I'm a returning member who posted a bit last year...sure a few of you will remember me ;).
Planning on visiting Northern Thailand from December 28th until January 8th. I will most likely be traveling with a mate who has only been to Phuket, and his step brother who has never been overseas.
I've been pretty much everywhere south of Bangkok (been twelve times) but only been to Chiang Mai in the north for something like two days and really enjoyed myself.
I was thinking of Chaing Mai, Mae Hong Son, Chiang Rai, Nan...etc
I don't know what combination, or even if these places would be suitable. I am somewhat interested in trekking, but more so for exploring wilderness than visiting an overtouristed village. However, in saying that I am quite confident in my Thai language skills and am eager to engage the locals as this is always the most memorable part of my trips...
I'm sure there is plenty of local nightlife to keep us interested in Chiang Mai, but what about the other northern towns?
My mates are also single...but I am not...so a bit of local nightlife would be appreciated...and knowing thai's that can be found pretty much anywhere.
Would it be better to just stay in Chiang Mai and make day trips to the surrounding areas or two stay a night or two in them?
In addition to Chiang Mai what are the must see cities/towns in the region?
Is it worth crossing the border to have a poke around Burma for the day or night?
Thanks for any advice...
#1 furnerburner2 has been a member since 24/7/2010. Posts: 7
Well it is easy to stay in Chiang Mai and visit other areas from there if you want. Many of the local travel agencies will have tours to Chiang Rai (Golden Triangle tour) and Long Neck Women villages, etc. Treks and rafting also available out of Chiang Mai.
Chiang Mai will have better nightlife than some of the other places up there. Not like what you get in Pattaya or as cheap but there is some around.
Taking the overnight sleeper train to Chiang Mai is popular. If you want the sleeper get your request in early to guarantee a bunk. Using the overnight sleeper will save you from paying for another hotel room in Bangkok.
Your friends could spend a few days in the Bangkok area and arrange your transportation at the same time. If you haven't used a hotel in the Sukumvit Road area that area would be more convenient for nightlife plus using the Skytrain. You could just walk to lots of nightlife instead of using a taxi. Hotels in the Sukhumvit area not far from the Nana Skytrain are reasonably priced. Hostels also available.
With regards to nightlife, I didn't necessarily mean the stuff you find around Nana or Pattaya...Just locals clubs/bars etc.
With regards to these tours, from Chiang Mai, would you advise actually spending time in places like Chiang Rai instead of doing a group tour and being shuttled along in a mini bus?
We will be flying from Bangkok BTW...so no need for the train...
#3 furnerburner2 has been a member since 24/7/2010. Posts: 7
See my reply on Lonely Planet. As for nightlife, Chiang Mai has loads of options like live music bars and holeinthewall pubs inside the old city along Ratchawhiti road, a string of excellent restaurants with live music just across the Ping River, and several backpacker favs like the THC Rooftop Bar or Spicy for naughty after-hours til dawn. The night bazaar area is the most "bright lights big city" feeling area amoung the highrise hotels and many girlie-oriented bars.
Chiang Rai is more or less CM on a 1/10th scale but still with nightlife cetered around the Jed Yod road and parallel streeet containing the touristy night bazaar, outdoor food court, and a sort of mini-Pattaya sleezy bar circuit. Still a decent-size city though, so out there are numerous watering holes.
Otherwise in the far north the nitelife scenes are mostly Thai-style Sangsom or 200 Pipers whiskey with soda and drunken karaoke. Pai has a few late night bars such as the Ting Tong or the Bee Bop (good blues and R&B live bands) and a couple open-air bars just over the river (The "Don't Cry" and "Bamboo" bars) that usual pour til wee hours, but surprisingly even Pai gets pretty quiet after about 10pm with the above exceptions. Mae Hong Son too - gotta seek out the few late spots.
Most smaller towns in the far north go to sleep not long after sundown until the cockerels start crowing at the crack of dawn. All part of the experience.
Is there still that guitarist "Took" who plays in his bar by the river until the wee hours?
#5 furnerburner2 has been a member since 24/7/2010. Posts: 7
Don't 'do' Chiang Rai in a daytour from Chiang Mai please, you will not do this province justice.
Sitting in a minibus for 3 hours, getting dropped at Golden Triangle and a quick trip to Mae Sai (Myanmar border) and travelling back for another 3 hours, stopping on the way to see the newly built 'Kmer temple" is not seeing Chiang Rai.
Go with a longtail boat on the river, take a 2 hour ride on an elephant into the jungle (off the beaten track), look inside the cave temples, climb a waterfall, meet the local hill tribes, take an hour to learn how to plant rice in the fields, go fishing / trekking / biking / quad-riding, shoot some pool or go to the disco.
Or visit the Royal Gardens and Villa, see how tea is produced and try out on Doi Mae Salong. Get stunned by the White Temple (you may love it or hate it, but you must see it to know...). Monkeys will surprise you in their cave, ostrichs will throw you off their backs...
All this in ONE day?? IMPOSSIBLE.
Anyway, good luck with the planning.
#7 changgarden has been a member since 14/8/2010. Posts: 6
Really loved Northern Thailand (three months later we are now in Southern Thailand (in between going to Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia) our advice is definatly spend time in the North, Chiang Mai was lovely, really really loved Mai Salong - must see (it rained in the evenings while we were there it was the rainy season but it was definatly worth it) Pai was great, Mae Sariang was quiet, Mae Hong Son is a must sea and Chiang Rai we went to twice. We are in our mid 20's and while Mai Salong and Mae Hong Son were a little quiet the other places were quite lively. Mae Hong Son did have some good bars near the lake.
The guest house in Mae Salong was amazing, good bungalows and an amazing owner and his family! One of my favourite places we have stayed.
Hope this helps! Have a great trip!
#8 kernowfixing has been a member since 21/2/2010. Posts: 12