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Thailand forum

Central and Northern Thailand

Posted by tnem1 on 26/1/2017 at 19:26

Hello there,

My girlfriend and I are planning a trip to Southeast Asia in August and I'd greatly appreciate some help concerning our plans north of Bangkok. Here are our parameters:

-We have about three weeks, starting from Bangkok and ending with a flight from Chiang Mai to Hanoi.

-Generally, we would like a relaxed pace of travel, but would love to hear what people think is realistic.

-I am experienced traveller and we have a decent budget (mostly midrange hotels).

-I am obsessed with food and really want to experience the Issan cuisine. She is into art and culture. We will throw the occasional nature experience in where we should.

-I would prefer to take trains most of the time, with a flight here or there if it's easier, but don't mind busses if need be.

-We have tentative reservations in Ubon Ratchathani for three days, I'm open to changing it.

Any suggestions are helpful and thanks so much.

#1 tnem1 has been a member since 9/1/2017. Posts: 1


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Posted by DLuek on 27/1/2017 at 01:15 TF writer

With three weeks you could definitely do a nice swing through Isaan. Start in Southern Isaan, on the way to Ubon there are several options for a pit stop such as Khao Yai National Park; Nakhon Ratchasima (perhaps with a side trip up to Phimai); Phanom Rung; or Surin. I'd maybe pick one of those. Then from Ubon I'd go up the Mekong, maybe stop at Mukdahan then That Phanom and/or Nakhon Phanom. From there you cut back west towards Nong Khai / Udon Thani / Khon Kaen / Loei. From that area it's easy enough to pop over to Phitsanulok and catch a bus up to Chiang Mai. If you have extra time you could hit Sukhothai from Phitsanulok and/or stop at Lampang or Lamphun on the way up to Chiang Mai.

I've just laid out some of the options if you want to see Isaan; not suggesting you hit all of those places but research them and put a plan together based on what you read. The alternative would be to go straight north from Bangkok, stopping at places like Ayutthaya, Lopburi, Kamphaeng Phet and Sukhothai, perhaps with a side trip west to Kanchanaburi or the Mae Sot area along the way.

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Posted by amnicoll on 27/1/2017 at 22:43

I agree with the above. There are many choices and you can not do everything so better to narrow down the route. I prefer train but do not let this dictate. Thai buses are generally comfortable and will allow you more options. As for food Don't worry that will be the least of your problems in Thailand

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Posted by Tilapia on 1/2/2017 at 12:08

I'd keep that reservation in Ubon and take a night train there from Bangkok if that's going to be your starting point. I don't think it's the best place to spend a few days ... maybe one night ... it is a good place to arrive in and get your bearings. Some excellent places to eat and stay in!


About 70 km to the east of Ubon is the small town of Khong Chiam. The setting is beautiful and during the week you'd have the place to yourself. It is the place where the Mun River flows into the Mekong, creating an area called "The Two Coloured River" as the sediment from the Mun changes the colour of the Mekong. Over-looking the river is Wat Tham Khuaha Sawan, which is a great temple with some very beautiful buildings, and looks across the Mekong to a pretty wild area of Laos. There are a handful of good bungalows and guest houses, and the people there are great. A great place to spend a night or two.


Getting there, however, if you stick to the north side of the river (Highway #4005), you will go through an area that is famous for temple gong production. Along the road you'll see places that make and sell these mainstays of Thai temples. This is THE area for gong production for the country, and they take it seriously. These things really are worth seeing, and are a very important component of the Buddhist culture. This stretch of road is called the Gong Highway. The NY Times wrote about it a few years ago ... (https://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/21/travel/thailands-gong-highway.html?_r=0).


Also, Pha Taem National Park is on the northern edge of Khong Chiam. Beautiful!


The disadvantage of going here is that you'd likely have to backtrack to Ubon to continue north unless you have or arrange your own transport.


I would recommend following the Mekong River north from Ubon, with Khemmerat being an option for a night, but considering your time I think it would be better to head straight to That Phanom, skipping Mukdahan (even though I love the place). The temple at That Phanom, Wat Phra That Phanom, is fantastic and well-worth seeing.


Nakhon Phanom is not very far north of That Phanom, and is also worth a couple of nights. There are three excellent temples that sit on the Mekong facing Laos, and some excellent Vietnamese food. It's a moderately big town that feels small and quiet. The view across to Tha Khek and the sugarloaf mountains to the east is beautiful.


I did this area on my bike and in the opposite direction. I also took in Ban Phaeng, Bueng Kan, and Phon Phisai. You may find them interesting. They are definitely off the radar of most visitors to the country. But considering how much time you have, I would just head straight to Nong Khai. This is quite easy from Nakhon Phanom, or even Mukdhan, by bus via Udon Thani (which I would skip ... just not my cup of tea) for a few days, then continue along the Mekong west as far as Chiang Khan with a stop in Sangkhom.


From Chiang Khan you can go by bus or songthaew to Loei, get on a bus to Phitsanulok, then head up to Chiang Mai , or hang around and check out Sukhothai. If you have time you can take the long and extremely scenic route to Chiang Mai via Tak, Mae Sot, Mae Hong Son, Soppong, and then CM.

I prefer taking trains, as well, but the NE is not very well covered by rail.


Just a few ideas. Have fun.

#4 Tilapia has been a member since 21/4/2006. Location: Canada. Posts: 1,524
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Posted by Sknew on 1/2/2017 at 20:04

There are some very cheap and frequent flights between Bangkok and Ubon. Direct from DMK in Bangkok is around $50 when I just checked. (Often they're cheaper, but you may need to add checked baggage.) I know all this because I'm taking two flights, one from Lampang to DMK, the other from DMK to Ubon. The total for that, including a checked luggage upgrade to 25 kg, done by Kiwi from the Momondo search engine, is about $145.

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Posted by DLuek on 1/2/2017 at 23:39 TF writer

$145 is expensive for those two routes even if you're talking round trip. Booked in advance direct through Nok Air you can often get one-way DMK-Lampang for around 900 baht (US $23) and DMK-Ubon for around 700 baht ($20), including 15 kg checked bag for free. (Those are current fares for two weeks from now; I often check Ubon fares and that's pretty standard). AirAsia is usually slightly more if checking a bag.

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Posted by wanderer143 on 22/2/2017 at 04:51

Yes, 3 weeks is enough to explore both regions. Make sure not to miss Ayutthya, Sukhothai and Pai.

#7 wanderer143 has been a member since 2/11/2014. Posts: 136


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