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North Thailand for a few days, ease of travel?

Posted by Dreamer33 on 25/4/2018 at 16:38

Hi there my friend and I have a few days in North Thailand, we are staying 2 days in Chiang Mai and thinking about staying at the nest in Chiang Dao for 2 nights and exploring a bit from there before we go back to CM to head to Laos. Alternatively we'll stay at CD for just 1 night and stay another night or 2 further on.

My question is - is it easy enough to travel around from Chiang Dao up to Tha Ton, Mae Salong and maybe Chiang Saen on a day trip or maybe 1 night before heading back? How would we do this most easily - would it be local buses or are we better to hire a car?

If anyone has any recommendations they would be most appreciated. We head off in a week.

#1 Dreamer33 has been a member since 4/4/2018. Posts: 10

Posted by somtam2000 on 27/4/2018 at 20:27 admin


There are regular buses along that route, you'll need to change at Tha Ton for a bus to Mae Salong , though cars are also easily hired in Chiang Mai so you could selfdrive if you wanted—more comfortable and you wouldn't be left to the vagaries of bus timetables. I'd hire a car.

I think as far as Mae Salong on a daytrip would be fine, though if you were to add Chiang Saen I would add in an overnight stay.

Jealous of you staying at Nest—I love that place.


#2 somtam2000 has been a member since 21/1/2004. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 8,089

Posted by Captain_Bob on 28/4/2018 at 04:51

The first part is relatively cheap and easy. Buses from Chiang Mai depart frequently from Chang Puak bus station on the north side of the old city to Chiang Dao , Fang, Tha Ton. From Chiang Dao town to the Nest you'll need a ride - local songthaew or Nest can probably arrange it if you have a booking. Then get same busline onward to Tha Ton. If headed to Laos a few days later I wouldn't bother going back to Chiang Mai, go to Mae Salong and Chiang Saen for a night each, then Chiang Khong. Bonus of staying overnight at the last two places - sunset bbq beer along the Mekong river =)

#3 Captain_Bob has been a member since 27/5/2006. Location: Thailand. Posts: 1,957

Posted by Dreamer33 on 30/4/2018 at 01:08

Thank you both so much for your excellent and helpful replies. The trip is looming really fast now.
Man Bob you're making me wish I hadn't changed my plans! That was exactly what I wanted to do but I couldn't find any reviews or whatever about getting from C Saen straight to C Khong so figured it was too hard. Then friend couldn't find good reviews on boat trip down to LP and wasn't keen so in the end we decided to fly from Chiang Mai to LP which does give us an extra few days to go up to Nong Kiaow from Luang Prabang and I can finally get a little river trip going up to Muong Ngoi.
Then we cut short our time in Thailand because Lao Airlines didn't have a flight on the day we wanted and the other flights all go via Bangkok. So we brought it forward and now we only have 2 days in Chiang Mai and 1 at Chiang Dao Nest before coming back to CM to fly out at 3pm on 7th.
And I have accom booked in CM BUT Somtam you're making me think I'd rather just have 1 night in Chiang Mai (not that big on cities and friend has been there twice) and 2 at the Nest and we can hire a car to get there and carry on for a little tour up as far as Mae Salong our 2nd day there.
Have you guys got any input on that? Is it easy to hire a car in Chiang Mai and if you only had this short time how do you think it would be best spent. Would be much appreciated. Again.
Really grateful to you for the time you take to help people and sorry if I'm annoying

#4 Dreamer33 has been a member since 4/4/2018. Posts: 10

Posted by somtam2000 on 30/4/2018 at 19:13 admin

We’ve just had a reviewer through Chiang Dao and this is their (unpublished and unedited—sorry am in a rush) review:

“Chiang Dao Nest has a selection of well-designed and well-maintained wood and bamboo finished chalets set in a lovely sprawling garden among a stand of huge trees a couple of kilometres past the entrance to Chiang Dao Cave. The chalets are simply yet tastefully decorated and come with en-suite hot water bathrooms and generously sized terraces. All chalets are now equipped with air-con even if it isn’t essential up here for most of the year and they do have one of the area’s rare pools to cool down in as well. New chalets were being added as we visited.

