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Getting a handle on a Thailand Itinerary

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I arrive in Bangkok from Hong Kong on the evening of Monday, Aug. 30. I must be back in Bangkok to meet my OAT tour to VietNam on Sunday, Sept. 19th. So that gives me a day short of 3 weeks -- 20 nights to be specific. Ah what to do. The more I read and study, the more I get confused. Can someone get me started with a proposed 20 night itinerary based on these objectives?

I know I want to fly to Siem Reap for three nights at some point in there. And I'm not really interested in beaches at all. Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Golden Triangle, and now after a lot of reading and looking --Luang Prabang seems to be calling me.
I suspect I could easily entertain myself in Bangkok for a week, and I'm focusing on staying at the Center Point Silom while there.

So help me! How do I divide this up? I'm thinking a Bangkok Airways flyer pass is good. Am I smart first spending a week in Bangkok and then using it to fly to Chiang Mai, (spending time in the Chiang Rai and Golden Triangle then too, and then Chiang Mai to Luang Prabang and then on to Siem Reap and then back to Bangkok to meet my tour? Where should I go in Northern Thailand and how do I divide my time? I enjoy wandering towns and looking at architecture, doing "soft adventure" hiking and scenic trips by boat or land, and just enjoying the ambiance. I like wandering markets more than actual shopping -- I rarely bring anything at all home from a trip. I can easily get "templed" out, but love gardens, architecture, and palaces -- which is one of the things calling me to Luang Prabang.

And I'll be traveling alone. So some ground transportation or hiring guides and drivers gets pretty expensive for a solo traveler. Although normally I prefer rubbing elbows with locals on local transportation so long as I can figure it out.

I'm also looking for nice, smallish or characteristic places to stay (I've seen many good suggestions here already). I like to keep the cost well below $100 a night, but I'm usually much bigger on being "in the center of things" than being in a quieter out of town location. I don't need luxury and don't do spas, but I like things nice and certainly a good bed and nice private bathroom with shower.

For what it's worth, after my OAT trip, I also come back to Bangkok for another night and then a full day before flying to London just after midnight (the second night). Both stays (the single nights before and after the trip to VietNam) will be at the Tamara Hotel in Bangkok.

Oh, and none of this "save that for another time". I am at least 99% sure that this WILL be my one and only trip to Thailand, so I do want to make the most of it.

Thanks in advance. Have at it!

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