Chiang Mai

Visitors to Thailand are periodically faced with negative experiences such as unfair services, personal security, cheating by operators for instance by speed boat operators.

In an attempt to avoid these experiences from undermining the country’s tourism image, steps are being taken to reassure visitors of their safety.

With the bureaucracy of the courts, even simple cases could drag on for 6 months in the courts, with most simply giving up – the new tourist court aims to cut that to one day with a focus on negotiation and compromise between parties.

The first court will be open in Pattaya between 4:30pm and 8:30pm allowing foreign tourists (and Thai tourists) to lodge complaints, and is intended as a pilot project before 5 more courts open.

With 2 courts planned for Bangkok (in Pathum Wan and Dusit) and further courts in Krabi, Samui, Chiang Mai and Phuket.

The Sun Waterpark in Lamphun is a new attraction just recently opened in Lamphun. The “theme park” features a pool with slides that is suitable for kids of all ages – certainly more appealing than any other pool in Lamphun, and as a fun pool better than anything I’ve found in Chiang Mai. As well as the pool there are several other ‘rides’ and attractions.

There is a small ‘boating’ lake a small pirate ship, a few mini rollercoasters and inflatables that are ideal fun for kids under 8. They also have a bucking bronco, bumper cars and ATVs for bigger kids.

The park only opened at the end of 2012, and walking around it is clearly as yet unfinished. There is an arcade of mostly empty shops, while the rides appear to be haphazardly placed around the carpark. There is little in the way of supervision or safety and it seemed ultimately disorganised – i.e. not ready yet! For instance when on “All Terrain Bikes” we were told to do loops around the concrete square. There is some more land that is clearly under development, so I would expect some changes in the future, but as yet I wouldn’t call it a theme park – more like a fairground!

Prices at the Sun Water Park Lamphun

You can pay just to go in the pool, or you can get the day pass. The day pass costs 150B for little kids and 200B for bigger kids. That gives you ONE go on each of the rides suitable for your age. The Sun Waterpark isn’t bad value, but don’t get your hopes up too much – worth it for a day out for the kids.

Drive down the Super Highway towards Lamphun. At the BIG C junction, take left, go for a few km until you reach a T junction, turn left and the Sun Park is on the left after another couple of km. Don’t expect to see any signs, but you shouldn’t miss it!

Map of The Sun Water Park

Air Asia, the budget airline, has plenty of great special deals available in the first quarter of 2013.

Fly Bangkok to Phnom Penh all in for 1,390B, or to Mandalay, Macau and Ho Chi Minh City for 1,890 Thai Baht if you book before January 2nd.

Travelling further? Then it’s Tokyo or Asaka in Japan for 5,390B or Hangzhou, Gold Coast or Sydney for 5,890B.

For local flights in Thailand, using Air Asia’s Don Mueang hub, it’s just 690B to Krabi, Hat Yai and Nakhon Si Thammarat, while it’s just 790B to Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Udon Thani, Nakhon Phanom, Trang and Narathiwat. These deals are for flights before the end of March, when booked before January 2nd.

Planning further ahead, you can book until January 6th for flights in the summer from June to September. From just 490B, you can fly from Don Mueang to Chiang Mai, Phuket, Ubon Ratchathani, Guangzhou, Chennai, Hong Kong or Xi’an.

All these can be booked from their website at

Just opened in August 2012, the Mezzanine Golf course is the newest addition to Chiang Mai‘s golf courses in northern Thailand. The course offers 9 holes as part of the Koolpunt 9 village to the south of town in Hang Dong.

Drive down the Hang Dong Road, to the outer ring road (this is the road that connects to Sameong). Turn left, towards the Ping river and the Super Highway to Lamphun. After around 2.5km you’ll see yellow silos on the right and look for the turn to the right shortly after – another 2.5km takes you to the village entrance.

Let’s start with the positives! The course is close to town and easy to find. The clubhouse is excellent, with good service (many staff hired from Lake City). The course is mostly in good condition, challenging and has some well designed holes (#5 is memorable). There is night golf – and it appears to be happy to open until 10 at night, or later – the lights are very good, so if you lose a ball, it’s your fault not the courses! The course is in excellent shape. There is a grass driving range – note it is one of the few grass driving ranges in Chiang Mai, certainly near the city! The caddies, while novice, were professional and happy to help.

However, it is only 9 holes, and it doesn’t look like it will extend to 18… The 9 holes measure just 3,100 yards from the back tees which means it is a short course – and it has been somewhat squeezed into the available land, so there are back to back narrow fairways. The narrow fairways add positively to the challenge of course. Strangely there was only one beer stop, on the 7th tee, which meant going to the clubhouse restaurant for pre-round drinks. The greens are currently new… – they aren’t terrible, but they are very slow and sandy, something that will improve in time I’m sure, but it was difficult to hold a ball on the hard surface.

So my overall verdict is that it is an OK course, and one that I would be happy to go back and play again. But that depends on what else is available!

