A hot air balloon ride, a sheep cafe with a vast mountain view, a picturesque Yunanese village — this itinerary constantly got us asking: is this really Thailand?

Loy Kratong Festival - Chiang Mai Lanterns in Northern Thailand

If you’ve watched Disney’s Tangled, you’d probably be familiar with this scene of glowing lanterns simultaneously released into the sky.

Yep, that’s how we ended up in Chiang Mai. But if you know us, we weren’t gonna head home after flying over 2,500km. Which meant looking for hidden gems around Northern Thailand!

8D7N Thailand Itinerary

Map of Northern Thailand Road Trip Itinerary starting from Thailand

This Thailand itinerary involves renting a car for the first six days, driving about 3 to 6 hours each day with plenty of scenic stops along the way. Definitely more enjoyable if you have at least one other co-driver!

Pre-trip Essentials

SIM card: ฿299 from the Airport (8 days, 15GB)
Transport: 6-day Car Rental via Klook, within Chiang Mai it’s easy to get around via Grab
Chiang Mai Accommodation: Moose Hotel Chiangmai (Highway Branch) — great location for road-tripping

Day 1: Chiang Mai

Loy Kratong festival

Loy kratong Chiang Mai - Northern Thailand itinerary

The annual Loy Kratong festival in Thailand marks the end of the rainy season and coincides with the full moon. This year, we managed to capture the event on 27 November 2023.

While videos capture the essence of this vibrant celebration, I have to say, watching thousands of glowing lanterns illuminating the night sky in real life far exceeds the feeling of watching it on the screen.

Loy Kratong Thailand

For such a large-scale event, we expected some chaos but this particular one we signed up for was so remarkably organised! The areas were clearly marked, guiding guests to first collect a Kratong, float it in a lake, then walk down a buffet line where there was every traditional Thai dish you can think of.

Festival Performances at Loy Kratong Chiang Mai

We took our food to the next area where there were performances, festival games, even a 10-minute express massage station. Enough to keep everyone entertained until the main event.

Lighting up a Lantern at Loy Kratong Festival

At 7:30PM, the MCs ushered the crowd to collect their lanterns and gather at an open grass area divided into sections. Each person had a numbered tag so we had a designated spot and it didn’t feel too crowded. On cue, everyone released their lanterns and the moment truly was magical ✨

*Locals float Kratongs — small decorative boats made of banana leaves — down a river or any body of water to celebrate the water spirits. Special to northern parts of Thailand, apart from floating the Kratongs, they also mass release lanterns into the skies. There’s been a lot of flak about what happens to the lanterns afterwards so nowadays, there are a few companies that use biodegradable materials for the lanterns and also organise clean ups the next day.

Cost: S$87/pax via Klook (seasonal)
Event time: 5:30PM – 10PM
Meeting point: Horizon Village & Resort (Google Maps)

Moose Hotel Chiang Mai

Moose Hotel Chiang Mai Accommodation

Chiang Mai has many great accommodation options but staying at Moose Hotel (Chiang Mai branch) meant we were near to the highway and that would save us 10 minutes on our road trips each day.

Apart from the usual double and twin configurations, they also have triple beds and a double bunk configuration (fit for four).

Moose Hotel Chiangmai - Places to Stay in Chiang Mai

It’s a great hotel all in all but the kicker for us was the pygmy goats! Yes, there’s a pen of goats, baby ones too just beside the breakfast/bar area. The goats are friendly and affectionate and will bump your hands for extra pets.

Goats at Moose Hotel Chiang Mai

Cost: From ~S$93/night
How to get there: ~18min drive from Chiang Mai International Airport (Google Maps)

Day 2: Day Trip to Mon Jam

Drive time from Chiang Mai: 1hr

Mon Jam - Day trip from Chiang Mai Thailand

Mon Jam is known for cafes and glamping and is located on a gorgeous hilltop area, only an hour’s drive from Chiang Mai. Since this was only a short distance away, we booked a few sky adventures near Chiang Mai for the morning.

