The season starts to change in November. Like water stopping from a shower head, the roaring rains slow to a trickle before disappearing. Gone, too, is the suffocating humidity of the early mornings and late nights as cool air grips the land. When the monsoon finally passes, dark clouds fade into memory, leaving only the great blue dome of the sky. With the forecast pleasant for the foreseeable future, all roads point north—or, for adventure-seekers, northeast.
Before Chiang Mai was nicknamed “the Rose of the North,” before the British consumed the teak forests, before the region was annexed during the reign of Chulalongkorn, the North belonged to the Lanna. From Sukothai and Lamphun to Phayao and Chiang Rai, the region is rich with archaeological relics, colourful minority tribes preserving traditions, and elements of the nearly millennium-old cultures integrated into modern-day life. While no trip to the North would be complete without a proper exploration of the heritage, for many travellers the region’s appeal remains its hilly topography, cool climate, and laidback lifestyle. Today, Chiang Mai and the surrounding provinces draw millions of visitors eager to enjoy the great outdoors or simply soak up the slow life.
To the east, a mass of flatland traced by the mighty Mekong makes up Isaan, the Northeast. Lacking the peaks and valleys of provinces like Mae Hong Son, Isaan’s allure is subtle. Beyond the green and gold plains awaits a world of fiery cuisine, peculiar traditions, and Khmer ruins that pre-date Angkor. While the region sees fewer visitors than elsewhere in the country, it rewards open-minded travellers with its wealth of temples, heritage sites, and what has been called the truest Thai culture.
Whether voyaging north or northeast, November is a prime time to go. It marks the shoulder of high season, meaning the road will be less travelled, but the weather will still be cool and dry. And, with the right itinerary, there will be many moments to put away in the memory bank, such as witnessing the sky filling with lanterns during Yi Peng in Chiang Mai or taking in the gilded fields of blooming sunflowers in Lopburi. So pack those bags and hit the road this month with Bangkok 101.