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On The Way From Bangkok To Chiang Mai


So you’ve elected to drive a hire car from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. First of all, bravo! Let me congratulate you on taking the true traveler’s spirit and making it your own. Renting a car affords you so much more freedom and privacy than taking a bus or train for not too much more money, especially in Thailand. Even better, you get to pick the radio stations and aromas that accompany you on your journey. So, now you’ll be making the day long treck to Chiang Mai from Bangkok… why not make it take a little longer? By stretching your journey to a few days instead of ten hours you can take in a whole lot of Thailand between the big city and the big mountains.

Hire Cars Can Be Crushed By Elephants In Thailand


OK, listen: You might think this is a joke but it is actually quite serious: Thailand’s national parks do indeed have quite a few of the king’s favorite majestic pachyderms roaming free, as they were meant to. Yes, just a few hours drive out of the city and you really can come nose to trunk with a walking, trumpeting family of flesh-mountains. Seeing elephants in person without bars separating you is an awe inspiring experience. Asian elephants aren’t as big as their African brethren, but they are still very humbling. You can absolutely understand why they were once used as war machines by the Thai military. They’re still used by some forest workers to move trees. Entire trees.


Remember this when you head off the highway, and west into the Mae Tuen Wildlife Sanctuary. With its incredible lakeside vistas and winding mountain roads, the Mae Tuen national park is not something you want to miss. Just be warned that elephants are majestic and beautiful but they are not impressed with you. Annoy one with a honking horn and you may find yourself with an upside down vehicle and a distinct lack of tusk and trample insurance.


If you want to head into the wild and see the ‘real’ Thailand before you are as far north at Mae Tuen – the heart of which is about two thirds of the way to Chiang Mai – you can head west only a couple of hours north of Bangkok and steer your hire car through Mae Wong national park. You can literally drive the entire way to Chiang Mai through lush tropical forests and encounter everything from leopards to monkeys. Just understand that doing this can lengthen your drive time to a leisurely twenty five hours, and that’s without stops. Also, you’ll want to bring some gas cans or you may have to ask a passing elephant to tow your car to the highway.


The More “Civilised” Route For A Rental Car


Once upon a time the capital of Thailand was not Bangkok but Sukhothai. That capital is now a ruins, a very impressive ruins, home to temples that have existed for over seven hundred years. Gleaming golden statues, fields of green and enough civilization that you won’t have to pack meals if you prefer to travel light. Sukhothai is east of the highway so if you take this route you can pass through the Mae Wa national park or the Ramkhamhaeng national park – or even both – and still get to experience the jungle. These are smaller parks, but still quite beautiful, and are a ‘sensible’ traveler’s method of seeing waterfalls and jungle cats without taking two extra days to journey.


Michael Pietzak

Michael Pietzak

Providing great information on places to see in and around Pattaya.
Michael Pietzak
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