Triangolo d'Oro

Travel to Thailand: my itinerary in the northern Thailand (and Koh Kood)


Thailand was my first great post-pandemic trip and I admit, my way of seeing and experiencing the travelling has changed a bit: I reject crowded places and want to travel more quietly. For this reason, combined with the fact that I would have met my parents who had already been to Thailand, I decided to focus only on one part of the country, following an itinerary in Northern Thailand (and a small sea extension to Koh Kood) without stopping to visit Bangkok.

I always invite people not to limit themselves to just the classic places and to explore the less famous destinations, but this is the first time that I actually do that on a first trip to a new country and well… I am happy to have done it. Maybe I’ll dedicate a more in-depth post to this thought. But let’s get back to us and my trip to Thailand, a country much loved and told by tourists, rich in nature, history, and culture also outside the classic tourist itineraries.

Travel to Thailand in September

Despite being my first trip to Thailand, I chose not to stop in Bangkok and visit the north of Thailand for several reasons, including Thailand’s weather in September.
September is certainly not the most suitable time for travel to Thailand, being the rainy season, but the north of the country is generally less rainy than, for example, the capital area. We generally found good weather, with rain mainly at night or in the evening (you can find the video of the mega deluge during the Sunday Night Market in Chiang Mai in my highlights on Instagram) and a single rainy morning (but just a couple of hours).

Also for the seaside, the two destinations that we can consider “less bad” in September are only Koh Samui and Koh Kood, the island I have chosen, which is practically on the border with Cambodia and which although it is the fourth island larger than Thailand, it is wonderful and very little known for tourists. Here too, it didn’t go too badly with the weather, and over three days, we could enjoy a breathtaking sunset and an almost entirely sunny day. However, I admit that the sea was almost always rough and with many leaves due to the night rains and the storms of previous days, so we could not see the crystalline beaches of Koh Kood at their beauty…..

thailandia del nord

Travel to Northern Thailand – costs and information

Finally, after two and a half years from my trip to Taiwan, I finally organized another do-it-yourself trip abroad, to a destination totally new for me and I was able to feel again all that adrenaline and emotions that hit me when I am going to visit a new country. Accustomed by now to the efficiency, the perfect organization, and the comfort of traveling in Japan, I wondered if I had still been able to “get my hands dirty” while traveling, face the unexpected and let myself be contaminated by the culture of the country.
I tried to plan the itinerary in the best possible way, mixing my desire for discovery with more relaxed times also to meet the needs of my parents, who, although well-established travelers, also saw themselves stealing precious time from the pandemic and being further ahead over the years, the fear of “not knowing how to travel” has hit them even more strongly.
But in the end, everything went well, including some travel unforeseen events that panicked us, but which then allowed us to experience those emotions that only travel can give you, those local experiences that you had not considered and some anecdotes to tell. Traveling is also this, it was nice to remember it.

But let’s get to the point and my itinerary in Northern Thailand with sea extension in September:

  • Period and Duration: 12 days, from 13 to 25 September 2022
  • Total cost of the trip: an average of about €900 per person, all included.
  • Destination visited: Chiang Rai, Chiang Mai, Koh Kood
  • Transportation (prices per person):
    – We, from Japan, flight with low-cost airlines (ZipAir and Scoot with a stopover in Singapore) and hand luggage only, about €280
    – My parents, from Italy, fly with Oman Air via Muscat, €525
    – Bangkok-Chiang Rai domestic flight with Thai Smile (hold luggage included), €24
    – Night bus Chiang Mai – Bangkok €18, booked via 12go
    – Transfers Bangkok / Koh Kood 60 €, booked via 12go
    – Local transfers: a couple of € each for local buses, €2-6 for grab / taxi, €40/50 total per day with private driver.
  • Accommodations: we have always chosen accommodations with a private bathroom and about a 3-star level, spending an average of €30 per room per night (overnight stay on the island of Koh Kood is a little more expensive than the mainland). The room at Chiai Lai Orchid, including breakfast with the elephants, instead cost about €80.
  • General costs: most of the temples are free, where there is an entrance to be paid is usually around €3-5. As for meals, they range from a few euros for street food and Thai cafes, up to €10-15 if you choose a more “structured” restaurant. Thai massages cost between €5 and €10 per hour, depending on the type of massage chosen.

Chiang Rai - Blue Temple

Other useful information about Thailand

Before going into the details of my itinerary in Northern Thailand, here is some useful information for any trip to the Land of Smiles.

