This is one of many Mini Travel Guides in which we tip our collective toes into international travel. This guide is brought to us by photographer Taylor Roades!
I arrived in Thailand, by a random accident that involved a wallet being stolen on the streets of Vietnam. Thailand wasn’t planned to be a part of my five month, backpacking Asian adventure but by a wonderful act of serendipity and the fact that I needed to have bank cards replaced in Bangkok. I ended up in Chiang Mai looking for something interesting to photograph that wasn’t a tourist laden beach and spent a month traveling by foot, motorbike and bus around the beautiful region of northern Thailand.
I am a backpacker that is absolutely terrible at making plans and I arrived in Pai planning on spending two nights. Nothing goes as planned, I fell in love with the rice paddies and the charm Pai held. Two nights turned into eight – I ventured off on a motorbike for a few days and came back for another four. Pai is laid back town with bungalows to stay in, and acoustic guitars playing in the evening on every corner. The night market will give you your fix of pad thai and if you are interested in trekking the hot springs and waterfalls are stunning. There is no other way to describe this little town other than it feels great.
This is a small town not too far off the beaten path and close to the Burmese border, which gives it a great Burma/Thai flavour. The food was spectacular, and the mix of cultures and languages isn’t something that you see in the rest of Thailand. The sunset at the national park just outside town was another highlight - something everyone should see. There are look out points which are elevated over the farmers fields, on every corner once you enter the park.
A motorbike adventure
Motorbikes are cheap to rent ($5-7.00 USD/day) and the best way to see the countryside. The Mae Hong Son Loop is approximately 600km around the province and would take about a week to ride. There are little towns every 50km or so it is easy to arrive before dark at the next destination and find a room to stay. The loop is a perfect beginner trip; the road is full of curves and you are forced to go slow, and it is all paved. (Immaculately I may add.)
A Waterfall Trek
Chiang Mai province is beautiful and as you walk around the old city on every corner literally there is someone offering to take you on a trek. If you have the time spend a couple days doing it. The waterfalls are stunning and offer a cool swim after a hot day, and many treks offer village stays which allow you to see up close and personal rural Thai life.
Khao Soi – A Chiang Mai Specialty
Chiang Mai is the second biggest city in Thailand and they do know how to make a delicious yellow chicken curry. It is a blend of flavours, chilis, egg and fried noodles and seriously cooked to perfection. It is a little difficult to eat with chopsticks as the noodles are wet but the hard work is well worth it.
Mango and Sticky Rice
Mango, Sticky Rice, and Coconut Milk. Three simple ingredients and a surprisingly difficult recipe to master - Mango and sweet sticky rice is a dessert you can’t pass up. The rice is cooked in coconut milk for nine hours before it is served though the combination may sound a little out there I promise you it won’t disappoint.
Learn to Say Hello and Thank You
Even if you are only there for a few weeks making the effort to learn a little language goes a long way. Thai people are extremely friendly and used to tourists but it is easy to say Sa-wat-dee kraup (male speaker) Sa-wat-dee Kah (female speaker) (hello), acknowledge you are in their land and are willing to learn.
Know the King
Thailand is a kingdom and the king is widely respected. Though democracy may be the way of the west the monarchy there is in power generally viewed as doing a good job. It is something to know and be aware of if nothing else. Political views differ everywhere and it is good to be conscious not just in Thailand but anywhere, how yours are delivered.
Travel on the cheap
Hostels are widely available and inexpensive in the North. You will be able to find a dorm bed for under 200Baht or approximately $7.00/night. If you are traveling with a partner it is often cheaper to go halves on a private room to save a little more.
Thanks so much for sharing, Taylor! Do any of you have Thai travel tips to share?