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Backpacking in Northern Thailand: Itinerary & Experiences

From previously undiscovered summit panoramas, over jungle hikes where we almost got lost, to discovering abandoned temples. The north of Thailand really has a lot to offer and surprised us from one time to the next.

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Thailand was going to have a fantastic start because Anni had planned a little birthday surprise for Timo.

We landed at 6 am in the “Land of Smiles” and were picked up directly by a private airport shuttle. The aim was the surprise, a mind-drum roll please… a whole apartment in a skyscraper with infinity pool and gym over the roofs of Bangkok!

Golden roof of Loha Parsat in Bangkok
One trip we did make: The Loha Parsat in Bangkok

The most important sights in the middle of Bangkok

Well recovered we visited Bangkok and immersed ourselves in the pulsating life of the city. But since Bangkok is really huge, we chose some of the most important sights in the city centre:

  • The Grand Palace (the former royal residence)
  • Wat Phra Kaeo (Buddhist temple beside the Grand Palace)
  • The world famous Khaosan Road (backpacking hotspot and party mile in Bangkok)
  • Giant Swing: Sao Ching Cha (the big red swing)
  • Wat Suthat Thepwararam (Buddhist temple beside the Giant Swing)
  • Wat Saket (the golden mountain with a great view over downtown Bangkok)
  • The Democracy Monument of Bangkok (most likely you will pass it automatically when you visit the city centre)
  • Bangkok City Park: Rommaninat Park (good for sports)
  • Pak Khlong Flower Market

Sights further outside Bangkok

  • Big Buddha
  • China Town
  • the famous Chatuchak-Weekend market
  • City Park: Wachirabenchatchat Park (adjacent to the Chatuchak Weekend Market)

Also recommendable in Bangkok:

  • Wat Arun (temple)
  • Sanam Luan (temple)
  • Boat tour on the Chao Phraya River
  • Golden Buddha (Wat Traimit Withayaram Worawihan)
  • the Bangkok Arts and Culture Centre

Our Hostel Tip for Bangkok: The Once Again Hostel, a modern hostel with good breakfast located in the middle of Bangkok


The tour continued from the current capital to the former capital of Thailand, Ayutthaya. A city with historical ruins from the Khmer era that attracts many culture-loving tourists.

Wat Phra Si Sanphet in Phra Nakhon historical park of Ayutthaya
The Wat Phra Si Sanphet in the historical Phra Nakhon park of Ayutthaya

We booked a private room in a nice hostel. For the first time on our trip we rented a scooter and rode it for two days through the old town, visited markets and drove to nearby lakes – there is not much more to see there.

Our hostel tip for Ayutthaya: The Il Treno Hostel, cheap hostel also with private rooms, directly at the train station and delicious restaurant

Chiang Mai

From Ayutthaya, it took about nine hours by train to Chiang Mai, which is especially known for its annual light festivals Loy Krathong and Yi Peng.

People with huge lanterns on a bridge at the light festival Yi Peng in Chiang Mai
Lanterns at the Loy Krathong and the Yi Peng Festival in Chiang Mai

Loy Krathong und Yi Peng

On the following days, we were able to experience a very special flair in Chiang Mai. Loy Krathong and Yi-Peng are probably the two most important festivals in Thailand and are therefore celebrated on a grand scale over several days.

The two festivals take place at the same time. Colourful lanterns were hung all over the city and handmade little boats (the krathongs) made of banana leaves and flowers were sold. The boats were placed in the river with candles and incense sticks. At the same time, thousands of lanterns were released into the night sky.

Reisepaar vor einem mit Himmelslaternen gefüllten Himmel beim Loy Krathong und Yi Peng Festival in Chiang Mai
Us in front of a “lantern sky” in Chiang Mai during the Loy Krathong and Yi Peng Festival

Trip to the Monthathan Waterfall

The next day we went by scooter to the Monthathan Waterfall in the adjacent mountains.

But the most exciting was our little jungle hike on the Montha Than Waterfall Trailhead. The small path, which was advertised as a circular trail, led deeper and deeper into the jungle.

After about half an hour without a shield or a sign of civilization, doubts crept over us whether we would make it back before sunset. We decided not to turn back and after an additional 20 minutes this decision turned out to be the right one.

Pha Ngoeb waterfall near Chiang Mai
Near the Pha Ngoeb waterfall near Chiang Mai we lost ourselves in the jungle

The Montha Than Waterfall Trailhead is actually a circular trail and one comes out again at the road below the waterfall.

So it was not that bad, but it would not have hurt to put up a few signs on the way.

Our hotel tip for Chiang Mai: Sclass the Posthel, super super gorgeous hostel, nicely furnished, modern and with lots of places to relax


Our next destination led us deeper into the Tenasserim Mountains. A three-hour drive and 700 curves later we finally arrived in the valley of Pai with its identically named hippie town.

