A brain never stops ticking,
sometimes an on – off switch would sure come in handy.
A mind that’s constantly cutting up and dissecting,
looking for answers, committing murders along the way.
Sa – Wat – Dee (hello in Thai) my dear “Into the wild” family!!
Another country is behind us – just 10 days but amazing ones. We were suppose to visit Thailand already in June, but due to military intervention, we swapped it with Myanmar – once again thank you Thai military for that :). We will go back to Thailand, just before the end of the year to visit the famous islands. This time we focused on, not so known and touristic, northern part of Thailand. A lot of people usually just visit south but as we discovered they are missing wonderful green north. Well good for us – it was a lot less crowded and noisy ;).
This weeks post covers roughly 1550 km of train rides, bus drives and some motorbike driving through mountain area of Northern Thailand. Our journey started in Bangkok (point A), where we flew from our family holidays in Sri Lanka. From Bangkok we took a 12 h train ride to our first stop Chiang Mai (Point B & F). From there we took a 6 h bus drive to Chiang Rai (point C). After Chiang Rai it was time for some trekking in Mae Hon Song (point D – 8 h bus drive), relaxation in Pai with some moto riding and famous Thai massages (point E) and back to our first stop Chiang Mai (point F – 3 h bus drive), from where we took a flight to Malaysia – Kuala Lumpur.
Once again we will not write nothing about Bangkok. We have been there so many times and the city is so hectic that everybody percept it in different way – so go there and see it and experience it for yourself :).
Chiang Mai is Thailand’s 2nd biggest city. But if Bangkok has 6,5 MIO people, Chiang Mai is far from that – its population is just 175.000. The city is laid – back, certainly has traffic, pollution and ugly concrete buildings, but this is very Thai place. Chiang Mai contents hundreds of sacred temples and beautiful mountains surrounding the city. Oh, and don’t forget the eating scene. Japanese sushi bars, Burmese curries and salads, and of course Thai; from delicious street food to dinning in restaurants – everything is delicious.
We stayed in Chiang Mai 2 nights. The first day we arrived so late that we had time just to find accommodation (very cheap in whole northern Thailand BTW) and eat in a nice Thai restaurant. 2nd day we had a chance to take a morning Thai massage (amazing as always, but in Thailand even more), walk around the city with seeing few out of hundreds of temples, night market, food market, night massage (we were preparing for new trekking 🙂 ) and a good night drink with some decent live reggae music. Not bad for a day. I wouldn’t mind to stay a day more, but since I knew we were coming back at the end to take a flight to Kuala Lumpur, wasn’t sad either.
Early next day we took a 6 h bus drive to our next destination Chiang Rai.
Chiang Rai region has such a diversity of attractions that the city itself is often overlooked. If you take a time to know it, you find out that Chiang Rai is a small and delightful town, with a relaxed atmosphere, good value accommodations and some tasty eats. It’s also a logical base from which to plan trekking to more remote corners of the province. Since we heard that in Mae Hon Song is a better trekking we decided not to do it here.
We stayed in Chiang Rai 3 nights and I think with 1 less we would have gotten along perfectly. You need one day to walk around the town, see the nearby white temple, black house, visit night market and have a nice live concert in reggae bar with good night drink. The 2nd day you can do a tour to see the surrounding towns, tea plantations, temples and famous golden triangle – place where Laos, Myanmar and Thailand meet. You can hire a tour with one of the local agencies but if you want to save some money better rent a car – thanks to our new Bask friends Amaya & Ekhi (who was the driver) we did – and it cost us half of the agency tour price.Thank you guys for that, we had a great time! 🙂 Oh and if you decide to rent a car don’t forget that the driver sits on the right side and drives on the left 🙂
Mae Hong Son, with its remote setting and surrounding mountains, fits many travelers perception of how northern Thai city should be. Towns lake, markets, guesthouses, spas, local restaurants and Burmese influence don’t dispel this image, and best of all, there is hardly no traffic and tuck – tuck to be seen. This doesn’t mean Mea Hong Son is undiscovered territory: the trekkers have been coming here for years.
Main reason why we came to Mae Hong Son was the trekking. We stayed at very friendly and cheap guest house “The like view” where we also book our trekking tour. We took 2 days – 1 night tour with a funny local guide, that at first sight looks like he is not able to walk even a km – he was 1.65 cm and 100 kg dude :). But boy we were wrong. He took us on a 30 km of amazing trekking tour which had everything – walking through the jungle, through the river, ups and downs, mountains, cutting a new trail, leaches, mosquitos, rain, sun, sleeping in a village with only 2 people, home – made food …. I have to say that trekking in Vietnam and Myanmar were amazing, but this one was on a different level. Highly recommendable, if you are ever in that part of Thailand. We liked it so much, that we are even thinking of doing – with the same guide if possible – a 100 km walk from Mae Hong Son to Pai, when we go back to Thailand in a few months.
We were also lucky to catch a yearly festival of Mae Hong Son that is held around the small lake where we stayed. Food stalls, crapy local music and movie projections are enough reason to stay another day.
After nice trekking in Mae Hong Son, we decided to stop by at Pai – backpackers capital of the North.
Stay long enough in Northern Thailand and you will hear some rumours about Pai. In recent years the small town started to resemble a Thai island getaway – without the beaches. Guest houses appear to outnumber private residences in “downtown” area and the nights buzz with the sound, food stalls, cocktail bars and live music is making Pai a backpacker capital of North. However, unlike the islands, Pai is just as popular among Thais as foreigners. During the peak of cool season thousands of Thai from Bangkok crowd the town.
We stayed in Pai just 2 days – one night – since we prefer less touristic places. Arriving early in the afternoon we had plenty of time to hire a motor bike and see few waterfalls, mountains, rice fields and nice views on the valley itself. Late in the afternoon we had once again one of famous Thai massages (after all we just finished trekking 🙂 ) and had a few cocktails at one of the bars.
Next day it was time to return to Chiang Mai, where we met our friend from Madrid Tatiana and with whom we took a flight to Kuala Lumpur next morning. Tatiana will be traveling with us most of the 23 days of Malaysia stay that are in front of us, more about it and its adventures in next week’s post.
In the end some interesting facts and +/- of Northern Thailand.
– 11 days stay in Thailand
– 270 EUR / person
– 6 different hotels / home stay
– 1550 km of buses, trains, tuck – tucks, motor bike and trekking
– the best beer for us was Chang and Singa
– very good massage through whole north of Thailand
– amazing Thai food
– when taking train from Bangkok to Chiang May bring a thick blanket or you will catch a cold
– very cheap accommodation
– amazing 1 $ fruit shakes
1. Mae Hong Son trekking
2. Thai food
4. Pai motor bike ride
5. Thai massages
1. Leaches & mosquitos at Mae Hong Son trekking
2. To many backpackers in Pai
3. 12 h of too cold air-conditioned train ride from Bangkok – Chiang Mai
4. Cockroaches in one of the rooms where we stayed
5. Chiang Rai surrounding tour (although thanks to Amaya & Ekhi we at least had a great company)
Love Maja & Andrej