My “Best of Thailand” Recap

What an amazing whirlwind month it was! So many incredible sights, sounds, tastes and experiences, definitely one of my top trips. Highly recommend Thailand as a destination. If you’re thinking about it, do it! My blog covers all the places I went and most of my activities – just use the search tool to get the scoop on the areas that interest you or do a browse and select Thailand for an overview of all the posts. There’s plenty more to see and explore there, but this was all I could pack into my trip. Let me know what spot is your favorite so I can check it out next time. If you have any questions, just send me a note.

Where I went

Bangkok

Chiang Mai

Mae Wang

Chiang Dao

Thaton

Chang Rai

Sukhothai

Ayutthaya

Koh Samui

Koh Phangan

Railay, Krabi

Phuket

What I did

These are my top picks from my month-long adventures

Best active tours: ActiveThailand

Best beach with restaurants, live music & mellow nightlife: Chaloklum Bay, Koh Samui

Best beach resort:  White House, Koh Samui

Best experience: Trekking and mountain biking remote areas of northern Thailand and homestaying with the Karen Hill Tribe

Best food: Chiang Dao Restaurant near the cave  – Chicken Tumeric, Chiang Mai & Bangkok Street Food – pork on a stick

Best health & Fitness Resort: Thanyapura Health & Sports Resort See post.

Best nature preserve island: Naugyuan

Best ruins: Sukkhothai

Best scenery: Railay, Krabi

Best town: Thaton

Best view from the room: Cocohut Beach Resort & Spa, Koh Phangan

Best wildlife: Railay, Krabi

 

Here are some scenes from my last night in Thailand, near the Bangkok airport:

 

Tip: The Paragon Inn is a basic, but decent airport hotel. It’s minutes from the airport and walking distance from the mall and street market. Super convenient for getting those last minute gifts and for catching those early AM flights.

 

 

Can’t emphasize enough how easy and inexpensive it is to tour around Thailand and have an exceptional time.  I’ll share more about what makes it so easy in an upcoming blog post.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Inside the Gates: Chiang Mai Sunday Night Market – a feast, a fest, a fun time!

 

The Feast

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The Fest

The Sights

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The Sounds

The Scoop

The Chiang Mai Sunday Night Market is located in the center of the old walled city area of Chiang Mai and is open from 4pm until midnight. It’s a fest and a feast down Ratchadamnoen Road, which is closed to traffic for the Market – hence the i other name Walking Street”. In the vicinity, there are many temples and historical sights to see along the way as well, including Wat Phan Tao, Wat Chedi Luang and the statues of the 3 kings.

Tip: If you’re not big on crowds go early and have a full run of it before they arrive.

The place really comes alive and has a great vibe later into the night…And there are some lovely restaurants, bars and coffee shops around every corner if you’d prefer people watching (tourists & Thai locals) from a distance or just need a break from the crowds.

There are musicians, handicrafts, souvenirs, massage chairs, and perhaps best of all, world renown street food enjoyed by Anthony Bourdain and myself. (My trekking tour guide from Green Trails gave Anthony his street food tour when he was filming in Chiang Mai. ) There’s so much to see, do, buy & eat, you can easily spend hours here.

Tip: If you see something you like as a gift or a souvenir get it and consider getting more than one. The crafts are Northern Thailand specific and you may not see them again. I bought a couple beautiful bowls and wish I’d grabbed more because in my 30 days in Thailand I never saw anything like them again.

If you’re thinking about going to the Chaing Mai Sunday Night Market, don’t think twice – go. As you can see and hear, it’s a memorable experience.

 

3 Day Mt. Bike Adventure. Part 3: Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai.

Had an incredible day of delightful single track through the forest and miles of dirt roads through remote countryside. It was topped off with the Chiang Dao Cave  and ruins exploration and by my best meal yet here in Thailand at a local open air restaurant near the cave. The tumeric chicken dish on the right was an outstanding flavor feast!

 

After our afternoon ride, we closed the day in comfort and beautiful surroundings at the rustic mt. biker’s haven, Padeng Lodge.

 

Back on the bikes at 8 am the next morning with more wonderful single track and back roads to explore. I had to make a pit stop along the way and that’s when we discovered this delightful coffee shop/ vineyard/farm – something you might expect to see in New Zealand.

