
    10 days south

    Any other places you would suggest for this time of year?
    Thanks for any tip or adive, it will be higly appreciated!

    #1 Posted: 1/2/2014 - 10:24

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  • Mudshark17

    Joined Travelfish
    1st February, 2014
    Posts: 3

    If you want to limit yourself to a 4 day trek at altitude, for relief from the heat, before you head to the beach down south, why not consider Phu Kradung?

    Phu Krudung is a 10 x 10 km Mesa mountain top at about 4,000 feet about 100 Km's east of Khon Kaen /south of Loei. As it's in a National Park you can rent tents or cabins (my favourite) at the top and buy you food from vendors at the Park encampment on top. Cabins need to be booked in advance.

    Typical itinerary is: day 1 leave base early to trek in cool a.m. temperatures to the summit. Porter can take your clothes for a very reasonable fee by weight. Day 2 join a man bike trip to Lompok rock, 20 Km's return but all at 4,000 feet on the Mesa summit area. Day 3, jungle trek to numerous waterfalls on top. Won,t be much flow on them in April. Day 4 trek down.

    More info online such as this: http://www.virtualtourist.com/travel/Asia/Thailand/Northeastern_Thailand/Phu_Kradung-1444810/Things_To_Do-Phu_Kradung-TG-C-1.html

    Booking of summit cabins here (117 was my favorite for 2 or both 117a and b for 4): http://www.thaiforestbooking.com/np_home.asp?npid=11&lg=2


    If you do go, bring your Thai phrase book as I have rarely seen other Falangs (Thai nickname for foreigners, esp Western ones with money) there, but this is NE Thailand and the locals are very helpful and friendly. Best access is to fly/train/bus to Khon Kaen then rent a car. Alternative at Khon Kaen is to take a local bus to village near phu Kradung then Samalor.

    GT

    #2 Posted: 1/2/2014 - 21:46

  • captainbkk

    Joined Travelfish
    16th February, 2012
    Posts: 429

    be more specific about dates. DO note that 14/4 is songkran-the watersmashing Thai Nw Yr-the week around is full-blown holiday for Thai and near impossible to travel much.
    Do read up on a good guidebook_those newbees seem to think anything is on the www and that hoStels are ''cheap''-they are not-often cost more for a dormbed as a whole room in a gritty and non-www guesthouse.
    April is for farang toursim about the quietest of the year-notwithstanding the strange Brit belief its easter that brings people-not there.
    Oh-and -surprise-ope eyes- you do not need to preplan everything now or next week. This country is made for travel on the spur-same for treks and whatever-just decide when here and check how the burnt airs are up north.

    #3 Posted: 2/2/2014 - 02:07

  • sapote

    Joined Travelfish
    12th October, 2009
    Posts: 27

    hello friends, sorry about this post, but i dont know how to post a new query. if i am on forum page where is start new thread? question is, i would like to step off the train over night in Song Thong the train intersection and want to know about accomadations. thanx again sorry for inapropriate jumping into stream. thanx

    #4 Posted: 2/2/2014 - 02:38

  • Mudshark17

    Joined Travelfish
    1st February, 2014
    Posts: 3

    CaptainBkk has a good point, Sonkran holiday and national water fight is Apr 13-15th this year. I wouldn't count on travelling much those dates or the Saturday before. This year, if the political problems continue, I would give Bangkok a miss. So far, 99% of the problems have been there.

    There actually is no better place to camp out for Songkran than Chiang Mai. I once spent 7 days there over Songkran staying at a place inside the old city walls. Was a blast as the old moats around the old city walls (which are big, about 1 km square) provide liquid supplies for the giant water fight.

    #5 Posted: 2/2/2014 - 03:33

  • vermishel

    Joined Travelfish
    29th January, 2014
    Posts: 6

    Thanks a lot for the replies!
    @MudShark - the trek sounds like a very special thing to do! I'll look into the link you sent. Do you have a rough cost estimation of the Phru Khrudung type of trek? Would it be realistic to do it during the Songkran festival? Or should we just stay in one place in Chiang Mai for the holiday? Is Pai also a good idea for a long stay during the holiday?
    @captainbkk - thanks, I know there's not much need for planning, but I do want to book transportation and accommodation for the dates of the Songkran festival, during which we might go to the north. We'll be arriving to BKK on April 8th, and plan to go to the north from the 9th to the 14th.

    #6 Posted: 2/2/2014 - 04:53

  • Mudshark17

    Joined Travelfish
    1st February, 2014
    Posts: 3

    Chiang Mai or Pai would be both great for long stays during Songkran.

