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Open to Suggestions- Bangkok to Chiang Mai..

Posted by Whynot on 11/6/2009 at 04:29

Firstly, what a great site! I have decided to quit my job, working for the man and see the world...because why not?
I will be hitting Europe first and then flying from Berlin to Bangkok around mid October. From here I only have 4 weeks and the only must see location is a 2 week stop in Chiang Mai to volunteer at an elephant orphanage. Does anyone have any recommendations on stops along the way from Bangkok to Chiang Mai? Any special gems to see/ stay inbetween? Or is the overnight train the best bet?
I am also looking for some ideas on favourite traveller locations for the following 2 weeks after my time in Chiang Mai. I am open to going anywhere really but just will need to eventually get back to Bangkok to fly home, sadly. I will be slightly tired after a rush trip in Europe and am looking for a mixed vacation (rough outdoor hikes and possibly beach lounging). Is this possible in this period of time from these locations? *Suggestions are graciously accepted! I am openminded and flexible to my travels, mostly looking for an experience. I am on a budget but am open to the idea of flying if cheap flights are available.
Many thanks for your help and kind advice!

#1 Whynot has been a member since 11/6/2009. Posts: 5

Posted by BruceMoon on 13/6/2009 at 13:29


Perhaps two ideas come to mind: Kanchanaburi and Sukhothai.

For Kanchanaburi, you can visit the early morning floating market on the way there. Do make sure you go to Hellfire Pass.

Sukhothai requires you take a bus. But, to get a 'feel' of the Khmer empire, it's far better than Ayuthaya (IMHO).

Go look them up here to get a feel.


#2 BruceMoon has been a member since 27/12/2008. Location: Australia. Posts: 1,941

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Posted by Tilapia on 13/6/2009 at 22:20

Agree with the Sukhothai suggestion. I've recommended to many people that they rent a motorbike in Sukhothai and make the trip up to Si Satchanalai for a night. The temples and religious sites around Si Satchanalai are not quite as polished as those in and around Sukhothai. They are more untouched, though they are in such good condition that most have required very little restoration. They are in a much nicer, hilly, unvisited area, as well.

The ride north to Si Satchanalai from Old Sukhothai is excellent. You go through fields of sugar cane and rice, and small villages. There is little to no traffic and the way is well signed. The trip takes about 90 min. (taking stops into account for photos or whatever) and scooter rentals in Sukhothai are cheap. There are a couple of spots to stay in Si Satchanalai, and the people who run them will probably be tripping over themselves to be hospitable to, likely, their only guests (you if you go.)

Lopburi is also an option, but if you go (again) rent a motorbike and see some of the countryside and small villages. I used to live in a village called Ban Lum Khao, about 15km from Lopburi, and it was surrounded by Buddha-studded hills and rice paddies. Gorgeous! Lopburi has a great museum, some nice ruins, and a great old marketplace. Those, and the ubiquitous monkeys, make it a nice place for a day, but it's certainly not on my "must see" list. Pleasant town, nonetheless.

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Posted by exacto on 14/6/2009 at 00:47

Good suggestions above. I think that Tilapia consistently gives the best advice/info on the board, so if you've got the time, definitely consider the Sukhothai and surrounds option that he (and Bruce) have suggested above. That's what I plan to do on my next trip that way in December.

However, if you are keen to do the overnight sleeper train from BKK to Chiang Mai, then logistics dictate making a day trip to Ayutthaya and then catching the sleeper train later in the evening as it stops in Ayutthaya on its way to Chiang Mai.

You could also do this stopover in Lop Buri on the way to CM via sleeper train. I used to live in Lop Buri as well, and although the museums and ruins there are quite good, I had one too many run-ins with over-aggressive monkeys for the town to be on my "must see" list either. :-)

If you have the time, visit Ayutthaya on the way up via sleeper train and then Sukhothai via bus on the way back down south. Cheers.

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Posted by BruceMoon on 14/6/2009 at 05:12


As has been suggested before, as far as Sukhothai , the sleeper train puts the traveller off in the middle of the night.

