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Northern Thailand 2021–2022: Any tips?


shain
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I'm super excited - we got a pair of tickets to Thailand scheduled late December. We plan spending 2 weeks in the area of Chiang Mai and Pai, and a few days in Bangkok.

We'll probably take a car from Chiang Mai, so we can get around easily. Tips will be more than welcomed, food related and otherwise :)

 

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~ Shai N.

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1 hour ago, Captain said:

You Lucky Lucky Ba%^&&$ds. 😉  Eat everything!

Have fun and lots of pics for us.

 

Thanks 😹 lots of pics will follow, for sure.

We did get quite lucky with the country opening up, and with vacation days aligning well with the new year.

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~ Shai N.

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We were there a long time ago (maybe 15 years ago) but we loved Chiang Mai.  Definitely check out Doi Suthep, the large Wat in that area.  And for the chicken eaters, have Khao Soi (a chicken curry noodle soup with egg noodles and coconut milk) at least once if not a lot - it's mainly served at breakfast/early lunch.  Back then, it wasn't advisable for non-Thai to rent a car to drive themselves because the laws basically said that if you were in an accident, it was automatically the tourist's fault.  I don't know if that's still true. We hired a driver/guide for a day or so - back then very inexpensive - his name was Sergeant Kai (he was a sergeant in the Thai military when he was young) and he was one of the nicest, most gentle people I've ever met and had tons of great stories.  I'd assume that you could use Grab or Uber there nowadays.  Also, Chiang Mai proper was very walkable - and there were tons of really cheap foot massage people everywhere you went.  There was a fantastic Sunday walking market as well.

 

Chiang Mai has (had?) a lot of food that is unique to Northern Thailand - stuff you won't see in the rest of the country - many of it has Burmese roots.  Great things to get are a Northern Thai laap - but be warned that it is usually made with a lot of offal - and lots of unique herbs but not spicy - it has no lime juice - it's totally different from the Isaan laap from North-East Thailand.  Also, I'm a huge fan of hung lay curry - typically made with pork.  If you can get it, Andy Ricker's book Pok Pok is basically only about food from Chiang Mai.

 

I can't wait to see your photos - I'm sure it has changed a lot since I was there - back then, it was almost like a time warp.

 

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My wife demonstrating how to drink iced coffee with a straw from a plastic bag.

 

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Various insects to snack on.  Our guide LOVED the ant larvae and picked up a bunch to bring home later - we couldn't sample them because they had to be cooked.  But the crickets and silk worms were really tasty and a good beer snack.

 

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Doi Suthep -(there's a lot of stairs to get up there)

 

Back then, there were a lot of Thai cookery schools in Chiang Mai.  We hired a new one (at the time) called A Lot of Thai - the teacher used to work at the big name cooking school then started her own.  Most of the classes started with a tour of the market, and then you go back and learn to make 5 dishes or so.  Her school was small and she ran it out of the back of her house - as was typical back then, the kitchens were outside.

IMG_0304.thumb.JPG.8bc11a88818152c8f506d537ce02c24e.JPG

 

 

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I don't know if it would be open now because of COVID, but another big thing in Northern Thailand is celadon.  We took a tour of one of the celadon factories, Baan Celadon.  You could watch their artisans at work - they even let my wife try her hand at the potter's wheel.  Back then, the Baht was really weak against the US dollar so we wound up buying a lot of celadon tableware - plates, bowls, and a gorgeous handpainted tea set.  Everything hand made and really unique and at the time, unbelievably inexpensive.  They packed everything up into 1 box which we then carried through 3 or 4 airports and 2 countries - everything made it home in perfect condition.

 

Hope you didn't mind my trip down memory lane!!

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@shain I was just checking out the entry requirements/restrictions for Thailand.  Which entry program are you using, the "Tourism Sandbox" or "Exemption from Quarantine (Test & Go)"?

 

I just got an email from Singapore Airlines with a really good deal to go from NYC to Thailand via Singapore (direct to Singapore) - but reading the entry requirements are a bit confusing.  Do you need to quarantine 1 night in a specific SHA+ hotel on arrival (for the Exemption - Test & Go)?

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@KennethT Were using the exemption program, lighting a direct flight. We need to spend a night at a SHA+ hotel, but the quarantine time should be around 6 hours - just until the test results arrive.

Since AFAIK both the US and Singapore are on the list, you should be able to do the same.

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~ Shai N.

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  • 1 month later...

It's been a bumpy road. Back when we bought the tickets things seemed quite bright, with covid cases being low for a long while and most being triple-vaccinated. Then with the Omicron wave, and both Israel and Thailand changing policies every other day and blocking various countries. There were a few days where we knew Thailand will switch to stricter policies, and were worried they might suspend quarantine free travel. After a few days where I had to stop myself from rechecking news sites every few hours, it was announced that entry will be barred for those not already holding an entry permit, which we thankfully did.

