Bangkok to Chiang Mai Itinerary
We spent two glorious weeks in Thailand in late October and early November. We’ve written a Thailand Travel Guide with more detailed info on our impressions and what we recommend experiencing. This skeleton itinerary below will help you understand how to get from point A to point B and summarizes what you can do if you plan a Bangkok to Chiang Mai Thailand trip.
Bangkok to Chiang Mai Trip Summary
- Days 1-3: Bangkok
- Day 4: Ayuttaya
- Day 5: Lopburi
- Day 6: Travel to Sukhothai
- Day 7: Sukhothai
- Day 8: Travel to Chiang Mai
- Days 9 -12: Chiang Mai
Day 1: Bangkok – City Malls and Food Courts
At first, Bangkok is a lot to take in. However, the excitement and flavors of this city will soon mesmerize you. Assuming Day 1 is your arrival day, we recommend taking it easy and exploring your direct vicinity. We dropped off our bags at our hostel in Siam Square and delved into the mega mall scene.
- Ease into the city by checking out Bangkok’s mega malls. These malls are known for being huge complexes housing much more than shops (e.g. movie theaters, aquariums, etc…). They are also known for their food courts. We really liked the food island at MBK.
- Less chaotic, but equally fun, head to Terminal 21, which is an airport themed mall. They also have an outstanding food court.
- For clothing lovers, don’t miss the fashion wholesale mall Platinum.
- We stayed at Lub D near Siam Square (budget accommodation, clean, communal bathrooms).
Day 2: Bangkok – Temple (Wat) Hopping
Day 2 is all about exploring Bangkok’s shimmering temples and eating in the city’s best kept secrets. If you’re based around Siam Square, don’t miss out on the Khlong Saen Saep commuter boat. If you’re based around Khao San Road, you can walk to the Golden Mount in 20 minutes.
- Ride the commuter Khlong Saen Saep boat to the Panfa Leelard Pier, located close to the Golden Mount (if you’re staying around Siam Square). One-way ride: 15 THB.
- Visit the Golden Mount (Wat Saket)
- Eat lunch at Nang Loeng Market (easy walk from Wat Saket)
- Explore around Khao San Road and Rambuttri Road. We ate at Aesah Rosdee (178 Tani Rd, Bangkok).
- Head to Phra Arthit Pier and take the Chao Phraya Express Boat (orange flag) to Wat Arun.
- Explore Wat Arun. Entrance: 50 THB. (As of Oct. 2017, you can’t walk all the way to the top)
- Take a ferry across the river and walk to Wat Pho.
- Explore Wat Po (also spelled Wat Pho), marvel at the Reclining Buddha, and get a massage at the Wat Po Thai Traditional Medical and Massage School (located on the temple grounds). This gets our vote for best massage in Thailand.
- Get dinner at Thip Samai Restaurant on Maha Chai Road. They’re known for having the best pad thai in Bangkok. We walked to the restaurant, because we were so caught up in watching a memorial procession and the various flower markets on Chakphet Road. But, if your feet are sore, grab a taxi.
Essential Reading: Bangkok Travel Guide
Day 3: Bangkok – Floating Market and China Town
On Day 3, we recommend checking out the Taling Chan Floating Market. Taling Chan is in Thonburi, an easy distance from Bangkok. To get to Taling Chan, take the skytrain to the station Wongwian. From there, grab a taxi to the market (approx. 130 THB). You can independently explore the market and the surrounding canals without an organized tour. The market itself has a genuinely local vibe. It’s not a show market run for foreign tourists. Locals shop, eat and get massages here. At the canal, there are several tied up wooden boats that function as kitchens.
- Visit Taling Chan Floating Market. Note: The market is only open on Saturdays and Sundays between 8:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m.
- We also recommend getting an open-air foot massage under the trees (200 THB / 6 USD – 1 hour).
- Ride a longtail boat along the Klong Bangkok Yai canal from the market to China Town. The canal itself is lined with stilt houses, people fishing, temples, and lush greenery
- Explore China Town. Eat street food.
Day 4: Ayutthaya
Ayuthaya (also spelled Ayutthaya) was the capital of Siam between 1350 and 1767. In its glory days, the island city was one of Asia’s major trading ports. It was also home to over 400 temples. The city fell in 1767 when the invading Burmese army sacked the city, looted its treasures, and enslaved its citizens. That event marked the end of Ayuthaya and the imperial beginning of Bangkok. The city is sprinkled with temple ruins, both on the Island and around it. The best way to visit the ruins is by cycling between them.
- Getting here: From Bangkok’s Hua Lamphong train station, take the train to Ayutthaya. The ride is 1 hr 20 min. It costs 35 THB for a 3rd class ticket.
- Head north to the ancient city of Ayutthaya to visit temple ruins. Ayutthaya is located on an island, but there are also a collection of sights to see off the island.
- Take a ferry across the river to the island.
- Rent a bike.
- Eat lunch at Bann Kun Pra, a riverside restaurant that specializes in seafood.
- Explore the various ruins. Entry typically costs 50 THB for foreigners.
- Eat dinner at the Bang Ian Night Market.
- Stay the night at Baan Are Gong, directly on the river and next to the ferry.
Day 5: Lopburi
Lopburi is the capital city of Lopburi Province, located about 150 km north-east of Bangkok. The main attraction here are the mischievous monkeys that roam the streets, walk the power lines, and climb the city’s ruins. The best place to monkey around is Phra Prang Sam Yot. Here, you’ll see impressive Khmer-style shrine towers (prangs), which you can encircle as well as go inside.
- Getting here: From Ayuthaya, take the train to Lopburi.
- Explore Monkey city by visiting Phra Prang Sam Yot and other temple ruins.
- Stay the Night in Noom Guesthouse. They also serve delicious food and smoothies.
