Thailand in a 3 weeks itinerary: Chiang Mai, Bangkok, Phuket, Koh Pangan
based on books / movies
children older than 5 years
land of smiles
When to visit
this is a winter trip (December to February). We did it in from 14th January to 5th February
Thailand, what a country.... You have so many things to do, see and try. Every day you get to do something new. It is a great combo of nature and culture. The cost for one person of the hole trip was around: 30000 baht (local Thai currency) which is about 770 EUR / 950 USD . Just the spending in Thailand (including local flights) but not the flight to Thailand (we went with Qatar from Bucharest to Chiang Mai and return with 400 EUR) The hole tour is made with local transport, supporting the locals and saving money as there are cheap local options like buses from 1 Euro per 50 km.
We started our trip at Chiang Mai Airport. The first day is about adjusting to the new time zone. We planed a relaxed walk in the old city center and an intense exposure to Temples in order to to take in the culture.
City of Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai is one of the greatest city in Thailand. And is very different from any other place. First of all it is in Nord in the mountains and the temperature are more friendly. What I liked the most about Chiang Mai: 1. there are so many amazing gardens where nature and sculptures come together. They are so unexpected, you get a glimpse of them through an open door or in a coffee shop. Such a treat. 2. city is really well defined, it is a perfect square surrounded by portions of the old wall and water canals. 3. it has the best temples in Thailand and they all are in close range. 4. we saw a lot of squirrels. We saw them on the walls, crossing the streets on electrical cables. They are unnoticed, but they give you such a relaxing feeling because you make a mental picture of the wild nature behind the walls. 5. the airport is really close tot he city (2-3 km). It is very easy to land here. 6. lots of markets. There are the markets all days of the week and there are the spontaneous ones. They close a street and just like that it becomes a market (usually Saturday and Sunday) We saw sockets on the electric poles and wondered whats that about. We found out later the purpose: for the temporary markets.
Chiang Mai is the largest city in northern Thailand and was a former capital of the kingdom of Lan Na (1296–1768) Chiang Mai means "New City" and was so named because it became the new capital of Lan Na when it was founded in 1296, succeeding Chiang Rai, the former capital founded in 1262. (Wikipedia)
We recommend flying to and from Chiang Mai
1. it is very polluted and noisy. 2. the traffic in heavy and sometimes you don't have a sidewalk.
You need to buy BAHT, the Thai currency. The exchange rate is decent here. We got for 100 euro - 3800 Baht
Songtaew (Red shared taxi) to city center
50 baht / person It is a shared taxi, the driver creates the best route, and it is possible that you will go first where other pasanger go. Negotiate the price before you get in. We arrived at 6 in the morning and our options were limited. Songtaew literally means two benches.
Tha Phae Gate is one of the most important entrance in the old city. It is part of a defensive system, which fell to ruin. Usually here you can find cultural events or at least a square full of pigeons.
We like the hotel. It is in the old city and very close with everything else. It has a Lanna architecture, a very good place to start you Thai experience. As we had an early landing (6 in the morning) and we came here to leave our luggage and start to discover the city as you get accustomed to the new time zone and new culture.
The second day will be about Doi Suthep - Pui trip. It is the mountain that can be see from Chiang Mai. It is a National Park and has some of the best places to see around Chiang Mai. Not to be missed.
Take the red taxi (songthaew)
Tell the driver to take you to the zoo, where you can take the official red taxi to Doi Suthep.
The driver will tell you the route. We went on Bong Doi Pui Village - Bhubing Palace - Doi Suthep Temple Route. The driver will wait 1 hour for you in each place. The cost is 180 baht for the hole trip. A pretty good price. But the driver will probably wait until he has 8 - 10 passengers
Get up at 6:00 am to catch the 7:20 bus to Tha Ton from the old bus station. Make you luggage in the evening and buy a sandwich for the next day trip.
Tuk tuk to Chang Phueak Bus Station
Ask the driver to take you to Chang Phueak Bus Terminal (Chiang Mai Bus Terminal 1 ). This is the the old bus station that has the buses for Chiang Mai Province. The long distance ones stop at the other station.
We arrived early and there was another bus leaving from there with the name Tha Ton but it wasn't going there. We met someone who could translate and told us the bus was not going there and we have to wait for that bus to leave in order for the good one to come and the ticket office to change with the company that operates that bus.
The ride on the long boat down Kok River (official name: Nam Mae Kok) from Tha Ton to Chiang Rai will remain like a memorable adventure of the Thai trip. You'll see wild and unspoiled nature, with rapids on the way down slashing water on you and some elephants from a sanctuary. We did this trip with the public boat, but you can rent a boat (especially if you are in a group 4-6 people) and stop on the way to the elephants and the the long neck villages.
the boat leaves daily at 12:30
It is a 4 hour trip and you tooshie will protest a little, but it is worth it.
Next day you should leave around ten. Go buy tickets at Green Bus to Lampang (we went to buy tickets on day 6 but we didn't find any tickets available)
Bus to Mae Sai
You have to take the bus that goes to Mae Sai (the border with Myanmar) and ask the driver to stop at Doi Tung. The bus ride is in itself an experience. You get to drive like the locals. Obviously the bus does not have air conditioning, it drives with the windows and door open to cool down. Sometimes the ceiling fans starts.
Here we found only motorcycles waiting to take people on a ride, but we wanted a car, so a guy called a songthaew. They have a purple color here, but the principal is the same. They are not very often. Ask the driver to drive really slow as the road is very winding and steep.
You can buy here tickets for Mae Fah Luang Arboretum, Hall of inspiration, Doi Tung Villa, Mae Fah Luang Garden. We decided to go only to the gardens, but if you have time you should visit the others also.
You need o get up early (around 8) in order to get to the White Temple and back and then take the bus to Lampang
Buy tickets to Lampang
Green Bus ticket office. Buy before on http://www.greenbusthailand.com/website/en/ . We didn't find any tickets so it was really complicated to go to Lampang. If you buy thickets, this day will go much smoother for you. With air conditioning and direct bus from Terminal 1 (in the city center)
Bus to White Temple
Then go every 20 minutes from Chiang Rai Terminal 1 Bus Station. But we went early so it wouldn't be so crowded.
The feeling is like an ice palace in the hot summer of this land. A cooling feeling is testing your senses. For us it was the most amazing place we visited in Thailand. The Temple is white with mirror accents. Every turn you make you find something new and full of meaning. Maybe the most striking piece is the bridge over hell (this is my naming), as you walk on a bridge and on your left and right side there are hands barely reaching your knee that desperately ask for help. It is really a touching piece. Also there are 2 tusks making the hole temple resemble a big elephant. Beside the temple itself there are other pieces, all white or gold. Visual feast
Go as early in the morning as the place can get really busy