Camping in Thailand
Updated: Apr 15, 2020
Part 1: Why?
Camping and Thailand are not two words that you normally associate with each other, and usually for very good reason. Thailand is just too hot and there is no air-con in a tent; hotel rooms are so cheap camping isnt worth the hassle; and, if the insects dont get you the snakes will. All of these sound like very valid reasons not to go camping in Thailand, but they are hiding the positives of camping in a country with a large number of National Parks and hard to get to places.
Loaded up and ready to go, the trip begins
I have just spent two moths riding my Honda Forza 300cc scooter around Northern Thailand, setting off from Sawasdee River Kwai Lodge in Kanchanaburi and heading up the Myanmar (Burma) border before cutting inside to explore Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai and then heading back South as the hot season started to kick in. Here I am going to give an overview of the whole trip with the good, the bad, and the ugly, all thrown in to a condensed version of what happened. There will be links to up-coming articles on individual highlights of the trip as well as to videos on YouTube which document some brilliant or not so great aspects of the trip.
So why did I want to go camping in a place where hotels are so cheap and plentiful? The idea came to me a couple of years before, when I wanted to explore certain places within Thailand but soon realised that the difficulty of getting to these places would require me to have my own transport. When I did finally buy the Forza that aspect was covered as the scooter has all the power required to do these trips and could easily carry all my photographic equipment, computers and other goodies. This was fine if I was staying in a hotel for a few days at a time, but if I wanted to hop from room to room then it meant having to load and unload the scooter every day, and usually carry the gear some distance to my room and back to the bike the following morning.
Camping meant I could have all my gear very close to the bike making loading a very easy and quick process, if I wanted I could actually leave the bike loaded and park the bike overnight in the porch of the tent. It also gave me the benefit of being able to wake up just before sunrise and be only a short distance from the peaks, same at sunset. If I could take my hotel room with me on the bike then if I wanted to skip an area I could press on and it would be there whenever and wherever I decided to stop. I used the tent about 50% of the time and alternated with hotels and guest houses, if I wanted to stay a few days in a town or city I would use Booking.com and find myself a convenient hotel, this worked brilliantly. Is it too hot? The simple answer is usually, I got the timing a little wrong and set off in mid January, next year I will be starting out in December and hope to last till around mid March before being beaten by the heat and pollution. Not that the nights are a problem just that in March the days get hotter, and then the burning begins.
Ideally the best time to see the North of the Kingdom in all it's splendour is during the rainy season when everything is green and lush; however, that is the worse possible time to ride around and camp due to the heat and the rain making the already steep and windy roads even more dangerous for two wheels. Around the winter period though temperatures plummet and there were many days where riding in summer clothes was not a good option, I even bought a hoody when the coldest days came. I bought a sleeping bag that I never thought I would use, but this got some serious usage particularly when camping on the mountains. One night in-particular was colder than i could ever have imagined Thailand to get, granted I was near the highest peak in Thailand at the time.
Stupa at Doi Inthanon (Thailands highest peak 2,565 m)
As far as I can remember I did not see one bit of rain, although there well could have been but it was that little it isnt sticking in my memory. So usually perfect weather for riding the bike and sleeping out in the open air, in all the miles I traveled I can only remember seeing two live snakes and both of these were on the road, I did see a dead python which must have been at least 4 metres long so these do exist, but I was more worried about monkeys as they might look cute but they can do some serious damage with their kleptomaniac tendencies; as it is neither bothered me.
A by-product of camping is that you save enough money to pay for any kind of liquid you deserve after a hard days ride. Prices vary but on average the National Parks cost 300 Baht entry with the ticket usually being valid for five days, 20 Baht entry for the bike and 30 Baht per night camping fee, you could enter and exit the park as many times as you liked in the five days. So all in 470 Baht for five nights if you wished to get maximum value, my average stay was probably three nights. I never kept an accurate record but I covered around 5,000 to 6,000 km and my longest single days riding was on the way home where I covered 500km in one day.
More specific parts of the trip will be coming soon if they are not already on the site, here are some of my personal highlights which I will be writing about soon.