I’m not sure if Mezzanine golf course at Koolpunt 9 has got the pricing right…
Right now it’s 700B for 9 holes (walking) and 1,100B for 18 holes. The cart is an extra 500B for 18 holes making it 1,600 including cart and caddie. There is a membership deal of 35,000 for a year (or 25,000 if you are resident in Koolpunt 9), which is expensive. Alternatively you could become a Club House member for 2,900B for the year. That reduces the green fee by around 300B for 18 holes, so if you’re likely to play there once a month it makes sense to be a club house member…

Is Mezzanine Koolpunt Golf course another 9 hole course?
If so, then we have to compare it to Hang Dong, Sand Creek, Star Dome, Sansai, New Sansai and Gymkhana. Mezzanine blows Sand Creek and Hang Dong out of the water, but has lights along with Star Dome. The main differences are that Mezzanine is considerably more expensive than Star Dome and much further away from the city. Based on my one experience there, it is much less crowded though, so I would probably prefer Mezzanine than dealing with the traffic and crowds at Star Dome.

But Mezzanine Koolpunt Golf course isn’t 18 holes…
Which means it isn’t in the same league as Green Valley or the other Chiang Mai courses. Currently I believe Green Valley is offering excellent rates for night golf – cheaper than the 1,100B at Mezzanine, without any need for membership. That still seems to be the best deal in town, so I’m not sure that I would choose Mezzanine over Green Valley.

The course
Hole #1 – Par 5 – 472yards
We begin with a par 5 that is relatively straight but has water left and right. A narrow fairway, but a relatively short par 5, that makes and easy opener.

Hole #2 – Par 4 – 350yards
A narrow fairway with water along the right. Hit the fairway and the green is surrounded by water so accurate approaches are essential.

Hole #3 – Par 4 – 369yards
Serious dogleg right on this one. The caddies might not know it’s OB if you go too far straight, and there is water to the right. It will take another visit to find the right line off the tee. There is water in front of the green as well.

Hole #4 – Par 4 – 345yards
Back past the club house, but the 4th is a straight par 4, a bit of water on the left, but to be honest not that memorable…

Hole #5 – Par 4 – 304yards
Interesting, and probably the most memorable hole. A serious dog leg left but it still looks like you need a driver off the tee. Bunkers straight and water left, again it will take a 2nd visit to figure out the right line or club.

Hole #6 – Par 3 – 195yards
A longish par 3 with water on the rightt and not the best view of the green. At least there is a beer stop after it!

Hole #7 – Par 4 – 326yards
Narrow, narrow fairway, which gives you very little to aim at. It’s got to be straight with bunker and water on the right, but for once there isn’t water behind the green.

Hole #8 – Par 3 – 169yards
Water in front of the green, but not the most memorable par 3.

Hole #9 – Par 5 – 570yards
Finally a long hole, takes you back to the clubhouse with water both sides and well placed bunkers. The approach has to deal with the water in front of the green.

On the 12th full moon each year, Thailand prepares for one of their most enjoyable festivals – the Loy Kratong festival.

The festival pays tribute to the Goddess of Water, Phra Mae Khongkha, who provides a vital resource, particularly for the largely agricultural communities.

The festival dates back centuries and while the original meaning may have evolved, today it remains a beautiful and romantic occasion.

This year the festival falls on 28th November, and on that evening Thai’s and visitors will gather at lakes, rivers and canals to release Kratongs (floats) into the water. Most floats are made from banana trees – the base being a slice of the trunk, that is then decorated with banana leaves, flowers, candles and incense sticks.

While in Bangkok places like Lumpini park and the Chao Phraya river are popular venues, probably the best place to experience Loi Kratong is in the cultural capital – Chiang Mai.

The northern city adds Kom Loi to the event – fire lanterns – which are released into the skies. One of the most popular events is at Maejo, just to the north of the main city where thousands of fire lanterns are released creating a mesmerising spectacle.

This year we recommend Le Meridien hotel in Chiang Mai – centrally located between the moat and the river, it is the ideal place for the festival. All the best places to experience Loi Kratong from are walking distance, and the famous Night Bazaar is right on the hotel’s doorstep.

The Mae Hong Son Loop is one of Thailand‘s greatest road trips – whether by bike or car, the route passes through the jungles and mountains of northern Thailand, close to the border with Myanmar. The route involves twisting mountain roads, and survivors are entitled to a certificate at Mae Hong Son town hall for accomplishing the 1,864 curves.

The route can be completed clockwise or anti-clockwise, although we recommend the anti-clockwise option. On this route, you leave Chiang Mai heading north through Mae Rim, and on to Pai. From Pai to Mae Hong Son there are spectacular views through the north Thailand mountains. From Mae Hong Son head south to Mae Sariang, and back to Chiang Mai via Hang Dong.

