Thailand is such a great country to visit, especially during the end of the year. Millions of people come here to enjoy their winter holidays in a tropical country. For some guests thought, it is just too hot.
Here I want to show some attractive alternatives where you can visit and don’t have to be afraid of a heatstroke.
The best places to visit in Thailand in the north where it is not so hot
Although it is winter here too, in December, you will find it very hot in the south. I know for some of you this is the reason why you don’t want to come to Thailand for a vacation although it is a beautiful country and not very expensive.
Here in the north, you would find a climate like in central Europe during early or late summer. Cool nights and sunny comfortable warm days. Fresh mornings and evenings. The temperatures range from about 14°C at night to 30°C at lunchtime.
It can rain sometimes but that is not the rule. More often you enjoy the best weather and a clear sky. The climate around this time is quite dry and not the sweaty type you might expect from Thailand.
I am now 50 km. north of Khon Kaen, the biggest city in the Isan province, northeast Thailand, in Nahm Pong. It is the 30. of December and I must say, I wear socks and a jacket sometimes in the morning or evening. For me who lives in Thailand, it is a welcome relief from the rather constant hot and hotter weather.
Nahm Pong itself is not too attractive for foreign tourists as here we stay in the middle of sugarcane fields and rice paddies. It is a flat region, almost no hills, and no mountains. There are small villages all over, perfect for farming. There are several nice resorts in and around Nahm Pong though and one big exception.
Preferably you go visiting a big recreation area at lake Ubolratana. Around the Ubolratana Dam, Thais love to go for a picknick in big parks along the Nahm Pong River below the dam. Here it is very scenic with beautiful old trees and a nice Temple, on the only small hill near and far. It is called the Ubolratana Park and is free to enter. Families gather here with tonnes of food and drink and enjoy a day with friends and family.
A few kilometers away you can find the small village at the lake, called Bang Saen 2, the name relates to a famous beach town near Bangkok, where restaurants placed on big bamboo rafts serve Thai food and entertainment. Bigger groups even rent big motorized floats, driving over the lake with food drink and huge sound equipment.
A bit further, at the same lake but on the opposite side, is a village called Pattaya 2, here you find a small beach and water fun place where also mostly Thais go when the temperatures are too hot in the big towns. I can imagine having a good time there during winter as it is not the high season.
Thais mostly visit these places during the hot season and if you go in winter time you can choose from many nice resorts and guesthouses for even a small discount. For us, the westerners, the weather during December is very pleasant and not too busy beaches is a joyful thing to enjoy.
Nonk Kai, Friendship bridge to Laos
Further north, about 170 km. is Nong Kai. This small but pretty town along the banks of the Mae Khong river, which forms the border to Laos, is well frequented by tourists for its beauty, tranquility and the possibility to get a new visa in the capital town of Laos, Vientiane.
We have stayed in Nong Kai several times in a small sympathetic resort right in the middle of town. You find a lot of good restaurants and bars in the old part of town. Several markets along the river in the center of Nong Kai sell all kinds of clothes and other products from over the border and are famous for the tasty food.
“Miang bah” is a menu you must try once you are in Nong Kai, preferably in a restaurant with view on the river Mekong. You will be served a tasty freshwater fish, grilled, with lots of salads and fresh rice noodles and a not spicy peanut sauce. You eat it by forming small boats in your hand with the salad leaves, put some fish and noodles on it, add sauce and fresh herbs, then put it in your mouth. I love that stuff and can eat it for hours.
Other than that you find restaurants serving delicious foods from all over the world. There is also a bit of nightlife with bars along the river, not very much but fun to have some beers and meet people. For families, Nong Kai is a nice place to visit too, as the town is small and most attractions are easily accessible by foot.
Here’s a short video, not made by me, but it sure makes my mouth water too.
Vientiane The Capital of Laos
Once you are up here already, I suggest you visit Vientiane for some days. The city along the other side of the river is a bit more expensive, especially if you eat in the many restaurants, but for a culinary expedition and sightseeing, it is well worth it. Try to get a room in the areas along the Mekong, that is where the nightlife with night markets and food stands are located.
Rooms are from 1000 Baht up, almost twice the price you pay in Thailand for similar rooms. Money, you are gonna be a millionaire there, 4000 Baht is a million kip. I usually take about 4000 baht in Thai money for visa and stuff but you can use the ATM’s in Vientiane. Take out big enough amounts as they charge quite a high transaction fee.
You’ll find alcohol and cigarettes much cheaper than in Thailand and the famous French bread sandwich, sold in many street shops is a must for me every time I go there. A small but excellent French restaurant I want to present you and recommend. They serve really delicious food for a very reasonable price.
Taxis and Tuck-Tucks are a bit of a hassle in Vientiane, they always try to rip you off. This time I had my laptop with me and checked the distances to places I wanted to visit on Google Maps. Like this, I could save quite some money. Taxi drivers always say it is very far and drive difficult and long routes to make you pay more than necessary.
From the border to the town center it is a maximum of 400 Baht you should pay for a full taxi. When going back to Thailand it is 500 Baht, not per person but per vehicle.
Nong Kai to Loi
If you still have time and like the climate up here I suggest you continue your trip along the Mekong river direction west to end up in Loi, the so-called coldest city in Thailand. Route 211 is a mostly small road right along the river.
About 130 km. along the banks of the Mekong River is an absolutely interesting and sometimes adventurous ride. Curves, and up’s and downs, as well as narrow bridges, lead you passing by scenic fish restaurants and rural resorts.
Many places invite to stop the car, get out and walk over big rocks between small pools in the riverbed when water is not at full hight. Small villages where you find a gas station and a fresh ration of fruits and other snacks line the road. Hills, valleys and steep mountains along the way make it a very diversified ride.
Once you reach Ban Chiang Khan the 211 ends and you have to take a left and follow the highway 201 direction Loi, about 55 km. You can choose a more scenic route from Ban That, take a left on 2108, for about 600 meters and turn left again on 4009. It is a bit longer and a smaller street but lets you see more nature.
Loi is going to be another chapter on this website soon to follow.
South of Loi is a nice cool region you might want to check out, Kao Kho, already famous with Thai people, in the middle of hills with a sea of fog in the mornings and other attractions.
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