We recently took the bike for a trip to nearby Chiang Dao. It's a quiet little town that is mysteriously both deserted and really expensive for reasons we couldn't figure out. Accommodation and food were priced as if it were a bustling tourist town although as far as we could tell we were the only tourists in the whole town.
We stayed in a small hut on a fruit farm. The peace and quiet was nice but it was a bit dull. We had planned to stay two nights but decided to head home after one.
Chiang Dao is well known for a large cave containing several Buddha statues carved into the stone. It's well worth a visit if you're in the area. You can explore part of the cave yourself but for most of the cave you'll need a guide with a lantern. Don't expect any sort of expert knowledge from the guides. Our guide's English and their knowledge of the cave's history was limited.
Aside from the caves however we were not particularly impressed with Chiang Dao. It's worth a day trip but unless you want quiet solitude free from the distractions of anything to do don't bother staying there overnight.
Shortly after our trip to Chiang Dao we made a separate trip to Bangkok, Phetchaburi and Hua Hin. We took the night train south from Chiang Mai to Bangkok and stayed in a hotel a few blocks from the infamous tourist hub, Kho San road. The night train between Bangkok and Chiang Mai is awesome. We took a a second class sleeper and we both slept better than we do in our own bed.
After briefly exploring Bangkok we caught another train further south to Phetchaburi where a friend of ours now lives. Although the schedule said it was a three hour trip we bought third class tickets which meant it was in fact closer to six hours. Six hours spent standing up in an unairconditioned train car.
Phetchaburi is a wonderful town. It's small but charming with a river winding through town and a ancient palace atop a mountain which is now home to thousands of monkeys. Leave any food at home as they're known to wrestle food away from passersby and even people on bikes stopped at the nearby traffic lights.
We continued our trip on to Cha'am. We didn't like the look of Cha'am so we moved on to Hua Hin where we spent a few days. It was nice to have access to the ocean although the water is shallow, murky and there's the odd jellyfish and submerged rock to add an element of danger. Having grown up in Australia we're rather spoiled when it comes to beaches so anything less than white sand and clear water is a little disappointing.
Hua Hin is also radically more expensive than Chiang Mai. It appears to be popular with europeans and the influx of euros has inflated prices out of proportion with the rest of Thailand.
It is also the home of the pushy tailor. Suit makers exist throughout Thailand. In Chiang Mai the stores are available for you to go to when you want something made. In Bangkok, they may stand out the front of their store politely offering their services to passers by. In Hua Hin, they dash out of their stores and follow you down the footpath doing their best to appear like some long lost friend. A long lost friend who wants to make you a suit. It gets tiresome after the tenth or twelfth encounter.
In the end we spent a few days hanging out by the pool before once again taking our chances on the train system and heading back to Chiang Mai.