Northern Thailand Travel Tales And Things To See And Do In Chiang Mai

I recently did a lifestyle design interview with Kitiya from Udon Thani. Kitiya is the lady who has her own blog talking about travel information, cooking and Thai culture, in particular  Kitiya specialises in information and stories about Isaan (the north-east of Thailand.) There are links throughout this post to visit the blog of Kitiya.

After the fantastic interview she gave us on life design in Udon Thani and Thailand, I noticed that Kitiya talked about her travel experiences around Thailand with a great deal of passion and enthusiasm. I also noticed that she has an exceptional fondness for the North of Thailand an area close to my heart as well. Taking all that in to consideration I thought I would ask her to return and give us a travel itinerary report on her trips so that we could all  receive the benefit of her wisdom on the North  of Thailand and she kindly accepted.

To get an overview of the Kitiya’s trips to the North area we split the posts in to three parts. The first one today concentrates on Chiang Mai and the surrounding area, the next part will take in Chiang Rai and the surrounding area and the final part for the North will take in Mae Hong Son and the surrounding area.

Hi Kitiya, nice to have you back here again.

Trevor: First of all Kitiya could you give us a bit of an introduction to Chiang Mai the area and the type of Weather it receives?

Kitiya: Chiang Mai has some of the most beautiful scenery; hills, mountains, fields and waterfalls. It is located around 700km north of Bangkok. A nearby province is Chiang Rai, which is only an hours drive away and has lovely border markets. The weather in Chiang Mai during the cold season can be very cold, even in the city, but the summer is still very hot, the temperature can be 40c plus at these times. I have visited Chiang Mai in both the summer and the cold seasons, but I would not try to go there during the rainy season as the roads can be dangerous and slippery.

Chiang Mai,  Northern Thailand

Trevor:  I am going to hand the show over to you now Kitiya and would like to ask you what a normal itinerary from your home in Udon Thani to Chiand Mai looks like? What route do you take and what places have you stopped off at in the past? Please let us in on some of your tales and memories.

A trip during April : Udon Thani – Nongbualamphu – Loei – Pitsanulok – Sukothai – Tak – Chiang Mai.

As I live in Udon Thani, the road journey from here to Chiang Mai can be quite tricky, depending on the season. It takes around twelve hours to drive from Udon Thani to Chiang Mai, but only ten hours from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. This is for two reasons;

1)    The roads from Bangkok to Chiang Mai are generally much more well maintained than the roads from Udon Thani to Chiang Mai.

2)    The overall distance from Bangkok to Chiang Mai is shorter.

It is possible to get a flight to Chiang Mai, but I have never tried this, as I have always travelled by car. I actually prefer to travel around by car, as it means we can stop off at all sorts of interesting places along the way, and we are not constricted by anyone else’s timetable in doing so.

Usually, when we start a trip from Udon Thani to Chiang Mai, we always stop off at Loei to pay respects to the “Phra that Srisongrak” pagoda, which is located in the Dansai District, and we usually have breakfast here too. As we usually start out early in the morning, around 5am, the food we have is cooked by my mum, and consists of sticky rice, barbecue pork, and Isaan sausage. Once we are full we start travelling again, although usually the passengers fall asleep at this point thanks to all the sticky rice we have eaten, leaving only my dad and the driver awake! This is the reason the driver usually avoids eating sticky rice! So, this particular trip was in April, the weather wasn’t too bad…only 40c+ (me shrug ¬_¬), but this is a pretty normal temperature for Loei at this time of year. This province is also the only place in Thailand which regularly goes below 0 degrees in the nights during the cold season in December… brrr.

A Random Temple Visit

From Loei to Pitsanulok province

Usually we would stop off here to pay respects to a big statue of the Goddess of Mercy in Wangthong District, which can be seen from the street as you approach as it is so big! The highlight in Pitsanulok that you guys should not miss is the famous temple “Wat Phra Bhuddha Chinnarat”, which houses the most beautiful Bhudda portrait  in Thailand. I remember once when I was younger, it was very hot and I happened to passing by the temple, and I was wearing shorts. The staff thought I was coming to visit to pay my respects to the Buddha, and asked me to please wear a long traditional Thai skirt called  “Pha Tung” before I enter. I was a bit embarrassed, but agreed to change my clothes and go in to pay my respects anyway, even though that wasn’t my original plan.