  • Visa: for Italian and Japanese citizens, it is not necessary to apply for an advance visa, a passport with a residual validity of at least 6 months after leaving the country is sufficient. The tourist visa is applied upon entry and is valid for 30 days (from 1 October 2022 to 31 March 2023 the validity of the tourist visa is 45 days).
  • Time zone: Thailand is 6 hours ahead of Italy, 5 when daylight saving time is in effect.
  • Phone and Wi-Fi: Although free wi-fi in many places, you are usually asked to register by entering a Thai number. The Thai number is also necessary to register for Grab, the latest app to find rides, and it is, therefore, better to have a local sim. If your phone allows it, I recommend buying an e-sim. I had a great time with Airalo (always had a field and I used it as a shared hotspot without any problems). If it is your first use, with the code MICHEL5108 you will have a $ 3 discount on the e-sim.
  • Power: Thai sockets accept practically any type of socket LOL! Both the Italian and the Japanese sockets worked without problems!
  • Currency Exchange: Most payments must be made in cash, including hotels and restaurants, and it is essential to always have cash on hand. There are plenty of exchange offices and banks where you can change. It is better to change a few baths at the airport right away, the best place is near the train station and is called “Super Rich”.
    In Chiang Rai, banks have better conversion rates than money exchanges, while in Chiang Mai the best exchange is always offered by Super Rich (which, even if it has the same name, is not the same chain as the Bangkok airport).
    There are no exchange offices on Koh Kood, but only a couple of ATMs, I recommend that you bring cash from the mainland to the island.
  • Insurance: It is a good idea to always take travel insurance just in case. In a country like Thailand, where street food abounds and it is better to avoid ice if not industrial, it is even more important to have insurance that covers any medical expenses for various intestinal disorders that can affect you.
    But also various insect bites (I was bitten by a leech, but luckily no medical intervention was needed) or in case of accidents if you rent a moped. In short, leaving insured is always recommended, for Thailand even more!
  • Weather: September is not the best time to go to Thailand. It is rather hot and humid and heavy showers can occur, which generally wear out within a few hours. Water-resistant shoes (or sandals if you prefer that kind) and emergency ponchos are indispensable, while a light sweater could come to your rescue on vehicles where the air conditioning is fired to the maximum. My parents were also in Thailand in February, and the weather is always hot and less humid. In some areas, a light sweater may be needed in the evening and early morning if you are very cold.

My itinerary in Northern Thailand and sea in Koh Kood

Now a brief summary of my itinerary in Northern Thailand, for more detailed information, then I refer to the individual posts that I see to write as soon as possible.

Day 0: Arrive in Bangkok in the evening

I meet with my parents in a hotel not far from the airport, greetings and kisses on the fly and then immediately to bed that the day after a morning flight will take us immediately to Chiang Rai from where our itinerary in Northern Thailand will begin.

Day 1: Chiang Rai

Day dedicated to visiting the most famous (and colorful) temples of Chiang Rai: the White Temple, the Black House, the Big Buddha and the Blue Temple. Except for the bus that takes us from the terminal to the White Temple, we always move with Grab, very comfortable and clean and very cheap especially by dividing the expense in 4. Evening walk to see the light show of the Clock Tower.

Read also: What to see and do in Chiang Rai

Day 2: excursion to the Golden Triangle with a private driver

After negotiating the price with a taxi meter near the Chiang Rai bus station, we leave for the far north of Thailand, in the heart of the Golden Triangle. The area is actually very extensive and is so called because opium was grown here, which turned many gold bars in the area. Now the “Golden Triangle” refers mainly to Sup Ruak, where the borders of Thailand, Myanmar and Laos meet across the Mekong. A short boat rides on one of the most important rivers in Asia and then off to Mae Sai, the northernmost point of Thailand, but not before having made a stop at the highly recommended Hall of Opium.

Read also: Visit the Golden Triangle

Day 3: Transfer to Chiang Mai and overnight at Chiai Lai Orchid and the elephants

First unexpected trip: the Green Line buses that connect Chiang Rai to Chiang Mai are all full until mid-afternoon and so we experience the thrill of the local buses! Super cheap and very spartan (no air conditioning, but luckily it does not rain and there are few stops, so the air of the running vehicle is fine!). They collect people and packages along the road, stopping many times for on-the-fly deliveries. Better than Amazon!
After arriving in Chiang Mai, another songthaew ride awaits us up to the mountainous area of ​​Mae Wang, where the Chiai Lai Orchid is located, an eco-resort where you can get in touch with elephants and the Karen community that lives in the village. in an ethical and sustainable way.
I will talk to you in depth about this reality because there is much more than the “Instagram” experience of breakfast with elephants, and since it is not an easy topic, I want to dedicate the right space to it.

