Are you thinking about visiting Thailand and you are unsure whether to visit the north or just sticking to the famous South beaches? Then read on my Thai experience with my before and after-trip impressions.
When you think of Thailand, perhaps the first image that comes to mind is that of exuberant nature meeting pristine waters and white-sandy beaches with the typical Thai long-tail boat in front. You think of scuba diving and snorkeling paradise,full-moon parties, sunbathing, backpackers, luxurious resorts, cheap holidays, spicy chillies and tasty savoury food. Thailand is in fact all that but also much more. The majority of Thailand`s travel guides and traveling magazines articles portray that image on their cover page and photography, inviting the reader to concentrate on the Gulf of Thailand and Andaman Sea jewels. I, at first, was one of them; combining my trip to Cambodia with the Southern Thailand. I thought: the historical-cultural trip would be reserved for Siem Reap and the relaxing soaking-in-the-sun-like holiday for Ko Phi Phi and Krabi. However, as I read more about Thailand, I grew fonder on the idea of a quick trip to the North to see the green Nature, the Mekong river, the Thai elephants, the beautiful temples and as the foodie I am, taste their elaborate northern cuisine. I must say I was overwhelmed with the available activity choices for the little time I wanted to assign to Thailand. A compromise had to be made to fit both of Thai`s worlds into a 2 week holiday: more beach and less North or opposite way around? We did 60:40 South to North more or less, resulting in an amazing holiday!
Why a visit to the North of Thailand and where?
Thailand`s northern region is simply amazing: the mix of jungles, temples embedded in mountains and beautiful National Parks, the river life of the Mekong, the rice paddies, the tea plantations and the locals´ hospitality and friendliness! We chose Chiang Mai and its surroundings to have a taste of the North, leaving out the Chiang Rai and Mekong river boat trip to the famous Golden Triangle and Opium fields and also the driving around the Mae Hong Son loop. Not because it wasn´t appealing but due to shortage of time. Already the first day in Chiang Mai, I knew the decision was right for us! As soon as I step on the old city centre in the evening, I got that relaxing content feeling a city full of adventurers and backpackers create: lively night markets with visitors bargaining prices, busy local restaurants and bars with laughing young groups, coffee shops taken over by laptops and phones connecting to the free wifi…the many bicycles, motorbikes, tuk-tuks, locals promoting Thai boxing nights, tired travelers relaxing with the Thai massage at the many city`s spas…despite the buzzing noise and constant movement, the city has a laid-back atmosphere, a contagious relaxing aura. The streets with its hundreds of family run business are very inviting to the visitor at any time of the day.
Apart from the relaxing old city with its beautiful temples, Chiang Mai is the base for several adventure activities: long jungle hiking treks, white-water rafting, river kayaking, mountain-bike trails, quad-bikes forest rides, cave visits, tree zip lining, elephant riding etc. These sports can be combined with a visit to the hill tribes to know more about their culture and traditions, the night safari, Thai cooking classes, the Orchid farm and the Tiger Kingdom. Its activity range is wide enough to suit any adventurer´s profile. It is just a matter of going down to your hotel-hostel reception or down the street into one of the many day-trips tour operators and organize a trip to your taste. We did quite a bit: ATVs riding, Flying Squirrels zip lining, Elephant riding, easy trekking in the Doi Inthanon National Park, Bamboo rafting along a beautiful river with elephants bathing next to us! It is a great place for family bonding, couple`s therapy, group of friends having fun, the solo traveller sharing adventures with others…All in all a perfect first experience to Thailand.