A Short Guide To Koh Chang, Thailand

A Short Guide To Koh Chang, Thailand

Koh Chang Thailand is a fantastic place to visit – there are many incredible things to do in Koh Chang.

There are so many islands in Thailand, all of them beautiful and different from one another, that deciding where to go can be a daunting task. Koh Chang, considered one of the best islands in Thailand, is a must see. After a trip across South East Asia it is the perfect place to relax.

Koh Chang is the second biggest among the islands in Thailand (second only to Phuket). Keep in mind that size is quite a relative concept. I come from Sardinia, a huge island in the centre of the Mediterranean, and to me Koh Chang – where it only takes one hour to drive from top to bottom – is actually quite small.

Though many spend just a few days in Koh Chang, I think this island deserves a bit longer – there are many things to do, and the atmosphere varies a lot depending on where you go and what you do. 

In this post, I highlight all the unmissable things to do in Koh Chang and share a few tips that will help you make the most of it. 

things to do in Koh Chang

One of the harbors in Koh Chang

What To Do In Koh Chang

Enjoy the beaches

There is no doubt that one of the things to do in Koh Chang is enjoying the beach – the island is packed with sandy beaches. While Lonely Beach is perhaps the most famous beach in Koh Chang, I suggest spending your time in Klong Koi Beach, right off Bang Bao.

Indeed, despite its name Lonely Beach hardly gets lonely. It is a popular backpackers destination, as the village has a lot of budget accommodation options, there are lots of restaurants, shops and parties go on until late. What makes Lonely Beach worth a visit is the incredible sunset it offers every day and the young, backpackers vibe – that is, if you are one.

Klong Koi Beach is a smaller and way quieter beach. Bang Bao, the nearest village, is the last village at the Southern end of Koh Chang and much smaller than the rest – a few houses, a rather quiet market, some seafood restaurants and a harbor from where boats to nearby islands leave. As a result, Klong Koi gets significantly less people.

The beach isn’t spectacular to be honest, but it is nice, sandy and generally clean, lined with palm trees and the shallow waters are incredibly warm. 

Another great beach is White Sand Beach. As the name says, this is one of the best sandy beaches in Ko Chang. Just picture a long stretch of fine white sand, lined with palm trees, well equipped with anything you may need for your stay (and no matter the language you speak, you will be catered for). Should you decide to stay in this part of the island, you will find several good resorts there.

Simply chill

What makes Koh Chang a great place to add to your Thailand itinerary is that its pace of life is incredibly relaxed and one of the things to do in Koh Chang is chilling! And although the weather is hot – after all, this is South East Asia – Koh Chang gets a lovely marine breeze that makes it all the more enjoyable (and way more bearable compared to the still heat of inland Cambodia, for example). 

Klong Ko beach, which I have mentioned before, is perfect to relax. You can swimming in the shallow waters, cool down by the infinity pool at your hotel, take nap after nap in the shade, have a coconut by the beach during the day and an icy cold beer at sunset and eventually make your way to one of the restaurants on the waterfront to enjoy a lovely meal.

And since it is so quiet you are bound to get some great quality sleep at night – perfect to recharge your batteries. 

Thailand beaches

One of the things to do in Koh Chang is taking in all the nature – photo courtesy of Juska Wendland (flickr)

Take in all the nature

If you love wildlife and nature you will be delighted to find out that Koh Chang is great for that – taking in all the nature is one of the things to do in Koh Chang. The island is populated with various species of birds and the unmissable monkeys. I know some people don’t like monkeys because they have a reputation for being cheeky and stealing stuff, but honestly these aren’t that bad!

Another thing you will find in Ko Chang is waterfalls. There are 7 different waterfalls, which is quite impressive for such a small island. The most visited waterfall in Koh Chang is Klong Plu. You have to pay a small fee to get in  as it is part of the National Park, and then walk along the trail for about 20 minutes to get to the waterfall, which will provide an incredible respite from the heat and from the chaos of the beaches. 

Another nice waterfall Than Mayom – again, there is a fee to visit it as this waterfall is part of the National Park. As it is a bit more difficult to reach (you have to hire a car or rent a scooter to get there) it is less visited, so perfect if you are looking for a quiet day. 

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: The fee to access Than Mayom or Klong Plu waterfall is 200 Thai Baht.

Other waterfalls in Ko Chant include Kai Bae, which is the trickiest waterfall to get to; Klong Neung; Kiripetch; Klong Nonsi and Klong Jao Leuam.

