BootsnAll Travel Network

Heading to the great white North…Northern Thailand


After a good meal or two it was back to Thailand to head to the far North. It took a bit of back tracking to get to the connecting road which led to the Highway 1. It was nice heading along the 210 and 203 to Lom Sak as it was off the main arteries so I was back to a more leisurely pace visiting more out of the way villages and scenery. It seemed though that the clouds and accompanying rain waited in ambush at every mountain pass.

Loei was my first town which was in the center of the cotton industry. Not much to see but a very comfortable Thai town. With a fresh Visa, I had time so I spent some leisurely time checking out the parks, markets, and in search of softies (none to be found). I also took Amo in for a new pair of shoes as I was getting more and more flats. I knew that once I got to the North there would be a lot of areas which were not inhabited and the risk of getting stuck somewhere with no help very high. 790 Baht for two new tires and tubes meant a huge piece of mind. It seemed to have paid off as I haven’t had a flat since.

Next up was Phitsanulok, another little for the tourist, destination. Actually the only positive that really stood out was the Lithai Guesthouse which was a very modern and comfortable place to stay. Fancy digs for a budget price.

Lampang is the only place in Thailand where horse carts are still used as public transport. Damn, I had to see that. Not really, but its better than nothing.

Instead of bee lining it straight to the Emerald of the north Chang Mai, I decided to take a slight detour to the extreme north (I like going to the end). Chang Rai is a sort of little brother to Chang Mai. It has fewer sites but also less of the tourist stress as its bigger brother. Apparently Chang Rai is a better jump off point to do some trekking to the Indigenous villages in the north, but you couldn’t pay me to walk my ass off to look at farmers. The two takeaways that I will remember are first the exploitation of women at the fruit and sweets stands lining the freeway leaving/entering town. Basically, they got pretty girls from town to stand in front of the many stalls selling jams, candy, fruit, etc. It was nice to see something besides temples while driving Amo. Second, was the exploitation of the Karen women. These are the tribes where the women wear the metal bands around their necks in order to make them stretch. I already have done enough exploiting of the tribal people in Africa, so I couldn’t see the point of doing any more. The reason why I found it amusing was the billboards along the freeway which were the photos of a long necked Karen woman with a big Coca Cola logo and a big arrow stating “only 2kms”. I did see a little girl with the rings riding in the back of a shared truck taxi, so I wrote it as a completed mission and left it at that.

Reaching Mae Sai, I achieved the greatest honor of all those who have traveled in Thailand, getting to see Thailand’s northernmost town. Basically, to achieve this great honor, you head north on the 1. Keep on going and going and going. Eventually you reach a town with masses of people and shops lining the road. Eventually you reach a dead end with a police outpost and the entrance to a bridge that crosses a little river. The end. And that is Mae Sai. I thought it might be interesting to spend a few days checking things out, but as I arrived early and found a place to stay rather easily, I had some time to wander around a bit. Basically, Mae Sai is just another border town which evolves totally on the markets selling goods either imported in or being bought to be exported out. Most of it is strictly household items and not geared toward tourists. It was worth a look around, but pretty much the same old market going ons. As I had the time and was not feeling like spending a second night there I did the other must see, visiting the Golden Triangle. Sop Ruak is the self proclaimed “center of the Golden Triangle”, where the borders of Thailand, Burma, and Laos meet. There is absolutely nothing remaining which relates to the old drug days, as now it is a place to take a few photos, have a coffee, and look at all the other tourists.

As was the plan, I saved the best for last. Chiang Mai is the pearl or emerald, I forget which, of Thailand. Locals are especially fond of the city and wherever you go in Thailand people would ask if you had visited Chiang Mai.

Chiang Mai is important not only of what the city offers, but also the history and geographic situation. Chang Mai province, because of its location at a crossroads between China, Laos, Myanmar, and Thailand became a center of trade and a fusion of cultures. Surrounded by mountains and mildly touched tribal villages like the Hmong-Mien, Thai-Lu, and Phuan. Outside of the capital, Chiang Mai province boasts more natural forest than any other province in the north. Within the city are thousands of holy sites and outside are pristine mountains. For the tourist they have added modern facilities, almost world class food, and all the modern accoutrements that the discerning traveler requires.

I splurged for a nice room to hide out for a few days and did some light sight seeing not following any itinerary or guide and just wandered the streets popping into a dozen or so random temples and monasteries. My personal needs were quenched by a 50’s American styled diner serving hamburgers and fries alongside its neighbor which sold acceptable Mexican food. My random wanderings also paid off when I scored on a milk shake booth located across from a couple of schools/colleges. It was a large walk up booth with six girls working. On the counter were glass jars full of different types of ingredients from which to choose for your shake. You picked a base, pointed at a few ingredients, and a girl would blend it all for you topping it off with the usual sweetened condensed milk. A great find. Night markets rounded off the Chang Mai experience, but it was just a magnified version of your normal tourist market.

And with that, the North was complete. It felt good to have finished my route, but as I was still feeling a need for some action, I decided to not go straight south back to Bangkok, but rather head to the far west and track along the border with Burma. Supposedly the west provides some of the most scenic riding in SE Asia, and with Amo purring like a kitten, I figured what the heck and made a right turn.


One response to “Heading to the great white North…Northern Thailand”

  1. Karie says:

    Glad you enjoyed it :).

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