Sunrise Flight on a Hot Air Balloon

Panoramic View from Hot Air Balloon in Chiang Mai Northern Thailand

Did you know you could take a hot air balloon flight in Thailand!?


Funny enough, we were back at Horizon Village & Resort where we flew our lanterns the night before.

Slightly hungover from the Loy Kratong fun, we woke up extremely early to catch the sunrise on a hot air balloon! While the welcome coffee wasn’t enough to wake us up, the views really did the trick (not to mention, the roaring sound of the burner)!

From up above, watching the rice fields, mountains, and winding roads float by while the sun and moon was simultaneously rising and setting made everything look extra magical. Jeriah’s favourite part in all of this was waving to the local kids below 👋🏼🤗

Champagne After Hot Air Balloon Ride Chiang Mai

As tradition would have it, the flight ended with a glass of champagne before we headed for a buffet breakfast. The package we got also comes with a free two hour spa experience, but we opted to have it done at the end of our trip instead since we had a full day ahead!

Cost: ~S$460/pax (incl. 2hr Spa at Fah Lanna — we did this on the last day)
Pick up time: ~5AM
Hotel pick up: Available within Chiang Mai city

Paramotor Academy

Paramotor Ride in Chiang Mai Thailand

When we arrived at the academy, we were pretty awed by the view. There were silhouettes of mountains around and the soft morning light made it look extra magical. The setup here is a lot simpler, compared to the hot air balloon. All it took was five minutes to gear up with our flight suit and helmets and we’re good to go.

View from the Paramotor Chiang Mai

Each ride is 15 minutes so you get to enjoy a panoramic view of the vast area.

While the view was great, my favourite part of this was the takeoff and the landing. You can imagine being a bird (or an FPV drone) just cruising through the skies.

Note that the weather is extra chilly between November and January so if you’re here around this time of the year, wear an extra layer! Shades are also good to have on the flight. Pick-up and drop-off are included in the package.

Cost: ~S$133/pax
Activity time: 8AM – 10AM
Hotel pick up: Available within Chiang Mai city

Pit Stop at Ying Yong Flower Garden

Ying Yong Flower Garden in Mon Jam - Day Trip from Chiang Mai

Mon Jam is only an hour away from Chiang Mai city but you’ll feel a stark difference once you get to the mountains. The soft windy roads felt like a good warm-up before we hit the infamous Mae Hong Son loop at the end of the trip.

The Ying Yong Flower Garden seemed a little unassuming at first but turned out to be a cheeky hidden gem up on Mon Jam. There were flower fields of purple, red, and white variations across the hilly terrace.

Entrance fee: ฿50
Opening hours: 6AM – 6PM
How to get there: 1hr drive from Chiang Mai (Google Maps)

Pongyang Jungle Coaster & Zipline โป่งแยง จังเกิ้ล โคสเตอร์ & ซิปไลน์

Pong Yaeng Jungle Adventure Park - Mon Jam Thailand Road Trip

This adventure park in Mon Jam is every kid’s dream come true — but honestly, we had way more fun than we expected too.

As the name suggests, there’s a roller coaster that weaves through the lush jungle. But the coaster aside, there’s also a 34-course zip-line course with fun obstacles which includes cycling on a wire, a mini bungy jump, and the usual swingy bridges.

Pong Yaeng Jungle Coaster in Mon Jam - Day Trip from Chiang Mai

My favourite ride here was the roller coaster which functions like a luge but on tracks — which honestly is way more fun because you can go full speed at the corners, without worrying about your cart flipping around.

*Pro-tip: If there’s someone slow in front of you, put your cart in brakes for a bit to allow some space. There’s a safety mechanism that will automatically slow your cart if you approach too close to the cart in front.

This activity has a pickup option but since we wanted to explore around Mon Jam, we decided to drive up (only 45 minutes from Moose Hotel) too! If you’re getting a pick up option, go with Option B, which comes with lunch, the zip-line course, the giant swing, and of course, the jungle coaster.

