It’s time to plan for your mid-year holidays, and Thailand is always a popular choice whether you’re a first-timer or a repeat visitor. The country’s mountainous northern region is normally cooler than the rest of the country, boasting centuries of culture and lush nature – perfect to get away from muggy Singapore.
Baan Mae Kampong
Situated about 2 hours (50km) by road from Chiang Mai, Baan Mae Kampong is a small, quaint village tucked in a lush jungle at an altitude of about 1,300m.
At first glance, Mae Kampong looks like a hipster village that’s just popped up in the jungle. One main road cuts through the village, which consists of numerous clusters of wooden houses – some are rustic mountain cottages, others open-air cafes, all with magnificent views of the lush mountains.
Sample coffee (and tea) in the lush mountains
Dotted along the village’s main road are plenty of quaint wooden houses and shacks that serve as cafes serving quality Arabica coffee and local green tea. As the area is hilly, some cafes boast dramatic views of mountains and nature. Your Instagram feed will be bursting with incredible views and coffee/dessert concoctions.
Some of the more popular cafes include Chomnok Chommai which is located near the waterfall, with an incredible panoramic view of Mae Kampong Village below. Kampong Coffee is a quaint cafe connected to the hilly village via a network of boardwalks, and features pretty Lanai carvings. Situated up in the mountains is Teddu Coffee, accessible via boardwalk, where you can have coffee and cakes on the deck or lanai of this cafe, which is located right next to a waterfall. Homestay is available in its rustic, romantic rooms.
Spend the night at a unique Homestay
The village comprises many rustic homes, connected via modern boardwalks. There are currently about 20 homestay properties with basic accommodation where you can overnight with local residents to learn their lifestyle and culture
Sharing with a local family costs about 400 baht/person/night, and 40 baht/meal – dinner is a traditional Lanna fare which includes food like gaeng hinlay (pork curry). Check out available homestays here.
Fly on a zipline!
If you’ve had enough of laid-back life, why not zip through the forest with the Flight of the Gibbon? It’s the longest zipline in Asia, with “zips” ranging from 800m to 5kms, shooting you from tree to tree via its 33 stations, 3 suspension bridges, and rappelling points.
Chiang Rai is considered a sleepier, down-to-earth version of its sister province Chiang Mai, about 3 hours away, but it isn’t short of historical and cultural attractions of its own. It too shares a strong Lanna identity through its impressive collection of temples, art, cuisine, and music.
Night Markets: Check out the the Walking Streets, which are large weekend open-air markets (from 5-11pm) where you can find a range of food and clothing. The Night Bazaar (from 6pm) is another popular spot for food, drinks, and live music, Thai theatre or comedy. You can also find a market for handmade goods from surrounding villages.
Cafe hopping: Chiang Rai has no shortage of cafes to Instagram. Choose between colonial bungalow chic cafes like Manorom Coffee or Chivit Thamma Da Coffee House (also a spa) along the scenic Kok River, or a modern farmhouse-style eatery at Some Sunday Magic. Pop to Cat ‘n’ A Cup and have felines rubbing against you while you sip a decadent marshmallow coffee.
River Beach: Located 4km (or a 10-minute songtaew ride) outside of town along the banks of the Kok River, the “beach” is a great place to have a traditional Thai-style lunch in a bamboo hut. You can swim or tube down the river (October to March only), or hire a long-tail boat to take in the scenery.
Unique Landmarks: A must-visit is the White Temple. While it looks like an ornate temple at first glance, look closer and you’ll find unusual decorations like the creepy The Bridge of the Cycle of Rebirth that features thousands of hands reaching out from the ground. The interior is less creepy but quirky – it has intricate floor-to-ceiling paintings of all sorts of movie stars, cartoons, and even politicians.
The Black House is part museum, part art studio, and home of artist Thawan Duchanee. An eclectic mix of traditional northern Thai and outlandish modern design, there are 40 buildings to explore, each with its odd collection of artifacts ranging from reinterpretations of Buddhist philosophy to bizarre imaginations of human desire.
There are direct flights via Scoot from Singapore to Chiang Mai, taking roughly 3 hours. Scoot and AirAsia also connect to Chiang Rai via Bangkok, so you can visit two cities in Thailand.