Here is my 19 year old son’s hot off the press guide to what to do and where to stay in Northern Thailand. If you’re on a budget – these hostels, sight seeing recommendations and bar choices are for you:-
In some ways, Northern Thailand was the highlight of my whole trip of South East Asia and easily one of my favourite places I’ve ever visited. I spent around 3 weeks in total in Northern Thailand with most of it based around Chiang Mai.
If I was to recommend any backpackers accommodation in Chiang Mai, only one hostel comes to mind. A Little Bird. Located directly in the centre of the city, near Thapae Gate, we payed 100 baht a night (2 pounds) and it was by far the best hostel in terms of atmosphere and the amount of people we met.
Things to do
The whole vibe of the city was what I enjoyed the most. The people were lovely, everyone was always busy, whether it be at the night market,Sunday market or the roads in general with their bustling mopeds.
If I was to give anyone one single bit of advice about their whole trip, it would be to make sure that they were in Chiang Mai during Songkran (Thai new year) which is between the 13-15th April. It was easily the highlight of my trip, and consisted of 4 days of partying day and night, celebrating Thai New Year with the Thai people and having a MASSIVE endless water fight. Everybody gets involved and locals run up and down the street soaking travellers with water and in the centre of the city, there is live music and the whole area is packed with everyone celebrating the new year together.
One of my other highlights of Chiang Mai was the zoo. We rented mopeds out for the day to take a look around the city and stumbled across the zoo around a 15 minute drive out of town. It was only 100 baht to get in and we were allowed to feed almost every single animal, including the elephants, hippos, jaguars, monkeys, giraffes, the whole shebang:-
Chiang Mai had some really cool bars for travellers to meet at. One bar called Zoe’s, which if you asked any traveller in Chiang Mai, they would know what you were talking about. This closes at around 3am and if you’re looking for a later night in Chiang Mai then there are some clubs you can go to around the centre but just a quick heads up…they’re full of prostitutes!
Located a 3 hour drive from Chiang Mai, this small town is a must see for anyone who visits Northern Thailand as not only is this place located in beautiful countryside by the mountains but for teenage travellers looking for a good night out, Pai can provide this too.
My friends and I stayed at a hostel called Darling Viewpoint Guesthouse and they’re not lying about the view from this hostel. There were 6 of us so we had our own room to ourselves and each had a double bed, paying only 200 baht a night (4 pounds). We had a perfect view of the mountains and the whole town and had our own verandah style area to ourselves with hammocks and outdoor beds to relax in this peaceful countryside town.
If you were looking for a hostel with lively atmosphere and more backpackers however, the people who we met in the town were staying at Spicy Pai which is a hostel full of backpackers looking for a good time. Obviously some downsides come to a hostel like this, for instance, the likelihood is that you’ll be stuck in a sweaty 30 person dorm without any fans which will happen sometimes while you’re in Asia…but these are some of the sacrifices you have to make.
Without a doubt, the food in Pai was the best I had throughout the whole of Asia. Our hostel was a short walk into town or an extremely short and pointless moped into town (which was much more fun).
The town is small and everything is located on or near one street. The small restaurants on this street are cheap and extremely nice but if I was to give some worthwhile advice, I would wait until around 7 30pm to have your dinner which is the exact time that all the street food sellers come out to set up their stalls. With an extremely wide variety of food to choose from, from burgers to Pad Thai, my favourite was easily the little curry stall and for 40 baht (less than a pound!) you had 3 curries to choose from. Beef Massaman curry, Chicken Yellow curry and Thai Green curry. I had this nearly everyday for the week I was there and couldn’t decide which was my favourite to choose from!
Things to do
Some of my favourite activities that I did whilst in Asia happened in Pai. We rented mopeds from a fantastic company called AYA which gave us a good deal plus insurance for the week and these mopeds meant we could drive out of town and visit the many waterfalls and different sights that the countryside around Pai had to offer:-
One of the highlights of my whole trip was the elephant riding we did in Pai. We payed 300 baht (6 pounds) each to ride and play with elephants in the river for an hour and my word it was a lot of fun:-
..and then after this they took us to the hot springs for free! Some of them so hot that we could boil eggs in them..yum!
and he wasn’t actually joking – check out this picture – you could actually buy eggs to boil:-