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Driving north of Chiang Mai

Old Mar 25th, 2006, 04:59 AM
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Driving north of Chiang Mai

Hi All,

We'll be renting a car in Chiang Mai and will be driving up to Chiang Rai. On our initial drive up to Chiang Rai, we want to take a "scenic route". I have been reseraching, but I'm really finding it overwhelming. Can you please suggest a route and some interesting places to stop along the way.

We'll be staying in Chiang Rai for 2 nights. One day we plan on driving around the Golden Triangle Area. Can you recommend a driving route for this area? We know we want to stop in Mae Sai.

We're in our early 30s and are interested in seeing Northern Thailand life, hilltribes, etc.

Thanks!
Alanna
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Old Mar 30th, 2006, 11:19 AM
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ttt - anyone?

And can someone tell me how long the drive is on the "direct route" from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai?

Thanks!
Alanna
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Old Mar 30th, 2006, 01:08 PM
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I'd like to recommend using Sergeant Kai as a driver for your trip, rather than renting a car...

We had used him as a driver around the Chiang Mai area, but during our day with him, he would constantly talk about trips he would take up to Chiang Rai, driving to Laos, etc... He knows tons of great scenic routes, and he knows people in many of the hilltribes so he can actually take you in to meet them rather than just seeing it like a zoo...

Not to mention that he is a very knowledgeable guide, and a wonderful person in general...

Just a thought... Ken
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Old Mar 30th, 2006, 03:13 PM
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We hired a driver Chiang Rai to Chiang Mai. It takes 3 maybe 3 1/2 hours. It's pretty strait forward until you get near Chiang Mai. There's a lot of urban sprawl.
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Old Mar 30th, 2006, 05:40 PM
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Alanna hi,

I have driven a lot in this area and its not at all bad (except the road up to Mae hong Son that is like a 30k lombard street...). go to the web site of "Budget rent a car" in Thailand, world class drives section (link below). they have there 3 suggested northern routes. Download the 1st one - "Chiang Mai - Golden triangle Loop". Very vert detailed maps, routes, suggestions of places to stop, side excursions etc. really good stuff. Flick also through the "tips and guidance" sections for some advice regarding driving in thailand. Enjoy.
http://www.budget.co.th/travel_worldclass.php
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Old Mar 30th, 2006, 07:33 PM
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We drove ourselves with a rental on a reverse route in January. Started in Chiang Rai and ended in Chiang Mai.

Of course, there was much more we'd have liked to have done, but it was in interesting overview of the area. We went from CR to Chiang Sean, the to Sop Ruak (the triangle), Mae Sai and the last major destination was Mae Salong.

Although not typically Thai (it's really a Chinese settlement), we agreed that we enjoyed Mae Salong most of all. And it's most certainly a scenic route coming and going. Lots of valley tea plantations and the hilltop temple was quiet and beautiful, with great views. It was kind of fun to go around to the tea shops in town and sample Oolong tea that was grown right there.

We thought the section from Doi Tung to Mae Salong (or vice versa of course) was the most scenic of our route.
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Old Mar 30th, 2006, 07:46 PM
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Oh, and we rented through Budget too, as it seemed to have the best prices of those we found (a small drop charge for dropping in a different city of about $20 US).

The roads were quite good, for both pavement quality and traffic/driving quality. Better roads than I'd seen in much of Ireland, for instance. None of the chaos seen around Bangkok. Remember (probably goes without saying), Thailand drives on the left.
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Old Mar 31st, 2006, 04:53 AM
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Thanks a bunch!! This is exactly what I was looking for.

Did you book your Budget car before leaving or while you were there?

Thanks again!
Alanna
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Old Mar 31st, 2006, 05:12 AM
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We booked it through the budget website.

One other thing to know - Budget did not have facilities AT the Chiang Rai airport. I'm not sure about CM. There was a lady there in the terminal waiting for us with a Budget sign. She'd driven the truck over. Turned out to be a diesel 4x4 pickup for the price of the compact car we'd arranged. No promises that the same would happen! For us a bigger vehicle wasn't a problem, driving or parking and we only had to refill once before the drop off. Both ends, we took care of the paperwork and dent inspections on the spot, next to the car.

In CM, we just drove to our guesthouse and Budget came and picked up there. So they may not have an airport spot either. But there was a Budget office on the east side of the river, on the same street and right across from the riverfront restaurants like the RiverView. Near the pedestrian bridge. Bet you could pick up there, or if you were staying in CM first for awhile, that they'd bring the car to you on the day of/day before you planned to leave.

Oh, one last thing. The "super highway" maps show looping around CM? "Super" it isn't. Major construction, lots of detours and stops. Not dangerous, just typical construction mess. It's probably better to just take one of the other major roads out than expect to loop around the city.

Good luck!
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Old Mar 31st, 2006, 09:59 PM
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I have driven all over Thailand on many occaisions and have mainly used Budget and have only had a couple minor problems. Just a thought IMO the route from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai is a little boring and the last time I was in the Golden Triangle area I was travelling back overland from Laos and found it to be very commercialised (but maybe that was just the contrast between the two countries. IMO the best drive in Northern Thailand is the Mae Hong Sorn loop whcich take 5/6 days through some of the most spectacular scenery in Thailand. the road is good but very winding - I think I read somewhere that there are 600 hairpin bends on the route. There are some great places to stay en route and the Minority villages are unspoilt if you get out into the countryside. Hire a 4WD, an whilst you won't do much for the environment, the extra height will allow much better views. You don't really need a guide but a few words of Thai will impress immensely. I also suggest picking up a copy of the LP Thai Phrasebook as this also contains a few phrase for the various hilltribe languages etc.
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Old Apr 1st, 2006, 07:54 PM
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Would a day trip Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai with a driver be feasible or is it too far for that?Visited hill tribes previously and would not be wanting that this time. Thanks.
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Old Apr 4th, 2006, 07:59 PM
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Hi.

I am also wondering about a self-drive from Chaing Mai to Mae Hong Son. We only wish to do the drive one-way and fly the other.

Is there a better direction?

How long is the drive?

If we don't self-drive, what can we expect to pay for a driver one way?

Thanks in advance.


nzers
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Old Apr 5th, 2006, 04:16 AM
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Nzers

Here is a link to the Budget World Clas Drives route map, directions etc.
http://www.budget.co.th/pdfs/worldclass_mae_eng.pdf which pprovided pretty much all the info you need.
I did the entire route a couple of years ago but in the opposite direction from that described. i.e. from Chiang Mai to Mai Sariang to Mae hong Sorn, Pai and back to CM. I did not do the Mae Sot extension. By far the most scenic route is via Mai Sariang (with a possible side trip to Doi Ithanon National Park). MS is a quiet riverside town with several nice places to stay. The scenery travelling north is spectacular and the roads are good (although there are allegedly 600 hairpin bend on the route) but it is very quiet traffic wise. Mae Hong Sorn is a nice town with plenty to see and do in the surrounding area. we stayed at the Fern resort about 2 miles out of the town which was great and so much better than the bigger hotels like the Imperial, Rooks etc which were less that impressive. The only aiprort in the region is in MHS so you would have to fly back from here. Having said that I was also impressed with Pai which is worth a couple of days at least, although you would have to double back on yourself. The drive from Pai back to CM was pretty boring really. If you stay in Pai then I wouldrcommend the Belle Villa resort.

We spent six days on the entire route - mai sariang 1nt, MHS 3nt, Pai 2 nt. the distance is about 600 k for the whole loop. i found the driving to be very enjoyable and experienced no problems. I would suggest getting a 4WD just in case you are tempted to drive to some of the more out of the way minority villages.
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