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Planning on Track for Burma, Thailand, Laos: Part II: Northern Thailand

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Oct 24th, 2010, 09:18 PM
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Planning on Track for Burma, Thailand, Laos: Part II: Northern Thailand

After our week in Burma we fly into Bangkok and up to Chiang Mai two days before Christmas. I know we could have taken a flight from Rangoon directly to Chiang Mai but until now, no one was sure the airline would fly that seasonal route and it arrives in CM about the same time as our flight. I wanted a secure flight at Christmas time. I think it was Bob who posted about the Air Asia sale, so RGN-BKK, BKK-CM is one of five AA flights I quickly booked. This leg is the most jam packed, least leisurely part of the tri country trip and I know we won’t be able to do everything I’ve listed below.
Since Lao Air only flies a few days each week from BKk to Pakse, compromises had to be made to fit their flight days; Northern Thailand took the hit.

Thanks to Kathie’s recommendation we’re staying at Yaang Come Village Hotel in Chiang Mai for nights. 1, 2 and 3. Then Anantara nights 4 and 5 and Le Meridien in CR on night 6.
We’re considering the following while in CM. Please offer your feedback and recommendations:
a chat with the monks at Wat Suan Dok (M, W, F 5:30 -7:30 pm)
visit to CM Tribal Museum
tuk tuk to The Tiger Kingdom
I hear that the Sunday night walking market begins on Saturday night, if so, we’ll go ???
tuk tuk to Wat Phra Singh
lots of walks in the old inner city
morning excursion to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, Phuging Palace if open, Mae Sa Valley with lunch at Mae Sa Valley resort
lunch or dinner at Riverside Bar & Restaurant, Secret Garden..others?
What are some of your most memorable (publishable) experiences in CM?

The 4th morning Tony Smile drives us from CM to Anantara with stops along the way. Since Nok Air still has not posted a CM-CR flight for December I decided we’d use Tony, once I successfully contacted him (thanks to from DC, dbuggun and others). We’ll have Tony all of our 4th and 5th days while driving to and staying at Anantara. On the 6th day we head to Chiang Rai. Tony was already booked so he’s arranged for a friend to drive and guide us from Anantara to Chiang Rai with stops along the way.

So our touring up to Anantara on Day 4 will be finalized with Tony to determine what route to take on the way up (day 4) and what to see on the way back to CR (day 6). Any recommended routing you enjoyed?
We do want to visit
Yao (Ban Pong Pakhem), Akha and Lisu villages
Wat Rong Khun
Mae Chan area to new settlement village of Padong (migrants from So. Burma)
Doi Mae Salong mountain; lunch Mae Salong Villa
Santi Kiri KMT refugee settlement
Day 5 - Royal Gardens, Opium Museum, hang out with the eles at Anantara; I’ll inquire if any villages are having celebrations for full moon night and we’ll go if possible
Day 6 Return from Anantara to Chiang Rai with touring en route.
This final night in the north, we stay at Le Meridien Chiang Rai so that we’ll be fresh for the following travel day. Day 7 we fly CR-BKK and BKK to Pakse in Southern Laos. Next section southern Laos, the most complicated to plan.
Robbietravels is offline  
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Oct 25th, 2010, 02:38 AM
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Your itinerary looks fine.

I can understand the fascination with "Tuk Tuks" but in real life and for an extended drive you are better off in a car or a van. Imagine you are riding in a Tuk Tuk and it has stopped at a traffic light. Next to your vehicle is a bus or truck with blackish fumes engulfing your stationary Tuk Tuk!
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Oct 25th, 2010, 07:13 AM
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It looks like this will be a great trip. I'm particularly interested in hearing about the Laos part when you return. Personally, I would skip Chiang Rai and spend one more day at the Anantara. We spent a bit of time in CR and environs on the way from the Anantara to the airport and it didn't do anything for me. There is MUCH to do in the Golden Triangle area plus you have the really lovely Anantara for relaxing time. I don't know what time your flight leaves in Day 7, but my recollection is that it is only about a 45 minute drive from the Anantara to the CR airport.
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Oct 25th, 2010, 08:01 AM
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I, too, would spend all three nights at the Anantara. When I was at the Anantara (right after it opened) it did taken an hour to the airport, but I expect some roads have been improved.

