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Chiang Mai - Pai - Chiang Rai

Do not come between January & May,
Agricultural burning makes the area hard to see, also the air quality is extremely hazardous.

If you are looking for a memorable adventure in northern Thailand, you might want to consider taking trips between Chiang Mai, Pai and Chiang Rai. These three destinations offer a variety of attractions, from cultural landmarks to natural wonders, that will appeal to different types of travellers. Here are some tips on how to plan your trips and what to expect from each place.

Chiang Mai is the largest and most popular city in the north, known for its rich history, vibrant culture and friendly atmosphere. You can explore the old city walls, visit the many temples, shop at the night markets, or enjoy the local cuisine. Chiang Mai is also a great base for outdoor activities, such as trekking, rafting, zip-lining or elephant riding.

Pai is a small town in the mountains, about three hours drive from Chiang Mai. It has a laid-back vibe and a hippie charm, attracting backpackers and artists who enjoy its scenic beauty and relaxed lifestyle. You can chill out in the cafes, soak in the hot springs, admire the waterfalls, or rent a motorbike and explore the countryside.

Chiang Rai is the northernmost province of Thailand, bordering Myanmar and Laos. It is famous for its stunning temples, such as the White Temple and the Blue Temple, which showcase the creativity and craftsmanship of local artists. You can also visit the Golden Triangle, where the three countries meet, and learn about the history and culture of the region.

Chiang Mai
Chiang Rai

Chiang Mai

3-5 Days here

I think you should spend a couple of nights here, then when you come back from Pai spend another couple more nights in Chiang Mai before a trip to Chiang Rai, then from Chiang Rai you can get a plane to wherever you need to as Chiang Rai like Chiang Mai has an airport.

You can even go to the National Parks around here (which will require more time)

Click below for more on Chiang Mai, including hotels, tours and flights

Now are you renting a car or using public transport?

Both available options are on this page

3 Transport Options

Book A tour


The most convenient and hassle-free way to explore the North of Thailand. However, it may be more costly than other options and you may have less freedom during your trip. If you don't want to worry about planning and logistics, take a look at the tours available from Chiang Mai. They will provide options for exploring both Chiang Rai and Pai.

Drive Yourself

-Looking for an independent and adventurous way to explore the North of Thailand, driving yourself can be a great option. However, before planning your trip, there are some important things to consider:


Firstly, you will need an international driving permit, as it is a requirement for driving in Thailand. Additionally, it's crucial to have valid insurance coverage when driving in a foreign country. You should check with your insurance provider to ensure that your policy covers international travel and driving. If needed, you can also consider purchasing additional insurance coverage from a local provider in Thailand.


Please note that the roads in the very North of Thailand can be quite challenging to navigate, especially for those who get motion sickness. The drives in this area will be extremely bendy, as you will be driving around mountains and hills. So, make sure you check the road conditions before attempting to drive.

Public Transport

To travel from Chiang Mai to Pai, you have to take a mini-bus, which is highly rated by many people. It's better to have an experienced driver who is used to the winding roads so that you can enjoy the scenic views without any worries. The same applies to the return journey to Chiang Mai. When travelling to Chiang Rai, you will take a big bus, or if you prefer, you can book a private taxi for convenience.


I advise downloading apps like "Grab" and "Bolt," which are Thailand's equivalents of Uber.

Image by Mathew Schwartz


Many people like to ride motorbikes along this route because of the bends in the mountains and the scenic drive. However, the journey to Pai can be challenging, especially for those who are sensitive to motion. The roads are curvy and can cause motion sickness.

Get some sickness tablets from a pharmacy before leaving if you are sensitive to motion. If you are riding a motorbike, be extra cautious. The roads are tricky and have inexperienced drivers and debris from the hills. There is a chance of accidents, so take precautions.


It is best to avoid riding at night as the visibility is low, and the temperature drops significantly.

