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Help needed with 29 day itinerary

Posted by tomdegoeij on 28/4/2012 at 16:02

In May/June my girlfriend (26) and I (27) will be visiting Thailand for a second time. Five years ago we were in Thailand for about 3.5 weeks and visited Bangkok, Chiang Mai. Ayutthaya, Kanchanaburi, Phang Nga Bay and Koh Samui. Of course we want to see different things this time. We'd like to see a mixture between nature and culture, love Thai food, want to go snorkeling and perhaps some diving. We prefer 'real' towns over towns with too much tourism.

People might argue that a day-to-day schedule is a bit over the top and not really necessary. In a way we feel like this too, but from the other hand we find it's easy to have a plan and not having to hassle with looking for accommodation, booking flights, etc. while traveling. It's a holiday after all ;-). So we prefer to have a day-to-day plan, but of course try to make flexible reservations we can always amend or cancel if there is a need to.

Our plan (as for now):
25 May - Arrival in Bangkok
26 May - Bangkok
27 May - Bangkok
28 May - Bangkok - Umphang (via Mae Sot )
29 May - Umphang
30 May - Umphang
31 May - Umphang
01 Jun - Umphang - Sukhothai (via Mae Sot)
02 Jun - Sukhothai
03 Jun - Sukhothai
04 Jun - Sukhothai - Isan (Chiang Khan)
05 Jun - Isan (Chiang Khan - Pak Chom)
06 Jun - Isan (Pak Chom - Sangkhom)
07 Jun - Isan (Sangkhom - Khon Kaen)
08 Jun - Isan (Khon Kaen - Phimai - Phanom Rung)
09 Jun - Isan (Phanom Rung) - Khao Yai NP
10 Jun - Khao Yai NP
11 Jun - Khao Yai NP
12 Jun - Khao Yai NP - Bangkok Airport - Surat Thani Airport - Khao Sok NP
13 Jun - Khao Sok NP
14 Jun - Khao Sok NP
15 Jun - Khao Sok NP
16 Jun - Khao Sok NP - Koh Phi Phi
17 Jun - Koh Phi Phi
18 Jun - Koh Phi Phi
19 Jun - Koh Phi Phi
20 Jun - Koh Phi Phi
21 Jun - Koh Phi Phi - Phuket Airport - Bangkok Airport
22 Jun - Bangkok Airport - home

We're planning on doing the Bangkok-Umphang-Sukhithai part by public transport, the Sukhothai-Isan-Khao Yai-Bangkok part by rental car, and fly from Bangkok to the south and back again.

We have some questions regarding our itinerary. Help is greatly appreciated!
1) Instead of doing Umphang-Sukhoithai-Isan-Khao Yai we could also do this part the other way around. Is there an advantage in doing it one way or the other?
2) In our itinerary we only use Mae Sot as a transit town. Is it a good idea to stay there for a night so we have time for sightseeing there, or is this not worth it? If we should take an extra day in Mae Sot, where should we skip a day?
3) We're not exactly sure about our Isan route. That's why everything is between brackets. Any suggestions for this part of the trip are very very welcome!
4) Would Sukhothai-Chiang Khan be a too long drive? It's a six hour drive according to Google Maps, but I'm not sure that is realistic? I don't have a driving license, so my girlfriend has to do all the driving herself.
5) Will three nights / two days in Khao Yai be sufficient?
6) We're thinking of staying in a Khao Yai NP bungalow, considering we have a car. Is this a good idea or is it still better to stay in a guesthouse outside of the NP?
7) Koh Phi Phi is perhaps not the most straightforward choice for a beach location since my girlfriend and I don't like too touristy places. But it seems to be one of the only viable options in the low season for good snorkeling right from the beach. Considering this, is Phi Phi a good choice or would another location suit us better? I know Koh Tao has better wetter in June, but I read the start of the low season on Phi Phi is not too bad either.

That's all of my questions. Of course I'm open for all suggestions.

#1 tomdegoeij has been a member since 23/2/2012. Posts: 8

Posted by Tilapia on 28/4/2012 at 18:39

Umphang ... wow! Don't recall ever seeing that place mentioned on this forum. Way to go!

I would recommend a visit to Si Satchanalai if you're going to be in Sukhothai . It will take you about 30-45 minutes to get there by car. I don't think they'll let cars into the park, though. It's a beautiful place. Excellent ruins. Best route for getting there is to take #1113 north from the historical park in Old Sukhothai to #1048 (east) to Sawankhalok. Then go north from there to the park. Well-signed. Easy. Beautiful and quiet.