Go for a hike

Among the nicest things to do in Koh Chang there is hiking. You will find several hiking trails around Koh Chang, some of them requiring a multi-day trek and others simpler, half day treks that go through the thick jungle to reach some beautiful waterfalls. The only problem with the hikes is the heat – but the nature, the waterfalls and the wildlife are beautiful. Make sure to set out nice and early if you plan to hike, and your experience will be great. 

best beaches in Thailand

One of the things to do in Koh Chang is going on a day trip to Koh Wai

Spend a day in Koh Wai

Make sure to go to Koh Wai, which is easily accessed. You can get on a 40 minutes slow boat ride from Bang Bao pier, at the south of the island; or just 20 minutes by speed boat. The island is so small that there are no roads – just a trail through the forest that connects the two main beaches – and thus no cars, scooters and the likes.

Bungalows there are quite basics and wi-fi is only available in one of the very few restaurants.

Day trips to Koh Wai are quite common, and guide books say that the beaches get crowded and recommend spending a few nights on the island to fully enjoy it. I agree with that – it’s always better to spend more time than less.

But if you don’t have a few days, worry not. This island is hardly as crowded as you may think – depending on the day you visit, you will find that there are no more than 10 persons at the beach, other than you.

The main beach is a long stretch of white sand, thick vegetation at the back and the most transparent azure waters, full of fish and corals, and no noise around whatsoever. It is a fabulous place to snorkel, relax and disconnect from the stress of daily life. 

PRACTICAL INFORMATION FOR VISITING KOH WAI: The boat ride from Koh Chang to Koh Wai costs between 300 and 400 Bahts depending on whether you opt for a regular one or a fast one.

If you want to do a day trip it costs 500 Bahts (departing from Bang Bao) and you also get a 50 Baht voucher to spend at the local restaurant. It honestly is hardly enough for a main course, but the food is quite cheap anyways, and delicious. Enquire with your hotel for more information and bookings. 

Best islands in Thailand

Looking for things to do in Koh Chang? Just head out for the sunset!

Admire the sunset

Whether from Lonely Beach, on the ferry that goes to Koh Chang or from Klong Koi beach, admiring the sunset is one of the ultimate things to do in Koh Chang and a great experience. The sun disappears under the ocean or behind the hills, giving it a special aura. 

Make some new friends

Thai people have a reputation for being super kind, and I have to say here they actually go even further. They are very friendly, going above and beyond to help out; they are always ready for a laugh and curious to have a chat with travelers. It makes Koh Chang a great destination for solo travelers. Yes: one of the things to do in Koh Chang is making friends!

Thailand beaches

That gorgeous pool! Among the best things to do in Koh Chang there’s staying at a fantastic resort.

Stay in a fabulous resort

Among the things to do in Koh Chang, there’s staying in a fabulous resort. There is an incredible variety of accommodation options in Koh Chang. From budget to luxury, there is something for all but I really recommend to opt for one of the great Sea View resorts in Koh Chang for extra comfort. It is a great place to get pampered after long days of traveling. 

I can also recommend Chivapuri Beach Resort. The resort is right on Klong Koi. It is completely surrounded by nature (think palm trees) and the garden is beautifully kept. There are a number of villas, each facing the beach and the pool. Rooms are incredibly spacious and cozy, have all sort of amenities and direct access to the beautiful garden. 

The infinity pool at Chivapuri Beach Resort is lovely, large and surrounded by nature. It faces the beach (which is kept very clean), and the water temperature is much cooler than that of the sea so you will have a chance to cool down.

There also is a bar by the beach and a restaurant – tables are right on the sand! And the food is delicious. Breakfast is incredibly abundant and varied.

Books and dvds are available for guests. There is a daily shuttle that takes guests to Bang Bao village and back, free of charge. 

Click here to book your stay at Chivapuri Beach Resort

Thailand beaches

Koh Chang has some of the best beaches in Thailand

Snorkel and dive

Koh Chang is one of the best islands in Thailand for beginner divers, thanks to its shallow waters and the easy access it offers to other smaller islands. You can even get a PADI Open Water Certification. It’s pretty obvious that one of the things to do in Koh Chang is snorkeling or diving. 

These are some of the best snorkeling and diving excursions departing from Koh Chang:

Go kayaking

With its calm waters, one of the things to do in Koh Chang is kayaking, There are various place around the island where you can rent a kayak, and you can even opt to join a kayaking expedition to one of the nearby islands. 

Enjoy a SPA

Much like the rest of Thailand and South East Asia, Koh Chang as a great choice of spas where you can get a massage for a real steal. Your hotel will be able to guide you about the best options. 