The temple area is quite large and contains many stalls and souvenir shops. People come from all over Thailand to visit, from the south, east, west, and the north-east to pay their respects. Most of them are usually on their way north to Chiang Mai, and the temple makes for a good place to stop. Here people can recharge and get something to eat or drink, or rest their vehicle, before continuing their journey northwards. My dad is very friendly, and often ends up talking to people here. We usually discover that many people are making their way to the same destination as we are!

A Buddhist sanctuary

Tasongyang district, Tak province (finally the first night we slept, in this temple)

We usually visit the famous monk who lives at the temple here (I’ve mentioned him before in my blog “Thai beliefs & incantations – my amulets”).

The journey can be quite difficult, especially when the roads are bad. When they are bad we are usually forced to abandon the car and take a boat across the river, this can be quite an adventure, depending on how bad the weather is at the time. When the roads are fine, we can usually reach the temple early. One year we took a big Buddha with us to the temple , and donated the Buddha to them. People make all sorts of donations to the temple, of money, food or smaller donations. As I’m a Buddhist, being able to be a part donating a Buddha statue to the temple is what I’ve always want to do whenever I have a chance.

Buddha Donated To

I enjoyed shopping at Tak “Dan Mae Sot” or Mae Sot border market… oh it was heaven! Me and my mum bought some gems from there… if you happen to visit during Songkarn Festival there is an event for “Thai boxing”, and the entry is free… how nice!

Chiang Mai

I love Chiang Mai. I enjoy shopping there (gems, local food, handicrafts etc.), and also exploring the local architecture and museums. We also drop by randomly on some of the many local beautiful temples, to pay respects and to make merits. We’ve also celebrated Songkarn festival (Thai new year13th-15th April) there… in the north people celebrate Songkarn earlier, they start celebrating in the beginning of April.

We had been doing this same journey for ten years, visiting the same famous monk at that temple. It’s funny thinking back, that when we looked out of the windows of the van as we approached the temple, you’d see eight or more vans exactly same, hired by other people making the same trip as we did.

Packed full of information a fine and very useful post from Kitiya on ” preparing for the summer – a trip to Thailand”

Trevor: So what specific things do you like to do or see in Chiang Mai Kitiya?

Kitiya:  The last time I visited Chiang Mai was in 2006, when we visited The Royal Flora “Ratchaphruek”  exhibition, this was a flower festival held from 1st November to 31st January 2007, that I mentioned before. The ninety-two days of the expo featured thirty international gardens, and I enjoyed my time there a lot.

Flora Exhibition

In the photo below I was in the Dutch Garden section in the exhibition. Wow, it caught many people’s attention as they liked to see the tulips that had come all the way from the Netherlands, as well as the “giant Dutch wooden shoes” or “clogs” (I’d say they looked more like a boat… (giggle)). Apart from the Dutch garden, I also visited the Japanese, Belgian, and Spanish gardens… oh and so much more. We had to be very careful though, there were signs everywhere saying “Do not touch the flowers!”. Oh what can I do? I Can’t help it! It was very tempting!

Kitiya At The Dutch Garden

We also visited other tourist attractions in Chiang Mai, such as the Sankamphaeng Hot springs. This has a beautiful garden, and also, as the name implies, contains many hot springs, on which is possible to boil an egg! You can also take spa mineral baths here, which are supposed to be very good for your whole body, so those interested in health and well-being wont be disappointed! Amazingly the entry is free and it is open every day! Sankamphaeng Hot Springs is around 40km from the city.

Kitiya At The Sankamphaeng Hot Springs

Another highlight is Bo Sang (Umbrella Village), which is located about 9km east of Chiang Mai, and is famous for its traditional Thai umbrellas and other handicrafts. The handmade umbrellas are very rare!

Bo Sang Umbrella Village

Trevor: What are your favourite Northern dishes please Kitiya?

