Thailand is mostly known for the sun, the island or the vice of Bangkok; the northern Thailand has a lot to offer - jungle trekking, hiking, motorbike trips, stunning temples, elephant sanctuary, ruins of ancient cities and so much more! This is the part of Thailand for the nature seeker, laid-back adventurer with awe-inspiring landscapes! If you're like me and you'd rather hike to remote villages than sit on the beach, you'll love Northern Thailand.
Beyond the green northern capital, there's plenty more to see than Chiang Mai alone. It's not typically easy to navigate in the Northern Thailand, here's a recommendation Itinerary and Road Map to take in on a trip around Northern Thailand. [You can download the hi-res road map here]
Accommodations below are based on 3-person stay. Thailand is relatively affordable! Hostel dorm (private room for 3-4) will cost around THB284 a night and Hostel private room from THB1,215 a night onwards. Campervan is not typically popular in Thailand, mainly due the tight road condition in Thailand. Alternatively, Airbnb will make a great choice to experience authentic local culture.
- Chiang Mai - Imm Thaphae Chiang Mai Hotel THB3,166
- Chiang Rai - Luxury Loft in Wooden Longhouse THB2,233
- Phu Chi Fah - Buran Phucheefah Resort THB2,466
- Chiang Rai - HuanKawin PhotoGallery THB1,488
- Chiang Mai - Imm Thaphae Chiang Mai Hotel THB3,166
Foods (per person) in Chiang Mai-Chiang Rai are cheap. A restaurant with table service can cost from THB80-120, fast food cost around THB100-209, local street food (except seafood) cost around THB25-35.
Transportation - Chiang Mai airport is just 15 minutes away from town, airport shuttle bus from airport cost around THB40 per person, Grab/Uber/Taxi will cost around THB180-190. Getting around Chiang Mai or Chiang Rai is relatively easy with easily accessible Tuk-Tuk, shuttle bus and ride hailing (Grab/Uber).
The Northern Thailand is the perfect destination to get lost in the beautiful countryside.
A city in mountainous northern Thailand, founded in 1296, it was the capital of Lanna Kingdom until 1558. Its Old City areas still remain relics of walls and fort from its historical culture and religion centre. Despite being the second largest city in Thailand, in Chiang Mai, the landscape is greener, pace is slower than Bangkok and home to hundreds of elaborated Buddhist temples. In Chiang Mai, NEVER trust the zebra crossing, the government may have implement them but motorists always ignore them. Crossing roads are pretty daunting for first timers in Thailand, try to follow the locals wading onto heavily trafficking streets, pushing in the middle of the road as cars whiz past and waiting for the precious moment when other side can reached safely; dangerous but a viable option to master the art of jaywalking.
Places of Interest and recommended time to spend:
- Doi Suthep - the Golden Stupa - 1.5 hrs
- Chedi Luang - believed as pillars to protect the city - 1 hr
- Wat Umong - 700 years old temple - 1 hr
- Phra Singh - Monastery of Lion Buddha - 0.5 hr
- Evening temples hopping in the Old City - 2 hrs
- Dinner at Chang Phueak (Street Hawker Area) - 1.5 hrs
- Nimmanahaeminda Road - Nightlife
The one company that made its name for itself in Northern Thailand is Green Bus; it's clean, comfortable and affordable with route goes as far as Mae Sai! We tried both standard (THB166) and VIP (THB258) classes, highly recommended the VIP class with just THB90 more for the extra wide and plush with adjustable head rests, reclining capabilities and adjustable leg rests. We bought our bus tickets over the hotel counter top, ticket counters also widely available in multiple locations at Chiang Mai city - check here.
Long since a popular spot for travellers keen on trekking to remote hilltribe village, Chiang Rai - right at the very top of Thailand, bordering Laos and Myanmar. It has nevertheless remained relatively low-key than neighbouring Chiang Mai, one that is closely attuned to ecotourism. In recent years, Chiang Rai has gained more attention thanks to its spectacular Wat Rong Khun - the White Temple. It is undoubtedly a rather unusual Buddhist temple with the mix of dazzle, controversial and disturbing architecture design by Chalermchai Kositpipat. Coming over from Chiang Mai, you'll pass by Wat Rong Khun before hitting Chiang Rai's city; i'll advise a visit to the white temple first, you just need to inform the bus driver, he will announce and drop you off; the temple operator has prepared storage room to store luggages for your convenience of moving around. Chiang Rai city centre's transportation is quite easily sort out - Taxi, Uber or Grab are easily available and reasonable, shouldn't cost more than THB190 a trip to city centre.
- Wat Rong Khun - the magnificent white temple - 1.5 hrs
- Wat Rong Suea Ten - the Blue Temple - 1 hr
- Lanna Kingdom - Chiang Rai City - 1.5 hrs
- Chiang Rai Night Market - it's all FOODS! - 1 hr
- Chiang Rai Night Bazaar - local souvenirs - 1 hr
PHU CHI FA IS CANCELLED!!! BOO-HOO!!!
On our way from Bambuh Boutique Homestay towards the bus terminal, we're already imagining a celebration on the top of Phu Chi Fa peak with one foot in Laos, another in Thailand while catching the sunrise in a sea of mist. Unfortunately when we arrived at the bus terminal, the operator informed us that the national park officials announced the closure of Phu Chi Fa forest park for safety reason due to the turbulent weather condition. The weather condition was impacted from the Tembin typhoon which landed on the southern coast of Vietnam and caused turbulent weather condition in Thailand. Widespread fog covering the entire mountain range, thus posing driving risk in the steep hill road.
Cancellation of Phu Chi Fa kind of got us "trapped' in Chiang Rai due to our advance booking in accommodation; the next day, we head over to explore the outskirt of Chiang Rai - Blue Temple, a treat at an expensive hi-tea garden and the Elephant Valley.
PHA CHOR CANYON
Back to Chiang Mai from Chiang Rai for our last 2 days in Northern Thailand, we decided to head for Pha Chor Canyon. It's around 2 hours drive from Chiang Mai city and it's actually in the same direction towards Doi Inthanon National Park. You can make a visit to Doi Inthanon too if you have enough time!
Pha Chor Canyon, crafted after Ping River, changed it's course many years ago. The shift created hills, as time past it eroded and changed into cliffs and soil pillars. These pillars are 30 metres high and are one of the main attractions of Mae Wang National Park.
That sums up our 6 days Northern Thailand trip. Often i find myself in a situation where i struggle to gather photography information when i travel to a new destination. I hope this piece of Travelogue from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai will be able help you in preparing for your next photography adventure.