Thailandia del Nord - Elefanti
Day 4 and 5: Chiang Mai and Doi Sutep

Back to the city, time to enjoy a delicious Khao Soi and begin the exploration of the old city and its temples such as Wat Chedi Luang and Wat Phra Singh. The humid heat is quite heavy and so we opt for a Thai massage before the Saturday Night Market… but we have to skip it due to rain.
The next morning, the sky was gray, but we decided to visit the famous Doi Sutep complex anyway. The deluge welcomes us, but after about half an hour of waiting, the rain stops and we are able to visit the temple, even if the famous view of the city is still covered by clouds. On the way back the sky clears up and we stop at Wat Pha Lat, which I honestly preferred over the main destination of the morning! Then, we continue the visit of Chiang Mai reaching the Wat Lok Moli and then the Sunday Night Market, a huge market that takes place through the streets of the city where we are surprised by a portentous downpour!

Day 6: Sticky Waterfall – San Kamphaaeng and Mae Kampong Hot Springs

We get a driver for the whole day through Grab and we reach the Sticky Waterfalls, particular waterfalls on which you can literally climb by walking on the rocks that are not slippery at all. The second problem of the holiday: I lose my phone! Fortunately, after an hour of searching, a German guy finds it in the water under a rock…. and incredibly my iPhone still works perfectly! With a little delay, we rest for a while at the San Kamphaeng hot springs where Dice and I immerse ourselves in a private tub while my parents enjoy dip their feet in the “thermal stream”.
The day ends with a visit to the pretty mountain village of Mae Kampong, famous for its year-round cool weather and tasty grilled sausages.

Day 7: Bor Sang Village, Warorot Market and night bus

The last day in Chiang Mai begins with a visit to the Silver Temple a short distance from our hotel and then a Grab passage to the small Bor Sang village, where artisans manually create the traditional wooden and paper umbrellas.
We return to the center where we stop at the Warorot Market, a large complex on several floors where the locals shop, before treating us with another massage and then reaching the bus station where the night bus that will take us to Bangkok awaits us.

Day 8-11: Koh Kood Island

We arrive in Bangkok with an hour and a half delay (I let you imagine my anxiety), but fortunately, the van that will take us to the Trat province from where the ferry to Koh Kood leaves, was waiting for us. After 9 hours we finally arrive in the small boutique resort where we will relax for the next three days. Koh Kood is an island still untouched by mass tourism, where there is nothing but nature and beaches. No nightclubs or nightlife, just peace and relaxation. A jewel with beaches that in a period other than the rainy season are certainly crystal clear, with small fishing villages and waterfalls in nature to dip yourself in.
Although the period is not the best, we can relax and see one of the most beautiful sunsets of my life, as well as a beautiful sunny day on the day we rented the scooter to explore the island.
Too bad it takes a long time to reach Koh Kood and the last day we spend almost entirely on the transfer that takes us back to Bangkok for the return flight

Day 12: back home with a layover in Singapore

After a night in the airport area, it’s time to say goodbye to my parents. They will return to Italy and us to Japan, but first we’ll make a stop in Singapore. But about this, I’ll tell you about it in another article.

Thailandia a Settembre

Thoughts about my itinerary in Northern Thailand

Although it was my first time in Thailand, I felt like I knew it a little event before going there. Perhaps because I had helped my parents to organize their previous trips or because over the years I had followed and read the stories of many friends and fellow travel bloggers… and perhaps also for this reason I made the choice to focus on a rather slow itinerary in the north of Thailand. I would also have liked to include Pai and Doi Inathon, the highest mountain in Thailand, but not only would I have strained my parents too much, above all I would have experienced a “hit and run” Thailand as often one is forced to do when there is so much to do. see, but little time available.

A week between Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai is in my opinion a good choice, but if you want to explore northern Thailand more, I would recommend you consider a 10-day itinerary, also including Pai, some trekking to Doi Inathon or maybe in the Lamphun and Lampang provinces, where Wat Umong and Wat Prachan Mae Tha are respectively located.
Ok, you understand that my list of things to see in northern Thailand is still quite extensive and the possibility of returning there again is not that remote;)

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