Kitiya: Funnily enough, I was in Chiang Mai and looking for something to eat when suddenly I found a small restaurant near the street. It looked like they sold noodle soup so I walked in and ordered… “Can I have egg noodle please?”, but then the owner turned around and, smiling to me said “It is called Kao Soi”. This is the famous northern dish… OMG I was very embarrassed, so then I said ” Ok, can I have Kao Soi?”, man… in my opinion it looks similar to egg noodle soup but in coconut milk. Well, I loved it anyway… hey! 🙂

Kaeng Liang (Thai แกงเลียง) – a spicy mixed vegetable soup with prawns. It’s very yummy and not too spicy. It also good for people who are on a diet, because it is low in calories, plus you will get plenty of fibre from those vegetables –  baby corn, sweet basil leaves, shallot and gourd yummy!

Kaeng Liang  ( แกงเลียง)

Thank you Kitiya that was brilliant and so much useful information. We will hear more from Kitiya very shortly as next time she is going to talk about Chiang Rai and the surrounding area of Chiang Rai.

Finally I thought I would run a reminder on a few of my tips for Chiang Mai.

Trevor’s Chiang Mai Tips

In the first post you will find out…..

1) Where  to find a fantastic breakfast venue that serves both Western and Thai food where the food is delicious and the prices won’t break your wallet. ?

2) With so many spas in Chiang Mai where should I go for full relaxation and rejuvenation treatment?

3) Visit in my opinion the best restaurant in Chiang Mai that cooks and serves Chicken yellow curry (Gang Gari) to die for.

4) Could you recommend a family run guest house, reasonably priced with good and friendly service that is close to all the amenities?

5) Of course there is no beach in Chiang Mai, but sun and water is not a problem, find out where to go for use of a gym and superb swimming pool at just 100 baht per day.

A Temple In Chiang Mai

In the second post you will find out……

1) Where to find the best market in Chiang Mai and when to go.

2) Where to go should you want an evening venue that does great food and great music.

3) A health spa and resort set in grounds of such stunning and natural beauty with the Chinese touch for the ultimate health.

4) A beautiful national park that if all viewed properly will take up a full day of your Chiang Mai itinerary.

5) where to go for a former traditional northern feast with all the top and favourite northern dishes complete with traditional song and dance.

Finally a couple of my 2011 spa reviews for those looking for a spot of pampering

Cheeva Spa in Chiang Mai

Lanna Come Spa in Chiang Mai

Recommended Books For Travel To Thailand/ The North Of Thailand

For Thailand Travel Guide  

For The North Of Thailand Travel Guide   

Engaging Thailand Website

For more information on Thailand in the form of articles, tips, relevant links constant updating and new guest interviews ,please visit  the site where work will always be in progress.

Kitiyas Blog

A  blog all about Thailand – from Kitiya’s point of view. Kitiya talks about travel information, cooking and Thai culture, in particular  Kitiya specialises in information and stories about Isaan (the north-east.)

Brilliant Thai Forum

Entertaining, friendly and very informative on subjects Thai. Come along and meet a welcoming crowd of Australians, New Zealanders, Canadians, Americans, Brits, Thais and others and be in the know and inform.

A great little group on Facebook for those of you who love Thailand, discuss any Thai related things amongst friends. All nationalities from all over the world with one thing in common they simply adore Thailand. Why not join the group and be with friends on Friends 4 Thailand. Just log in on the link below to see the page.  Useful information from a group about  living in Thailand.

Thai Language And Culture 

Heart Talk by Christopher G. Moore

Heart Talk is the clever navigation to say I love you in so many ways using  the word ”jai” or heart (ใจ). These words are essential and every day Thai words and all nicely organised and ready to read in Heart Talk. To know the people know the language and culture. This book will get you that few steps closer.

The Cultural Detective by Christopher G. Moore

If it’s Thai culture that you are seeking to learn about, then look no further than the foreign master on Thai culture. This book is packed with essays on perspectives on crime fiction writing to of course a mass of clues and insights to solving those cultural Thai mysteries. Another great read.


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