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Inexpensive trip from Chiang Mai (not necessarily in Thailand)

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This might be the “impossible dream”, but I figured it was worth asking.

I will be in Chiang Mai in early December for a week for work. As long as I’m in SEA already, I would like to add a 3-4 day (2-3 night) side trip, but I can’t afford more than US$300-400 for everything (lodging, meals, sightseeing, visa, transportation – including difference between RT airfare to CMX and cost of flying out of another city, if I do that).

I know that it is possible to book short tours out of CM to a number of places, but I can’t seem to find much on the Internet about them. I’m also sure that people on the forum can direct me either to websites of tour companies or to agents who offer such trips. And I’m sure that you can offer advice on putting together something myself!

To give you some ideas of my interests:

I love CM and am looking forward to going back.

I have been to Mae Hong Son (by road both ways – the scenery was beautiful). I have also been to BKK, enjoyed it, and could go back, but that thought really doesn’t excite me right now (although it's hard to say why).

I have been to Phnom Penh area and Siem Reap (incl. the main Angkor complex and some outlying areas) as well, and to Mandalay and several towns NE of it.

I am interested in beautiful scenery, architecture, markets, people watching, historic sites/tours, and photography.

I am NOT interested in visiting temples on this trip (which seems to rule out LP) or beaches (ditto islands of Thailand). We will probably visit an “elephant site” during the week in CM, so that is not a priority for the side trip.

I don’t have to stay in fancy hotels (obviously!). In fact, everywhere I have stayed in SEA before has been basic – comfortable, clean, but not always with a/c or even ensuite bath. I don’t want to stay in a hostel, though – a little too old for that.

What I would LIKE to do is visit Singapore, but it is out of my price range this trip (or certainly appears to be). I considered KL as an alternative, but wondered what suggestions others might have. If staying within Thailand is the only way to do it, what do you recommend that is not Bangkok, beaches, temples or elephants?

Sorry this is so long, but I figured the more detail you had, the better.

Cranachin

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