Northern Thailand: What to expect

December 6, 2017
Thailand

Cris. Typing

So, to recap, we went to Northern Thailand in November, when the rainy season is about to start.

Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai is such a pretty city to explore: check out the local (and a bit stinky) market, the temples (don’t go to the ones that requires a fee as there are plenty as if not more beautiful and free), pamper yourself with a Thai Massage (we found a nice little place where Blind people do it…definitely advised), and also make sure that you have your ceremony dress done by one of Chiang Mai’s expert tailors.

Tailors

They are cheap and amazing, just remember it will take them two or three days to make it and allow yourself one extra day to go to the store, try it on and see if they have to do some adjustments to make it fit perfectly, so you go and pick it up the next day.

Weather

The arrival at the Chiang Mai Airport was kind of a trauma for us: the heat just…hits you! It’s a wet heat you are not used to if you are, like us, from a non-tropical country. But don’t worry too much, you will get used to it in a few hours -or a couple of days…
Rain wasn’t bad during our stay: it is a short term, light rain that happens a few times a day, actually you will possibly feel grateful for some refreshment.Many places have air conditioning, so make sure your hotel does have it- and possibly a swimming pool, that will be your best friend when it’s too hot in the early afternoon.
Remember, Chiang Mai has no sea. Better treat yourself in a swimming pool 😉

People

We found out that Thailand actually IS the land of smiles. Be chilled, smile back, and don’t refrain from bargaining on almost anything, from the markets to the shops.

Transports & Getting around

Directions are pretty easy to follow and you get oriented pretty soon.

Getting Local. – Tuk Tuk are a the traditional Thai “open” taxi, you have to catch them at least once.  Don’t forget to bargain for the price of the ride!
Oh,  if you are still wondering what they are, below there is photo of one (yes they are as fun as they look).

This said, renting a scooter is definitely the cheapest and smartest option if you, like us,are traveling solo or in a couple and want the independance to check out more places in a hassle free way (you can park pretty much anywhere you want and skip the traffic)
Chances are,  you’ll find a rental place right in front of your hotel entrance or in the immediate nearby area: it will be usually a man sitting under the shade with a “Rent” sign on his hands (and a few scooter around him).
We used to pay 200 THB a day for the scooter (but  Em is from Naples so he is also pretty good at bargaining..)

Just be aware that they drive on the left hand side there, and Thai drivers can be pretty… random.
Again, Em spent his childhood in Naples, so for him, driving there was like being back home.

Obviously scooters are great if you are exploring the city and the surroundings, but if you are going into the jungle or to  traveling long distances, we advise to get a proper transportation or more simply and safely book a tour.

Tuk Tuk in Northern Thailand
Tuk Tuk in Thailand - Photo Credit "Openchiangmai"

Food

Oh, if you ask me, I would LIVE on pad thai all my life. We have eaten pretty much everywhere: from the awesome breakfasts at the hotel to the markets and the festival stalls, from small local restaurants to a bamboo floating hut where they served us bugs, – I know…yuk! Anyway seriously, immerge yourself in the delicious and sometimes very improvised local specialties and do not fear what you do not know.

Thai women prepare food and offers at the day market in Northern Thailand
Thai women prepare food and offers at the day market

Nightlife

Chiang Mai, with all its Universities and the big expat community enjoying their digital nomad life, is full of vibrant Nightlife.
Due to our intense days spent exploring around, we limited our nightlife to an evening stroll downtown or to one of the nights marketsor drink in one of the many refined clubs near the river.

Excursions/Tours/Massages

It is ok if you want to get to Northern Thailand organised but we found that booking tours once in Chiang Mai is much cheaper and, as a general rule, you will find more specific tours about things you didn’t even know existed before getting there.
Just make sure the agency is “legit”. You don’t wanna end up in a tour without an English speaking guide or on a bus without air-con.
We found a small agency  with a Trip Advisor sign at the front, and we booked two great tours: an authentic Adventure Pack (including Visit to the Elephants, white water rafting, and more) and an all-day tour around Northern Thailand to the amazing Chiang Rai white temple and all the way up to the Golden Triangle, for around 50-60 AUD pp in total.
It is definitely worth it to book a tour rather than getting there on your own.
The agency was opposite to the “Association Massage Chiang Mai of Blind“, where we were heading for a blind massage.
We both agree it has been one of best massages ever received.

Accommodation

Go big or go home we say.We spent the first night in a rural area in Mae Taeng to get the authentic Thai experience.
Sure, it took us three hours to get to the place on an unstable Tuk Tuk, and once there there was no Wi-fi  (because apparently the day before a thunder had fallen just there) but the experience itself was amazing and the hotel was stunning.

LITTLE STORY: We crossed the not too promising wooden bridge next to the Hotel  and got to a mystical Buddhist temple. A solitary Monk, without even having to say a word in any language but the one from the heart, invited us to medit with him. Afterwards he gave us some of the temple’s incense stick to take home as a present. We wrote more about Mae teng in this article.

Chiang Mai is a big city, although the citycentre isn’t as big as Paris, so any hotel near the centre should be close enough allow you to reach almost everywhere within 10 – 15 minutes.
We picked the Rainforest Boutique Hotel and we couldn’t have been happier.
Amazing and vast selection of breakfast food (especially the made-on-the-spot pancakes), close to the city centre by scooter (5-7 minutes)- but safe from the traffic and noise,  very clean, an absolutely must-use ensuite bath tub, cozy swimming pool and a qualified and professional staff, the Thai-manners we all love so much.

If you any question or doubt, just shoot us a comment or a message and we will be on it to help you discover the amazing but yet secluded Chiang Mai, in Northern Thailand in the hope you could live up the same unique Thai experience as we did!

Amazingly banana leaf packed food in the Northern Thailand Jungle
Amazingly banana leaf packed food in the Thai Jungle
Amazingly banana leaf packed food in the Northern Thailand Jungle
The same dish once opened - doesn't it look delicious?

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