Eat all the delicious food

Food in Thailand is delicious. Eating options in Koh Chang are many and varied and one of the things to do in Koh Chang is certainly eating. The biggest villages such as Lonely Beach also have international restaurants, but in my opinion Thai food is so good that there is no real reason to look for things such as pizza or steak.

Bang Bao is originally a fishing village and for as small as it is, there are lots of seafood restaurants. There also is a lovely coffee shop right by the Seven Eleven that does amazing fruit smoothies.

You will also find several restaurants by the beach. The best to me remains one right off Klong Koi Beach resort. It is run by a lovely lady called Pekan and her brother, who welcome their guests very warmly. They organize a barbecue every other night, as well as some entertainment with music. The vibe is relaxed and, more importantly, the food is amazing. The curries and soups are mouthwatering.

best islands in Thailand

Food in Koh Chang is delicious

Take a cooking class

One thing is eating Thai food, another one is learning how to prepare it! You will find a good choice of cooking classes in Koh Chang, usually run by local restaurants. This one comes highly recommended – you will only use local ingredients bought from the local market. 

Roam around the island

One of the most fun things to do in Koh Chang is simply roaming around the island. It is fairly easy to get around in Koh Chang. There is one main road that goes all around the island, except from a bit at the bottom south where there only is a dirt road.

Taxis in Koh Chang are usually shared. Once you disembark in one of the harbors that connect it to the mainland, you can hop on the back of a pick up truck that will follow the main road to you to the main villages on the island. The price of the ride is fixed, and obviously cheaper for the villages closer to the harbors (it can be between 50 and 200 Baht). Passengers are dropped off on the main road or at taxi stations.

Some taxis refuse to drive to the further resorts on the South of the island as there only is a dirt road to get there. 

Most visitors in Koh Chang rent a scooter. This is a fun way to explore the island, driving around its hilly road, moving from one beach to the other and visiting one of the parks – there isn’t much traffic so it is fairly easy!

Lots of resorts also provide daily shuttle services to get to the main villages on the island (at fixed times). 

Avoid cruel tourist attractions

There are various elephant camps in Koh Chang which still offer things such as elephant safaris. These are cruel tourist attractions and I truly wish they were stopped and that no tourist went at all. Among the many things to do in Koh Chang, riding elephant is definitely not one and it should be banned.

I strongly recommend to boycott these activities! 

Find out more about the use of animals in tourist attractions on my post “Don’t ride that elephant.”

Koh Chang

There are many easy ways to get around Koh Chang

Practical Tips To Organize Your Trip To Koh Chang

How to get to Koh Chang 

While Phuket has its own airport, there is no airport on Koh Chang but you can get there by ferry from Trat, but beware the harbor is about 30 km from Trat main town.

If you are arriving from Cambodia, it will take you around 4 of hours to get to Trat harbor from the border. Transportation from either Siem Reap or Battambang costs between 18 and 20 USD and includes the minivan to the Cambodian border, the minivan from the Thai border to the harbor outside of Trat, and the ferry.

There are two companies that operate ferries between the mainland and the island. Koh Chang Ferry leaves from Tha Thammachat and arrives at Tha Sapparot. Centrepoint Ferry leaves from Tha Centrepoint and arrives at another harbor further east. The ferry takes about 45 minutes to one hour. The ferry that leaves at 6:00 offers a great sunset view.

You can book your transfer from Trat to Koh Chang (including the ferry ride) here.

Once landed, you can get on one of the many shared pick-up vans/taxis to reach the main villages.

There are regular connections from Koh Chang to Bangkok – either the city, or Suvarnabhumi Airport. There are two pick up times in Koh Chang – from 8 am or from 1 pm (the pick up time depends on the location). The ride costs around 850 Baht and includes the ferry ticket. It takes overall 8 hours to get to Bangkok international airport.

The same companies operate from Bangkok to Koh Chang. The best way to organize the transfer is enquiring at the hotel or the hostel as they usually know the companies that run and the schedule. The good news is that you can now book your transfer from Bangkok to Koh Chang online here.

Have you ever been to Koh Chang? What did you like the most about it?

Further readings about Thailand and South East Asia

For more information and tips on how to plan the perfect trip to Thailand, click here.

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Find out what you must know about Koh Chant - via @clautavani

 

 

 

19 Incredible Things To Do In Chiang Mai (Plus 3 To Avoid)

19 Incredible Things To Do In Chiang Mai (Plus 3 To Avoid)

With so many things to do in Chiang Mai, it’s easy to see how this city became a favorite of travelers – to the point that many make it their home for further exploration in South East Asia.

