Travel

(Part 1) 8 Places To Visit In Mountainous Northern Thailand

Doi Ang Khang. By LannaPhoto (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Thailand is a beautiful country with amazing sites to visit. Most travellers know Thailand’s islands perfectly well while digital nomads of the world see Chiang Mai as a nomadic hub. However, what is there in the north of Thailand for travellers to see and enjoy?

There are so many places to visit in northern Thailand that I was unaware of till I decided to move to Chiang Mai last September 2017. Being in Chiang Mai for the last six months have opened up my eyes to see a different side of Thailand than the usual shopping in Bangkok and beach hopping in the south.

Best time to visit: November – mid-January

Right after the raining season comes winter. Yes, you read me right. There is winter in northern Thailand — without snow. If you are visiting northern Thailand in between the end of November and beginning of January, be sure to bring enough warm clothes.

The temperature difference in the day at night can be scary. On an average, day temperature is about 20 Celsius and at night, it is about 8-12 Celsius.

Best way to travel around

If you are a solo traveller, renting a scooter will be your best choice to go around north Thailand. It cost about 100 baht to 200 baht for daily rental. It is definitely cheaper to rent for a week or a month. A copy of your passport and some deposit be required when you rent any transportation except bicycles here. Some rental shops will request to keep your passport till you return the transport and that is common. Decide if you are comfortable doing so and it is best to do some research about the shop before renting any vehicles.

However, please be reminded that Thailand has the highest deadliest road accidents in the world. Despite many people who ride scooters in Thailand without a license, it is not recommended. Thus, if you have no confidence and skills to be on the road, kindly use public transportations like songthaew (red truck) or tuk-tuk. Taxis, Uber, Grabcar and public buses are available at a low price too.

8 Places to visit in northern Thailand (Part 1)

Daily night market in Chiang Mai.

1. Chiang Mai (main city)

Chiang Mai is most probably the most visited northern city of Thailand. You will find tourists walking around the old town and Nimman area all year round. Digital nomads love Chiang Mai for its cheap living cost, beautiful scenery, amazing interactions with locals, and plenty cafes.

Located right in the middle of Chiang Mai Old City are hostels, cafes, temples, and abundance of fun. It is best to stay in Chiang Mai Old City if you are looking to visit attractions by walking. However, if you are keen to stay out of the old city, Nimman will be your next best choice as a tourist.

  • Click here to read more about Chiang Mai and where to visit when in Chiang Mai
  • Click here to read more on Loy Krathong festival in December
  • Click here to read on where to eat the best Kao Soi in Chiang Mai
wat chedi luang, chiang mai, thailand
600 years old Wat Chedi Luang. Image via Sabrina Tan.

2. Chiang Rai

Other than visiting the Golden Triangle and Wat Rong Khun (White Temple), there are many other interesting places to visit in Chiang Rai. These are some of the places to visit if you do intend to visit Chiang Rai (Note: Personally, I find most places in Chiang Rai be tourist traps!)

  • Baan Dam Museum (Black House)
    One of the exhibits in Baan dam. The image was taken by Sabrina Tan.

     

  • Opium Hall (One of the best museums in Thailand located in  the Golden Triangle area)
  • Doi Tung Park (Beautiful royal project park located in Mae Sai District)
  • Pong Phra Bat Water Fall (30 minutes away from town by car)
  • Wat Huay Plakang 9 Tier Temple (Good place for sunrise)
  • Rai Mae Fah Luang (Stunning landscaped gardens, museums & a traditional Lanna pavilion)
  • Wat Phra Kaew (Royal temple that once housed the jade Emerald Buddha and now displays a replica)
  • Phu Chi Fa Forest Park (Wonderful hike to a breathtaking sunrise view looking over Laos’ mountains)
  • Phu Chi Dao ( An easy hike up the mountain to see the best sunrise)
  • Wat Sai Khao (Interesting red temple that signifies a mix of modern and olden days)

Spending 2 or 3 days in Chiang Rai is enough to visit all these places. For more detailed information, kindly click here to read on each attraction in Chiang Rai province.

Phu Chi Dao hike in Phu Chi Fah National Park. Image from Pexels.

3. Fang

Most people who might have travelled to Chiang Mai or Chiang Rai have not heard of Fang as this small province is 3 hours away from Chiang Rai. It is not possible to reach Fang with public transportations but doable with rental vehicles.

Fang hot spring.

There are limited hotels or hostels to stay in Fang thus, it is best to make your bookings earlier especially during winter. Fang is popular among locals from the north for its beautiful sceneries and hot springs. Some of the must-visit places in Fang are pretty much the must-visit places in northern Thailand! It is worth the long ride to go to these places especially:

  • Doi Ang Khang (excellent for camping in the freezing temperature, beautiful landscapes at the royal project)
  • Wat Tha Ton (Beautiful temple with dragon sculptures, close to it is an amazing hiking spot — “skywalk”)
  • Doi Pha Hom Pok National Park (home to the hot springs
  • Thanathon Big Orange Park (Google map search: สวนส้มธนาธร 2 is a must-visit!)
Thanathon Orange Farm.

It is best to spend 1 day night in Fang town and head over to stay in Doi Ang Khang for 2 nights to enjoy the best out of your time in Fang. Additionally, it is best to make your way to Fang town only if you have enough time on your schedule. If you don’t, at least make time for Doi Ang Khang to be struck with the most beautiful mountain views in the whole of Thailand!

4. Chiang Dao

Chiang Dao Cave via Wikimedia.

Chiang means city and Dao mean stars. Yes, Chiang Dao is the city of stars that will make every girl in love cringe — in a good way. Look up into the sky full of stars while sitting on the bench outside your rented private hut. Have a heart to heart chat with your partner and enjoy this quiet time together in tranquillity. Chiang Dao is located just 2 hours scooter ride outside of Chiang Mai city.

The best place to stay in Chiang Dao is The Nest 2. Not the first branch but the second branch. Stayed in both resorts on separate occasions, The Nest 2 is the better one as it is away from the main road and has a small swimming pool to chill in.

Chiang Dao The Nest 1.

Other than being the city of stars, Chiang Dao is famous for its hike up to Doi Chiang Dao and Doi Luang. Doi Chiang Dao is one of the highest peaks in Thailand and it is suitable for rock climbing around its area.

Here are some other places to visit in Chiang Dao:

  • Pha Daeng National Park (hot springs that are better than the ones in Fang)
  • Chiang Dao Cave (0r better known as Wat Tham Chiang Dao — amazing Buddhist temple in a cave!)
  • Si Lanna National Park (beautiful lake to swim in and have a picnic by)
  • Wat Pa Thara Phirom (or known as Wat Rim Ping. It is located in the forest and rarely has any visitors)
  • Wat Tham Pha Khong (Google Maps: วัดถ้ำผาปล่อง — located just 10 minutes walk from Chiang Dao The Nest 2)
Image via Flickr by Andrea Schaffer.

Click here to read Part 2

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