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Northern Thailand

by Thomas Paul

Northern Thailand Accommodation

Have you ever considered visiting the North of Thailand, away from the tourist-saturated South? Alright, there is no sea and  there are no beaches but  instead you will find breathtaking scenery and the cost of living is cheaper than in Bangkok or the South and the people are also more friendly.

Thoeng is about 65km from Chaingrai towards the "Nan" direction.  It can be reached by taking a Chaing Khong bus from the bus station in Bangkok and it takes about 10 hours. Most buses are air-conditioned and it is best to travel overnight if possible. You can also fly from Bangkok to Chaingrai it takes about 2 hours. Buses run from the bus station in Chaingrai to Thoeng about every 30 minutes in the daytime. You need to get a bus that is going to either Chaing  Khong  or Chaing Kham. If boarding a Chaing Khong bus make sure that it is going via Thoeng as they have two different routes. Otherwise you will be left stranded about 12km from Thoeng and will have to hire a taxi.

Thoeng is a small but busy town with beautiful countryside around and millions of trees. Fresh fruit is plentiful: oranges, bananas pineapples, grapefruit  as well as traditional thia fruit. You cannot go far before seeing directions to a waterfall.  The one at Phu Sang about 35km towards Chaing Kham is very beautiful but tends to get very crowded at the weekends. About 5km from there is a monthly Border Market held on the last Tuesday of each month where people from Laos can come across to sell their goods. Well worth a visit. Also in the Chaing Kham direction but going to the left is Phu chi Fa which is on the border with Laos. You cannot cross in to Laos from there but you can go to the border which crosses the mountains -- look down into Laos and the Mekong River. You can leave your car at the bottom and walk up the mountain on a well worn track for 15 minutes if you go  the steep way or 25 if you go the easier way.  Beautiful views on a clear day especially either early in the morning when the sun is rising or in the evening when it is setting.  From there you can travel on to Chaingkong spending a night or two in a inexpensive hotel beside the Mekong River on the way.  At Chaingkhong you can cross into Laos if you so wish by crossing the river by ferry. To cross into Laos will cost you 1500 Thai Baht and you can stay for up to 30 days. The direct road back to Thoeng from Chaing Khong goes through beautiful countryside and is about 80km. It will take you about 1.5 hours.

Chaingrai itself is well worth spending a day in especially in the evening for the Night Markets. From there a bus trip of 60K takes you to Mae Sai which is the border with Myanmar (Burma).  It will cost you only 500 Baht and is well worth crossing for a few hours just to do some cheap shopping. You can buy anything from clothing to jewellery, watches, beers and prepackaged food at very good prices.

The best way to travel around Thailand is by car. This is an experience in itself especially if driving at night -- look out for cycles, motorcycles and slow moving vehicles without lights.  Driving standards are by no means as high as in the USA or Europe. It is also common for some drivers to pass you on the wrong side. Buses are a very cheap means of travel but some places you cannot access.

Language is not a major problem as all children have been taught English in schools for the past 6/7 years and quite a few of the older Thai can also speak English as a result of working with Americans in the past. Quite a few Europeans or Americans are living in the area as well so if you get lost help is always near.  A lot of children are eager to come to talk with you to improve their English even if it is only very basic.  
 For a holiday it is an ideal area as the pace of life is much slower here. Do not let the political climate to stop you from coming. Life here is as normal as most other countries.

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