In my opinion if you’re only doing one thing in Thailand, Chiang Mai is the answer. There might not be any beaches up here but it’s the heart of the country.
Chiang Mai International Airport (CMX) is the main airport for Northern Thailand and connects to much of SE Asia and the rest of Thailand. From the airport it is a cheap and short journey into town. Find detailed info HERE.
Bus trips in Thailand are extremely comfortable and affordable, if a bit long. The seats are spacious and they offer movies (sometimes only in Thai, sometimes available in English). Make sure they bring something warm to cover up with as the AC gets chilly at night. Buses leave regularly from Bangkok’s Mo Chit station. The trip takes about 10 hours, the later the better to save yourself overnight accommodation.
You can also take the train from Bangkok which is around 12 hours with bunks available both with and without air conditioning.
Big red trucks called songthaews are the most common way to get around the city. Negotiate a price beforehand and ask your accommodation what a normal price is to get to where you’re needing to go.
Northern Thai food takes flavors and influences from its neighbors, make sure not to miss out on some incredible tastes and dishes that you won’t find elsewhere in the country.
Responsible Tourism in Thailand
Your face will hurt from smiling. It is the most fun you’ll ever have. Celebrating the Buddhist New Year it falls around mid-April every year and is your childhood dream come true as the ENTIRE COUNTRY partakes in nationwide water fight. Lock and load your Super Soakers and get ready to get wet.
3-4 days is doable but rushed, I would suggest closer to 6-7 days.
Myanmar and Laos are your closest options internationally but CM airport services many other international destinations. If you’re staying domestic then Pai and Chiang Rai are both nearby or head south to Bangkok on your way to the islands.
For more general information on traveling Thailand such as visas, money, Covid updates and more, visit my Thailand travel page.