I assumed WhyNot had enough smarts to do the sleeper train from Chiang Mai to Bangkok.

The reason I suggested Kanchanaburi as well as Sukhothai, is that as WhyNot is headed to CM, then Sukhothai provides a different 'holiday' experience to CM. So, the suggestion to consider Kanchanaburi is because that area (and the 'attractions' there) are quite different to what would be experienced by just going north. Different landscape, different peoples', different feeling.


#5 BruceMoon has been a member since 27/12/2008. Location: Australia. Posts: 1,941

Posted by exacto on 14/6/2009 at 12:57

Hi Bruce,

As you say, the sleeper train unfortunately doesn't work with the stopover in Sukhothai on the way to CM, since as you know, it arrives in the wee hours of the morning and in Phitsanulok, not Sukhothai. That's why I usually suggest the possibility of a day trip to Ayutthaya followed by the sleeper train to CM if people are keen to try the sleeper train to Chiang Mai. I'm not saying that Ayutthaya is better than Sukhothai, but logistically it can be more convenient.

I usually recommend taking the train from BKK to CM rather than the other way around because of the departure and arrival times. I've done both directions many times, and for me anyway, I much prefer the evening departures from BKK and the noon or earlier arrival times in CM. The CM to BKK leg departs in the late afternoon as I recall, which kills half a day that might be spent doing other stuff.

Couldn't agree with you more about Kanchanaburi as an excellent destination. It is definitely one of my favorites, and I'm looking forward to visiting it again this December with two of my ANZAC friends. There is the fun backpacker vibe and wonderful physical beauty of the area. Plus, as you've mentioned before, the historical importance of the place, particularly for the brave allied prisoners who gave their lives there. I remember what a powerfully emotional experience I had at one of the allied cemeterys there my first visit too. Regards.

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Posted by MADMAC on 14/6/2009 at 13:45

"Sukhothai requires you take a bus. But, to get a 'feel' of the Khmer empire, it's far better than Ayuthaya (IMHO)."

I don't doubt that, because Ayuthaya was founded by a Thai King, not Khmer and not part of the old Khmer empire. Even Sukothai was only built as part of the rebellion against the Khmer, not part of the Khmer empire. If I wanted a feel for the Khmer empire in Thailand, I would travel further east to Buriram.

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Posted by Whynot on 18/6/2009 at 02:47

Thank you for all of your suggestions. I must apologize for my lack of understanding of the area (I hope to learn more before my mid Oct. visit), but I wanted to clarify a few things after reading your posts and looking at the State Railway of Thailand website:

Take the train from Bangkok the Ayutthaya and spend the day in Ayutthaya. Get back on the sleeper train to Chiang Mai .
On the way back- Chiang Mai to Phitsanulok and then the bus to Sukhothai... back to train to Bangkok.

How would I fit the site of Kanchanaburi into that equation without stepping off the train in the wee hours of the morning/ dead of night. What train stop is closest to Kanchanaburi?

PS- Am I going to get completely rained out in mid to late October? I think that is still monsoon season from what I have read on this site :(

#8 Whynot has been a member since 11/6/2009. Posts: 5

Posted by BruceMoon on 18/6/2009 at 06:29


Madmac is in love with Ayatthuya, I suggest that Sukhothai is more compelling. Elsewhere on Travelfish, I've written that while Ayutthaya is OK, its been overpromoted to the Thai people as iconic, it has vehicles zipping in and around the place and so one doesn't get a feel for the past glory. As well, the damage done by successive Burmese warlords over the years has left it pretty much destroyed. {i]But, it IS the nearest icon place to Bangkok (and was the centre of Thai royalty prior to Bangkok. And, Ayattuya is readily accessable for day tripping tourists staying in BKK: meaning you are often tripping over others in your quest to see the piles of rubble!

As I indicated, get a bus to access Sukothai, and a bus up to Chiang Mai .

Where Chiang Mai is north of BKK, Kanchanaburi is in the west. To access Kanchanaburi, one takes a bus from BKK.

Hope this helps.


#9 BruceMoon has been a member since 27/12/2008. Location: Australia. Posts: 1,941

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