I'd also recommend that you continue on to Nong Khai from Sangkhom before going to KK. Stick to the river. It's a beautiful trip, and Nong Khai is a cool town.

Lots of small villages right by the river between Chiang Khan and Nong Khai that you can drive down to. Highly recommend getting off 211 for small side trips. There are also a few nice temples along the way.

Sukhothai to Chiang Khan will probably take about 5 hours, or so depending on how often you stop to take photos, eat, etc. It may seem long, but the roads wind all over the place. It's not a very flat part of the country (except between Sukothai and Phitsanulok ).

You can make a great trip by going from Phitsanulok to Nakhon Thai, then to Dan Sai and then north on #2114 to #2195. At #2195 you turn right and follow the Hueang River all the way into Chiang Khan. On the way you can stop at Ban Thadeemee where the Mekong turns up into Laos. At this village there is a gorgeous lookout point where there is also a very nice standing Buddha image (about 50ft. tall). The area is well-signed (but not north of Dan Sai), and Ban Thadeemee is about 20 km from Chiang Khan. If you take this route, you'll find that it is very hilly, remote, and gorgeous!!! Road surface is okay between Dan Sai and Ban Pak Huay, and improves as you get closer to Chiang Khan. It's not perfect, but it's worth making the effort go go. Spectacular scenery!!!

Have a great trip, whatever you do.

#2 Tilapia has been a member since 21/4/2006. Location: Canada. Posts: 1,521
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Posted by tomdegoeij on 29/4/2012 at 05:16

Wow! Thanks for your very extensive reply! Going to Si Satchanalai from Sukhothai was already our plan. We might do that by public transport however, and rent our car after we visited Sukhothai and Si Satchanalai.

Your route from Sukhothai towards and along the Mekong River sounds amazing; I'm sure we'll follow your recommendation there! However, it's hard for us to guess how many days we will spend between Sukhothai and Khao Yai. We probably need to know how lang we want to hire a car (and return it in Bangkok) before we leave Sukhothai. And it's probably also wise to book our Bangkok->South Thailand flights in advance. I guess the above itinerary is a bit tight for Sukhothai->Khao Yai, especially if we want to include Nong Khai?

#3 tomdegoeij has been a member since 23/2/2012. Posts: 8

Posted by Tilapia on 29/4/2012 at 12:46

Just so you know, public transport to Si Satchanalai exists, but it's not like Sukhothai where you can take a songthaew from New Sukhothai to Old Sukhothai and get dropped off at the main gate. Si Satchanalai is fairly spread out, and is still a bit of a hike to get to from the drop off points along the highway. And if you go to Sawankhalok first, you'll still have about 15-20 km to go just to get to the park. So going by public transport could be quite time-consuming and you'd really have to watch the clock in order to make sure you catch your ride back.

There is a small train kind of thing that goes around the park but the tours are done in Thai. If you take this you will, at least, get to see all of the temples. And if you're fortunate you may get a guide who also speaks English.

But, I do think that the best way to get to Si Satchanalai and check it out is to rent a motorbike in Sukhothai for a day or two. With a motorbike you can see all of the Sukhothai Historical Park AND all of Si Satchanalai, as well as a lot of the surrounding countryside. Last time I rented a scooter I paid B200 for the day, which is probably about how much you'd pay for two people to make the round-trip there. Also, the public buses take about 2 hours to get to the park. On your own motorbike it will take about 1 hour to reach the park from Old Sukhothai.

Just FYI, a previous poster rented a car to explore part of Issan and it worked very well. They rented the car in Udon Thani and had a driver deliver it to them at their guest house in Nong Khai for a nominal fee. They took the night train from Bangkok to Nong Khai without having to stop in Udon (which is superb for food, but not particularly interesting in my humble opinion). Then off they went. No having to drive in or out of Bangkok. Easy.

Happy Trails.

#4 Tilapia has been a member since 21/4/2006. Location: Canada. Posts: 1,521
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Posted by Nokka on 1/5/2012 at 05:13

Hi Tilapia - I think you're probably referring to me who rented the car. Tilapia gave me some great information for our trip on the Isaan - he knows every bump in the road as he cycles it. He's a mine of knowledge.