Staff members are generally friendly and helpful with good levels of English spoken and they have plenty of information, as well as printed out maps, of the surrounding area. Note that due to obvious frustration at dealing with park authorities they no longer organise the Doi Luang trek themselves but they can certainly help you out in dealing with the park authorities.

While the bungalows are fine, the restaurant also has a great reputation with some surprisingly imaginative and well-prepared dishes considering what an out of the way spot it is. Some of their more creative offerings wouldn't be out of place in an upmarket European restaurant in Bangkok. Considering the ingredients, quality and effort made prices for their European dishes are actually very reasonable, though we found the cost of their local dishes somewhat on the exorbitant side. For instance, well-prepared pasta dishes or imaginative salads go for between 150 and 200 baht while simple fried minced pork with basil, (pat kraphao) will set you back 145 baht. (We had a very good one in the cave car-park for 40 baht including free drinking water.)

Facilities include aforementioned swimming pool and free WiFi. Room rates are somewhat on the high side, considering breakfast isn’t included, because we reckon you’re paying a bit extra for their reputation though as a reviewer our main gripe is that they have different room rates for practically every single month of the year! 2018 prices go from between 995 and 1,595 for a double or twin chalet and a steep 1,745 and 2,795 for a family chalet but they are as we mentioned complicated so it’s best to check their website for a full breakdown of room rates.

The chalets are comfortable, albeit nothing fancy, and equipped with fridge, TV, bedside lamps, good-sized beds and cosy balconies. The garden is certainly cute, service efficient and low season rates reasonable but we’d hesitate during high season and baulk during peak as, excellent as their restaurant is, you can sleep anywhere and still eat here.

Note they also run The Nest 2, located a short distance back towards town, with similarly priced chalets widely scattered across a spacious lawn and gardens. We didn’t find their balcony-less rooms very inspiring for the money, though they do come with air-con but there’s no pool and service when we visited was as unhelpful and perfunctory as it was helpful and welcoming at Nest 1.”

I’m a big fan of the area, mainly because it is a good spot to hang out and do little, Chiang Mai is quite a busy city nowadays and has a tonne of tourists there as Captain_Bob would be able to bear witness to :)

Yes, cars are easily hired in Chiang Mai.

#5 somtam2000 has been a member since 21/1/2004. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 8,089

Posted by Dreamer33 on 30/4/2018 at 20:00

Thank you Somtam that was helpful.

#6 Dreamer33 has been a member since 4/4/2018. Posts: 10

Posted by Captain_Bob on 1/5/2018 at 03:35

Have done the Chiang Mai - Chiang Dao - Tha Ton - Mae Salong (and onward to the other places) by self-drive. You would probably want to stay two nights at The Nest to make the most of your northern mini-tour, or maybe one night at Nest and one night at Tha Ton (small riverside town next to a big drive-able hill covered in giant Buddhas and hilltop huge pagoda with a view into Burma). I would at least include the Buddha hill whether you stay there or not. Mae Salong also gets very hilly with scenic tea plantations, botanical gardens, big views, and a very Tibetan vibe. From Nest to Mae Salong and back doesn't look like much on a map, but is a full day's drive with the hills and frequent stops so start early.

#7 Captain_Bob has been a member since 27/5/2006. Location: Thailand. Posts: 1,957

Posted by Dreamer33 on 1/5/2018 at 17:55

Thanks Bob, awesome. Think will try stay at Tha Ton. Do you think driving out of Chiang Mai is doable and wonder if hiring a car from airport is our best option, then gets us back there on day we have to leave. Thanks for all the help.

#8 Dreamer33 has been a member since 4/4/2018. Posts: 10

Posted by Captain_Bob on 2/5/2018 at 04:39

With your flight out of CM at 3pm you could leave Tha Ton or Chiang Dao with ample time, and renting from the airport is optimally convenient. Leaving from (and returning to) the city/airport takes some patience with increasingly heavy traffic. I tend to use the canal road to mostly circumvent the city, but still potentially long waits at busy intersections so allow for delays. The city planners 700 years ago didn't envision 21st centrury traffic ;-)

#9 Captain_Bob has been a member since 27/5/2006. Location: Thailand. Posts: 1,957

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