Cost: From S$7.50
Opening hours: 8:30AM – 5PM (5:30PM on weekends)
How to get there: 45min drive from Chiang Mai (Google Maps)
Hotel pick-up: Available from Chiang Mai

98 Cozy Cafe Camping Garden

98 Cozy Cafe in Mon Jam

There are many cute cafes in the Mon Jam area but our favourite was the 98 Cozy Cafe Camping Garden. We found it by accident since the other one had their drinks sold out but it turned out to be a good detour!

Twilight at 98 Cozy Cafe Mon Jam

I mean, how aesthetic is this!

Watching the sun set from Cozy 98 Cafe at Mon Jam - Day Trip from Chiang Mai

The interior is small, with minimalist designs but also has a cosy feel to it. My favourite part though was the ledge where you could dangle your legs, enjoy your drinks while watching the sunset. I’m pretty convinced this cafe is the best place in Mon Jam to catch the sunset.

Cost: ฿60 – 90 for drinks
Opening hours: 8AM – 6PM
How to get there: 10min drive from Pongyang Jungle Coaster (Google Maps)

Krua Chalong - Best Thai dinner restaurant in Chiang Mai

One of the best local Thai meals we had on this 8-day trip was at Krua Chalong Chiang Mai. At 7PM, it was packed with mainly locals. They don’t have an English menu but there are photos of the dishes and Google Translate does a pretty good job.

While waiting for our table, we also took a sneak at the other table to see what they were having (pro-tip if you’re unsure of what to order!) We ended up with a steamed fish (฿380 – ฿520 depending on size of the catch), a soup curry (฿280) , and a glass noodle salad with minced pork (฿150). Every dish we ordered here was really good — I could imagine this to be the place to bring friends if you were a local here!

Cost: ~฿300/pax
Opening hours: 10AM – 9PM (closes between 2PM – 4:30PM)
How to get there: 50min drive from Mon Jam (Google Maps)

Day 3: Day trip to Mae Ping National Park, Lamphun

Drive time from Chiang Mai: ~3hrs

The grand plan for the day was to check out Ko Luang Waterfall in Mae Ping National Park, a 2.5 to 3-hour drive from Chiang Mai city. Took some detours to split up the morning drive but turns out, the detours were even better than the final destination.

The Lamp Lamphun Cafe’ & Farm เดอะแลมป์ลำพูน คาเฟ่ & ฟาร์ม 

Aerial View of The Lamp Cafe - Lamphun Day Trip from Chaing Mai Thailand-2

This isn’t a waterpark.

Not too sure how to describe this place but it’s a nice kinda surprise. The entrance looks like a traditional Chinese restaurant but as you walk in, a couple of ducks greet you. You cross a bridge, and there are cabanas on the edge of a turquoise-blue lake. In it are more swimming ducks and… a giant GOOSE? It’s all a little random but somehow well put together at the same time.

Cabana seating at The Lamp Cafe - Lamphun Day Trip from Chaing Mai Thailand-3

The owner comes by for a chat and tells us there’s a pen with one month old baby pygmy goats. Wow.

Food at The Lamp Cafe - Lamphun Day Trip from Chaing Mai Thailand-1

Food was also impressive. We got a Coconut Baked Rice (฿150), Som Tam — Papaya Salad (฿90), and a Soft-Shell Crab Curry Toast (฿190). The last item was one of their signature dishes, recommended by the friendly owner, Bo (he might not look friendly but totally is)!

Cost: ~฿220/pax
Opening hours:
10AM – 10PM (daily)
How to get there: ~1hr drive from Chiang Mai (Google Maps)

Tham Luang Pha Wiang (Cave)

Lamphun Cave Tham Luang Pha Wiang - Day Trip from Chaing Mai Thailand

Another interesting find but made more interesting because of a monk and a dog. TL;DR — pretty cool cave, worth the hike.

But if you’re interested, here’s the story (I’ll try to keep it short).

Google Maps brings us to a car park with a large golden Buddha statue. There are no cave openings in sight.

Confused, we ask a monk — who happens to be the only human in the entire area. We show him an image of the cave from Google Maps, he nods and points to the right. Still confused, we walk past a few more statues until we see a flight of steep rocky steps.