Mention Thailand to any traveler and the first place that comes to mind is Bangkok, its capital. That’s because millions of tourists travel to Bangkok each year. In 2017, 20.5 million people visited Bangkok, making it one of the most visited cities in the world.

I get why lots of tourists flock to Bangkok: it has many attractions, an incredible nightlife, delicious cuisine, friendly people, good weather (if only a bit too hot) for most of the year, etc. The city has a lot going for it to be able to bring in the large tourism numbers. However, Bangkok is not the only destination you should visit if you find yourself in the “Land of Smiles” – as Thailand is nicknamed.

There are other cities in Thailand that are equally fun to visit such. Koh Tao, Chiang Mai, Ayutthaya, Phuket, Koh Samui, Chiang Rai, Pattaya, and Kanchanaburi all have a lot to offer. So don’t make the mistake most travelers do. Don’t limit your trip to just Bankgok and an island a most.

In particular, Chiang Mai has a lot to offer and you are bound to have a fabulous tome there.

Located the mountainous north of Thailand, its name means new city in Thai. But don’t let the name fool you: Chiang Mai was actually founded over 7 centuries ago! At 700 kilometers from Bangkok, it has many historical and cultural attractions, such as ancient temples, you’ll love visiting.

You’ll also enjoy exploring its mountainous landscape, tribal villages, unique museums, parks, wild nightlife, fantastic spas and admiring its beautiful architecture. Whether you’re looking for an adventure-filled holiday or spiritual journey Chiang Mai has got you covered.

In this post, I will highlight the nicest things to do in Chiang Mai, and a few you should avoid. I will also share a few tips to help you plan your trip there.

monks in Chiang Mai

Monks in Chiang Mai are more open minded than you’d ever imagine

19 Great Things To Do In Chiang Mai

Hike up Doi Suthep

One of the nicest things to do in Chiang Mai is hiking Doi Suthep, a mountain located about 12km from Chiang Mai. From there, you can get stunning aerial views of Chiang Mai. Doi Suthep also has Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, a 13th-century temple considered as one of Thailand’s holiest Buddhist sites.

Another attraction that pulls in lots of travelers to Doi Suthep is the Bhubing Palace, a vacation home for Thailand’s Royal family. The palace is open to the public except for when the Royal Family is at home, usually in December to early February.

You must visit Doi Suthep because locals say “If you haven’t seen the view from Doi Suthep, you haven’t been to Chiang Mai.” And don’t worry, if you don’t feel like hiking up the mountain for 3-5 hours you can get to the top either by motorbike or car.

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is open daily from 6:00 am to 8:00 pm. If you plan to visit the temple remember it is a sacred place so dress appropriately, which means don’t wear short skirts or shorts and cover your shoulders.

These are some good tours that go to Doi Suthep. Some of them include hiking and biking:

Khao Soi

Khao Soi is a must when in Chiang Mai

Sample Thai cuisine

Thai cuisine is one of the most popular in the world and you cannot go to Chiang Mai and not try out their local delicacies – after all, this is considered Thailand street food paradise. One of the things to do in Chiang Mai is trying Khao Soi, a delicious noodle soup that originated in northern Thailand but is now very popular across the country.

The main ingredients used to make Khao Soi include hand-cut rice or egg noodles, coconut milk, curry soup base and chicken, pork or beef. It is served with pickled cabbage, raw red onion, and lime wedges on the side. There is a vegan or vegetarian option of the soup.

Other mouthwatering Thai foods you can try are:

  • Guay Teow (Noodle Soup)
  • Tom Yum Goong (Spicy Shrimp Soup)
  • Tom Kha Gai (Chicken in Coconut Soup)
  • Som Tam (Spicy Green Papaya Salad)
  • Yam Pla Dook Foo (Fried Catfish with Green Mango Salad)
  • Yam Talay (Spicy Seafood Salad)
  • Laab (Spicy Salad)
  • Pad Phuk Tong (Stir-Fried Pumpkin)
  • Pad Thai (Thai style Fried Noodles)
  • Khao Pad (Fried Rice)
  • Pad Krapow Moo Saap (Fried Basil and Pork)

To make the most of Thai cuisine, taking a food tour is what to do in Chiang Mai. The following are some excellent food tour options:

Take a Thai cooking class

If you love Thai food one of the best things to do in Chiang Mai is enrolling in a Thai cooking class. This way you can prepare your favorite meals for yourself and your family once you get back home.

