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andwereoff Jul 10th, 2013 12:10 PM

northern Thailand Itinerary - help
Fodorites, we have been reading guidebooks and this website in order to plan a trip to Northern Thailand in December but are finding it quite daunting and really need your help.
We are an older (but definitely not elderly) couple and have traveled on a number of different trips to S.E. Asian countries on our own. We have used a guide for parts of Myanmar and Seam Reap but traveled independently to Laos, Bangkok and Chiang Mai.
We will be flying from New Jersey to Chiang Mai and will travel to another country after leaving Thailand . This time we thought we would rent a car to see Northern Thailand but need help with our itinerary, where we should stop for the night or nights and how long our trip should take. We are very comfortable driving on winding roads, are not going to Trek or go into caves but do love markets, local color, scenery and museums.
How many days/nights should we plan on – we are not in a rush. What do you think of this itinerary? We will start by spending a few days in Chiang Mai to jet lag and possibly take a cooking class at the Thai Cookery School. DH would like to play a round of golf or two.
Here’s what we’re thinking as a route so as not to back track.
Chiang Mai to Mai Sariang to Mae Hong Son to Suppong to Pai to Chiang Dao to Fang to Tha Ton to Mae Salong to Chiang Rai to Chiang Saen to Sop Ruak and back through Chiang Rai to Chiang Mai.
We would very much appreciate your input.

rhkkmk Jul 10th, 2013 03:03 PM

I will tell you the driving is easy based on the amount of traffic once out of CM.

I think time largely depends on how often you stop and how long you spend on those stops... the drive from CM to CR is a bout 3 hours and CS is another hour..

make sure to visit doi tung estate and the newish opium museum across the road from the anantara hotel near CS.

there is a wat on a hill above CS which has a fantastic vantage point over the golden triangle..

most people feel it is not worth the effort to cross over into laos or cambodia

Kathie Jul 10th, 2013 03:57 PM

The crossing over to Laos (via a boat) is to a small market - not for locals, only for tourists - with ill-made children's clothing and Lao-Lao (liquor). It won't give you any sense of Laos - don't bother. There isn't a crossing to Cambodia there, but one to Burma which takes you to a border town. They will hold your passport while you are in the town. You can't go farther into Burma, so it's rather like visiting Tijuana from San Diego. I don't recommend either excursion.

rhkkmk Jul 10th, 2013 07:43 PM

Kathie--I typed Burma first and it didn't seem right so I changed it---in any case both are not worth the effort.

crellston Jul 11th, 2013 06:06 AM

We did a driving trip around CM and Northern Thailand a couple of years ago. A link to my trip report:

The Chiang Mai Cookery School was excellent and I would highly recommend staying there whilst taking lessons. We stayed 4 days and did not get bored and now considered ourselves fairly accomplished in Thai cooking.

If yo like markets, Soppong is the most authentic. We have now done variations of this trip twice and I am happy to answer any specific questions you may have. My favourite town on the loop was Mai Sariang. Few tourists get there but there are quite a few nice places to stay springing up around the town. Great food, particularly on the evening market.

The Mae Hong Sorn Loop takes around 4-5 days although can be done in less. Doi Inthanon NP is definitely worth a visiting the way back.

Driving is on winding roads which are ok as long as you tune into the Thai driving style. As Bob says, the part out of CM is the busiest but hire a car at the airport and you can avoid most of the worst traffic by staying on the superhighway.

I found the Chiang Rai area to be less impressive but still nice. Chiang Dao is mostly about trekking, caves etc, but Chiang Dao Nest is a good place to stay and does great food and the scenery is definitely worth a look. December is busy with tourists both local and foreign so book early particularly in CM as places were full when we were there in Dec.

3 Sis is good and in MHS, Fern Resort is the best place to stay.

The first time we did this trip, we loved Pai but this last time it had grown dramatically and, although we had planned to stay there, we just kept on driving as it was n longer the sleepy little town it used to be.

andwereoff Jul 12th, 2013 02:04 PM

Thank you all for your help. We're working on our itinerary in light of your feedback and we'll keep you posted as it develops llikely looking for more guidance.
Crellston - already read your very interesting trip report. It was a big help in getting us started.

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