Entrance of Lamphun Cave Tham Luang Pha Wiang - Day Trip from Chaing Mai Thailand

Spot the furry lil tour guide.

It only takes about 5 minutes but the steps are steep and uneven and gets us slightly breathless at the top. Then we see the entrance and think oh, this is pretty cool. But, there’s more! 

We realise the monk had trekked up the steps too, seemingly calm and not breathless at all. Behind him was a shy brown dog who kept close to us the entire time. We reach a dark part of the cave that has a bunch of smaller golden Buddha statues lit but the sunlight streaming from the cave opening.

Lamphun Cave Light Source

The monk drops a couple of ฿10 coins into a machine and the back of the cave lights up. He points at a sign written in Thai, “something ฿40 something 10 minutes” was what I could make out of it. Thinking he wanted us to pay ฿40, we started scrambling with our wallet but he waved it off and signalled for us to follow him.

Inside of Lamphun Cave Tham Luang Pha Wiang - Day Trip from Chaing Mai Thailand

So we did, so did the dog, and we were awed. It was a whole world deep there. Definitely worth the detour!

Entrance fee: Free (but perhaps bring 4x ฿10 coins to light up the cave)
Opening hours: None but definitely try to get there before sunset
How to get there: 36min drive from The Lamp Cafe (Google Maps)

Mae Ping National Park

Ko Luang Waterfall - Mae Ping National Park

There were three spots we wanted to tick off at Mae Ping National Park. A waterfall, a viewpoint overlooking a valley, and a chill campsite overlooking a calm lake. This area is huge so we only managed to hit up two of the three. If any of you manage to get to the viewpoint, let us know in the comments!

Ko Luang Waterfall in Mae Ping National Park - Northern Thailand Itinerary

The Ko Luang Waterfall is a 25-minute drive from the national park entrance. We read that swimming used to be possible here but there are now signs that ban it. I can tell why though, the rocks seem to have a layer of minerals on it and are incredibly slippery (yes, tried and bum-tested). We were a little bummed (no pun intended) but just as well! The water also wasn’t as intense a blue as the ones we found online. Could it be seasonal? Let us know if you visit!

Scenic Lakeside Camping at Mae Ping National Park - Northern Thailand Itinerary

The Pha Daeng Luang Sunrise Viewpoint looks like a scene in Norway (from photos) but for some reason, we could not figure a way to get there and the sun was soon setting. Instead, we went for the Kang Ko campsite — a nice chill spot to have a picnic while the sun sets.

Entrance fee: ฿100/pax + ฿30/car
Opening hours: 8AM – 4:30PM
How to get there: ~1.15hr drive from the cave (Google Maps)

Night Market in Lamphun

From Kang Ko Campsite, it’s a 3-hour drive back to Chiang Mai. Stop by the night market in Lamphun for dinner before driving back to Chiang Mai.

Day 4: Day trip to Chiang Rai — Northern Thailand’s most famous temple

Drive time from Chiang Mai: 3hrs

Akha FarmVille อาข่า ฟาร์มวิลล์

Akha Farmville - Chiang Rai Day Trip From Chiang Mai

A sheep… cafe? Overlooking mountains. Need I say more?

Sheep Cafe at Akhville - Chiang Rai Day Trip From Chiang Mai

I would be here even without the sheep because the views from this cafe are truly on point! The sheep are also incredibly friendly and will let you approach them for pets. You can pay for a little frying pan filled with strips of carrots (฿30) and the sheep will follow you like you’re Mary.

Indoors of Akhaville Farmville - Chiang Rai Thailand

Don’t be surprised to see the sheep taking shade within the cafe as well. A little gimmicky but worth the visit! Once in a while, you’ll see the talented sheepdog doing his rounds, herding the sheep.

