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Bangkok & Chang Mai in July Questions and More Questions

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My husband and I just decided to go to Thailand for his 15-day R&R in July. Last year for my R&R we went to Barcelona. We really enjoyed staying in an apartment, instead of a hotel, it made us both feel at home. Considering how we live when we are deployed, just having a kitchen to make coffee and toast in means a lot. We would like to duplicate that feel again this year in Bangkok and Chang Mai.

We know little about the area because this location wasn't even on our radar until today. Frankly, my husband could not care less where we go as long as we're together. I, on the other hand, like to shop, walk around, eat, and drink. I like museums and art galleries a lot; monuments not so much. I search out artists wherever I travel. I like fun experiences, for example the elephant orphanage in Nairobi was wonderful, go car'ing around Barcelona was fantastic, gorilla trek in Uganda was only marred by the gorillas running over the border to Rwanda and the bee attack kinda stunk at the time, buying the best coffee beans in the world in Addis was also fun (try getting 10 kilos of coffee through customs, I dare you), discovering the many little artists shops in the nooks and crannies of El Born was like a treasure hunt, the cat sanctuary in Rome was a bust, but the walk and bus rides looking for it was a blast. We're not good at organized tour groups because we tend to enjoy sleeping in. I love Thai food and would like to take a cooking class. A basic photo workshop would be great too. An elephant trek and river rafting in Chang Mai would be fantastic.

I know there are plenty of apartment rentals on another travel website, but I have no idea who is reliable and what neighborhood we should look in. We both enjoy public transportation and would like that close by.

How long should we stay in each location? Should we plant roots in Bangkok and then go to Chang Mai for just a few days, returning to Bangkok for a few days before we leave? Or, should we start out in one location and move to the other? Can we buy flights to Chang Mai after we get to Thailand? May not be in Chang Mai long enough to justify an apartment, any nice hotel recommendations for Chang Mai?

We appreciate any tips that you can give to us.

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