Then I was suffering a cold and sore throat a couple of days ago, felt fine, but was worried about the test result... Those also turned out fine.

So know with all the tests, at least four digital forms, and a portfolio of documents - proofs of insurance, vaccines, booking, test appointments - we are to fly in less than 24 hours.

Quite a relief 🤤

Obviously, still abit worried about the flight, and after it, though the situation in Thailand is good.

 

---

 

The flighty is around 13 hours, landing in Bangkok afternoon. We will be taken straight for a PCR test and quarantine until results are received. We will have a short time in the city, before flying to Chiang Mai.

We will spend a few days there, taking day trips and exploring the city, including a new years celebration. The plan is to then rent a car, drive to Pai for two nights, and get back to Doi Inthanon national park for a couple of days. Returning the car and spending a couple more night in another area of Chiang Mai with more plans for day trips and some activities. Flight to Bangkok and a few days there, including a day trip to Khao Sam Roi Yot park and Hua Hin.

Two weeks total. We are still quite flexible, so more tips of any kind are welcomed.

 

 

Edited by shain (log)
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~ Shai N.

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4 minutes ago, shain said:

It's been a bumpy road. Back when we bought the tickets things seemed quite bright, with covid cases being low for a long while and most being triple-vaccinated. Then with the Omicron wave, and both Israel and Thailand changing policies every other day and blocking various countries. There were a few days where we knew Thailand will switch to stricter policies, and were worried they might suspend quarantine free travel. After a few days where I had to stop myself from rechecking news sites every few hours, it was announced that entry will be barred for those not already holding an entry permit, which we thankfully did.

Then I was suffering a cold and sore throat a couple of days ago, felt fine, but was worried about the test result... Those also turned out fine.

So know with all the tests, at least four digital forms, and a portfolio of documents - proofs of insurance, vaccines, booking, test appointments - we are to fly in less than 24 hours.

Quite a relief 🤤

Obviously, still abit worried about the flight, and after it, though the situation in Thailand is good.

 

---

 

The flighty is around 13 hours, landing in Bangkok afternoon. We will be taken straight for a PCR test and quarantine until results are received. We will have a short time in the city, before flying to Chiang Mai.

We will spend a few days there, taking day trips and exploring the city, including a new years celebration. The plan is to then rent a car, drive to Pai for two nights, and get back to Doi Inthanon national park for a couple of days. Returning the car and spending a couple more night in another area of Chiang Mai with more plans for day trips and some activities. Flight to Bangkok and a few days there, including a day trip to Khao Sam Roi Yot park and Hula Hin.

Two weeks total. We are still quite flexible, so more tips of any kind are welcomed.

 

 

Yay!!!!

 

There's a lot to see and do (and eat!) in BKK.  And the "new" airport in BKK is huge and was a slight nightmare long before covid - I can't imagine how long it might take to go through now - make sure you leave plenty of time.  If you happen to be in the direction of this place I'd highly recommend it for an awesome seafood meal.  We were taken there when we had an appointment about an hour or so outside of BKK, and we really enjoyed it.  I don't know if I'd go far out of my way for it, but I'd go slightly out of my way for it.  I posted some photos of it here.  Also, a nice feature is that the whole restaurant was open air and tables were well spaced, even in precovid times.

 

I'm curious as to what Pai will be like - from what I remember, a lot of people used to go there if they wanted to visit the hill tribes like the Karen and Hmong.  What put it on your radar?

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@KennethT I understood that the trip you considered back then didn't came through. I hope that it's not because you had to cancel anything because of covid...

 

1 hour ago, KennethT said:

I'm curious as to what Pai will be like - from what I remember, a lot of people used to go there if they wanted to visit the hill tribes like the Karen and Hmong.  What put it on your radar?

 

Probably a bit quieter than usual, though my understanding is that things are getting lively again. I've heard a lot of good things about it - a few saying it was the highlight of their trip. We are looking for nature, villages, atmosphere. I'm a bit worried that Pai is a bot too touristy/fake, I'll check if there are tours to the local tribes from there that might seem decent. I sew a few around Chiang Mai, but it's good to have options. There's also the option of driving further towards the Burmese border, though we'd rather keep it within a day trip.

 

1 hour ago, KennethT said:

If you happen to be in the direction of this place I'd highly recommend it for an awesome seafood meal. 

Thanks! It looks great. We do plan to head this way, on our way to Hua Hin, so we'll try to time it for lunch or dinner :)

I'll give your blog a read-through, I'm pretty sure I checked it back when we started to plan, but it looks interesting (and appetizing :P).

