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Northern Thailand, Help: Too many choices, too little time

Northern Thailand, Help: Too many choices, too little time

Old Feb 3rd, 2010, 07:54 PM
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Northern Thailand, Help: Too many choices, too little time

In mid December, we'll be flying in to CM from Luang Prabang, after 5-6 days in rural southern Laos.
From CM, we could fly on SGA to Mae Hong Son and stay at The Fern for two nights, fly back to CM ( DH tends toward car sickness) and then drive or fly to Chiang Rai, staying at Le Meridien or drive up to Golden Triangle to stay at Anantara for two nights. We wish to limit time in the car to three hours per day; five if there's a looong break in between.

Here's the wish list: We'd like to hang out at very local markets and villages removed from the tourist circuit. We want to do some easy 3 hour walks (which region is best?), poke around towns and sit on balconies looking out at astounding vistas from beautifully appointed Thai rooms. We have no interest in crossing over into Burma or seeing the exact geographical meeting of the three countries since we'll be visiting Burma and Laos before coming to Thailand on this trip.
Your suggestions please.
1) Is one of these areas more scenic and lush than the others?
2) Would you split the time between MHS and CR/GT or choose?
3) Will the Anantara be overflowing with sweet noisy children since it will be Xmas time?
The elephant camp isn't a must for us (I spent the better part of 2 days riding an ele in the hills of N Thailand on the 1999 trip)

After this segment, I was considering a few days in Chiang Mai. From what I'm reading on this forum, CM is now a huge, dusty city (I was there in 1999). So if I'm going to be in a smoggy, huge city, should I forget CM and hightail it back to Bangkok???? Are there any not to be missed sights/experiences in CM that justify staying in CM?
Robbietravels is offline  
Old Feb 3rd, 2010, 09:54 PM
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CM circa 1999 compared to 2010 is the same IMO. The thing that has change dramatically are the highways, ring roads, flyovers and only a few new buildings. I think this give visitors an impression that the city has expanded into a "huge, dusty city".

The central part of CM, the inner city behind the moat or the old city wall, has not change at all while the outlying area has seen some growth but these are not the areas that tourist go to. More like residential or light industrial park.
Hanuman is offline  
Old Feb 3rd, 2010, 10:00 PM
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Robbie, I can only respond to the Mae Hong Son portion, as we haven't yet been to Chiang Rai. But, as you know, we were in MHS and at the Fern last December.

MHS is indeed beautiful...and definitely most of the things you describe that you're looking for. Just be aware, though, that the Fern Resort is very rustic. There's nothing 'beautifully appointed' about their rooms. That said, the views are stunning, the atmosphere serene, the staff couldn't be kinder and it's the nicest place in town. I found our stay there to be one of the more memorable of our trips. But it is very basic and the beds were not the most comfortable. It's clean and it serves it's purpose, but it's not the kind of room you'd want to spend time in, other than to sleep.

We loved everything about MHS. The small town charm, the beautiful mountains, the hiking. There is definitely not a lot to do outside that--so, at most, I would spend 3 nights there. That's just the perfect amount of time there--enough to unplug, take in the beautiful paddies, visit the town and night market and goes for various and sundry walks.

Happy to answer any other specifics you may want to know about MHS.
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Old Feb 4th, 2010, 06:10 PM
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Thanks Hanuman and Filmwill. Still hoping someone has been to both MHS and the Golden Triangle can enlighten me on how they differ, the unique experiences each offers
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Old Feb 7th, 2010, 03:06 PM
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I would highly recommend CM, I have yet to meet anybody who doesn't like CM. Hightail it back to BKK? That is the biggest smoggiest city of them all! CM has heaps to offer, yes ok its touristy but it depends what you're seeking after all you have about 6 days in the rural parts (MHS/CR)

MHS and CR share many similarities either one will allow you to experience the rural beauty and mountains of the NOrth, main differences are
- Chiang Rai is more touristy than MHS you will see many more foreigners here esp the Golden Triangle area
- MHS has a much more slower tranquil feel to it, less touristy because of its remote location
- MHS has a more rugged mountainous feel to it than CR which is more lowland
- There are a wider variety of hilltribes to be seen in CR (Akha,Lisu,Lahu,Hmong), in MHS there are only 2main groups (KAren and Lawa) but there is a strong 'Shan' influence making it look and feel distinctly different from any other part of Thailand
- I would say both are as scenic as each other( if you know which spots to go to)

Chiang Rai the capital and Golden Triangle are touristy affairs, to see the 'real' Chiang Rai hire a local guide+car and explore the remote areas. Ideas include- Chinese village of Mae Salong, Thaton, Fang. Anantara is a bit surreal, one could easily never leave the compound there but spend the whole time in a 'fake plastic flower' of Thailand. Venture out to villagers to see the real Northern Thailand

The same goes for MHS you can always get a much more authentic experience with a local guide.

Personally I would concentrate on one area, and use the time to explore the more remote parts instead of trying to hop from place to place, which only allows you to skim the surface

Good Luck
NorthThailander is offline  
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