I enrolled for a class and I was surprised to learn how easy it is to prepare some my favorite Thai dishes. There are many places around Chiang Mai offering Thai Cooking Classes so give this a try. You’ll enjoy the experience even if you’re not a foodie.

These are the best cooking classes in Chiang Mai:

elephants in Chiang Mai

Make sure that your elephant encounter is ethical

Visit the Elephant Nature Park

If you want to get up close with elephants ethically visit the Elephant Nature Park. This attraction located 40 miles from Chiang Mai has for years been rescuing elephants that have been abused and giving them a new home. Here riding an elephant is prohibited – that is not one of the things to do in Chiang Mai, or anywhere in the world. Instead, you can feed the animals, bathe and swim with them or take a walk next to them in their 200-acre natural habitat.

Visiting this attraction can be a bit costly, but the money you pay is used to ensure the elephants get the best care and rescue others. So your money will be going to a worthy cause.

You can book your visit to the Elephant Nature Park here or here.

Go temple hopping 

Chiang Mai has close to 300 ancient temples scattered around the city. Visiting some of these temples is one of the best things to do in Chiang Mai. Temples not to miss are:

  • Wat Phra Singh (the temple of the Lion Buddha): a 14th-century temple with 700 monks living there.
  • Wat Chiang Man: the oldest temple in Chiang Mai.
  • Wat Chedi Luang: this used to be the home of Thailand’s holiest religious object the Emerald Buddha.
  • Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, which I told you is at the top of Doi Suthep.
  • What Pha Lat Temple: a beautiful temple surrounded by the jungle that can only be reached via a hike.

These temples are still used as worship sites, so when you visit make sure you respect the locals you find there, dress modestly and be quiet as you tour the grounds.

Visit Doi Inthanon National Park

This national park is where you’ll find the tallest mountain in Thailand, Doi Inthanon. To get to the park you’ll have to drive for about 1 hour and 30 minutes from Chiang Mai. There you’ll find many nature trails, remote villages, mountain farms, and waterfalls you can visit.

If you’re a bird watcher a trip to Doi Inthanon National Park will be absolutely worth your time. The park has the largest number of bird species in Thailand so you’ll have a good time observing the different birds in their natural habitat.

You can book a tour of Inthanon National Park here.

things to do in Chiang Mai

The jungle around Chiang Mai is very thick!

Take a trip to Chiang Mai’s Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon is one of the United States most visited tourist destinations. If you have never been to this attraction in the US visit a smaller version in Chiang Mai which has some staggering views. It’s one of the nicest things to do in Chiang Mai.

The Hang Dong Quarry, as Chiang Mai’s Grand Canyon was previously known, has very deep canyons, about forty meters. Some of the canyons are filled with rainwater. It is the perfect place to swim and cool off the heat you’re bound to accumulate in Chiang Mai.

The Grand Canyon Chiang Mai is open daily from 8:30 am to 6:00 pm, and the entry fee is 50 Thai Baht. You can book your visit here.

Get a Thai massage

All the sightseeing in Chiang Mai will definitely leave you exhausted. So, after a long day of being on the move relax by getting yourself a massage – it’s one of the nicest things to do in Chiang Mai.

There are many massage parlors in Chiang Mai, but one of the best places to get a traditional Thai massage is at the Women’s Prison in the city. Here women who are soon to be released are trained to offer massages so that they can have a skill they can use to make money once they are out. They offer amazing massages and by going there you’re supporting their self-improvement journey.

While in the city you can have a massage every day because they are so cheap. A full body massage for 1-hour costs about 200-400 Baht ($6-$13).

Party the night away

Chiang Mai’s nightlife may not be as lit as what you would experience in Bangkok but it is much cheaper and one of the things to do in Chiang Mai is going out to enjoy its bar scene. There are many trendy bars and clubs where you can enjoy a drink as you interact with the locals, and dance till early morning. Nimmanhaemin Road has several bars such as The Monkey Club, which are popular with tourists and locals.

Warorot Market

Pay a visit to one of the local markets

Go on a shopping spree at the Sunday Night Market

If you find yourself in Chiang Mai on a Sunday you definitely have to go to this market to buy souvenirs – it’s one of the most fun things to do in Chiang Mai. Here you can get just about anything from cheap massages, Thai food, clothes, handmade goods, paintings, sculptures, perfumes, etc. This market is usually very busy so get there early to avoid the crowds.

Also, be sure to bargain before you pay for any item you plan to buy. As a tourists seller at the market will most likely ask you to pay higher prices, and if you don’t bargain you’ll end up paying more than you should.