We actually flew from Bkk to Udon Thani and then took the minibus to Nong Khai. Stayed a couple of nights and then had the car delivered from Udon Thani. There's no car rental places in NK, but the delivery charge was reasonable and was much cheaper than having it the whole time while in the Isaan. From there we went along the Mekong as far as Chiang Khan - and then back again. Car picked back up and took the night train back to Bkk.

We used a company called Fast Cars, an internet based brokerage. Rates were pretty good, you should be able to get a one way deal if that's better for you. They were a bit rubbish at answering questions via their internet system, but the rental itself went very smoothly.

#5 Nokka has been a member since 6/4/2009. Location: United Kingdom. Posts: 259
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Posted by busylizzy on 1/5/2012 at 06:06

For what it's worth, I organised a car rental a few years ago via and the confirmation came back from - which is presumably the same company that Nokka refers to. I found them good to deal with, questions answered, etc - and allowed me to change drop-off point from Phuket to Bangkok mid-journey without any problem. I still get emails every so often from FastCarHire.

Sounds like a great adventure, tom!

#6 busylizzy has been a member since 31/12/2007. Location: New Zealand. Posts: 2,152
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Posted by Tilapia on 1/5/2012 at 08:02

Hi Nokka,

Indeed it was you I was referring to. Sorry for forgetting about the flight. Thought you took the train. Thanks for the plug!

#7 Tilapia has been a member since 21/4/2006. Location: Canada. Posts: 1,521
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Posted by tomdegoeij on 1/5/2012 at 15:36

Thanks for all the great advice guys, much appreciated!

I'll take the Nong Khai car delivery option in serious consideration. Might be a viable alternative to having a car delivered in Sukhothai (from Phitsanulok). The route from Sukhothai to Chiang Khan as described by Tilapia sounds as a great trip as well, so it is a tough choice ;-). I'll think we drive our car back to BKK Airport ourselves however, since we also like to visit Phimai/Phanom Rung and Khao Yai. We'll probably rent at the before mentioned Thai Rent A Car or at Budget Rent A Car. Seem to be reliable choices from what I read.

Talking about Khao Yai: we think it is a good thing to go here for a couple of days, even though we also visit Umphang and Khao Sok (we are nature lovers). Is this right? Or would our time be better spent somewhere else?

And one more thing (not regarding the Isan region in any way): we have included Phi Phi in out itinerary. The island is supposed to be mishandled by all the businesses that have opened up there. So we are a bit hesitant of going there. But I can't seem to find any other places to go to in June with decent snorkeling from the beach. Alternatives like Koh Ngai, Koh Kradan seem to be almost completely shut down. Koh Lanta seems nice, but you seem to rent a boat or go on a tour to do snorkeling there. Does anyone of a hidden gem that's viable in that time of year?

#8 tomdegoeij has been a member since 23/2/2012. Posts: 8

Posted by Tilapia on 1/5/2012 at 20:14

Well, you could probably stay at a really nice place on Koh Jum, which is an excellent island (but does not have good snorkeling off of the beach ... but the beach there is/was amazing), and organize a snorkeling trip out to the nearby islands at least once or twice and still spend less than you would if you stayed on Koh Phi Phi. Koh Jum isn't very developed. There are a bunch of orchards/plantations and a couple of villages and some resorts. That's it.

For more complete info on islands I recommend you check out Tezza's site ...

#9 Tilapia has been a member since 21/4/2006. Location: Canada. Posts: 1,521
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Posted by longbeach on 2/5/2012 at 18:38

Phi Phi has good snorkelling but 5 nights is too much. 3 nights at Khao Yai is also too much. The waterfalls may still be dry with wet season just starting.

08 Jun - Isan (Khon Kaen - Phimai - Phanom Rung )

That's a busy day and you'll need transport to do it. Phimai ruins are worth a few hours, then you have a museum that's very good and Sai ngam which is a collection of banyan trees. I'd stop the night there. Then do Phanom Rung the next day, again you'll need transport. I'd bus it to Khorat then hire a car for 2 or 3 days.

I think there's a resort about 30km from Phanom Rung but there's nothing really close to it. Don't forget the Muang Tham ruins nearby, less people go and it's better if anything. Good for photos.

#10 longbeach has been a member since 28/3/2012. Posts: 307

Posted by MADMAC on 3/5/2012 at 04:35

I would delete the timelines on this. It's busy. Lot of movement. Personally I would not attach times to movements, in case you like a place and want to hang around. If something drops out because of lack of time - so be it.

#11 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
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