While waiting for my annual spouse visa renewal, and since I was ‘under the consideration month’ where you cannot leave the country, I thought: Why not make a road trip around central north Thailand?
Bhumibol Dam, an easy three-hour drive from Chiang Mai named after King Rama IX, was a real surprise upon our visit.
Extremely popular with local Thai group tours in the cooler November to January season, you will find a stunning dam surrounded by forested mountains with large hotel-style houseboats that are towed from the main departure point near the upper dam wall anywhere up to Doi Tao Lake and back, a distance of around 100 kilometres.
The houseboats have varying amenities, with the basic versions having simple beds and barbeque facilities. So, ensure you bring all the ice, drinks, and food you need for your group.
Rim Moei Market Mae Sot:
This unique market is 90 minutes west of Tak City on the Burmese border at Mae Sot.
The main building has many small jewelry shops, electronic shops, dried food vendors, and locally made clothing shops.
Then, outside, situated right on the Moei River, which separates the two countries, there is a unique market experience.
Along a one-meter wide path around 70 meters long, you will find small stalls on the Myanmar side with razer wire coiled at foot level. These sellers sell mainly Burmese cigarettes, whiskey, and copied/cheap Western-branded whiskeys. You will also find massive fresh river prawns on ice for sale.
Kamphaeng Phet Historical Park:
A one-hour drive south on Highway 1 from Tak City, you will find an archaeological site called Kamphaeng Phet Historical Park.
It is a part of the UNESCO World Heritage Historic Towns, which also includes Sukhothai Historical Park and Si Satchanalai Historical Park.
Measuring 2,200 meters in length and 300–700 meters in width, the rectangular historical park area is bordered by city walls and historic fortifications.
Significant points of interest include the reclining Buddha and Elephant statues around the chedi at Wat Phra Kaeo (the largest temple complex) and my favorite, Wat Chang Rop.
Please note that the historical park has two parts, for which you can buy a ticket that covers both locations. The main complex of ruins is about two kilometers north of Wat Phra Kaeo. You can drive your car around for an extra 50 baht at this location. You have to walk at the Wat Phra Kaeo location, but it is only a short 100-metre stroll.
Si Satchanalai Historical Park:
The stunning park is about forty minutes from Sukhothai Historical Park and has three main temple ruins: Wet Chedi Ched Thaeo, Wat Nang Phaya, and Wat Chang Lom.
If the day is warm, it is best to use the tram service that will – over an hour – take you to the three main temples.
With forty-two temples, it is possible to drive outside the historical park to see many minor temples.
Si Satchanalai, which means “City of good people”, was founded in 1250 as the second center of the Sukhothai Kingdom and as a residence of the crown prince in the 13th and 14th centuries.
Sirikit Dam is located just forty minutes east of Uttaradit and is named after King Rama IX’s Queen.
Queen Sirikit Dam is a dam on the Nan River, a tributary of the Chao Phraya River, in Tha Pla District.
The dam is 113 metres high, 800 metres long, 630 metres wide at its base.
You will find a shaded food court area near the crest wall that serves the most delicious Som Tum/Payaya Salad and Moo Dang/Roasted Pork.
Phae Mueang Phi Forest Park:
These unique rock formations are located only eight kilometers northeast of Phrae.
Within the park, you will find mushroom and pillar-shaped sandstone formations created by water erosion over time.
During ancient times, it was a sacred area in which the local people paid respect due to its rich history.