Tour San Kamphaeng Hot Springs

San Kamphaeng hot springs are located in a beautiful area, surrounded by the mountains. There are baths and pools where the water is thought to be curative thanks to the high percentage of sulfur in it. You can even get a good massage while there.

Take part in the Songkran festival

One of the most popular things to do in Chiang Mai is taking part in the Songkran Festival. This religious festival takes place from 13th to 15th April and is the traditional New Year in Thailand. Part of the celebrations include locals splashing buckets of water on each other to cleanse sins. In practice, the city turns into a massive water fight and you’ll end up completely drenched, so make sure not to carry around any valuables during that time. Other than that, it’s a lot of fun!

Lantern festival in Chiang Mai

The fantastic atmosphere of the lantern festival

Loi Krathong Festival

Loi Krathong is celebrated throughout Thailand, but in Chiang Mai it really is special. A Krathong is a basket shaped like a lotus flower. A candle is lit in the center and all the lit baskets are placed in the water of the moat that surrounds some parts of the city. While the Krathongs are released, some lanters also fly into the sky.

Taking part in this festival surely is one of the nicest things to do in Chiang Mai. The city tends to get crowded then, so make sure to book your hotel well in advance.

Chat with a Monk

Five temples in Chiang Mai have programs that allow you to interact with Monks and learn from them. You can ask them questions – on just about anything – and you will realize that they are way more open minded than you’d imagine.

If this is something you want to do, make sure to check the temple’s opening time and go there appropriately dressed for the occasion.

Watch a Muay Thai boxing match

Muay Thai is quite popular in Chiang Mai, and this is one of the best places in the country to watch a match. You can even take classes! It’s one of the most unique things to do in Chiang Mai.

Zip line through the Chiang Mai Jungle

If you are as adventurous as I am, you really have to try zip lining in Chiang Mai jungle. The company that runs this activity is Flight of the Gibbon, the same I have used to zip line in Angkor Wat, Cambodia, and they run their zip lining tours in a responsible and fun ways. You can even book them online here.

Check out my post Visiting Angkor Wat And Other Amazing Things To Do In Siem Reap.”

Visit the nearby waterfalls

One of the best things to do in Chiang Mai is experiencing its nature. With all the mountains and jungle that surrounds the city, you can also count on a few beautiful waterfalls that are nice to visit.

Huay Kaew Waterfalls

These waterfalls are a true hidden gem and chances are that if you visit you won’t really come across many other visitors. To get there, you have to head towards Chiang Mai Zoo and from there take the path going westward towards the mountain.

Bua Thong Waterfalls

Known as Sticky Waterfalls because they are not slippery, these waterfalls are fun because they are actually quite easy to climb – so you can get in the water quite safely. They are located about one hour and 15 minutes drive north of Chiang May, along Route 1001. Make sure to bring a towel and some snacks!

Go to a Cat Café

Cat lovers beware! One of the most fun things to do in Chiang Mai is visiting its very own cat café, called Catmosphere and located on Huaykaew Road, where resident cats are free to roam around as you sip your coffee or eat a slice of cake. Keep in mind that the number of customers allowed at once is limited, so make sure to go in the morning to ensure a table. Besides, that’s when cats are most active (other than at night, when it is closed).

Ride in a songthaew (Red Truck)

One of the coolest things to do in Chiang Mai is riding a songthaew – a typically red truck that works pretty much like a shared taxi, where you’ll get on and get taken to your chosen destination for a small few. Don’t be surprised if, when you hail one, this doesn’t pick you up: it may be the case that its going in a specific direction that is not the one you are looking for.

Red trucks

Red trucks are a great means of transportation

3 Things Not To Do In Chiang Mai

With all the things to do in Chiang Mai also come some that you really should be avoiding – because simply unethical. Some of them involve the use of animals, but one in particular has made an indigenous group an attraction.

Paying the Karen long neck tribe a visit

The Karen women are famous for their incredibly long necks. Several tours in town advertise visits to this minority. I haven’t been, but the impression I have is that most of them are nothing more than a circus, with people on display for the sake of money. Sure, they do need a source of income but I’d much prefer it is the experience became meaningful rather than a mere display of faces.

Until visits to this minority are run in an ethical manner that is set to protecting its members rather than making them a circus kind of attraction, I strongly advise to stay away from it.

Tiger Kingdom

Thailand has often been criticized for allowing animal abuse to promote its tourism industry. Activities such as sedating tigers for tourists to take photos with the animals, and tourists riding elephants are common in the country’s tourism industry.

