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Bangkok to Chiang Rai and everything in between

Posted by misstahlia on 5/6/2013 at 10:19

Hi everyone
I am travelling from Bangkok and making way to Chiang Rai . I am wanting to make a few stops along the way and it looks something like this:
* Bangkok (3 nights)
* Ayutthaya (2 nights)
* Sukhothai (2 nights)
* Chiang Mai (3-4 nights)
* Chiang Rai (2-3 nights)

I was originally going to stop in Lampang for a few nights but I think I may just do a day trip from Chiang Mai instead. My interest in Lampang is the Elephant conservation centre. I am on a budget, so will only be visiting for the day.

From Thailand I will be going to Laos. I arrive in Bangkok on 1/8 and have a flight from Vientianne on August 22nd to KL. So leaves me 21 days - 14 of which will be in Thailand and 7 for Laos.

Is the above itinerary covering a good amount of places? And is the time I am spending in each place suitable? I realise it is a bit rushed. The transport in between these places seems fairly straight forward.

But any tips or must do's in these places is appreciated- or if you think i should add somewhere else to visit?

Also if anyone can advice on the Elephant conservation centre in Lampang? It seems to be a great project where they treat the elephants kindly. As I am an animal lover (more than your average) I dont like to generally participate in the activities that are offered as I dont believe in funding anywhere that does not treat the animals well (referring to tiger temple and phuket zoo).

Thanks for your help!

#1 misstahlia has been a member since 16/11/2012. Posts: 15

Posted by LeonardCohen1 on 5/6/2013 at 10:31

Ayuthaya can be done in a day trip from Bangkok. If you are staying overnight in Sukhothai I wouldn't worry about Ayuthaya at all to be honest. I would skip Chiang Rai. There's not much there except the white temple outside town and the scenary isn't that great. Do a trek/tour from Chiang Mai to Mae Hong son instead.

#2 LeonardCohen1 has been a member since 24/7/2012. Posts: 2,148
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Posted by Captain_Bob on 5/6/2013 at 12:39

"21 days - 14 of which will be in Thailand and 7 for Laos"

I would allow for a couple more days in Laos. Seven days is kinda rushing it, in a country that doesn't take kindly to rushing.

I would reduce time in (or skip) Ayutthaya .
By comparison Ayutthaya is more "ruins" (decapitated Buddhas left as-is) vs. Sukhothai faithfully restored (Buddha heads re-created by artisans) and Ayutthaya sites are scattered around the busy city vs. Sukhothai Historical Park is set aside away from the city and very peaceful. Guess which of the two places I recommend? ;-)

I would also reduce time in (or skip) Chiang Rai. It's advantage over Chiang Mai is just that it's closer to the far north for daytrips, but as a city it's just a smaller less-happening version.

As for the Elephant Conservation Center, yeah it's a good place to visit but go early when the beasts are most active, and don't miss a visit to the hospital. From Chiang Mai Arcade bus station take any of the frequent buses to Lampang and let the driver know you're getting out at the Elephant place (very obvious, huge elephant statues by the roadside) 75km from Chiang Mai and 35km before Lampang. When you're finished for the day walk back out on the road and flag down any bus heading back. You could alternatively ride a rented scooter/motorbike from Chiang Mai but beware that highway is kinda scary - fast moving traffic with it's share of nasty accidents.

#3 Captain_Bob has been a member since 27/5/2006. Location: Thailand. Posts: 1,950

Posted by captainbkk on 5/6/2013 at 16:10

the other captain has said is nicely and correctly. Skip Ayut, its just a minor version of Sukho.
Yoiu may want to add a place north of ChRai or do the roundabout route to there from CMai= via Fang, TaTHon and boat or via Mae Salong=Chinese KuoMinTang camp an/or MaeSai, then on to Chiang Kong for the exhilarating bekpekkers boat ride with garanteed diploma; now I am certified bekpekker!!

#4 captainbkk has been a member since 16/2/2012. Posts: 472

Posted by Geer1 on 6/6/2013 at 09:20

Leonard, Chiang Rai is worth a stop imo. White temple is awesome and Black house is pretty neat as well. The weekend walking streets(night markets) are pretty good(perhaps my favourite of my trip) although the night bazaar isn't that great.

Overall there isn't a whole lot to do but it would be a good place to rent a scooter for a couple days to go see white temple and black house and to drive around seeing scenery or check out a few "hill tribe" villages. The hill tribe museum in town isn't anything special but if you want to learn about the hill tribe people in Thailand it is a decent stop.

#5 Geer1 has been a member since 14/9/2012. Posts: 540
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Posted by misstahlia on 7/6/2013 at 05:02

Ok so after reading all your responses (thank you) I have adjusted my plan a little.

