Bangkok – Chiang mai – Koh Samui – Ko phangman – Koh Tao – Krabi – Koh phi phi – Ko Lanta – Phuket – Singapore – Bali
Bangkok to Chiang Mai! Chiang Mai is still a big, bustling city, but it’s much more relaxed and scenic than Bangkok, offering a look at a more diverse culture. It’s easy to walk around in and has plenty of great temples, food, markets, night markets, massages, etc. Chiang Mai is also in the mountains, making the weather much more bearable than in Bangkok. It’s a perfect place to really dive into the Thai culture and explore some of Thailand’s most beautiful natural landscapes.
How to get there: There are three basic options to get from Bangkok to Chiang Mai: train, bus, or plane. When planning your journey, it’s important to consider travel time and cost. We chose to fly so that we would have more time to explore once in Chiang Mai. Our direct flight on Thai Lion Air from Bangkok to Chiang Mai took about 70 minutes. It’s probably no surprise that flying is the most expensive way to get to Chiang Mai. Tickets could cost you anywhere from $40-80 per ticket. After landing at Chiang Mai International Airport, you’ll be greeted by about two dozen taxi drivers eager to drive you to your hotel. Most taxis charge a fixed rate of 150 baht (roughly $4.75 US), which is totally reasonable. If you’re looking to save money, the train will take you from Bangkok to Chiang Mai for roughly $22-55. Taking a bus from Chiang Mai to Bangkok will cost roughly $12-30. Prices vary for both methods depending on which type of bus or train seat you opt for. The drawback to taking a train and/or bus, in my opinion, is the travel time. The train will take about 12-15 hours, and the bus is anywhere from 9-12 hours. On the other hand, had I planned an extra day for traveling to Chiang Mai, taking the train in order to see some of the beautiful scenery would not have been out of the question.
Where to stay: First, I feel it’s important to tell you where NOT to stay. I booked three nights at a hotel called the Nim See Seng Hotel, and boy, did that end up being a mistake! This hotel was horrible. Unfortunately, they have a no refund policy, and you’re forced to pay for your reservation before actually seeing the rooms. The AC didn’t work, and the room was sticky with bugs crawling everywhere. The worst part was the “love couch” in the room that had stains all over it. And trust me, I’m not just being a tough hotel critic. Basically, I’m saying to just stay clear of the Nim See Seng Hotel unless you’re looking to sleep in other guests’ bodily fluids while sweating and getting eaten by bugs. Needless to say, we checked out and found a new place to stay on Airbnb called the Nimman by Palm Springs. This brand-new condo building was located right off of Nimmanhaemin Road. Night and day, Nimmanhaemin is alive with fashionable restaurants, cafés, bars, shops, and boutique hotels, all within walking distance!
What to do: I highly suggest going to the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary. There are plenty of options, whether you want to spend a half day, a full day, or even stay overnight! After reading reviews, we made the decision to do the morning half-day visit. For two people, the cost was 3,400.00 THB (roughly $107 US). Transportation and lunch were included. The sanctuary is almost two hours away and located pretty deep in the jungle, so having transportation included was pretty huge. This was easily one of the most expensive excursions I paid for in my whole trip—but it was WELL WORTH IT. Spending time with the elephants was truly remarkable. You feed bananas to the elephants while the trainers teach you fun facts about them, then you jump into a big mud puddle and get hands-on, giving the elephants a mud bath. After cleaning off the elephants, it’s time to indulge in a buffet-style Thai lunch. After a delicious lunch, you’ll jump into the back of a pickup truck and start the journey back to your hotel in Chiang Mai.
The temples in Chiang Mai are a must-see. If you have time, I definitely suggest checking out the Royal Park Rajapruek, which is the most breathtaking botanical garden surrounding the beautiful Royal Pavilion Building. Words cannot do this magical place justice, so I’ll leave it to the pictures.
Get a massage from Lapas Massage. Hands down, this was the best 90-minute Thai massage I’ve ever experienced. These women go above and beyond to make sure you leave feeling loose and euphoric.
Personally, I’m more of a beach person, but I really enjoyed my time in Chiang Mai. It was awesome to see what northern Thailand had to offer. After three nights, though, it was time to say adios to Chiang Mai and the city life and head over the islands. Koh Samui is up first!