Midday, we stopped for lunch in bustling Fang at a Muslim noodle shop.

 

While I have a thing for the name Fang, I wasn’t crazy about it. Of course, this dose of civilization was a bit of a shock to my system after all the remote countryside we’d traversed by bike and following my Karen Hill Tribe trek earlier in the week. Thankfully,  it was only a matter of minutes before we were on back roads again, passing scenic mango, garlic, eggplant and rice plantations along the way.

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After roasting on the bike for the better part of the day, I was quite happy to roll into Thaton, a small riverside village with lots of charm where’d I’d staying the night on a hotel with AC. To be continued…

Photo Post 3: Local Market, Chiang Mai area (Warning: may be too visceral for some viewers.)

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One thing is for sure, the Thai love to eat. And as you can see from the pictures, they eat just about everything. (More so the northerners vs. the southerners.)  In fact, their voracious appetites have cleared nearly all their fauna from the national parks in the North. In 6 days of trekking and mountain biking in Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai I didn’t see as much as a squirrel. (Certainly this is true for areas in the States and Europe as well.)

Mt. Bike Chiang Mai to Chang Rai Part 1

Tour company: activethailand.com
Tour guide: Pan
Difficulty: Moderate+++ (Depends on your fitness level. It’s not technical or too arduous, but some hills and scorching heat -mid to high 90s. Riding about 30 miles per day with breaks as you need them.)
Route: Chiang Mai – Chiang Dao – Ban Thaton – Chiang Rai
Experience: SPECTACULAR  trip and guide. Perhaps the best adventure of my life so far. I can’t begin to capture all the stunning scenery, savory meals and cultural sights we saw. And I can’t say enough about our wonderful guide Pan and our driver Som.

We biked through the countryside taking in the breathtaking sights along the Maekok river and valleys and through forests on singe-track trails, dirt roads and lesser traveled paved roads.

We visited hill-tribe villages, Buddhist sanctuaries, local eateries and the incredible Chiang Dao caves.  Truly an authentic, backroad, off the beaten track experience with no other tourists in sight.

Oh, I almost forgot to mention, another highlight was the longtail boat ride we took from one mountain bike area to another on the 3rd day. I’ll post videos from that next, followed by my favorite pics (people, scenery & food). I’m having so much fun, I’m getting behind on my updates.

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 Pan

Mae Wang 3 Day Bike & Trek Adventure: Bike Portion

Tour company: Green Trails           My rating: Excellent, highly recommend

Cycling level: Easy (While this was pitched as a half day tour it is very slow paced and doesn’t cover that much ground, but it is followed by 3 hours of moderately tough hiking in tropical heat so it’s a nice warm up.

Trekking level: Moderate++

Guide: Tui (Interesting fact, our guide does many different types of tours, and took Anthony Bourdain on a street food tour of Chang Mai. Hey Anthony, you missed out because Tui is also an incredible chef. He made us a couple of incredible dinner feasts in the mountain villages of the Karen Hill tribe. Video, pics and posts to follow.

8AM Our tour guide picked us up at our hotel in Change Mai. We loaded up and jumped into the back of the truck. (A bit rough and tired, but excited to embark.)

^en routeNotice the sky in this picture? So much for fresh mountain air. My first impression upon arriving at the airport in Chang Mai was “YIKES”. I haven’t seen smog as bad as this in a while. I was hoping it wouldn’t be like this in Mae Wang where we were heading. My second impression was hey, I thought it was supposed to be cooler here than Bangkok.

9:30  We  started our adventure cycling dirt and narrow concrete roads through the rural lowlands, passing seldom visited Lanna style temples and various agricultural fields. We also stopped at paper making factory that was closed for the holiday. We were saw some of the materials they use mulberry trees pulp and the vats they use with natural dyes. Just had my cell phone on me for this portion. Wish I’d taken more photos en route, but I was in a bit of jet lag fog. Lots of great photos of the trek and tribe experience to come.

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We hopped back into the truck after our ride and headed further north into the mountains, stopping for a savory and sumptuous lunch (chicken and pork dishes) and supplies at a local market.

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Stay tuned for the trekking portion. It was AMAZING!