My trip in North Thailand hasn’t been long enough to explore deeply all the area. I've spent the most of my time on the North West around Mae Hong Son district.
A common place where you can start your trip is Chiang Mai. Before coming here i heard about this place such a lot of times, so my expectation was pretty high. Well, of course it’s a way better than that shitty hole of Bangkok, but actually I’ve been a bit disappointed. Chiang Mai is quite a big city, there are a few places to see and visit i suggest to spend not more than a couple of days here. This city is definitely more relaxing than Bangkok, you can find few temples and palaces, a lively night market and good places for eating.
To find cheap accommodations you need to search around the old town area nearby the market. Walking around you can find many guest houses for a price between 150-250 baht. I’ve stayed in a guest house called Jonadda for 150-200 baht per night and it was actually pretty good. The receptionist was lovely and helpful, the room was clean with bathroom inside and hot water too, and the free wifi was pretty fast and stable… what to you need more? Apparently a common thing to do in Chiang Mai is also rent a scooter and drive through the streets of the surrounding area for about 3-4 hours. The drive is nice but if like me, you hate zoo and anything similar, there is not so much left to do. Seems like Thai people can’t find any other way to attract and entertain the tourists.
From Chiang Mai you can get a bus to Pai, that is another famous town on the north west of Thailand, about 5 hours away. My suggestion, like before, is to rent a motorbike and visit all the area freely… also here the drive is very nice, just remember to bring your international driver license. What is Pai? Pai is a classical theme park for tourists… a small town organized to provide attractions for foreigners. Once here the most of the people that you will meet on the streets are tourists on their scooters, driving around through the sightseeing of the area: waterfalls, hot spring, a canyon, and some bloody zoo or sanctuary. Actually the town is pretty clean and nice, and you can easily find cheap and nice places where to stay. I’ve spent three nights at the “Mr. Jan’s Guest House” for 100 baht per night. It’s very close to the main road and is basically a garden with some huts. Also this accommodation was very good, clean, with bathroom inside the room and free wifi… Nothing to complain about. Pai is a town that people can like, apparently young tourists love this place… what I’ve felt instead is that everything is totally fake, it’s a showcase for tourists who like comfort and easy fun. Nothing too bad, everyone is different, but if like me, you like experience real life and learn something new, learn the culture of the Country and the local people, this is not the place for you.. and for me. If instead, you are interested on going around for sightseeing and at night drink a beer with dozens of other foreign tourists, i suggest you to come.
Three hours far on the west from Pai, there is my favorite location, much less touristy and more interesting than the places visited before: Mae Hong Son. This town, located close to the Myanmar border, is a chilled place that worth a visit. A nice accommodation is the guest house “Baan Mai GH”. The room cost you around 200 baht plus 30 baht for the breakfast. Very clean and nice place with a very peaceful and friendly atmosphere. A warm welcome from a lovely woman called Jum. The people here will make you feel like at home. I made some friends here and we had a dinner all together like a family… indeed a recommended guest house. To get here from the bus station, the price for the tuk tuk must be max 100 baht, so don’t make them fool you. This town has a nice lake where you can enjoy the beautiful view of a temple lighted up at night. There is a local market where you can find quite cheap food too.
My suggestion, like usual, is to rent a scooter and drive all around this nice area. There is a rental shop called “JD” not far from the GH and nearby the tourist police station (price 150 baht).
The things to do in Mae Hong Son are quite a few. There is a small mountain where you can watch sunset and sunrise, and also a view point to enjoy the panorama over the town. There are few caves to visit around the area, but the most interesting attraction for me, is the presence of many rural villages where you can meet the local people who live a peaceful life far from the city and the tourists, right in the middle of the forest on the mountains. To get here you need to drive through mountains dusty roads, and the people that you meet can’t speak even a word in English, but the experience is very interesting, and the locals are very friendly.
A last place that i can suggest is between Mae Hong Son and Pai: Soppong. I haven’t been here not even one day but passing by i could tell that seems very interesting. Near this small town there is a cave called “Lod”, try to find a place to stay around there, i know that there are some guest houses. All this area was very nice and if i had time i would have stopped gladly.. check this out.