Entrance fee: ฿100 incl. free drink
Opening hours: 7:30AM – 5:30PM (closes at 6PM from Fri–Sun)
How to get there: 2.5hr drive from Chiang Mai (Google Maps)

Wat Rong Khun – White Temple วัดร่องขุ่น

Wat Rong Khun White Temple - Chiang Rai thailand itinerary

It’s been seven years since I first saw the White Temple and I’m blown away by its transformation! While the main building remains striking, it’s the subtle details that steal the show. Once your eyes adjust to the dazzling white, you’ll find reflective bits that the artist has added cleverly to catch the light, adding an otherworldly glow.

Wat Rong Khun White Temple - Chiang Rai thailand itinerary

Beyond the iconic white structure, there’s now an additional cave, and a waterfall area to explore. We didn’t explore the cave as it was buzzing with curious visitors — let us know if it’s worth the visit!

New Cave Area at Chiang Rai's White Temple - Thailand

Entrance fee: ฿100
Opening hours: 8AM – 5PM
How to get there: 45min drive from Akha FarmVille (Google Maps)

Wat Rong Suea Ten (Blue Temple)

Wat Rong Suea Ten (Blue Temple) - Day trip from Chiang Mai Thailand

It’s not every day you see a temple covered in this stark shade of blue and gold. This is a fairly new temple that was only completed in 2016 and took about 11 years to complete.

Blue Temple - Chiang Rai Thailand

Interesting details on the sides of the building.

Fun fact: “Wat Rong Suea Ten” translates to Temple of the Dancing Tiger as tigers are said to have roamed freely over the grounds when it was abandoned nearly a century ago. In 1996, the local community initiated the construction to replace another old temple which stood on these grounds.

Entrance fee: Free
Opening hours: 7AM – 10PM
How to get there: 24min drive from White Temple (Google Maps)

Baan Dam Museum

Baan Dam Museum - Chiang Rai Day Trip from Chiang Mai

Baan Dam is an interesting museum that features works by contemporary artists. When we visited, there was a cool art exhibition that featured artworks that made use of VR technology. Beside each frame there was a QR code — when scanned, directed to an IG filter that brought the artwork to life! This made the whole museum experience a lot more fun and quirky.

Baan Dam Museum - Black House Museum in Chiang Rai

Scan the QR code at the side of each painting for a psychedelic art experience.

Entrance fee: ฿80
Opening hours:
9AM – 5PM
How to get there: 16min drive from Blue Temple (Google Maps)

Lalitta Café

Lalitta Café - Chiang Rai Day Trip in Thailand

Lalitta Café was supposed to be a dinner stopover on our way back to Chiang Mai but this was a whole Gardens by the Bay experience. At the entrance, you’ll see paths lined with flora and fauna, made a little more magical with the fog machine.

Lalitta Café Waterfall in Chiang Rai Thailand

As we got to the end, there was a 2-storey tall waterfall everyone was queuing to take photos at. There are a few alfresco areas to dine at, and we picked the second level on the left side of the waterfall.

Food starts from ฿139 on average.

Entrance fee: ฿60, but if you order food at the cafe, it gets knocked off your bill
Opening hours: 8AM – 8PM
How to get there: 18min drive from Baan Dam Museum (Google Maps)

From Lalitta Café, it’s a three-hour drive back to Moose Hotel Chiang Mai. For those who prefer not to drive such long distances can explore Chiang Rai on a join-in day tour! The tour covers the White Temple (Wat Rong Khun), the Blue Temple (Wat Rong Suea Ten), and the Black House Museum (Baan Dam Museum).

Day 5-6: Drive to Mae Hong Son via Pai

Drive time from Chiang Mai: 5.5hrs

Driving from Pai to Mae Hong Son - Thailand Road Trip from Chiang Mai

Just before the Thai-Myanmar border is a small charming Chinese village, Ban Rak Thai, located 1,180m above sea level. It’s a 5.5-hour drive from Chiang Mai so we split the journey up by staying a night in Pai before driving up to Mae Hong Son.

