Thailand has long been regarded as one of Asia’s most popular tourist destinations, thanks to its breath-taking natural wonders, heavenly array of temples and religious complexes, and distinctive cuisine and culture. Whether you want to go island hopping, see amazing city life, or do something in between, the Kingdom has something for you. Despite not having any history involving colonization, the country is a melting pot of different cultures, making it an excellent place for travelers seeking to have a taste of exotic dishes and explore uncharted territories.
New travelers, on the other hand, frequently make the mistake of focusing solely on the touristy areas of the country such as Bangkok, Phuket, and Pattaya. Our recommendation is to spend some self-care time in the forested areas of northern Thailand. This area is the best way to go if you want to chase after nature’s beauty and meaningful interaction with the locals.
Wikimedia Commons by: Linedwell
Since the early 1960s, ethnic hill-tribe (Chao Khao) villages have been established in the cities of northern Thailand. The most popular hill-tribe that you have probably heard of is the Long-Neck Paduang or the women from Myanmar wearing stacks of metallic rings.
Because most tribe members have not been granted official citizenship, you may be surprised to learn how they have managed to survive through farming, tourism, and craft. And as a brave first-timer in Thailand, we highly recommend that you skip the hotels and settle for a homestay instead. You will not only be able to interact directly with the locals, but you will also be able to enjoy the view from the top and participate in physical activities such as trekking, rafting, waterfall hunting, and kayaking.
But, wait! Before you book your ticket and pack your suitcase for northern Thailand, you should ask yourself first about your intention: are you in it for the sake of traveling and taking Instagram-worthy shots or are you after the full experience? If you want the real and unfiltered type of travel, then be sure to check out our five tips below and expand your travel experience by visiting Northern Thailand.
Tip #1: Learn Thai Language
Want to be treated like a local and not attract attention as a tourist? It is essential that you challenge yourself and try to learn Thai words, phrases, and expressions. You do not have to take classes or sign up with a tutor, you just have to at least be prepared to do some talking using the native language instead of English. After all, having knowledge of the basics will earn you brownie points from the locals and will greatly help when moving around places. If you can, try to master sentences by heart so that it will not seem obvious that you are “new” and prevent classic tourist scams.
Remember that not everyone outside of major cities speaks or understands English, so you might have trouble relying on it alone. Our expert advice? Download a language learning tool and try to practice in as short as 10 minutes per day if you can. Additionally, downloading translator apps to your mobile devices is always a good idea.
Tip #2: Travel Light And Pack Appropriately
New travelers usually make the mistake of over packing and bringing in clothes that are not appropriate for a particular place. As a rule of thumb, do remember that Thailand is a tropical paradise and is situated just about 15 degrees above the equator. During its hottest months, the temperatures can reach up to 40° C, so be sure to pack cottony light shirts, especially during the months of summer (March to June). During the rainy season (July to October), note that some parts on your way to the north can quickly become flooded. However, please note that tickets are usually lower during these times, so it is an ideal travel season for budget hunters. And the best time of it all, the “cool” months are usually around November to February temperatures may drop to 30 – 35 °C.
Another important tip for first time travelers is to pack shirts that will not give off a “foreigner” vibe, such as baseball shirts or accessories that are not commonly worn by the locals. As a mark of respect, female visitors to temples should dress conservatively, wear shawls, and wear closed shoes.
Tip #3: Purchase Tickets In Advance
Want to avoid being scammed when it comes to pricing? Every pro traveler knows that you should also plan your tickets beforehand. Buying tickets before you actually get in the place will significantly save your money and time. Usually, tourist spots and attractions with tickets have long queues, so it will be wise to have these booked even months before you go to the country.
If you are lucky, you might even get promotions and discounts since some booking applications like Klook, Musement, and Peek usually run sales and might even throw in some freebies. By using these apps, you not only can book for attractions but also your transportation, restaurants, sim cards, and accommodation.
Tip #4: Understand The Etiquette For Visiting Buddhist Temples
Northern Thailand is home to some of the most famous Buddhist temples called “Wats.” As of writing, there are practically around 41,000 temples scattered all over the country- from small ones to massive ones with swoon-worthy architecture. These majestic structures are indeed one of the reasons why Westerners are flocking over the country, but please remember that these remain a sacred place for the locals. With this being said, you must show utmost respect by being silent, greeting monks, dressing appropriately, and removing your closed shoes before entering one.
Tip #5: Use Public Transport In As Much As You Can
Although private transfers are convenient for first-time travelers, they deprive you of an authentic Thai experience. If you never try riding a local tuk-tuk or songthaew, your trip will not be as unique as you might hope! Aside from the experience, taking public transportation allows you to get around for less money and pay a fair price, unlike taxis, which rarely open the meter, especially for foreign passengers.