If you are travelling solo, any scooter will do for the road between Chiang Mai and Pai. However, if you have a passenger or luggage, it is advisable to opt for a 150cc or higher scooter for more power and stability. You can also choose a semi-automatic scooter that allows you to switch gears manually without using a clutch, making it more convenient and fun, especially on mountain roads.


Renting a car from Chiang Mai to Pai is a great option for those who want more comfort and convenience. A car can accommodate more people and luggage than a scooter and allows you to explore Pai and its surroundings at your own pace. A car can give you more freedom and flexibility to enjoy your trip.

Now just follow the trip below but ignore the public transportation stuff.

Happy Window Smile


If you reserve transportation that will leave you at a location other than your hotel, you will need to take a taxi. However, the hotel may offer this service, and typically public transportation and taxis can be found at the drop-off spot. I recommend downloading the Bolt and/or Grab apps, which function similarly to Uber, just in case.

4 hours from Chiang Mai to Pai

3 nights here

Ayutthaya was the capital of Thailand for over 400 years. There are several options for transport between Bangkok and Ayutthaya, depending on your budget, time and preferences. The fastest and most comfortable way is to take a taxi or a private car but of course, at a price.


The cheapest and most authentic way is to take a local train, which will cost around 100 baht and take about 45 mins to 1 hour. The train station in Ayutthaya is close to the historical park, where you can rent a bike or a tuk-tuk to explore the ruins.

Alternatively, you can join a guided tour that includes transport, and then just stay in Ayutthaya instead of going back to Bangkok, about eight hours. A guided tour will give you more information and insights about the history and culture of Ayutthaya, as well as save you the hassle of arranging your own transportation.

Through this guide, I will provide links that will make it easy and convenient for you to book. I take a small commission for providing these links, but it is at no extra cost to you.

I highly recommend you watch my YouTube video on this place as I give a detailed description of the history here as well as food and hotels. You really will enjoy the place so much more if you know the incredible historical background. 


Or book a 1-day tour to get an idea of the place but check the reviews.

In Thailand it is illegal for foreigners to be tour guides so sadly you may get a bit of

a language barrier sometimes.

Ayutthaya is a historic city located in central Thailand, about 80 kilometres north of Bangkok. It was the second capital of Siam (modern-day Thailand) from 1350 to 1767 and is known for its well-preserved ruins of ancient temples and palaces. Ayutthaya was once a prosperous and cosmopolitan city, attracting merchants from around the world and serving as a centre of Buddhism and politics.

Click below for more on Ayutthaya, including hotels and tours!

Lop Buri

Lop Buri is 1 hour from Ayutthaya

1 night here

You can take a train from Ayutthaya railway station to Lop Buri railway station, which takes about 90 minutes and costs between 100-200 baht, depending on the class of service.

Lopburi is an ancient city with a rich history, having been inhabited for over 1,000 years and serving as a key centre of power and commerce in several different kingdoms and empires. Today, Lopburi is known for its well-preserved historical sites, including ancient temples and palaces, as well as its large population of macaque monkeys.

Click below for more on Lop Buri, including hotels and tours!

Nakhon Sawan

Nakhon Sawan is 1 and 30 minutes from Lop Buri

Spend 2 nights here

The train is your main option, taking only 1 hour and 15 minutes to reach Nakhon Sawan. The trains are reliable and scenic.

Or you can get a taxi when you're there.

Referred to as the "Gateway to the North" due to its location at the confluence of the Chao Phraya, Ping, and Nan rivers, Nakhon Sawan is known for its scenic beauty, including lush green forests and rolling hills, as well as its historical and cultural sites.

Click below for more on Nakhon Sawan, including hotels and tours!

Now do you want to go to a completely off-the-beaten-track village or skip it?

(Option) Bang Mun Nak

Spend 2 nights here

If you are driving, you can go straight to Bang Mun Nak by following Route 225 (it's pretty bendy, just to warn you).

or get the train

For some reason, tickets are not available very often in the widgets below (probably because the village is small), but if you go to Nakhon Sawan train station, you'll see where to go. The option is definitely there. Someone will help you. They will understand the words, "Bang Mun Nak".