Edited by shain (log)
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~ Shai N.

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13 minutes ago, shain said:

@KennethT I understood that the trip you considered back then didn't came through. I hope that it's not because you had to cancel anything because of covid...

We decided not to go for it.  In hindsight, I'm glad because covid, specifically omicron, is going crazy in our area.  The infection rate for our area is basically doubling every few days.  My Pfizer booster was about 4 months ago, and the research I've read lately says that it's effectiveness with omicron fades drastically after 10 weeks.  Plus, I don't want to be too far from my mother right now, who lives in the same area, just in case she gets sick herself.

13 minutes ago, shain said:

 

 

Probably a bit quieter than usual, though my understanding is that things are getting lively again. I've heard a lot of good things about it - a few saying it was the highlight of their trip. We are looking for nature, villages, atmosphere. I'm a bit worried that Pai is a bot too touristy/fake, I'll check if there are tours to the local tribes from there that might seem decent. I sew a few around Chiang Mai, but it's good to have options. There's also the option of driving further towards the Burmese border, though we'd rather keep it within a day trip.

That makes sense.. I also think there are some good national parks up there, and some caves that may be open to tourists, but I don't know if it's a good time of year for that - you definitely don't want to go to a cave during the rainy season!

13 minutes ago, shain said:

 

Thanks! It looks great. We do plan to head this way, on our way to Hula Hin, so we'll try to time it for lunch or dinner :)

I'll give your blog a read-through, I'm pretty sure I checked it back when we started to plan, but it looks interesting (and appetizing :P).

Hula Hin?  Is that autocorrect?  Hua Hin, right?  The beach resort area not far from BKK?

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8 minutes ago, KennethT said:

We decided not to go for it.  In hindsight, I'm glad because covid, specifically omicron, is going crazy in our area.  The infection rate for our area is basically doubling every few days.  My Pfizer booster was about 4 months ago, and the research I've read lately says that it's effectiveness with omicron fades drastically after 10 weeks.  Plus, I don't want to be too far from my mother right now, who lives in the same area, just in case she gets sick herself.

 

It's similar here with the cases raising and ooster fading... We would have canceled if we could get much our our money back :)

 

 

10 minutes ago, KennethT said:

Hula Hin?  Is that autocorrect?  Hua Hin, right?  The beach resort area not far from BKK?

 

Yeah, LOL, Hua Hin. We are more interested in Khao Sam Roi Yot park, but we'd probably check the beach area on the way.

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~ Shai N.

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6 hours ago, shain said:

 

It's similar here with the cases raising and ooster fading... We would have canceled if we could get much our our money back :)

 

 

 

Yeah, LOL, Hua Hin. We are more interested in Khao Sam Roi Yot park, but we'd probably check the beach area on the way.

 

Shai I am worried and can't bring myself to "like" your post but I pray your trip is safe.  And that you are able to share good food with us!

 

Cooking is cool.  And kitchen gear is even cooler.  -- Chad Ward

 

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3 hours ago, JoNorvelleWalker said:

 

Shai I am worried and can't bring myself to "like" your post but I pray your trip is safe.  And that you are able to share good food with us!

 

 

I appreciate that, thank you.

I'm only worried about inconveniences at this point.

We and all those we care for are vaccinated with a booster and are not particularly at risk. While the infarction rate is raising, it seems most cases are mild.

We obviously take great care keeping the chances to the minimum.

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~ Shai N.

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20 hours ago, KennethT said:

 

I'm curious as to what Pai will be like - from what I remember, a lot of people used to go there if they wanted to visit the hill tribes like the Karen and Hmong.  What put it on your radar?

19 hours ago, shain said:

 

Probably a bit quieter than usual, though my understanding is that things are getting lively again. I've heard a lot of good things about it - a few saying it was the highlight of their trip. We are looking for nature, villages, atmosphere. I'm a bit worried that Pai is a bot too touristy/fake, I'll check if there are tours to the local tribes from there that might seem decent. I sew a few around Chiang Mai, but it's good to have options. There's also the option of driving further towards the Burmese border, though we'd rather keep it within a day trip.

 

I remember Pai (the 'down town' area, where we stayed) to be pretty built up for tourists. - Lots of small hotels, garden lounges/restaurants and a 'look the other way' attitude to drugs (mostly marijuana and the like). That was 13yrs ago. No idea now but even in my late 30's it felt like I was close to my expiration date.  A bit  'spring breaky' if you will.  Still, a beautiful place with lot's of great hikes and stuff to do on the rivers.  Enjoy!!

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That wasn't chicken

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