Aerial View of the Mae Hong Son Loop - Thailand Road Trip

Note: Between Pai and Mae Hong Son is an incredibly windy journey — it’s famously known as the Mae Hong Son loop and has 1,864 turns on steep elevation. Would not recommend taking this drive after sunset. We saw our lives flash a few times as we were trying to get to Chiang Mai by 9PM. Here are some of the highlights before we arrive at Ban Rak Thai!

Pai Canyon

Pai Canyon Hike - Thailand Road Trip from Chiang Mai

What makes Pai Canyon interesting is its distinctive red sandstone cliffs sculpted by erosion over centuries. After a short hike up the carved dirt steps, you’ll find an intricate network of narrow pathways to explore. It gets quite hot in the afternoon so it’s best to arrive at sunrise or sunset.

Hiking on the ridge of Pai Canyon - Thailand Road Trip from Chiang Mai

There are steep drops and the dry dirt can be quite slippery so definitely come with grippy covered shoes.

Entrance fee: Free (฿5 if you want to use the toilets)
Opening hours: 6AM – 8PM (there are no gates)
How to get there: 2hr 45min drive from Chiang Mai (Google Maps)

Check in at Yoma Hotel (Accommodation in Pai)

Yoma Hotel Pai - Thailand Road Trip

After almost three hours on the road, Yoma Hotel was a welcome pit stop on the way to Mae Hong Son. The hotel is slightly further away from Pai Walking Street where most of the travellers are but there’s a free shuttle that will get you there in under five minutes. The pool overlooks a vast field with mountains in the distance, perfect for a relaxing dip in the afternoon.

View from Yoma Hotel - Pai Thailand Road Trip

Rooms are clean and simple with both twin bed and double bed configurations and come with a large breakfast spread in the lobby that overlooks the mountains. It was quite chilly when we were here in November. And in the mornings, there was a thick mist that slowly revealed the mountains as the sun rose — a very charming sight over breakfast!

Yoma Hotel Pai Thailand Road Trip

Cost: S$59/night
Distance from Pai Walking Street: 1km

Sunset at Two Huts Pai

Two Huts Pai - Thailand Road Trip from Chiang Mai

Before the sun sets, save yourself a spot at Two Huts Pai, a charming cafe with spacious alfresco seating. It gets crowded during sunset though so be there earlier to save yourself a seat! Alternatively, bring along a picnic mat so you don’t have to fight for seats!

Sunset spot at Two Huts Pai - Thailand Road Trip from Chiang Mai

Opening hours: 10AM – 9PM
How to get there: 12min drive from Yoma Hotel (Google Maps)

Pai Walking Street

Pai Walking Street at Night - Thailand Road Trip from Chiang Mai

There’s not much to do in Pai in the evening but this street closes to vehicles and vendors open up stores at the sides with performances and live music lining the street. You’ll find souvenirs, trinkets, desserts, snacks, and you could even find your dinner here.

Pai Walking Street Night Market - Thailand Road Trip from Chiang Mai

A happy Jeriah with his hot-off-the-stove sweet potato pancake

Opening hours: 4PM till late
How to get there: 15min walk from Yoma Hotel (Google Maps)

Pang Oung Lake (Scenic pit stop)

Pang Oung Lake - Road Trip Pit Stop to Ban Rak Thai

This was a much needed toilet break for us but also a scenic stop to stretch your legs at a break. The toilets here are clean and free to use.

Entrance fee: Free
How to get there: 2hr 45min drive from Yoma Hotel (Google Maps)

Ban Rak Thai

Tea Terraces at Ban Rak Thai - Thailand Itinerary

Ban Rak Thai is a Yunnan village right before the border with Myanmar. Words don’t do justice to how charming the place is. But imagine getting out of the car to a light 20°C breeze, the sun shining gently on the still lake, reflecting the unique traditional Chinese architecture around it. Imagine that — then visit this one day and let me know if the description is accurate 😝

Photographer at Ban Rak Thai - Thailand Itinerary

Naturally, we spent a lot of time trying to accurately capture the charm in pictures. There isn’t much to do in the area so take it slow and enjoy the cool air and mountainous views around.