Chances are that as you walk along the streets of Chiang Mai, tuk tuk drivers will call you offering to take you to Tiger Kingdom. Supposed to be a sanctuary for tigers, these are actually not treated humanely! Don’t go – you shouldn’t take part in any activity that will be contributing to animal cruelty.

Elephant trekking

Elephant trekking is unfortunately still a thing in Thailand, and tourists often fall for the charm of riding these majestic animals. Elephants, however, are not pet and they are badly tortured in order to be trained to carry tourists on their back, and endure ill treatment for their life so that they behave. Stay away from anybody that offers you to ride an elephant, and visit an actual sanctuary such as Elephant Nature Park instead – make sure to do your research before going.

Make sure to read my postThe Complete Guide To Becoming A More Responsible Traveler.”

temples in Chiang Mai

There are a lot of interesting temples in and near Chiang Mai

Practical Tips To Plan Your Trip To Chiang Mai

Where to stay in Chiang Mai

There are many excellent accommodation options in Chiang Mai – whatever your taste, needs or budget may be. The following are some of the best places to stay:

I will soon be writing a post on the best places to stay in Chiang Mai.

How to get to Chiang Mai

Most people enter Thailand through Bangkok, which means you have various ways of getting to Chiang Mai.

By bus

Get on a bus at Mo Chit Station and take the 10-12 hour road trip to Chiang Mai. Buses are in the range of $20 USD. You can book it here.

By train

Several trains leave Bangkok daily for Chiang Mai. This trip will take you 12-15 hours. You can decide to travel during the day or opt for a sleeper train. You can book your train here.

By plane

This is the quickest option to get to Northern Thailand from Bangkok. A flight to Chiang Mai International Airport takes about 1 hour. You can also fly directly to Chiang Mai International Airport if you’re coming from another Asian country.

How to move around Chiang Mai

You can easily move around Chiang Mai in many different ways. One of the options is to use the songthaew, of which I have talked before. Taxis and Ubers are commonly used, especially by tourists, whereas buses aren’t much of a thing in this part of the country.

Tuktuks and samlors (Thai’s Rickshaw) are a common and cheap way to move around town – just make sure to haggle the price before you get on.

Finally, if you are planning to stay a little longer you can consider renting a bike or even a scooter – though in this case you will have to master the traffic, which in South East Asia isn’t exactly easy.

When to visit Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai gets a large influx of visitors throughout the year, but the best time to go is between October and April, when temperatures are a bit cooler. The other side of the coin though is that this is when it’s also most crowded. Alternatively, you can opt to visit during one of its many festivals.

Thailand Travel Requirements

If you’re planning a trip to Thailand you’ll need to have for a Thai visa, without which you’ll not be allowed to enter the country. You can do the Thailand visa application online or at your point of entry into the country. I suggest you do the application online because it will take you a few minutes to do it, and you won’t have to waste time waiting in line at the airport to get your visa.

If you get your visa online, it will cost you around $61, which is 2000 Thai Baht. You’ll also need to prove your passport is valid for six months before your trip, have a return ticket, and show you have sufficient funds to last for the duration of the trip.

Once you apply, your visa is sent to you via email in 2-5 days. When you get the visa, make sure you print a copy that you’ll present together with your passports to border authorities at your point of entry.

Other useful information

As for any other trip, I wholeheartedly recommend getting a good travel insurance for your trip to Thailand. You can get yours here.

Check out my post Why You Need A Good Travel Insurance.”

Further readings

For more information about Thailand, make sure to read my other posts:

Legal Disclaimer: This post was written in cooperation with Thailand Visa. Needless to say, the views expressed are my own.

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Discover the things to do in Chiang Mai - via @clautavani

 

 

 

 

 

Why I would love to go back to Thailand

Why I would love to go back to Thailand

Thailand is a wonderful place to visit at all times of the year, in every season and every occasion. It is a land of a remarkable culture, history, festivities and exotic natural landscapes. As Austin Bush, a writer, succinctly and magnificently puts:

“It’s easy to say that the thing I love most about Thailand is Thai food. But then I’m reminded of that feeling of freedom during a motorcycle trip upcountry. And of the sensory overload of a busy morning market – or a night out in Bangkok. And of encounters with history and culture, the new and the old, at just about every turn.”

I went to Thailand last February and March, not expecting much to be honest: I was just on my way to Vietnam and decided I may as well stop in Bangkok on my way there. I then visited Koh Chang before getting back to Bangkok in order to fly back to Europe, and after having spent some time in Cambodia. What I found is a beautiful, welcoming country that I am keen to visit again as soon as possible.

So, here are the top five places to visit in Thailand – which I am keen to visit for the first time or again.