    Nok Air actually flies from Chiang Mai to Pai and I'd recommend taking the flight one way. When I took it they flew a small 15 passenger Cessna Caravan for the flight...it's totally open with the pilots sitting in front of you. The flight over the mountains was not unlike flying into Lukla for the Everest trek on a Twin Otter. One of the bike rental shops in Pai used to run a deal where you motorbiked back to Chiang Mai on the 900+ curve road and your gear went in a truck. They truck the bikes back after you arrive in Chiang Mai. I don't motorbike in Thailand anymore as I've traveled here a lot and seen too many accidents. However, that highway isn't too busy and I am sure many wouldn't think twice about doing it.

    Phu Kradung would also be fine but you should aim to arrive before the festival starts. You are limited for time to 3 weeks, so I would dispense with being a purist backpack traveler who insists on taking 50 baht buses and just fly on a discount airline to Khon Kaen , then hire a taxi to drive you to Phu Kradung from the airport or your hotel, if you overnight there. The taxi will cost 2,000 to 3,000 baht and you might want to arrange for him to pick you up when you finish the trek, but......no big hassle factor figuring out local buses in Isaan where English language skills are much thinner than Bangkok or the beach resort areas of the south.

    Another option is arrange for a rental vehicle booking at the Khon Kaen airport. It is not a hard drive out of Khon Kaen to Phu Kradung if you have a GPS. I have driven a truck or car in Thailand for the last 10 years and if you avoid (i) driving in Bangkok, (ii) do use a GPS with the SE Asian maps loaded, (iii) be patient and drive well rested to allow yourself to adjust to driving on the left side of the road it works fine and (iv) drive defensively with 1st class insurance as you are likely going to have to pay in the event of an accident, no matter who caused it.

    Selection of dates would totally depend on when you can get a booking for one of the small cabins (i.e. 117(1) or 117(2) @ 1,600b/night) via the link I sent earlier. You can always arrive without a booking and rent one of the many, many tents already set up on the top (they also rent sleeping bags, cooking stoves etc etc etc) but I wouldn't do it in the hot season. Having a cabin means you can get out of the sun if you start to get heat exhaustion. They have their own toilets and showers, tenters have to line up for common facilities. In the hot season the ability to shovel cold water on your body after trekking all day may be worth it's weight in gold.

    Good luck with whatever itinerary you decide to do!

    #7 Posted: 2/2/2014 - 07:54

  • vermishel

    Joined Travelfish
    29th January, 2014
    Posts: 6

    @Mudshark17 - Thank you so much for the detailed answer!

    #8 Posted: 2/2/2014 - 11:36

  • LeonardCohe-
    n1

    Joined Travelfish
    24th July, 2012
    Posts: 2148
    Total reviews: 11

    April is very hot. Depends how much u like beaches vs mountains.

    #9 Posted: 3/2/2014 - 08:44

  • vermishel

    Joined Travelfish
    29th January, 2014
    Posts: 6

    @Leonard - yeah, I know it's very hot, but we already bought the tickets. We prefer mountains to beaches, hopefully during the Songkran we will get a little cooler because of the water fights.
    Just wondering if 2 weeks will be enough for us (2 days BKK, 5 days north, 7 days south), or if we should make it 3 weeks to spend more time on the islands...

    #10 Posted: 4/2/2014 - 02:51

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  • LeonardCohe-
    n1

    Joined Travelfish
    24th July, 2012
    Posts: 2148
    Total reviews: 11

    Then why is your northern time so short?

    Need longer to explore the.north.

    3 weeks always better than 2

    Altitude.provides relief from.heat.

    Islands will be stinking hot midday april. I was on samui during march/ april and 10am to 2pm was horrible

    #11 Posted: 4/2/2014 - 03:12

  • vermishel

    Joined Travelfish
    29th January, 2014
    Posts: 6

    Thanks Leonard! I was actually under the impression that the temperature on the islands would be more bearable because of the option to swim in the sea, but now I'll definitely look into spending more time at the north.
    Do you know if during the Songkran we'll be able to travel from place to place in the North (by public buses, minivans etc.), or would it be better to stay in a single place for the period of the holiday?

    #12 Posted: 4/2/2014 - 04:16

  • LeonardCohe-
    n1

    Joined Travelfish
    24th July, 2012
    Posts: 2148
    Total reviews: 11

    Roads r busy and a bit dangerous during songkran. Lots of drunks.

    Best to pick a city and stay put. Chiang mai, lampang or phayao. Cm the biggest but more touristy.

    Water throwing can go from 11th to 17th.but middle days more busy.

    #13 Posted: 4/2/2014 - 05:12

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