Northern Thailand is absolutely spectacular. It maybe tough cycling due to the mountainous landscape, but my god the views are well worth the effort!
After leaving Siem Reap, from my cycling across Cambodia trip, I made my way through the mountains of Northern Thailand.
What To Bring When Cycling And Camping In Thailand
In every national park that I visited there were opportunities for camping. It’s extremely popular for Thai families to come and enjoy in a very welcoming environment. Consequently provisions have been made across the country for it to be easy for people to come and camp. Tents are available for rent, along with well-stocked and clean shower and toilet facilities.
It’s important to remember that often the climate in the national parks is certainly chillier to that of the major cities in the country. This is due to the attitude of where they are located. Make sure to bring warm clothing and blankets to ensure your stay is as comfortable as possible.
There are sometimes restaurants located within the grounds but to be on the safe side, bring enough food and drink for an overnight stay. I noticed multiple times that alcohol wasn’t allowed, however people brought it anyway.
As soon as I crossed the border into Thailand, I made sure to get a sim card. This meant getting from campsite to campsite was easy, otherwise I’d have to have found Wifi which wasn’t always readily available.
Other than these, make sure to stock up on the essentials of plenty of water and sun cream (check my preparations article for extra info)
Camping in Khao Yai
Camping is certainly the cheapest option. I had my own tent and prices ranged from 100 to 300 baht to be allowed to put up my tent on their camping site.
The best spot I stayed in was Timber Khoayai, situated near the north entrance of the park, the atmosphere is very welcoming. It cost only 100 baht and without doubt this was the most comfortable I felt. Their hospitality was excellent and anything i asked for like extra blankets and pillows was taken care of.
Camping in Chang Mai
The Doi Suthep Camping site is a popular spot high above the city below. Looking out of the glittering city below, the atmosphere is serene and completely detached from the madness that is Chang Mai.
Much like camping in Khao Yai the tents are already set up and all your need to thing about is lighting the candle (make sure its away from the tent) to create a very romantic setting indeed!
If you camp in Chang Mai, you’ll also be close to the Doi Inthanon National Park. Visitors to the park often scale the ”roof of Thailand’‘ which is another name for the summit of Doi Inthanon. There are the most insane walks and there is plenty to see.
Camping in Taksin National Park
The price of the ticket was 230 Baht and this included camping. This was the largest campsite I visited, with over 200 hundred staying in the park, it felt like a mini city! The park included a food court and supermarket. At this location you really must bring warm clothing as during the night temperatures went down to 15 degrees. The environment was really special though and people were more than hospitable as they invited me over to spent the evening singing and eating with them.
The Steep Climbs
If you plan on cycling and camping in Northern Thailand, you need to be in good shape. It’s not uncommon for you to have an elevation of 500 meters in one day. Granted the roads are good and you’ll have plenty of room, but that beating sun and carrying your kit behind certainly takes it tole.
Cycling and camping in Northern Thailand took me on a journey of 743 km which started in Siem Reap and finished in Tak (near the border with Myanmar) The most difficult sectors of the ride were the initial 200 km as I entered Thailand and the last part of leaving Tak and crossing the Taksin Maharat National Park. The area in the middle of the country was fairly flat with nice roads.
Being in the middle of nowhere in an off the beaten track city, people often stare at you and try to strike up conversation in a country like Thailand. However I even found this included the tourist areas, where people were super friendly and just wanted to know everything about me, without wanting anything in return.
Especially during those steep climbs, I was at times in despair as I felt like I couldn’t go any further. Drivers would often stop to make sure I was alright and would ask if they could give me a lift up to the top. I often obliged.
Where ever I turned the food was incredible. When I was living in Saigon, I didn’t eat too much street food as it often made me feel sick. This for sure isn’t the case in Thailand. It’s insanely cheap as well, but be prepared for it to be on the spicy side!
Getting Fitter And Emotional Learning
After cycling from Ho Chi Minh to get to Thailand, my body was feeling stronger every day. However it hadn’t really been tested as the terrain in Cambodia and Vietnam was extremely flat. After the first couple of days of tough ascents, my body felt like it took an extra step in endurance and after a days solid cycling, it became easier.
Cycling on your own for such a long time gives you plenty of time to think. To have time to analyse what are the toxic aspects of your life was really important. Getting more of an insight in how best to allocate my energy is something I really hope to take forward after this trip eventually comes to an end.
Advise When Cycling The Roads
Cycling and camping in Northern Thailand is not without its dangers. Granted the roads are a lot nicer than in Cambodia, however this does not mean you can get complacent. Often huge lorries will whizz right past you, creating a large gust of wind that could easily suck you into the road. Make sure to take precautions against this. I always made sure I gripped the handlebars tightly whilst keeping at tight as I could to the side of the road. A couple of times, some fairly mean looking dogs came steaming towards me from the drives of their houses. Apart from scaring the hell out of me, I tried to stir away from them but this meant going into a busy road. If this ever happens to you, make sure to keep in a straight line. The dogs aren’t likely to bite, they will more often than not just bark.
Cycling and camping in Northern Thailand has been the highlight of my round the world trip. Honestly I can say that the scenery was the most spectacular of the my whole trip. There are so many amazing things to experience as you make you way through the country, that it really does leave you wanting more.