Chinese Boats at Ban Rak Thai - Thailand Itinerary

You could also take a boat ride on the lake, sip on tea harvested straight from the village, or take a stroll through the tea plantations.

How to get there: 2.5hr drive from Pai (Google Maps)

Lee Wine Yunnan Restaurant

Tea tasting at Lee Wine Restaurant - Ban Rak Thai Road Trip

Finding lunch was actually the first order of business when we arrived in Ban Rak Thai after the 3-hour drive from Pai. We ended up at Lee Wine Yunnan Restaurant which had a 4.4-star rating on Google Maps with reviews of how authentically Yunnanese the dishes were. It also has the best view from the banks of the lake (imo).

Food from Lee Wine Restaurant - Ban Rak Thai Yunan Village in Thailand

We ordered a bunch of dishes to share namely the Stir fry black chicken (฿320), a Spicy tea leaf salad (฿150), and the Yunnan kimchi with minced pork (฿160). Unintentionally, all the dishes turned out to be pretty spicy so the complimentary tea-tasting set of Oolong and Dew Drop tea was a nice addition.

There’s also a tea and snacks shop next door where you can purchase Grade A tea leaves as a gift.

Cost: ~฿250/pax
Opening hours: 8AM – 8PM (daily)
How to get there: 2.5hr drive from Pai (Google Maps)

From Ban Rak Thai, it’s a 5.5-hour drive back to Chiang Mai with steep roads and many hairpin bends. We had to drive most of the Mae Hong Son loop in the dark and after that experience, I’d highly recommend leaving earlier so you arrive before sunset. Or book a night in Pai before driving back to Chiang Mai in the morning.

Check-in at Gategaa Village

Room at Gategaa Village - Accommodation in Chiang Mai Thailand

Gategaa Village is probably the most charming accommodation in Chiang Mai. It’s only a 12-minute walk from the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar, but also located in a quiet neighbourhood. The entire space is surrounded by lush greenery, has a rooftop pool and the reception has a fully stocked pantry with snacks and desserts you can access at any time of the day!

Swimming pool at Gategaa village - accommodation in Chiang Mai

Rooms are spacious and stylishly decorated, and come with a mini kitchen with stoves and basic cooking utensils. But the in-house kitchen is known to also serve up some amazing food! I think the breakfast here was our favourite from the entire trip!

There are also bicycles you can rent for free to explore the areas around.

Cost: From S$74/night
How to get there: 5.5hr drive from Ban Rak Thai / 20min drive to Chiang Mai International Airport (Google Maps)

Day 7: Day Trip to Doi Inthanon

Drive time from Chiang Mai: 2hrs

Doi Inthanon - Chiang Mai Itinerary

Doi Inthanon is the highest mountain in Thailand, about a 2-hour drive from Chiang Mai city. But after driving extensively over the last few days, we decided to hand over the driving and sign up for a join-in tour to Doi Inthanon instead!

Waterfall at Doi Inthanon - Day Trip from Chiang Mai

Which turned out great as we could take a nap on the drive up, but also got quite a bit of insight about the history of the place from the very friendly and knowledgeable guide!

Doi Inthanon White Karen Coffee - Day Trips from Chiang Mai

The tour includes a stop at two waterfalls, a short 300m hike through the lush forests, and a visit to a local village where we tasted the local coffee, teas and lunch.

Cost: ~S$62/pax
Tour time: 8AM – 5PM
Pick-up from Chiang Mai Accommodation: Available for some hotels near the airport

Think Park Night Market (Japanese/Korean inspired town)

Think Park Chiang Mai Night Market

Think Park is more than just a typical weekend night market. The entire area seems to be modelled to look like a slice of Japan. There’s even a Hachiko statue and Japanese words painted on the tarmac floor.

Think Park Night Market in Chiang Mai

Can you spot Hachiko?

Instead of the usual tourist souvenirs, there are handcrafted goods, trendy local fashion, and artistic creations. There are also live music performances and stalls selling a range of food from local Thai favourites to international cuisine and even a Froyo booth.

