Travel Northern Thailand
There are so many places to visit in Thailand. I have only visited a mere handful of them! Following is an account of where I went in northern Thailand and my experiences.
Thailand Tour or Independent Travel?
I covered the north of Thailand as part of an Adventure Travel Tour. There are many different operators that will do this - Gecko's, Intrepid, Imaginative Traveller to name a few. These companies operate tours which use either local or western guides who live in the country. They also use the local transport to get around on - so you are not stuck on a tour bus with some flag waving guide! They are generally small group tours and vary in age and the types of accommodation that one stays in. I had a thoroughly great time, as I am generally not the type of person who does the "tour" thing - preferring to get around and discover things on my own - I was quite impressed.
Of course, Thailand is very easy to get around on one's own. There are cheap buses and trains, and relatively cheap internal flights operated by Thai Airways or Bangkok Airways. I guess it all depends on the amount of time you have, funds available and how adventurous you are feeling as to which way you will choose to get around. There are a number of excellent guide books available which will help you with ideas on what to pay for fares, which routes to take, how to catch a train/bus etc.
Places Visited On My Tour of Thailand
After a few days in Bangkok we caught tuktuk's to a local bus station - which was chaotic - to board a local bus to Kanchanaburi, west of Bangkok. I really can't remember how long the journey took (not long in the whole scheme of things), but it was a fantastic experience. The bus was like something from the 50's but all decked out in loads of colour and Asian trinkets, a couple of fans provided a little relief from the heat and humidity if you were lucky enough to be at the front and it was rammed with local people and their bags! Loud music blared most of the way from the driver's carry on stereo and the seats were really hard and small (at least for big western bums anyway!)
Kanchanaburi is one of the world's famous World War II sights. It is where the "Bridge Over the River Kwai" is and also the location of the "Death Railway" where many POW's died building the Burmese Railway under Japanese control. The museums and monuments to these people are very moving and well worth seeing.
There are also many national parks and waterfalls in the area and if there is a group of you, you can rent a disco barge at night time and float up and down the river whilst consuming a lot of Beer Chang!
Travel to The Old Capital of Thailand
We then headed by bus onto Ayutthaya - the former capitol of Thailand. It was once known to be one of the biggest cities in the world and it's glitz and wealth impressed many who passed through and visited.
The history is fascinating and there are many crumbling ruins and structures demonstrating a variety of architectural influences to be seen. In the heart of the city Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya Historical Park is now included in UNESCO's World Heritage List.
Travel by Train to Chiang Mai
From Ayutthaya we travelled by train up to Chiang Mai, one of the largest northern cities in Thailand. It is a really beautiful city with many fantastic markets and food stands to visit, as well as a lot of history and beautiful buildings.
Chiang Mai is an excellent place to from base yourself if you are wanting to visit the "Hills Tribe" people, ride Elephants, go rafting on bamboo canoes and attend Thai cooking schools, amongst many other things.
If you are looking to visit the Hills tribe people you will need to do so on an organised tour. Beware - the trek into the mountains to reach these communities is hard work. You will only need to carry an overnight pack but even so, trekking through the jungle in high humidity will soon sort you out (don't do it with a hangover as one of the guys on our tour did! He had a night on the Mekong Whiskey and then did this trek and I swear he very nearly died!!)
After a fantastic time in the North of Thailand we travelled by overnight train back down to Bangkok. I was well impressed by the comfort of the journey. As evening approaches your seats are turned into compact little beds and bunks are also folded down. They have their own pull across curtain so are very private indeed.
The End Of A Fantastic Thailand Tour
And this was the end of the tour! There are so many places to visit in northern Thailand, I have just touched on a few. If you're heading that way enjoy your travel and have a fantastic time!
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