Chiang Mai or Luang Prabang for kids?

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Sep 25th, 2006, 10:21 PM
  #1
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Chiang Mai or Luang Prabang for kids?

I am traveling alone with my two children, 7 and 9, and for various reasons will be in Hong Kong, Bangkok and Siem Reap. I have about 4 days between BK and SR and had planned to go to Siem Reap. However, NY Times article and other posts don't make this out to be what I expected, and I am now considering Luang Prabang instead. Does anybody have an opinion on this, or other places? The kids are pretty well travelled, but not in SE Asia. I'm not looking for a beach, although I'll have to produce a swimming pool. What I want most is authenticity and as intimate view into the people as possible. They can only take so many landmarks, but would love to be around children, and I want a fairly remote experience where not tourists are not the norm (at least for part of trip). Tall order for only a handful of days, but that's what I have. I thought Chiang Mai for elephants, but my kids aren't that into animals and it seems like these camps are a fiction for the benefit of tourists. Any thoughts on destination or experiences to try?
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Sep 25th, 2006, 11:40 PM
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As part of our trip next summer I will be travelling just with my daughter - after 2 weeks with my husband with us, we'll have 10 days just she and I. We'll have started off in Singapore, then Siem Reap together. Then Bangkok together, then just she and I from there for 10 days.

We enjoyed Chiang Mai this past Christmas, and stayed at Yaang Come Village when we weren't at elephant camp. Options that we are tossing around for next summmer are some time in Chiang Mai at Joy's House www.joyshouse.net, elephant camp at the Elephant Conservation Center (we've already done this once and my daughter is begging to go back) www.changthai.com. Kanchaburi for the national park and the river raft hotel. Chiang Rai Anantara Golden Triangle version of elephant camp (a bit more extravegant than the Lampang location). Mut Mee's on the Laos border and Pai.

The Elephant Conservation Center and the offshoot at the Anantara are not the typical tourist elephant show kind of places.

Thailand and Luang Prabang and Siem Reap are all touristed places. Perhaps you could arrange a trek to some off the beaten path location, but otherwise, I'm afraid, tourists are pretty much the norm.

With only 4 days, the Anantara Golden Triangle might be a good destination for you. It's a tourist destination, but not so much as Chiang Mai or Luang Prabang or Siem Reap. You can have a guide/driver take you to some less touristed villages if you like. This area of Thailand is a malaria risk area, as are Siem Reap and Luang Prabang...just so you are aware of that.

The other option that I like, Joy's House, is unique and different and could be very interesting I think. It lacks a pool, though. My daughter, another pool junkie, is willing to go without a pool for a few days IF what we do is really cool. She's getting harder and harder to impress so I'll look forward to reading the other ideas you get.


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Sep 25th, 2006, 11:45 PM
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The pool part may rule out LP. There aren't many places in the town with a pool (but there are some, with very small pools). To get a pool, you'd have to go out of town, which would kind of defeat the whole purpose of going to LP, I think. From what you say, your kids may get something out of it, but four days there may be a bit much.

You didn't mention budget, so I don't know what you want to spend, but I'd suggest you rethink Chiang Mai, or perhaps consider Chiang Rai. The Anantara has elephants in residence and you can check yourself into the spa while the mahouts take care of the kids. I wouldn't under-estimate the attraction of elephants. Some of them are more like people than animals. Sam Bo in Phnom Penh is quite a character.
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Sep 26th, 2006, 07:00 AM
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La Residence Phou Vao (the old Pansea) right on the edge of Luang Prabang has a lovely pool. LP is a lovely, meditative place. With all the wats and monks I don't know if it would be the kind of place your children would like or not.
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Sep 26th, 2006, 10:01 AM
  #5
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We were in Luang Prabang (we were also in Chiang Mai) last summer with our four children, and they all loved it. I think what they liked most about it was that there really wasn't a lot to do from a hard core sightseeing standpoint. I would describe it as really almost exactly what you are looking for - authenticity and as intimate view into the people as possible. Our kids especially liked visiting a hill tribe village an hour and a half or so outside of town. We stayed at the Pansea, which has a beautiful pool (pools are a necessity for us as well). Nothing against Chiang Mai, but it's turned into a real city. Luang Prabang is much more special - at least to me.
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Sep 26th, 2006, 12:17 PM
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Thank you all for your responses! I've also looked into doing Mae Hong Son and other hill tribes for a night or two ~ my kids will not go there expecting a ripley's believe it or not sideshow, but to respect different peoples no matter how different than there own, and to perhaps look a little differently at their own world when they return. I just don't know what to expect re how touristed, how authentic, etc. We are tourist and I have to accept a certain amount of this, as long as it doesn't feel exploitive or created for the benefit of tourist. Any thoughts? Can anybody recommend a guide, or do we need one? Thanks.
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Sep 26th, 2006, 03:58 PM
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We had a good guide in LP (who took us to the hill tribe village) and an awesome one in SR. By the way, Angkor Wat should not totally be eliminated based on what you are looking for. However, my vote would be to go with either LP or SR over CM.
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