Think Park Chiang Mai Night Market

Other than street food booths, there’s also a Korean BBQ restaurant, some trendy cafes, and a few bars to hang out at. Wished we had a little more time here.

Opening hours: Google says 8 – 10PM but it was quite lively when we arrived at 7PM
How to get there: 20min drive from Gategaa Village, also located right next to Eastin Tan Hotel which seems like a nice Chiang Mai accommodation to consider as well (Google Maps)

Day 8: Last min Spa before catching the flight home

Fah Lanna Spa Nimman

Fah Lanna Spa Nimman Branch

Photo credit: Thailandmassage.com

Stepping into a Fah Lanna Spa felt like entering an oasis of serenity — not exaggerating. The space is so well-thought with a soothing aroma of essential oils wafting through the area.

Fah Lanna Spa Nimman Branch

There are over 30 different treatments ranging from 1 to 4 hours with interesting massages like Office Syndrome Retreat (focusing on the head, back and shoulders), the Fah Lanna Aura (includes a thorough body scrub and an aromatherapy oil massage), and even a Reiki Healing treatment.

Every therapist was skilled and you even get to fill in a form beforehand which asks for your preference of pressure, as well as a diagram to mark out your preferred areas to focus and avoid. I always find my thighs extra ticklish so I marked that out and they actually took note of it — definitely appreciated!

This was the perfect activity before catching our flight out of Chiang Mai!

Cost: From S$27
Opening hours: 12PM – 9PM
How to get there: 20min Grab ride from Gategaa Village / 12min drive to Chiang Mai International Airport (Google Maps)

Planning a road trip in Northern Thailand

Road Trip Pals - Northern Thailand Itinerary from Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai’s charm extends past its ancient walls. It’s also the perfect base to explore the charms of Northern Thailand.

Just a 3-hour drive north, charming temples, fascinating museums, and even a whimsical sheep cafe await in Chiang Rai. Venture 3 hours south and there’s the Mae Ping National Park along with the hidden gems of Lamphun.

But I have to say, some of our favourite experiences were the day trip we did to Mon Jam which was all within a comfortable hour’s drive. The cool mountain air, the trendy cafes and glamping opportunities definitely made it all the more charming.

If you’re planning your own road trip from Chiang Mai, here are some useful tips!

1) Choose the right season: November to March is the most ideal as it’s cooler (~20°C) and also during its dry season, great for driving and outdoor activities. During our eight days here, it only lightly drizzled on one evening.

2) Book accomodation ahead: November and December are peak travel seasons here so book your accommodations ahead!

*Pro-tip: Book Stay+ via Klook to get up to 50% off your accommodation/activity! (i.e. A stay at the Moose Hotel Chiang Mai comes together with a Fah Lanna Spa package)

3) Download Offline Maps: There were a few areas where we could not get data connectivity like in Mae Ping National Park, as well as some parts of the Mae Hong Son loop. To be safe, always use the “Ok Maps” function on Google to download the portion of the map that you’ll be using for the day.

4) Plan to finish your drives before sunset: Once you’re out of the city, most of the roads are pitch dark and without any street lamps. There are even sections without reflective tabs which can be quite dangerous. Most of the day trips felt ok to drive in the evenings as the roads were fairly straight, but I’d probably not drive the Mae Hong Son loop in the evening again if I could replan this.

Pad Thai from a Thai Cooking Class in Chiang Mai

5) Bonus: Learn to cook a Thai dish! Cooking classes are a fun way to experience local cuisine and culture, while also bringing home a new skill! We tried out this local cooking class which actually allows you to pick specific dishes. We picked three crowd favourites — a Tom Kha Gai (Chicken Coconut soup), Pad Thai (stir-fried rice noodles), and a Khao Soi (a curry-based Noodle dish from the Northern region)

Thai Cooking Class in Chiang Mai

The cooking class took place in a cosy Lanna-style house with helpful instructors and you even get a customised apron with your name printed on it! Overall a great way to bring home a piece of Thailand.

What experience or sight you find most surprising to see in a Thailand itinerary? Let us know in the comments!

This post was brought to you by Klook.

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