A Bustling City characterized by Magnificent Temples and thriving Craft Markets
The enchanting city of Chiang Mai is known as the rose of the north and has become an increasingly modern metropolis attracting thousands of visitors. It was founded in the late 13th century by King Mengrai and became the ancient Lanna capital of Thailand after Chiang Rai.
This awesome city is as energetic as it is diversified and with its up-to-date facilities and plenty of well preserved historic attractions, it’ll keep you captivated and fascinated at all times.
Take a leisurely drive through the country as the roads further north of Bangkok are not nearly as crowded. Not only will you find lots of rest areas along the route, but you will also be able to see the beautiful countryside as you go.
If you leave Bangkok in the early hours of the morning, you should reach this northern city around lunch time. The distance is a total of 770 kilometres (440 miles). Should you decide to fly, it would only take you just over an hour to get there, but it won’t be nearly as interesting or fun as a good road trip would be.
You will notice that Northern Thailand is quite different from the rest of the country as this region gives way to rolling hills, teak forests, and fertile valleys. You will get to see more working elephants than rice fields and water buffaloes. The area is only a short stretch from the northern borders of Burma and Laos.
Exploring Chiang Mai – The best time to visit
The best time to visit Chiang Mai is during the months from mid- November through to mid-February when the air is cooler and the skies are clearer. It can get a bit colder up here in the north during the evenings, though, so don’t forget to take a sweater with you. Between mid-February through to mid-June the climate tends to get a little hotter, but the sun is out and the skies are still clear.
Though the sun does shine during the months from June to November, the monsoon rains fall sporadically. Nevertheless, it can be very pleasant, albeit under frequently overcast skies. Whatever the weather you can still have a great time here.
Getting to Chiang Mai from Bangkok
Thai Air International and Bangkok Airways operate daily flights from the Don Muang Airport in Bangkok to Chiang Mai. Flying time from Bangkok is approximately 1 hour and fifteen minutes. There are flights from other domestic and international airports around the country, including Phuket, Koh Samui, Chiang Rai and Mae Hong Son. All the southern flights will stop over in Bangkok before heading north.
Exploring Thailand by car can be a very pleasant experience indeed so why not hire a car in Bangkok and drive to Chiang Mai. This could turn out to be a very rewarding trip as there are many historical places of interest along the way.
If you have the time, you should stop over in Ayutthaya or Lop Buri, or for that matter, any town that takes your fancy. It will only add to your excitement. If you decide to travel by road but don’t want the hassle of driving yourself, then an option would be to take one of the many tours operating out of Bangkok.
Getting there by Train from Bangkok
A journey by train in Thailand can be an adventurous experience and this one is no exception, so if not by air or road, this would be an excellent alternative. Train tickets can be purchased from the newly renovated Hau Lamphong Station at Rama IV Road in Bangkok. Trains depart daily at 6:40 am and arrive in Chiang Mai around 7:40 pm.
Though the 13-hour train journey north can be quite endearing at times, the fun and adventure of travelling this way are way more rewarding than a quick flight would be.
A wise choice would be to consider the overnight sleeper trains which are extremely safe and comfortable. It is advisable to book your tickets at least two days in advance to secure the best seats.
I shouldn’t have to tell you this, but the first-class seats would be your best bet. Trains with 1st class accommodation depart Bangkok at 6:00 pm, arriving in Chiang Mai around 7:00 am with a second train departing at 8:25 pm and arriving at the same destination around 9:00 am.
The real beauty of travelling on the evening train, besides it being fun and relaxing, is that you can catch up with some sleep before your arrival on the other side. You’ll also have enough early daylight hours to enjoy the ride as you travel the one-mile tunnel through the Khun Tan Hills and on through magnificent rice fields and orchards until the train reaches the terminus.
Remember the train journey can sometimes be more thrilling than the arrival itself and this phenomenon I have experienced many times during my numerous travels.
My ultimate dream, though, is to travel the Trans-Siberian Express from either St. Petersburg or Moscow in Russia through Mongolia and on to Beijing in China. I am busy negotiating this adventure with a few friends. Not an easy task as many of my friends don’t consider these types of experiences. I will go someday soon.