Orange sky on the Yun Lai hill near Pai during a sunset
The so-called “Yun Lai” hill near Pai during sunset

That same afternoon we rented a scooter – for an affordable 2,50$ – and set off with coke and beer to Yun Lai Viewpoint for the sunset.

Travel couple on a view point of the Pai Canyon in Thailand
Viewpoint of the “Grand Canyon of Pai”

With full throttle and full program we went on to the most beautiful sights of Pai…

We drove to the Buddha Bamboo Bridge, which leads across rice fields to temples. Then we went to the “Grand Canyons of Pai” with picturesque dried up river beds and to the historic bridge from the Second World War (the Pai Historical Bridge). The crowning finale was the big white Buddha of Pai (Big Buddha Pai Meditation) at sunset!

Buddha Bamboo Bridge in Pai in Thailand
The Buddha Bamboo Bridge near Pai

What more could you want in a day?

White Big Buddha Pai Meditation statue by Mongkhol
The white Buddha of Pai, also known as “Wat Phra That Mae Yen”

Our hotel tip for Pai: The La Mom Hostelo, very cute hostel with nice owner and very clean

Chiang Rai

The following day we had to master the 700 curves again. From the bus terminal in Chiang Mai we originally planned to take a connecting bus to Chiang Rai. Unfortunately, all buses for this day were fully booked.

In the end, we had to take a shared taxi, which even turned out to be the better option. The taxis do not have a freezing air con.

White Temple of Chiang Rai aka Wat Rong Khun temple
Chiang Rai: The White Temple

Scooter Trip in Chiang Rai

In Chiang mai we rented a scooter again and headed for the mountains again. On the way, we discovered an abandoned mini-mountain or big rock, which must have been a spiritual place in former times. We believe it was the Wat Phrathat Tham Doi Kong Khao.

The ascent turned out to be extremely difficult, as the path was almost completely taken up by flora and was extremely steep in places. In addition, there were many mosquitoes (of course we didn’t take any spray with us) and the extreme heat. We arrived at the top, bathed in sweat: The view was breathtaking! We had a wonderful 360° view. Granted: We felt a bit like in an Indiana Jones movie 😉

Afterwards we drove on towards the mountains and discovered the Huay Keaw Waterfall with a cool trekking route through a bamboo forest leading up to a hill with a tea plantation.

Backpacker at the Golden Triangle in Thailand
Timo with the river in the background, which separates or unites the three countries.

The Golden Triangle

The following day we ventured on a somewhat further road trip – to the Golden Triangle. At this place, the countries Thailand, Myanmar and Laos meet. But all in all, it can be said that the journey there was more beautiful than the destination itself.

Golden Triangle stone gate in Thailand
The gate of the Golden Triangle of Thailand, Myanmar and Laos

On the last morning we had to make the obligatory detour to the White Temple of Chiang Rai 😉

White Temple of Chiang Rai aka Wat Rong Khun temple
The White Temple of Chiang Rai at sunrise

Our hotel tip for Chiang Rai: Das Mercy Hostel, cheap hostel in the middle of Chiang Rai with pool, billiard, TV room and gym


On our way back to Bangkok we made a stop in Sukhothai. We arrived late in the evening at the bus terminal. But luckily we booked an accommodation directly next to the bus stop.

Sukhothai historical park
The Historical Park of Sukhothai

The historical park of Sukhothai

The next morning we went to the “Historical Park of Sukhothai“, a complex with ruins of the original city of Sukhothai. We decided not to take the tourist train but explored the ruins of the huge temples and castle walls on foot.

Our hotel tip forSukhothai: Das Rueangsrisiri Guesthouse 2

Extra: Plastic in Thailand

No matter where we went, whether on the way to a waterfall or into the mountains, on the beach or in a small town in the middle of the country, one thing caught our eye everywhere: plastic garbage!

It is truly no secret that our earth is slowly suffocating from the immense plastic consumption of the population, but on an untouched white sandy beach or in the jungle the garbage deeply burns into consciousness.

Since the beginning of our trip, we tried to use as little plastic as possible and from week to week we got better at it.

When we buy a coconut, we do it without a straw, when we buy fruits, we do it with a backpack and not with a plastic bag, for breakfast we do not eat yogurt and butter from small plastic packages and we always have our to-go food filled into our lunch boxes.

One of the most important things for us is our water purifier. We use it every day to filter tap water and fill it into our bottles. So we don’t have to use up about six plastic bottles every day.

As you can see, even as a tourist it is possible (and absolutely necessary!) to pay attention to the garbage/plastic consumption. Especially holiday countries do not have a reasonable waste disposal system. Most of the time the garbage is either burned or ends up directly behind the next hill and sooner or later it ends up in the sea.

More articles about northern Thailand on our blog:

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1 thought on “Backpacking in Northern Thailand: Itinerary & Experiences”

  1. Pingback: Traveling in Northern Thailand: Highlights & Travel Tips - Anni and Timo

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