Day 6: Travel Day to Sukhothai
- It will take almost a full-day to get from Lopburi to Sukhothai, so we recommend leaving no-later than mid-morning. There is no direct train between the two cities. Here’s how you get to Sukhothai, step by step:
- Step #1: Take the train from Lopburi to Phitsanulok. A rapid train takes 4.5 hours.
- Step #2: Take a tuk tuk from the Phitsanulok railway station to the Phitsanulok minivan and bus terminal Don’t overthink this step, because there will be tuk tuks ready to take you and they know where you’re headed. We paid 60 THB for the ride.
- Step #3: Take a minivan/bus from Phitsanulok to Sukhothai. The ticket costs 50 THB per person.
- Step #5: Arrive in the Sukhothai Bus Terminal (closer to New Sukhothai).
- Step #6: There will be songthaew(s) (modified truck with bench seating) ready to take you to your accommodation. You will need to negotiate the price before jumping in the back seat. We recommend contacting your host beforehand to see what the price should be. Our host informed us that we shouldn’t pay more than 150 THB to get from the bus terminal to the guesthouse (we were staying somewhere between the terminal and the Historical Park). The driver stated a price of 300 THB, before we negotiated the price down.
- We stayed at Baan Mae Yai. It’s not centrally located, but you can reach the historical park in 15-20 min with a bike. Our host gave us bikes for the day, free of charge. She was extremely welcoming and kind. She made us breakfast each morning and gave us snacks for the road.
Read Next: Offbeat Island Hopping in Thailand
Day 7: Sukhothai
Sukhothai is a small city that’s famous for it’s ancient ruins. The city was founded in the 13th century by King Ramkhamhaeng, thus becoming the first capital of Siam. The ruins are concentrated in several zones (more info below).
- Rent a bike and explore the various ruins.
- The ruins are divided into three zones. The North (containing Wat si Chum, Wat Phra Phai Luang, and others), The West (containing Wat Saphan Hin and others), and the Center (Wat Mahathat, Wat Si Sawat, Wat Sa Si, Wat Tra Phang Ngoen). You will need to purchase a ticket for each zone that you want to visit. The price is 100 THB per zone.
Day 8: Travel Day to Chiang Mai
- Take a Wintour bus to Chiang Mai. The bus ticket costs 207 THB per person. It takes 5.5 hours to reach Chiang Mai. The bus make two very short stops for passengers to use the restroom and buy snacks.
- Arrive in Chiang Mai bus terminal.
- Take a metered cab to your accommodation.
- We stayed in an AirBnB close to the University in the Lang Nor neighborhood (we highly recommend that area). If you don’t have an AirBnB account, use this link to get a discount on your first booking.
Day 9: Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai is a beautiful city to explore. From Lang Nor neighborhood, we slowly made our way into the old city, starting with a amazing Khao Soi (noodle soup) at BannKhum Cafe.
- Breakfast at BannKhum Cafe.
- Grab a coffee at FIND COFFEE (257/22 Suthep Rd., T.Suthep, Chiang Mai, Thailand 50200)
- Visit Wat Suan Dok. If you’re hungry, or need a refreshing smoothie, go to Pun Pun Organic Vegetarian Restaurant, which is located on the temple grounds.
- Check out Wat Srisuphan (the Silver Temple). It’s gorgeous and unique. Unfortunately, women are not allowed to go inside the temple. We’re still trying to understand why.
- Explore the Old City.
Day 10: Chiang Mai
Today, you’ll hike to the temple Wat Pha Lat (also spelled Wat Palat). Given its almost hidden location in the jungle, Wat Pha Lat sees far less tourism than other temples in the city. We hiked to the temple from Suthep Road (close to the University), but you can also take a songthaew (the red car shared “taxi”) to the end of the road. The “Monk’s Trail” begins close to the red and white television tower (near the Chiang Mai Zoo). It’s a moderate 45 minute hike from the starting point. When you reach the serene environment of the temple, you’ll also have a view of the city. The most striking feature of the temple is the waterfall that gently cascades through the temple grounds.
- Hike the Monk’s Trail to the jungle temple: Wat Pha Lat (also spelled Wat Palat).
- Continue the hike to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep.
Don’t Miss: Thailand Travel Guide
Day 11: Chiang Mai
- Check out Wat Umong (the underground temple). There’s also a small lake near the temple that is full of turtles, fish, and pigeons.
- Get a Thai massage at an open-air massage pavilion (across the street from the temple entrance). A one hour full-body massage costs 140 THB. The exact GPS location is 18.783928, 98.953606.
- Eat lunch at a local Thai restaurant on Soi 4 (walking distance from the temple). Look for a sign that says “Signature Local Food.” GPS: 18.788849, 98.954903.
- Explore the Lang Mor (behind Chiang Mai University) Neighborhood.
- We really liked hanging out at Sode Cafe. It’s an open-air café with lots of plants and seating arrangements. There also several permanent food vendors/kitchens offering plates of pork shoulder, fried rice, and dumplings.
- Across the street, there’s a night market that mostly serves a student crowd. We ate here three times and loved everything we tried.
- In the neighborhood, there’s also a hidden gemthat serves a huge range of delicious vegan food, called Bee Vegan (1/19 Moo 8, Suthep, Chiang Mai, Thailand, 50200).
Day 12: Chiang Mai
- Join a Monk’s Chat. Several temples offer free chats with Monks as a way to encourage intercultural dialogue and to help Monks practice their English. When we sat down with several Monks (who were actually from Vietnam), they told us what motivated them to become monks. Some are motivated by getting an education, others by helping their deceased family and friends ascend to heaven.
- Attend a cooking class – this is something we’d like to do, when we come back to Chiang Mai.
- Don’t leave without eating a bowl of Kao Soi.
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