I know people rave about the Sunday Walking Market but I was not wowed. It is much like the old night market used to be 20 years ago - some interesting items (arts and crafts) but mostly tourist junk. In the old night market, you could find hilltribe silver, unusual crafts, etc, but there was none of that at the Sunday Market. Of course, you'll want to go if you can on the off chance you'll find something interesting, but missing it is not anything to regret.

The one place I'd recommend to you is a shop in CM that sells Akha crafts. We bought some wonderful textiles and spent a long time talking with her. The shop is very hard to find.

Here is the section from my trip report: The real find of this trip was The Golden Triangle. It was hard to find! Our driver (who could actually read the Nancy Chandler map, and my printing!) was very persistent. We were all triumphant when he found it. But the gate was closed and locked (it was after 5:30). Not to be deterred, he called the phone number and the owner came out and let us in. The Nancy Chandler book says no English is spoken but that is not true. The owner is an Akha woman who was married to a Dutch anthropologist for many years (he is now deceased). Sales of the textiles benefit the Akha women who make the items. She does have old Akha textiles from time to time. We were able to buy several old pieces as well as some new pieces. The items are really unusual. We didn’t see anything like them anywhere else. The owner is a wealth of information about the textiles. We talked for quite a while, and she pointed out that many of the new needlework pieces are done on modern synthetics, as it is less expensive. We bought a number of pieces made from local cottons and dyed with natural dyes. She can tell you which pieces use which techniques and what the various motifs mean. Note that she takes NO CREDIT CARDS. Bring cash!

It's going to be a wonderful trip!
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Oct 25th, 2010, 08:57 AM
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Good suggestion from DC. First I'll see if Anantara can accommodate us on 12/28 and if Tony can arrange driver from Anantara to CR airport (or use another source), then DH and I can decide if we want to get up at 6:00 am (on the road by 6:30) to drive to CR for an 8:35 am flight. I'm allowing an hour to get there and an hour for check in. Is this realistic at Xmas time?
Hanuman, why did I think tuk tuks would be any different in the north than in Bangkok. Thank you for the reminder, we'll take cabs. Kathie I have noted your shop and will get the Chandler map since the shop is noted there. I like her maps anyway.
Any comments on the sites/sights I mentioned?
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Oct 25th, 2010, 09:15 AM
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Plus it means one less check-in, check-out of hotels. Ugh,,, I hate that.
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Oct 25th, 2010, 08:26 PM
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i too suggest staying at anantara, but another idea would be to take in doi tung, the queen mother's place, on the way south to CR on the 28th, thus allowing more actual time at anantara and the museum which will take several hours... the museum is one of the best we have seen in SEA.... just arrive at meridien late in the day so you need not get up so early opn 29th...you know how fred is in the AM.....and it probably is cheaper than anantara at holiday time...
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Oct 25th, 2010, 08:40 PM
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If you are going in late December and will be visiting places such as Doi Tung or other mountainous area, be aware that the temperature can be quite cold - for Thailand that is. Expect 5 - 10C up in the Dois(mountain) but around town it should be very pleasant around 20 - 25C during the day time. It is suppose to be a "cold" winter for Thailand this year and already around the mountainous area near Loei the temperature has dropped to around 10C.
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Oct 26th, 2010, 11:42 AM
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pook---that is not cold, that is tollerable... have you forgotten northern USA?
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Oct 31st, 2010, 08:53 AM
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Pook understands me, I'm from southern California and the mountain temps for me are COLD. I was planning to bring a set of warm clothes for Maymyo anyway.
I've arranged to stay a third night at Anantara, we will have to leave early on day 7 to make our 8:30 flight from Chiang Rai to Bangkok and on to Pakse, Laos.
I wrote Tony Smile to see if his friend could drive us to the airport and await his reply. I emailed SeaTours for their quote to the airport...$100! Anantara similar. I had an email for a driver from CR from Fodor's but his emailed is no longer good. Any driver recommendations?
Thank you all for suggesting the extra night, it feels right. We'll try to see the Queen Mothers compound on the way up to the GT.
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