Would appreciate suggestions on the following tentative itinerary for 1st trip to Thailand I have traveled extensively in India and Africa; this is first trip to Asia for my 23 year old son who is an art major and photographer. We both love the outdoors (hiking and back packing), a diversity of people, music, and food. Shopping/buying things is not of much interest other than to experience the market place in the context of the culture.
Hill tribe visits have some appeal however it seems that many can be viewed as being exploitation at some level, and it is not on our must do list. In actuality there really isn't anything on our must do list, as we want to have some flexibility even though it is a peak holiday season.
Seeking variety which in my experience comes from being in numerous places over a short period of time, OR from falling in love with one place spending more time and seeing it with fresh eyes each day even as it becomes more familiar.
Dates with an * are not ones that can be changed. Interested in:
1) Whether to spend more or less time in X. Starting on 29 Dec this itinerary allows for adding or subtracting time in any place; adding or deleting a place.
2) Particular things you recommend after leaving CM
3) Dates below preceded by !! are places that might offer a short trek that is "more supportive of the tribal people". Any recommendations on this are welcome.
*20 Dec. fly into Bangkok & ar. very late
21,22,23 Explore Bangkok
* 23 Dec. fly Chiang Mai ar. mid-afternoon in time for Sun. market
24-25 Explore CM
*Dec 25 from mid-afternoon to 27Dec. mid-afternoon; two day meditation retreat close to CM
27 Dec Rent car . mid-afternoon - drive Doi Suthep
visit orchid growers on way. Most likely camp Doi Suthep or stay
in park bungalows overnight.
28 Dec Hike in early morning. Drive to Mae Hong Son with expected
arrival by sunset. Look at Pai and Soppong(mostly to decide
where to stay on return).
!! 29-30Dec Explore Mae Hong Son
31 Dec. Drive to Soppong (or Pai) More drawn to the former. Most likely get there by early afternoon. Actual driving time from MHS to Soppong is about 1.5 hours?
!! 1 Jan Explore around Soppong
2 Jan drive to Chiang Dao arrive by early evening
!! 3 Jan explore around Chiang Dao
Since it is quite possible that time will have been added to earlier places, this "day" could easily be Jan 4th or even Jan 5th. If we do the 2-day trek with the Akha hill tribes 23 km north of Chiang Rai then that is where we will need to be at the end of 3 January. What would you suggest as driving route and places to stop between Chiang Dao and Chiang Rai?
=============== Mostly alternatives at this point ========
3 Jan continue by driving to Doi Ang Khang (20 km before Fang out Route 1249. While it sounds beautiful here, this might easily be skipped. Great Thai scenery, but not sure it gives much sense of Thai cultures.
3 Jan alternatively drive to Mae Salong via Fang and Tha Ton
Mae Salong appeals due to the Chinese Yunnan influences.
Have the least sense of things from here. While seeing some of the important river life, the long boat or bamboo raft trips seem fairly touristy. Especially on an overnight river trip a practical question is how do I then retrieve the car that is up river, and is leaving back pack in car simply covered up a safe thing to do(not sure car I am renting has a trunk).
!!4 Jan Explore around Mae Salong and begin drive (Mae Sai, Sop Ruak, Chiang Saen, Chiang Rai)
!! 4-5 Jan One trek that does appeal is Akha Hill Guest house about 23 KM north of Chiang Rai. It is owned and managed by the Akha hill tribes, and then do a one night 2 day trek. 10% of the profits go to the primary and middle school education project.
*6 Jan fly Chiang Rai to Bangkok leaving at 11:05
*7 Jan I fly home in the morning; my son flies to India for 3 weeks travel on his own.
Thanks for any of your thoughts and recommendations.