The mountainous region of northern Thailand is home to numerous hill tribes, some of whom are refugees from the conflicts in Myanmar. Travelling the Mae Hong Son Loop is as much a cultural experience as it is a scenic one. The following guide will take you through each step of the way.

Photo Galleries

Leaving Mae Hong Son, the southern route back is perhaps less arduous than the northern route via Pai. The route takes in Khun Yuam, Mae Sariang, and eventually joins Chiang Mai from the south through Hang Dong.

From Mae Hong Son to Khun Yuam the road twists through the mountains with some seriously steep cliffs that make you wonder how the hills could have been formed. Gradually the rice fields make way for corn fields, a subtle but noticeable change.

Khun Yuam is a pleasant market town – but make sure to get up early if you want to catch the market! The town is famous for it’s sunflower display (in November / December).

After Khun Yuam, you have choices how to get back to Chiang Mai, and how much of a ‘loop’ you want to take. The main road takes you south to Mae Sariang, while there is a covered road that takes you to Mae Chaem past Doi Inthanon. My reports suggest this is not the most comfortable ride, so the Mae Sariang route is perhaps the best advised.

From Khun Yuam to Mae Sariang the road twists and turns – it’s slow going – by far the prettiest part of the loop is from Pai to Mae Hong Son, or is it the long drive through spectacular scenery that wears the mind out?

After Mae Sariang the road takes you towards Hot – more hills! The main site here is a forest with carefully manicured trees – but monotony drove me onwards. At Hot the drive became more unpleasant – stuck on a road that is being expanded – a road that joins the notorious Hang Dong road – well established as a traffic jam of Chiang Mai. Such a shame that an epic road trip has to end so dully.

Pai, 69km to go

Pai, 69km to go

Through the Forests

Forested jungle lines the route from Chiang Mai to Pai

Hut in the field

Small huts used by farmers

Into the mists

The road from Chiang Mai to Pai takes you often up into the clouds

Beautiful Trees

The Beautiful Trees arc over the road

Mist Descends

Clouds and mist cover the views

Twisting Road

The Road twists constantly through the jungles

The road turns

At every turn, the scenery is spectacular and you feel relaxed out in nature

Tree covered hills

As you get through the mountains, it breaks into low hills on the approach to Pai valley

Forest reserve

National Parks offer vantage points

The Bridge over the river Pai

The Bridge over the river Pai

View point

View Point

Distance:- 135km
Driving Time:- 3 Hours

The journey from Chiang Mai to Pai is a spectacular experience, with stunning views as you head into the mountains – while you can take a flight, or you could take the bus, I highly recommend driving, whether by bike or car.

Head out of town on the Maerim Road (107). The road takes you past the city hall, and although it’s a 4 lane road, there is always plenty of traffic until you pass Maerim village.

Maerim village is small, but congested. The Green Valley golf course is probably the biggest attraction, although after you pass the village a set off traffic lights lets you turn left to the Maesa valley – if you have time there are plenty of attractions including the Elephant Camp and Tiger Kingdom.

After the village, the road improves, although there is little to see until you get to the turning towards Pai – the 1095 – just short of Mae Taeng village.

After a short drive to the base of the mountains, you’ll soon be immersed in the mountains. The rest of the trip twists and turns, up and down through the mountains. Take the time to stop at one of the coffee shops and view points that offer greats views across the mountains.

The paved road is generally pretty good, but occasionally has landslides. It’s slow going, particularly if you get stuck behind a slow truck on the winding ascents, but if you aren’t in a rush, it is a very enjoyable drive.

The road descends into Pai valley around 8km before the town, and this is where the ‘attractions’ start. First up there is the Pai hot springs, closely followed by the Bridge Over the River Pai. You pass Pai Canyon, along with many resorts before you get to the town itself.

Bridge over the river Pai

The Bridge Over the River Pai

Coming from Chiang Mai, before you even reach Pai, you’ll cross the Bridge over the River Pai – one of Pai’s iconic symbols. For any visitor to Pai, a visit to Pai bridge is a must.

The bridge is otherwise known as the WWII memorial bridge, a tag which has inflated it as a tourist attraction, but led to intrigue as to it’s true origins.

The route from Chiang Mai to Pai, and then on to Mae Hong Son and later Myanmar, is one that was strategically important for the Japanese empire wishing to supply it’s interests further into Asia – the trouble being the river crossing some 4km from Pai, which historically was tricky, and often washed away during rainy season. One story is that the Japanese Imperial Army built the steel struss bridge during the war to facilitate transportation.

A display on the eastern side of the bridge discusses this, but admits the structure was rebuilt around 1976 by the Thai government, allegedly using parts of the former Narawat bridge from Chiang Mai. Again this is disputed, due to discrepancies between the designs as illustrated by Hak Hakanson.

Where the bridge originates is currently unknown, but a repainting and renovation in 2007 has elevated it to be a key tourist attraction. Whatever the origins, the views across the river and the rice fields make the bridge a worthwhile stopping point when visiting Pai.

Map of Pai Bridge

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