In some ways, I had considered myself a seasoned pro on what there is to know about Thailand, after all, I have lived here almost 15 years. But as I wake up after my first-night camping in North Thailand, I realise that could not be further from the truth!
Ask me most questions about tier one more Southern locations from Bangkok, Pattaya, Hua Hin right down to many of the islands and I can reel off all my many experiences. Ask me about any other location and I am still a relative newbie.
I had a business meeting in Chiang Mai and so doubled the trip up as a business and pleasure excursion, and so my family came along for the trip too. This is only my second time in this region. We flew from U-Tapao International airport – just 40minutes drive from Pattaya – on budget airline Air Asia. The flight was less than 90minutes and airfare for all four of us was 14,000 baht (US$450). If we had planned the trip in advance we could have got the flights at a much cheaper price.
Whilst browsing Agoda hotel booking platform I noticed a campsite – in what could almost be described luxury tents, they had power in them after all! Set up in Mae Rim just by the National Park, 40 minutes drive from central Chiang Mai. As I had my kids I thought this would be a wonderful experience, and it certainly proved just that.
It is January and in the early mornings in Chiang Mai, it can get a tad chilly, it was 14 degrees when I woke at 7 am today. I have never experienced such a cold climate in all my years of living in Thailand – and I loved it! By 10 am normal warm sunshine will have resumed.
The campsite – known as ‘CAMP Chiang Mai’ is a collection of some 20 tents with a central outside, primitive dining/leisure area where you can cook your own BBQ food and listen to music. The resort provides the meat and – by Pattaya and Bangkok standards – it is super cheap. When you are in the middle of nowhere at night time, with the full stars on display in the sky due to no light pollution, it is a divine pleasure to experience.
As we woke in the morning – it was freezing. As I stumbled from the tent to the public showers and toilets I was shivering! But, I liked it very much. Breakfast was simple but delicious and included rice soup, chicken wings and Thai rice desserts.
The experience reminded me of how restricted my travel in Thailand has been to date. This country is far more than a busy cosmopolitan capital and world-class beach location with the many stunning islands it boasts. Thailand has a breadth about it that to many – like me – goes unnoticed.
Next week I am spending four days in new areas of the country with the Tourism Authority of Thailand, and based on this short trip alone, I cannot wait!
Chiang Mai is certainly worth a visit and is a location that you could set aside a good, full week excursion as there is just so much to do. From its famous zoo, waterfalls to botanical gardens – but its more than that, it is the feeling it will give you that you won’t get from areas like Bangkok, Samui to Hua Hin.