Northern Thailand: Chiang Mai, Pai and Chiang Rai

Introducing Chiang Mai, Pai and Chiang Rai, the underrated treasures on the northern part of Thailand. Apart from affordable shopping and unbeatable natural scenery, get ready for stunning ancient temples, large underground caves and gorgeous sunsets over mountaintops as I explore this part of the country.

I was lucky to catch the most luxurious and newest train from Ayutthaya to Chiang Mai. This particular train uses new high quality Chinese-built sleeping cars introduced only recently in November 2016. 

12-hours journey, 856Baht (USD25)

After 20-minutes on the train~~ 😴😴😴

Automated door and information panel

The cleanest toilet I had seen on a train so far 😱

Like airplane’s toilet 😱

Bed converted to spacious seat upon arrival

YAYYYYY~~ Finallyyy~~~

Chiang Mai is often referred as “the rose of the North” and is the second largest city in Thailand. It was built as a walled city surrounded by a moat, with new city grown up around it. Though a good portion of the original city wall has collapsed, the four corner bastions are still intact along with various other sections. Most of the ancient temples and museums are located within the walls, I would recommend staying in old city where everywhere is within walking distance.

Inside the wall

Outside the wall

Not expensive to rent a bike to ride around but I prefer to walk since it’s such a small city!

Most of the temples are free to enter! However, do respect the dress code especially for females.

Young monks

Wisdom trees

Though an old city, Chiang Mai is filled with creativity! 🎨🎨🎨

Massage is slightly higher than Bangkok if you enter a nice, air-conditioned parlor. However, you can still find cheap and good masseses inside a temple or pop-up stall at night market. The price difference can range about 100-150Baht for a 60-minutes body massage.

Sunday night market is a MUST go and it’s within the walled city. There is also stage performance by the students as well. If you missed it, there is a daily night market outside the wall but not as good as the Sunday ones. 

Most travellers would opt for elephant camp or tiger kingdom whereas I chose to explore Doi Inthanon National Park, the highest peak in Thailand. Along the way to the peak, you will see two pagodas for the King and Queen.

Inside the King’s pagoda

This is actually not the highest spot…..yet

King Inthawichayanon’s tomb

A little history here: The name Doi Inthanon was given in honor of King Inthawichayanon, one of the last kings of Chiang Mai, who was concerned about the forests in the north and tried to preserve them. He ordered that after his death his remains be interred at Doi Luang (former name which means “Big Mountain”), which was then renamed in his honor.

Now, here’s the highest point!

Nearby, there are two waterfalls: Siritarn Waterfall and Wachiaratarn Waterfall. Siritarn Waterfall was named by the Queen who came to visit the fall. Visitors are only allow to view the 40-meters waterfall from a designated wooden platform. 

Wachiaratarn Waterfall is a spectacular steep drop of 50-meters with a large cascade plummeting over the edge into a deep pool below, creating a misty veil of great beauty.

Due to dry season, it doesn’t seems spectacular

Meet my pai-buddy from Belgium!!

Since both of us are done with Chiang Mai, we decided to take a more adventurous way by riding up to Pai!! 🏍🏍🏍

A popular choice among the backpackers to rent a bike up to Pai as they have another branch over there. Free baggage delivery service!

We shared this bike for 140Baht (USD4) per day

Ready to brave through 762 curves on Route 1095!

Pai is a small town of population 3,000 people, up in the valley north of Chiang Mai. With Thai-Western style restaurants, daily night market, live music bars, tattoo parlors, and lots of hidden gems to be discovered, Pai is a haven for backpackers.  

3-beds room for 160Baht (USD5) per night

First thing to do after 5-hours of riding

As long as you can ride, there’s nowhere you can’t go in Pai!

We were stopped by the police….to take a photo with us

yes, he broke the vine!

50Baht to spend half a day soaking in hot spring

Boss of land split. No charge to visit the land, eat or drink. Amount is given by your own choice

Most popular place to catch sunsets

One of the coolest bar we found inside an alley

The Chinese Village; best to come for sunrise

Luckily there’s 3 of us to share the cost

60Baht (USD2) to spend a day to chill

We spent days biking around looking for new places to explore and chill. When we were done with Pai, we decided to ride back to Chiang Mai before parting our ways 😢😢😢

And yet we went to Pai without a scratch!

Last meal together

My next and last destination in Thailand is Chiang Rai. It’s only less than 4-hours bus ride from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai. 

129Baht (USD4)

There is only a few popular attractions in Chiang Rai, pretty straight forward if you google it. 

Wat Rong Khun (White Temple)

Admission: 80Baht (less than USD2)

Best time to go: Late noon to evening to avoid crowds

Things to note: Photography is not allowed inside the temple. Females have to wear pants/skirts/dress over the knee in order to enter 

Baan Dam Museum (Black House)

Admission: 80Baht (USD3)

“Long Neck” Tribe

Admission: 300Baht (USD9)

The women in “Long Neck” tribe aren’t literally looooong neck! The metal bangles they been wearing are so heavy that their collar bone sank, giving the “long neck” impression.

Blue Temple

Admission: Free

Golden Triangle

Admission: Free

Mae Sai (Thai-Burma Border)

Admission: Free

There’s a huge market for shopaholic 

Where Thailand and Myanmar networks intersect

Immigration border to enter Myanmar

Clock Tower

Admission: Free

Light-Changing Timing: 1900hrs, 2000hrs, 2100hrs

Something to keep you entertained if you stayed around the area. 5-minutes walk from night market.

2-weeks in Northern Thailand….and next will be spending 2-days on a boat ride to Luang Prabang, Laos.

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