smaller cities in thailand to stay
Replies: 19 - Last Post: Mar 27, 2012 2:17 AM Last Post By: thaibeachlovers
Mar 24, 2012 9:39 AM
smaller cities in thailand to stayHi,
I'm thinking of travelling to Thailand later this year, either in June or around September or october and trying to come up with an itinerary but I'm having some trouble with it.
Except for Bangkok (obviously) I'd like to travel to some smaller, laid back places with lots of traditional Thai culture, temples, older houses, interesting architecture etc. but which are still relatively easy to reach, and with acceptable tourist facilities and accomodation. It's a bit difficult to figure this out, it seems some of the names of cities are identical to the names of the provinces (like Phetchaburi and Kanchanaburi). As a Buddhist I'm especially interested in traditional Buddhist temples and monasteries. The North, like Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai, seems to have lots to offer but in June there is the problem of the haze and smoke from the slash and burn fires I think, and also it's pretty far from Bangkok...
So far I think Phetchaburi could be an option, and also Kanchanaburi, but I'm not sure. Does Kanchanaburi (the town, not the province) have wats and traditional architecture? Or is it a more modern place that was built only for business and tourism?
Are the islands good for older temples and houses, or are they mostly newer settlements that have only started to develop for the tourism sector?
Mar 24, 2012 10:28 AM
Mar 24, 2012 10:34 AM
Mar 24, 2012 12:46 PM
3in June there is the problem of the haze and smoke from the slash and burn fires I think
that's in Feb-Mar.
with acceptable tourist facilities and accomodation
what's acceptable to you? do you need to have other foreign tourists to talk to? are you comfortable in a place where very little English is spoken?
smaller, laid back places with lots of traditional Thai culture, temples, older houses, interesting architecture etc.
the cities of Nan, Lampang, & even Phrae & Lamphun. they're not huge, the central/old city area can be covered on foot, & it's easy to cycle around. Mae Hong Son probably too far for you... Chiangmai if you don't mind that it's not small. if small is an important factor then towns like Mae Chaem (Chiangmai province), Pua (Nan province) & Chiang Kham (Phayao province). but all these places are in the north, IMHO that's where the best temple architecture is (apart from the Khmer ruins in the lower northeast - but the northeast cannot match the north when it comes to secular architecture).
Mar 24, 2012 5:42 PM
Mar 24, 2012 6:58 PM
5No problem with smoke in June as others have said.
Lots of opportunities to experience Thai forest monk tradition in places like Sakon Nakorn, Renu Nakorn, Nakorn Phranom.
Other than temples themselves there isn't much left of old interesting archecture. Most of it was torn down long ago when it was old but not old enough to be interesting to anybody. When I was in Lampang I tried to find the old town and all the locals could recommend was the train station.
Mar 24, 2012 7:16 PM
6Yes, Phetburi has some nice old temples, and there's also Khao Wang, a palace complex on a small mountain which is worth exploring. Also consider Ayutthaya and Lopburi - the latter has some fun Khmer ruins which are infested by monkeys, as well as a nice museum adjacent to King Narai's old palace.
In the North, I would especially recommend Nan, some very interesting temples there, and a good museum with details about Nan's old dynasty.
As the above poster mentioned, Thai towns may not live up to what you imagine, they are mainly market spaces with shophouses and traffic. Worth checking out nonetheless.
If you are really into temples, consider Luang Prabang in Laos, there's really nowhere else like it.
Edited by: viedums
Edited by: viedums
Mar 24, 2012 7:39 PM
7Cool thanks for all the responses. Good to hear the fires will not be a problem.
@geomark and @viedums, I was kinda afraid of that, that lots of old stuff has been torn down. Funny how the train station is seen as the old part of town.
Luang Prabang is an option. Or I may decide to just see some of the ruins in Ayutthya on a day trip from Bangkok, then visit some Thai Forest tradition monastery and spend the rest of the time hiking and chilling out, I thought maybe it's possible to base myself in some guesthouse near one of the big national parks and so some trips from there, Khao Yai seems very pretty.
Mar 24, 2012 8:09 PM
8I live near Khao Yai. Nice country here and plenty of options for places to stay. Good wildlife viewing ops if you take a tour into the park. Lots of temples, of course, a few you might find architecturally interesting. Also a couple of interesting cave temples. More older architecture farther up into Isaan, like the old stone temples at Phimai which you can reach in a couple hours from the Khao Yai area.
