Northern Thailand Options


Apr 18th, 2017, 06:14 AM
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Join Date: Feb 2014
Posts: 93
Northern Thailand Options

Hi all,

I am trying to look closer at my options once arriving in Chiang Mai. Here are my thoughts.

Arrival in Chiang Mai via air from Bangkok or Siem Reap. Arrival day would not count as day one in Chiang Mai.

Chiang Mai: Two days.

Elephant Nature Park. One day.

Rent a car and here's my question:

Mae Hong Son "loop" of Chiang Mai to Mae Hong Son (or Pai) as the destination with overnights in between. I would give us a total of 5 days? 6 days? We are fairly flexible for now.

Or alternately, Chiang Rai and Chiang Dao look worth the visit.

Do we add a day in Chiang Mai and do Chiang Rai as a day trip and then the loop? Or do we skip the loop and head from Chiang Mai to Chiang Dao and do a drive in that direction?

I believe we will have approximately 1 week in Bangkok, several days at Angkor Wat, and then head to Chiang Mai where we will have approximately a week as well.

Or we could just do Chiang Mai with public transport: Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, and Elephant Nature Park and add Khao Yao Park from Bangkok.

Our time off is flexible, but we will be at the mercy of international flights once we book. We will be doing miles and thus may have less of a choice. We will be travelling, unfortunately, during high season, post-Christmas, with two young boys.

I am just trying to understand our options at this point before booking flights which I won't look at for a couple of more months I don't think.

As much as I want to see Angkor Wat, there appears to be so much to see in Thailand, that I may ditch it in favor of more time in Thailand.

Thank you.
wendy17 is offline  
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Apr 18th, 2017, 06:59 AM
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 6,554
We have done the both the MHS loop and "The Golden Triangle loop" to Chiang Dao Chiang Rai and beyond a couple of times and have enjoyed both routes. Both are very different but, on balance, I think I prefer the MHS loop. With 5-6 days you could take a leisurely pace and I would suggest a night in Pai ( if only to break up the long drive between CM and MHS). A couple of nights in MHS (at the Fern Resort ) or maybe 3 to make the most of the activities of the resort, the town itself etc. A night apiece in Soppong, for the caves, the fantastic Soppong River Inn, t minority people markets etc. You could then spend a night in Mai Sariang, a pleasant riverside town, and then driving back to CM via Doi Inthanon NP.

We found the Budget world class drives maps to be excellent . Available at

Alternatively, you could take the route from CM to Chiang Dao staying at the Chiang Dao Nest. Lots of activities available from there. Chiang Rai has a terrific Saturday walking Market, the White Temple and Black House. You could drive up to the tea country around Mai Salong and to the Burmese border but IMO it's a long way for very little. Likewise th Laos border where it is possible to cross for the day.

If I remember correctly, the ENP is more or less on the way to Chiang Dao?? If so it should be possible to include that on the way to CD and CR or, with some doubling back even on the MHS loop.
crellston is offline  
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Apr 18th, 2017, 08:28 AM
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Join Date: Feb 2014
Posts: 93
Thank you so much for the feedback. I've planned lots of trips over the years, but this one is overwhelming me more than most.

My husband will be driving. I assume we rent a car in advance online or can we rent once in Chiang Mai?

The loop seemed perhaps more kid friendly in terms of activities, so I always need to keep that in mind.
wendy17 is offline  
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Apr 18th, 2017, 08:51 AM
Join Date: May 2004
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You are very welcome Wendy.

As for renting a car, I usually book one online with one of the biggies - Budget, Avis or Hertz. All, along with the local operators will have offices at the airport and in town ( usually based in a hotel). I tend to pick up a car from the airport as in the past I have arrived in the office in town only for them to phone the airport to deliver the car. It is easier to make you way out of town from th airport - CM traffic takes some getting used to!

If going in the high season Nov - Feb , I would book in advance for your car and especially your hotels.

I would agree that the MHS loop has more for your kids. Fern Resort is linked to a community based tourism initiative with lots to do, the grounds are very pleasant and some nice jungle walks right from the property ( the Resort dogs will act as your guides!)

Soppong has some nice easy caves to explore by rafts. Pai is as laid back as it gets again with river rafting.
crellston is offline  
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Apr 18th, 2017, 11:02 PM
Join Date: Aug 2011
Posts: 398
River rafting just after Christmas in northern T'land? Sounds very optimistic as January is the driest month.
jobin is online now  
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