Bang Mun Nak is a small village in Thailand's Phichit province, located in the northern part of the country. It is known for its traditional way of life and its close-knit community. The village is surrounded by lush greenery and is located on the banks of the Nan River. The village is known for its friendly locals and its delicious local cuisine, including dishes made with fresh local produce and seafood from the nearby river. Although Bang Mun Nak is relatively small and off the beaten path, it offers a unique glimpse into traditional Thai village life and is a popular destination for those looking for a more authentic cultural experience.

Click below for more on Bang Mun Nak, including hotels

Then, once you're done in Bang Mun Nak, go to Phitsanulok via the train station, switching tracks at Phichit Station.

Once again, tickets are available at the train station, even if the links here don't show the trains.


Just use a taxi service; they are cheap around this area, but ask your hotel to book one for you, or you'll be charged more.


If you skipped Bang Mun Nak - Phitsanulok is 2 hours from Nakhon Sawan

Spend 1 night here

If you want to travel from Nakhon Sawan to Phitsanulok, you can take a train that runs two or three times daily. The train journey takes about 2 hours and 14 minutes.

You can also take a taxi, but this will be more expensive.

From now on let's just assume, you can always take a taxi, but it will cost more! Saves me repeating myself.

The only buses found on 12Go below take a long detour.

Phitsanulok was once a major city in the Sukhothai Kingdom and is now a centre for trade and commerce in northern Thailand. The city is famous for its temples.

In addition to its historical and cultural attractions, Phitsanulok is surrounded by scenic mountains and forests, making it a popular destination for outdoor activities such as trekking and hiking. The city also has a lively night market where visitors can sample local food and purchase crafts and other items.

You will likely return to Phitsanulok for a night, so this is a good place to look for a hotel spa. Have a Thai massage here after a lot of journeying; your body will be grateful for it.

Click below for more on Phitsanulok, including hotels and tours!


Sukhothai is about 1 hour and 20 minutes from Phitsanulok

2 nights here

This might be a costly destination to visit due to transportation, but it is worth it for history enthusiasts as the area itself isn't expensive.

If you want to travel from Phitsanulok to Sukhothai, you have to get a taxi, which will cost you around $50 US.

You may be able to find something cheaper when you're there, but maybe you don't want any Tom, Dick, or Harry to take you.

You can skip Sukhothai, but it's a kingdom even older than Ayutthaya, so it's great to check out; however, that's up to you.

Before Ayutthaya was the regional power, Sukhothai was.

Image by Matthew Guay

Sukhothai is a historical city in northern Thailand, located in the Sukhothai Province. It was the capital of the Sukhothai Kingdom, which was one of the earliest kingdoms of Thailand and existed from the 13th to the 15th century.

Sukhothai is famous for its historic temples and ruins, which have been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site

You may wish to book a tour when you're here. This is because the historic park is amazing, so it might be worth knowing what you're looking at.

Click below for more on Sukhothai, including hotels and tours!

Phitsanulok again

You have to head back to Phitsanulok again (1 hour 20 minutes) because transportation from Sukhothai isn't easy.

You will have a long journey the next day, so rest up in Phitsanulok before continuing.

Maybe get that Thai massage!

Image by Salinee Chot


Chae Son

Chiang Mai

Image by sippakorn yamkasikorn

Book a Tour

You decided to save yourself some hassle and book a tour for your trip. That's a smart choice, as it allows you to enjoy your vacation without stress. Let the experts handle the details and show you the best of these beautiful destinations.

To help you find the perfect tour for your budget and preferences, we have compiled a list from all the major tour booking websites. You can compare each tour's prices, ratings, itineraries, and reviews and choose the one that suits you best.

Scroll down through the tours, and you will find options with pick-ups available.

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