Mar 24, 2012 8:57 PM
When I was in Lampang I tried to find the old town and all the locals could recommend was the train station
was just there this Feb. there's the old town area in the Ban Tha Ma O neighbourhood around Ban Sao Nak (traditional house that's a visitor attraction listed in guidebooks) where there are several temples & still many traditional wooden homes. Wat Pongsanuk Neua (one of Lampang's most famous temples) is nearby with 4 tiny museums - for Buddhist scripture chests, wooden items like traditional monk's beds & pulpits, reproductions of jataka paintings, palm leaf manuscripts, ancient Lampang flag, etc) - like Wat Xieng Mouane in Luang Prabang, it was one of the centres for training monks & local artisans in temple art & restoration (stencils, woodcarvings, casting of Buddha statues, etc) under a UNESCO programme.
mentioned in guidebooks is a second old town area at Kaad Kong Ta (old market street, where the weekend walking street is held) where Riverside GH is. traditional wooden shophouses with beautiful fretwork, including a beautifully restored one that has quite a bit of documentation on its unique architecture + the architecture of other significant old buildings in the neighbourhood displayed on nicely done poster boards (in English & Thai) in the lobby. & a traditional Thai home converted into a small art gallery + kids' library that visitors are welcome to walk through.
apart from the high density of Thai-style temples in both old town areas (comparable to the old city areas of Chiangmai & Luang Prabang), there are also about 9 Burmese-style wooden temples, some of which i found worth visiting despite having been to Mae Hong Son earlier on the same trip. & Wat Lai Hin & Wat Prathat Lampang Luang in the outskirts - the latter has some of, if not the oldest extant temple murals in Thailand. everything's in the few years' old tourist map of Lampang city that i found in town.
Nan city has a lower density of temples than Lampang but there are the famous ones like Wat Phumin, the national museum, good markets, & small but beautiful Tai Lue-style temples in the little towns north of it in Tha Wang Pha, Pua & Chiang Klang (with some pleasant countryside).
Phrae wins in terms of small size + old houses. many teak mansions still standing (a lot more than are left in Phayao). temple-wise it can't match Lampang or Nan, although it has 2 interesting Burmese-style temples.
Sakon Nakhon & Nakhon Phanom - latter has more temples than the former, with more signs of Lao influence on the architecture, though the former has 2 well-known forest tradition temples, plus one little Khmer ruin worth a look if in town. still, no match for the cities listed above. & the towns are like any other non-descript 'concrete box' towns in Thailand as #5 said, though they are good places to get off the tourist trail.
overall, i enjoyed Lampang & northern Nan province lots for temple art (murals, woodcarvings, stencils, sculptures & folk art) & architecture, despite having already been to Luang Prabang 4 times.
Mar 25, 2012 1:10 AM
10The burning season is NOW, not June. It'll be raining in June.
Chiang Mai for temples, but the White Temple in Chiang Rai is worth a visit, and Chiang Saen has a lot of old structures, including a nearly intact city wall, and some very old temple remains.
Even Lamphun has some very old temples if you look around.
Mar 25, 2012 2:06 AM
11not some, mostly all the provinces have the provincial seat of the same name, which would be located in amphur muang. there are wats everywhere, some active, some not so. so allowing you to sleep and stay in for a while if desiring. forest wats and city. you don't need to go very far out of the tourist trail to get very rural, or not see tourist or any westerners. that also means, very little if any english spoken and bare living accommodations, if any.
already mentioned, PhiMai, but also Phanom Rung, are restored khmer temples, the latter being much larger.
wat rung khun, 12 km south of chiang rai, white temple TBL mentioned is a bit unique and worth a peek if in the area. next to the main rd, so easy to stop and see. not an active temple, more tourist stop for locals.
i would decide what else you want on your holiday, as a location decision, and you will have no problem finding temples anywhere, at any location.
chiang saen had one of the nicest old temples i've seen, with intricate wood carving doors and window. on the way up a steep hill to a nice overview of the golden triangle.
Mar 25, 2012 2:15 AM
Mar 25, 2012 9:46 AM
Mar 25, 2012 3:43 PM
I think North is the way to go then, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai and Chiang Saen look great. I think I'll travel overland to Chiang Saen, maybe with stops to visit Ayutthaya, and Khao Yai, and perhaps Phitsanulok. I'm really looking forward to those cave temples geomark mentioned. Is there any information about them online?
Would this be doable transportation wise? Is there a bus or train connection between Khao Yai and Phitsanulok or Chiang Mai? (I'm guessing Chiang Mai has to be on the itinerary as well, as it's probably the big transportation hub for the area?)
edit: oh and accomodation, would it be OK to not make any reservations - other than my stay in Bangkok - and just pop into a B&B or homestay that I find recommended on the web, or a tourist office? Or would I risk ending up without a place to spend the night?
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