Bangkok - 3 nights (may add extra night in to account for the day trip to Ayutthaya)
Sukhothai - 2 nights
Chiang Mai - 3 nights (with a day trip to Lampang, may add extra night in to account for day trip)
Chiang Rai - 2 nights.

As much as I have read mixed reviews in Chiang Rai , I am quite interested in seeing a few of the sights and chilling out for a few days! And I am crossing into Laos to go to Luang Prabang anyway, so this seems like a natural route.

So now I have allowed a few more nights in Laos. I am only going to LP and Vientienne (skipping Vang Vien, not my scene) so 9-11 days in Laos between 2 places seems ok.

Thanks again :)

#6 misstahlia has been a member since 16/11/2012. Posts: 15

Posted by Captain_Bob on 7/6/2013 at 08:19

"skipping Vang Vien, not my scene"

Before you write off Vang Vieng, note the river bar party scene has been toned way down since last August when most of the bars and swings/zips/slide/etc. were demolished. The local scenery is gorgeous and there are fun activities like caving, kayaking and cycling. Also it's good to break the 10-hour road journey between Luang Prabang and Vientiane, with V V being the logical choice.

#7 Captain_Bob has been a member since 27/5/2006. Location: Thailand. Posts: 1,950

Posted by misstahlia on 7/6/2013 at 08:39

Hi Captain Bob

It would probably make sense to stop there to break up the trip. I mean I am 26 years old and most would think I would want to stop in VV, but I have heard it has been taken over by backpackers who are just there to get ridden off.

I have not yet done a lot of research into Laos- was my next project. So not going to judge VV just yet. And as you have suggested to maybe go, I will look into it a little. But I am not a drinker, not into the illegal party scene and have short times in places and would rather spend my time somewhere a little more culture based and not party based. But will do some research....

But even you say the scene has "toned down" a bit, the tubing, bars on the river during the day, drugs thing is still going on?

#8 misstahlia has been a member since 16/11/2012. Posts: 15

Posted by Captain_Bob on 7/6/2013 at 09:29

The End of the Party =)

#9 Captain_Bob has been a member since 27/5/2006. Location: Thailand. Posts: 1,950

Posted by chopin on 7/6/2013 at 19:56

Hi Tahlia,

Your modified itinerary sounds more workable thanks to the suggestions from the captains.

Since you are going from North Thailand into Laos, I'll assume you are entering it from Huay Xai, then are you taking the slow boat to LPB? It would be a great experience on the Mekong, but the whole trip will take 2 days, which I think the 2nd day is kind of repetitive. If I were to take it again, I'd take the first day on slow boat to Pak Beng (remember to pack your lunch and drinks), stay a night, and then take a bus to go to LPB on the 2nd day - if this option exists, you'd reach LPB a few hours earlier.

About Vang Vieng, the Captain is right again - don't dismiss it just yet .Since last October they have "cleaned up" the scene and now the river tubing activity is more quiet and closer to nature. If your time allows, it is worth a visit for 1 or 2 nights. If you happen to go there, I'd like to recommend a very budget guest house called Chaleun Guest House (at the main T-junction of VV, you'll see a Chaleun Restaurant (under a different management), find the lane to its right, walk in 20 metres.) Now to be honest this is a very basic/old place, it has only fan, attached bathroom, free wifi, and that's all. What we like about it is that it is very affordable (read cheapest), quite clean, quiet, central location, and, most importantly, the owners (a French(?) and his Laos wife) are very nice people and their dog is so cute which yearns for playmates most of the time.... :-)

About Vientiane, it is worth a visit for some of the attractions there, but in my opinion, not worth more time than LPB, even a shop owner urged us to leave sooner to the north.

#10 chopin has been a member since 28/4/2007. Posts: 154
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Posted by misstahlia on 10/6/2013 at 07:38

Hi Chopin

Thanks for the feedback. I think my plan is better than it was!

Yes you are correct- I am going through Huay Xai. Captain Bob has given several options for travel and at this stage, I have chosen the speed boat. But if time permits I may consider your option. But as it is nearing the end of my trip (10 weeks of overland bus and train travel) I think I will want a faster option! But option is always open.

Thanks for the reccomendation on the guesthouse. I will make a note of it! I am always a sucker for a cute pet :)

And after a post of the Laos forum, seems like VV is definitely worth the visit. I am happy to hear the scene has died down as I dont ever think (even though it generates money for the locals) that kind of scene is good for a place.

Thanks again,


#11 misstahlia has been a member since 16/11/2012. Posts: 15

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