inside silver temple chiang mai


This is how you should do Thailand - trains, tuk-tuks and the Golden Triangle

Published January 9th, 2018

It’s time to take 5 mins as we serve up some real talk with Nick Roelofs of Student Flights on what it’s like on do a tour in Thailand, which mind you, he thinks is the only way to go...

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white temple chiang rai
Nick makes friends where ever he goes, even this guy in Chiang Rai.

Could you tell me a little more about the Thailand leg of your Road to Phnom Penh Topdeck trip?

The Road to Phnom Penh trip starts in Bangkok which was perfect for me as I hadn’t been before but heard so many great things. I spent an extra four nights in Bangkok so five nights total including the tour.

It is such a diverse city and I loved going from riding around on a bicycle to immersing myself in a tuk-tuk food tour. After Bangkok we bordered an overnight train to Chiang Mai – this was a big highlight for me as it was on my bucket list.

It’s a 13 hour journey and while it’s a similar price and much faster to fly I would highly recommend doing this train journey, it was great to turn off the wifi and just play cards with my new found Topdeck friends before bunking in for the night.


Once we arrived in Chiang Mai at our hotel we jumped on rickshaw’s and had a half day city tour taking in all the sights and sounds of one of Thailand’s largest cities. We spent two nights exploring Chiang Mai and another full day of free time to explore! We then made the drive further north to Chiang Rai on the way seeing the incredible white temple which funnily enough is full of anime inside!

We also visited the Golden Triangle which is the border of Laos, Thailand and Myanmar before heading back to our tropical oasis of a hotel for the night. After a few cheeky pre-drinks by the pool we headed into town for our last night in Thailand before heading north the next day and crossing the border into Laos.


golden triangle border of laos thailand and myanmar from the thai side
Nick and his tour visit the Golden Triangle - the border of Laos, Thailand and Myanmar.


Why did you decide to go on this tour?

I decided on Topdeck Asia as I wanted to go off the beaten track, I didn’t want to visit all the tourist hotspots and there was no good way of doing this myself, we went way off the tourist trail, had some incredible local experiences and met some incredible people that I otherwise wouldn’t have. I now call these people my close friends and we are looking forward to travelling together again!


very large tuk tuk in chiang mai
Going on tour in Thailand equals automatic lifelong and like minded travel obsessed friends.


What are your recommendations for anyone thinking of doing their first Asia trip?

100% get off the tourist trail, jump on a tour that takes you out of the big cities. The cities are great however there is so much more to see in places you’ve never even heard of.

Be prepared to step out of your comfort zone, Asia is very different to the rest of the world so prepare for that by doing a bit of research on the culture of each destination, learn the basics in the local language (hello, goodbye, please, thank you are great to start) and most of all respect that not everything will be exactly how you want it to be. Also respect and make yourself aware of local customs and laws so you don’t land in hot water.


getting blessed by a buddhist monk
Adventure begins at the end of your comfort zone according to Nick. He might be onto something there...


What's one of your favourite travel memories from this trip?

One of the biggest highlights was cruising the Mekong for two days through Laos all the way from the Thai border to Luang Prabang. We had a great opportunity to bond with everyone on the trip and we just cruised along in our open boat with the wind blowing playing board games, listening to music, drinking and having fun with some of the locals along the river.


Wat Chedi Luang Temple in Chiang Mai.
Seeing all of the sights in Chiang Mai, Nick spotted here at Wat Chedi Luang temple.


What was your favourite activity that you did in Thailand?

By far my favourite was the street eats tour by tuk-tuk in Bangkok. We flew around Bangkok in the back of a tuk-tuk racing everyone to about eight different food districts all around Bangkok.

We tried the most famous Pad Thai in the world and some traditional desserts, walked through the local fish market and through all of this we had a local Thai guide who really helped us get off the tourist trail with his local knowledge who of course helped remove the language barrier.


topdeck street eats by tuk tuk bkk
Street eats by Tuk Tuk at night. It doesn't get much more Thailand than that!
Student Flights

Sam Aldenton

Sam Aldenton is a travel writer, digital content creator (read: takes photos/videos with her iphone and sometimes a real camera) and former retail and youth trend forecaster. When she's not off discovering the world’s best pizza (an obsession picked up from her 4-years in New York), she makes her home in Brisbane, Australia. Follow her on Twitter or Instagram at @samaaldenton.