Bangkok

Bangkok is a city of many wonders

Bangkok:

Bangkok is the metropolitan capital of Thailand and is a city with exciting collision in every sense; whether it is a new food that you taste or a market that you plan to take a trip to. I found it to be a city full of contrasts.

Bangkok is very populated but even the slow moving traffic gave me a good opportunity to capture stills of the surrounding shops, passengers and buildings. The food offered on the streets as well as the restaurants is truly flavorful and savory. I enjoyed taking a street food tour of the city. The people of Bangkok are warm, friendly and always ready to welcome the tourists with open arms.

Finding where to stay in Bangkok is really easy. One thing I did’t know about is that there’s lot of time-shares in the city. A friend of mine has one, and recently told me: “I want to sell my timeshare.” I am actually considering buying it, it may be a good investment and perhaps my first step into becoming a home owner!

In Bangkok, I truly enjoyed visiting Wat Arun, Jim Thompson House, Wat Phra Kaew and Dusit Palace Park. Bangkok airport is the main hub of South East Asia, where most of Thailand flights land and where lots of budget airlines fly to and from. It is incredibly well connected.

Find out about the best things to do in Bangkok on my post “Nine fabulous things to do in Bangkok.”

best beaches in Thailand

My idea of paradise: a deserted beach with clear waters. Koh Wai is one of the best islands in Thailand

Koh Chang:

Koh Chang and Koh Same are two islands that are tourism magnets, located along the eastern side of the Thai coast. They are home to multiple attractions and beautiful resorts. Koh Chang has a charisma of its own that attracts millions of tourists every year. Visitors spend their day diving, swimming, hiking through the green dense jungles and sunbathing on the west coast beaches.

The island ambience is mostly party-like and tourists love mingling in with the crowd and losing themselves in its extraordinary nightlife and excellent cuisines. Yet, I managed to get away from it all, staying in a far away beach where silence and nature were the main features, and every day I could enjoy a beautiful sunset (and a sunset drink) and a delicious dinner at the beach. I also took a day trip to Koh Wai, which felt like a lost paradise!

Find out why I think Koh Chang is one of the best islands in Thailand on my post “Why Koh Chang is one of the best islands in Thailand.”

Thailand

I can’t wait to explore Central Thailand – photo courtesy of Christian Junker (flickr)

Central Thailand:

Central Thailand is famous for its historical and religious magnificence. I would love to visit there for a chance to explore the memorials and the mighty Death Railway that is their tribute to the WWII prisoners.

Central Thailand has beautiful waterfalls, falling from jagged mountain ranges, steep galore and deep caves surrounding the entire area. I would love to witness their treasured tigers, only a few of which now exist. This region is home to some of the oldest ethnic tribes who visit their sacred temples daily and walk through the monkey filled roads.

But whatever happens, I will always make sure that no animals are harmed in tourist attractions. Read more about my opinion on the use of animals in tourist attractions on my post “Don’t ride that elephant.”

Thailand

Lively Chiang Mai – photo courtesy of Caitriana Nicholson (flickr)

Chiang Mai:

Chiang Mai is the capital of the northern part of Thailand and is pretty far away from the hustle bustle of Bangkok. Rumor has it that once people enter this land, it feels like stepping through a portal. It has a rich history of captivation and kingdoms. A lot of tourists visit this part of Thailand every year and it has developed to be a traveler centre for a number of tourists of all ages. The province is a great exploration site for nature lovers as well as history enthusiasts like myself – hence my urge to go. Travelers raft through its clear waters and try out a number of adrenaline pumping activities.

Check out my post 19 Incredible Things To Do In Chiang Mai (Plus 3 To Avoid).”

Thailand

It’s easy to see why I would love to visit Koh Samui – photo courtesy of Arnie Papp (flickr)

Koh Samui:

The lower gulf of Thailand comprises of Koh Tao, Koh Samui and Koh Pha-Ngan. They are a bunch of spectacular isles with alluring beauty. Koh Samui is the oldest among the trio and has sophisticated resorts that are a mixture of contemporary and traditional brilliance. A number of tourist spots are present here like Nam Tok Phaeng, National Museum, Chiaw Lan Lake and likes.

Yet, I am keen to spend my days in one of the palm-fringed beaches, sipping a coconut and swimming in the clear waters and then immerse myself in the thick rainforest.

With all these places to visit, I truly look forward to go back to Thailand. The good news for me and for anybody who is keen on going is that flying to Thailand is relatively cheap.

Have you ever been to Thailand? What did you like the most about it?