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10 Day trip to Thailand - end of March

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me and my girlfriend are planning to have a 'different' holiday next year (rather than the usual all inclusive beach resort type), and are thinking Thailand.. We'd be going at the end of March (which i understand will be hot) , as she is a teacher and our holidays are restricted to school holiays...

I've seen package multi centre trips for c£1000-1500 which seem pretty good, but reading these boards you seem to suggest that DIY-ing it is cheaper and probably a better way of going about this?

The plan is (hopefully) to do 2 days in Bangkok, 2-3 days in Chaing Mai, then 4-6 on a beach / island...

A few questions;
How many days should we spend in Chaing Mai?
I was thinking a night train from Bangkok to Chaing Mai would be cheaper, and travelling in the night saves a day or so travelling, also, I'm a train geek....
Beach / Island is an open book, and I'm open to any suggestions, not really wanting / needing anywhere with massive nightlife, would prefer more unspoilt places, with enough decent places to eat...
We'll probably want to do some tours, cookery schools etc whilst we're there, are these best booked in advance or when we're there?

That's just a vague plan though, so any suggestions, pointers, recommendations etc are very much welcome.

Thank You in advance

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