5 ways to chill out in northern Thailand this winter

[Sponsored] You know all about the gastronomic charms and nightlife of Bangkok, and the gorgeous beaches and party scene of the southern islands. But north is where you should head to experience the natural beauty, unexpected delights and cool weather of Thailand. Here are some things your probably didn’t know you could do there.

1. Take selfies among sakuras in Chiang Mai

Sakuras in Chiang Mai. Image by Nareerat Klinhom
Chiang Mai


The northern capital of Chiang Mai is famous for its design scene and cafe culture, but it’s also got another very special claim to fame: cherry blossom season. Yes, Thailand’s higher altitudes have sakura, too, and flower lovers are known to follow the phaya suakrong (Thai cherry blossom) trail from Chiang Mai to Mae Hong Son and Nan provinces over a couple weeks. In Chiang Mai, catch them at the top of Doi Inthanon and the research center at Baan Khun Chang Kian, a short drive from the famous Doi Suthep. As in Japan, it’s a matter of being at the right place at the right time, but they tend to bloom in mid-January, when northern Thailand is nice and chilly. 
While you’re there: Go further off the beaten path and visit one of Chiang Mai’s few sheep farms. Ranch-themed attraction Small Farm, about 60km outside of downtown Chiang Mai, has a whole flock of wooly friends for you to play and take pictures with.
Getting there: Fly to Chiang Mai with AirAsia, which has a convenient Fly-Thru in Bangkok. All-in fares start at $109.

2. Sample organic coffee in Chiang Rai

Elephants in Chiang Rai
Elephant rehabilitation at Anantara

Coffee lovers sipping single-origin stuff from Indonesia, Ethiopia and Honduras might not know that there’s more to Thai coffee than the streetside stuff in plastic bags. Bangkok’s best roasters have in recent years discovered the good stuff growing up in the hilly plantations of Chiang Rai. The most famous is Doi Chang, in the Golden Triangle area, supported by the Royal Projects Foundation, and staffed by people from the local Akha hilltribe. Sign up for a coffee tour involving some easy hikes, lush views and great coffee, 
of course. 
While you’re there: Chiang Rai is also famous for its elephant rehabilitation camps. The most famous ones are at Anantara and Four Seasons resorts—but you don’t have to be a guest of the hotels to spend a day playing with and bathing the elephants.
Getting there: Fly to Chiang Rai with AirAsia, which does a convenient Fly-Thru in Bangkok. All-in fares start at $109.

3. Live the slow life in Mae Hong Son

Walking street in Pai

Delightfully lush and secluded, the northern province of Mae Hong Son offers stunning natural vistas that are hard to imagine exist in Asia. Pang Ung, for example, in the northern part of the province, is known as the Switzerland of Thailand, with its dramatic rock mountains and enormous, foggy lake. Take some time to visit Yunnan Traditional Village (also known as Baan Santichon), near the town of Pai. The residents speak both Thai and Chinese, and you can have traditional Yunnanese dishes at the restaurants and stalls there.
While you’re there: Speaking of Pai, do save a couple of nights to soak in this small town’s healthy-living vibe. Among the souvenir shops, vintage shopping and restaurants, there’s a growing slow life scene, with dozens of yoga schools, meditation classes and health food cafes. Rent a bicycle and go exploring! 
Getting there: Fly to Chiang Mai with AirAsia, with a convenient Fly-Thru in Bangkok. In the same booking, you can add on a City Transfer package that will get you to the city of Pai by van transfer.

4. Admire ancient ruins in Sukhothai

, 5 ways to chill out in northern Thailand this winter
Sukhothai Historical Park

Bangkok is the seat of the monarchy, but there have been other historical kingdoms in Thailand’s past, too. The capital of the 13th century Sukhothai kingdom is located in the city with the same name—now a UNESCO World Heritage historical park. History buffs and shutterbugs can easily spend an entire day roaming the temple and palace ruins here. (Just remember to stay hydrated!)
While you’re there: You’ll need some major refueling after a day of touring the temples. Don’t forget to try some classic northern Thai dishes, which are quite different from what you find in Bangkok. Have the Burmese-influenced pork curry, gaeng hang lay, and spicy and delicious curried noodles, khao soi.
Getting there: Fly to Bangkok with AirAsia, and take a connecting flight to the city of Phitsanulok. AirAsia’s City Transfer package, which you can add on to the same booking, will take you to Sukhothai Historical Park by van transfer. 

5. Drift down the Mekong in Loei

Chiang Khan, Loei
Chiang Khan, Loei

Located in Loei, Thailand’s least populated province, Chiang Khan is a rustic, charming town comprising little more than a few guest houses, a walking street and some delicious restaurants beside the Mekong River. In fact, most guest houses can help you arrange a half-day rafting tour of the river or the scenic Huai Krathing Reservoir, where you can stop for a meal on a floating restaurant.
While you’re there: One of Thailand’s major national parks, Phu Kradueng, just outside the city of Chiang Khan, is popular among hikers. The main trail involves a nine km uphill hike. Spend a night or two at the cute campground at the top, and take some shorter walks to the nearby sunset and sunrise lookouts.
Getting there: Fly to Bangkok with AirAsia, before taking a connecting flight to Loei. When you book, add on a City Transfer package that includes a van ride to Chiang Khan. 


Easy City Transfers with AirAsia
AirAsia’s City Transfer packages mean you can get to more off-the-beaten-path destinations in Thailand. The packages include not only your connecting flight, but a convenient transfer by bus or van, all in one affordable price. Sukothai, Pai and Chiang Khan aside, you can also use the City Transfer service to get to cities like Mukdahan and Salasin in the northeast and the gorgeous beaches of Khao Lak in the south, among other places.

The Fly-Thru at Bangkok’s Don Mueang
1. No lines. There’s no immigration check at transit.
2. Free hands. No baggage to collect until your final destination.
3. Shops galore. Duty free, cosmetics and more. Plus: Thai crafts and Thai food.
4. Life’s essentials. Also known as free Wifi.
4 great add-ons when you pre-book with AirAsia
, 5 ways to chill out in northern Thailand this winter
1. More meal choicesWhen you pre-book your meal online, not only do you get 20% off, you also get more options, including several mouth watering Thai classics (see Whet Your Appetite, below).
, 5 ways to chill out in northern Thailand this winter
2. Check In Baggage. It’s a no-brainer. You save up to 54% when you pre-book your baggage online! What’s more, you have the option to pack anything from 20k-40kg.
, 5 ways to chill out in northern Thailand this winter
3. Priority boarding with Hot Seats. When you pick a seat, you get a head start with priority boarding! Not only that, having hot seats also means extra legroom for additional comfort.
, 5 ways to chill out in northern Thailand this winter
4. Premium flex. Travel like a boss. Check in at the dedicated Premium Flex counter and enjoy flexibility to change your flight details two hours before departure and up to two times without extra charges. What’s more, get complimentary 20kg baggage allowance, get a delicious in-flight meal, choose where you want to sit at no cost and be the first to board.
















, 5 ways to chill out in northern Thailand this winter

Pre-Book Your Meal for More Exciting Choices

Let’s face it: Thai food is half the thrill of visiting Thailand. And on AirAsia, you get a sneak peek at all the classics before you even touch the ground. All flights to Thailand offer a range of iconic Thai dishes, such as green curry, mango sticky rice and, everyone’s favorite, basil chicken. Meals start at $5 when you pre-book online. 

This post is brought to you by Air Asia , 5 ways to chill out in northern Thailand this winter