To understand better:
I have explored both Northern and Southern Thailand, both of them are very beautiful and worth-visiting. However, there are major differences between these two parts of the country in food, culture, landscapes and mentality.
Southern Thailand is famous for clean and wide beaches, spectacular islands and a great party scene. In the North you find different climate, it can actually get cold during the night, because the area is covered with mountains and jungles. You will find a lot of beautiful temples, retreats and monasteries in North and the clubbing and partying is not a very common thing.
1. Pai - the backpackers paradise
Located within a short but exciting ride from Chiang Mai, Pai is a small town close to Myanmar. Majority of people come to Pai from Chiang Mai. You can easily book a shuttle bus for 7$ , but be prepared for a 3-hour winding journey . If you easily get carsick, make sure to buy some pills to calm your stomach down and don’t eat too much sweets at least an hour before the departure. There is a 20-minute stop halfway through where you can stop to get some fresh air and use the bathroom, however I am more than sure you won’t be hungry at this point.
5 Reasons to Fall in love with Pai:
- Unbelievable nature and landscapes. Rent a scooter to explore the surrounding areas of Pai, you will be amazed by the views.
- Perfect sunset point at White Buddha Temple. Be prepared for a steep set of stairs and also dress appropriately. Don’t forget to take your shoes off on the top.
- Affordable and delicious Night Markets, you can find everything from clothing to food, with the best cheap street food options.
- Pai Canyon is the perfect spot for all hikers. It offers various hiking trails and lookouts over the countryside.
- Have a coffee with a view at The Container. There is a covered rooftop area where you can sit in an egg-shaped swing and relax.
2. Tam Wua Forest Monastery
Tam Wua Forest Monastery is located 12 km from Thai border with Myanmar and 70 km from Pai. You can get there either by van or by scooter. In Pai you can can book a Prempracha minivan from the bus station on walking street to Mae Hong Son, just make it clear to the driver to drop you off at the monastery. The ride takes 2,5h and it’s very beautiful.
Bring all your personal necessities you may need (toothbrush, towel, warm cloths etc) and also it would be nice to have white vipassana meditation clothes, you can buy them on Thai markets for 10$ or borrow at the monastery road.
There is no official fee you need to pay for your stay and food. There is a donation box that you can drop donations into before you leave.
The maximum amount of time you can stay is 10 days, and while there is no minimum, they recommend at least 3 days. I would agree with this recommendation; especially since it takes some time to get there.
No reservations needed!
3 Reasons to Fall in Love with this place:
- It’s a great chance to have some time for yourself, think of the purpose of life and get to know Buddhism a bit more.
- It’s an incredibly beautiful place, surrounded by lush jungle, caves and palm trees.
- How often do you get a chance to see the lifestyle and daily life of monks?
3. Chiang Rai - the city of white temple
Most probably you have seen pictures from this city on the web or even on the postcards. It’s famous for amazingly white temple and located not that far from Chiang Mai. However, you won’t find crowds of tourists over there.
How to get there?
The Green Bus plies daily routes between Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai. Buses leave for Chiang Rai throughout the day from around 5AM till 6PM. The trip takes up to 3 hours.
You can also book a VIP bus, which is more comfortable and has WC inside. Of course you can hire a private driver but it’s the most expensive option.
If you are getting sick on the winding roads, make sure to bring your motion sickness pills.
5 Reasons to Fall in love with Chiang Rai
- Wat Rong Khun (White Temple), the temple is almost entirely white and when the sun is up you better wear your sunglasses on!
- The Blue Temple (Wat Rong Seua Ten), not so famous but still worth-visiting, it’s absolutely stunning, modern and bright, and free to enter
- Relax and have a delicious cup of coffee at Cat ‘n’ a Cup Cafe. It feels like a good old fashioned dive bar, with a pool table, low lighting and rock tunes.
- Wait for the night market to try Khao Soi, an absolutely delicious curried noodle dish you fall in love with immediately.
- You can also visit unique hill tribe villages, just make sure it’s not a tourist trap. Find guides who are respectful of tribe people.
Yulia aka Senior Travel Adventurer
Yulia has been traveling for 6 years already. She enjoys being Digital Nomad and is ready to share her favorite places and destinations with you!