Chiang Mai/Northern Thailand?
Replies: 15 - Last Post: Jul 17, 2012 9:08 PM Last Post By: dreamsignals86
Jul 15, 2012 11:17 PM
From mid November through mid December I'm planning on going to Siem Riep, Hanoi, Bangkok, and Krabi. It's my first time to SEA.
However. I accidentally saw some photos of Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai province, Sukhothai, etc...and I think I fell in love.
If I were to visit the area I would have to skimp somewhere else (likely cutting out Hanoi altogether). If I want varied experiences and the best photography opportunities , is this a good idea?
Can I get a good taste of that area in only a 7-10 day period? I'm sure I'll be coming back to SEA, so I'm wondering if I should save that for when I have more time to dedicate to it.
Jul 15, 2012 11:45 PM
Jul 15, 2012 11:50 PM
Jul 16, 2012 12:10 AM
Jul 16, 2012 12:34 AM
Jul 16, 2012 2:46 AM
You: I don't know. Me: I have poor taste buds. A few days is never enough to get the flavour of somewhere. My own minimum is a month at a time per country.
If Siem Reap is a personal priority, then go there. Spend the rest of the time in one country, or even one part of one country.
Jul 16, 2012 7:16 AM
Jul 16, 2012 8:31 AM
77 days is way too long for Siem Reap. I'd give it 3.
Jul 16, 2012 10:29 AM
8obviously, you could spend months visiting the places you mention. having one month, and with siem reap on your mind, i would suggest:
- spend 4 days in siem reap - which will give you enough time to visit the magnificent temples, have a massage or two, enjoy the food, maybe go to tonle sap
- spend a least 4 (the more, the better) nights in bangkok - yep its a big city, but in my opinion also on of the most fascinating places on earth. sometimes very modern, sometimes very rural, loads to do, to visit, great food, great shopping, plenty of entertainment (and, without wanting to critize other posters, cindy-machete is really wrong, bangkok is definitely not "just another big, ugly city").
- take a train to sukothai and stay there for 2-3 nights. rent a bicyle and circle around old sukothai
- take a train from sukothai to chiang mai, and there, plenty to see /do - beautiful temples, great food, massages, you could join a cooking class or a tour / trek in the countryside
- if you still have time, spend the rest of your trip on a beach in thailand (krabi wouldnt be my first choice).
hanoi is a place with loads to see and do, and definitely worth a visit. but "doing everything" in 4 weeks is not possible, and considering that you want to see siem reap, bangkok, sukothai and chiang mai, going to hanoi as well would definitely be too much. also, if you are in northern vietnam, you should also spend a couples of day in the halong bay, and in and around sapa. and then, plenty of more to see and enjoy further down in nam.
Jul 16, 2012 10:51 AM
9Thank you Nathalie! Finally some understanding advice, very helpful.
What beach(es) would you recommend? I do kinda want to see Phi Phi (I know, huge tourist trap), and rock climbing/cave exploring/cliff jumping around Railay was a big draw for me.
Jul 16, 2012 12:39 PM
10take a train from sukothai to chiang mai, and there, plenty to see /do - beautiful temples, great food, massages, you could join a cooking class or a tour / trek in the countryside
There is no train from Sukhothai. You need to get to Phitsanulouk, which is 20 minutes out of Sukhothai. It's easier to just get a bus from Sukhothai than taking the train. A lot faster also. Since you are a photographer, take a day in Sukhothai and go to Si Satchanalai. It was a city that was active during the same time as the Sukhothai kingdom and there are wonderful ruins. It's also in the middle of a forest and definitely worth taking a half day to see.
Phi Phi is environmentally a nightmare. The island can't sustain the development and people that are there. The island is literally sinking because of it. For that reason alone, you should avoid it.
Railay is scenically very nice, but also very crowded. I prefer Trang province as it has the same clear water and limestone cliffs, but is a lot less touristy and laid back than neighboring Krabi province. Koh Muk and Koh Kradan are beautiful. I hear good things about Koh Libong, but haven't been there myself.
Bangkok is a city you can stay in for 2 days or 2 years. I really think that it doesn't do it justice to stay a few days. That being said, I wouldn't take time out of your itinerary to see other places for Bangkok. If you fall in love with Thailand, come back for an extended stay and stay for a few weeks or even months. If not, 2 or 3 days would be fine.
Mae Hong Son is a photographer's wet dream. It's the most mountainous and culturally diverse province in Thailand. There are great hot springs, waterfalls, and caves to explore. I would check that out in the north instead of going over to Vietnam.
Jul 16, 2012 7:10 PM
11I stayed in Siem reap for nearly a week . I did some long day trips from Siem reap to places such as Kbal Spean in the jungle. That was rather good. Banteay Sri is also a long day trip from SR and well worth visiting but try and avoid the bus tours who over run both places. They usually clear off for lunch.
Jul 17, 2012 10:16 AM
12you're of course right dream signals conc. the train (that goes to phitsanoluk and not to sukothai) and about buses being faster. travelling by train is often slower than by bus (not only in thailand), but if i have both options, i prefer trains over buses - i enjoy travelling by train, but not by bus.
op, you can also fly to sukothai (from/to bangkok) with bangkok airways, maybe also an option. you could do one way by train and one way flying - for example bangkok to chiang mai by train, chiang mai to sukothai by bus and fly from sukothai to bkk.
i was on koh phi phi only once about 15 years ago, and compared to now (from what i have heard from other people), its even much much worse. even 15 years ago i was totally shocked. the island - which is beautiful - is also small, much too small to "hold" the way to many tourists. as pointed out above, for an environmental point of you view, you shouldnt visit. or if you do, go on a day trip / cruise, and dont stay overnight. a co-worker (i work for a big travel agent, so get to exchange travel experiences a lot with other travellers) loves rock climbing, and goes back to krabi every year for a couple of weeks, and she absolutely loves it. so considering that you are also into rock climbing, maybe krabi is your destination. railay beach is very beautiful, but again - similar like on ko phi phi, its a seriously (over)crowded.
in december i would probably go to ko chang for a nice beach holiday. you can fly from bkk to trat with bangkok airways, and from there take a minibus to the ferry landing, from there about 40 minutes ferry crossing to the island. white beach is quite "built up" (with restaurants, hotels, shops). the further down south on the western shore of the island, the lest crowded it gets.
Jul 17, 2012 10:22 AM
13If you like climbing and adventure activities and don't want the overcrowding, hit up Ton Sai instead of Railay. It's right next to Railay and most people who go there are climbers.
Also, Koh Lao Liang in Trang seems to be the outdoor adventure capital. It's an island/national park with only one place to stay. It's all inclusive and provides luxury tents, food, and all adventure equipment (kayaks, climbing stuff, etc)... I haven't been there, but I've heard great things.
Jul 17, 2012 8:42 PM
14Thanks so much for the advice and ideas, everyone! I'll definitely check out these locales.
I will likely take a train from BKK to Chiang Mai, then a bus from Chiang Mai to Sukhothai (and Si Satchanalai), the fly to Krabi/Trang. Would trying to include Mae Hong Son in this equation be 'too much'? It just sounds fantastic for photography.
So sad to hear what has happened to Koh Phi Phi...I'll definitely reconsider that.
Any other recommendations for beaches/islands like Koh Phi Phi (lagoons amidst tall Karst formations, more 'exotic' than simply flat with sand)?
My main reason for choosing Krabi was for rock climbing and cave exploring around Railay, easy access to Koh Phi Phi, and the 1272 steps up to the Golden Buddha for the views.
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