Firstly thanks to everyone on TA that were ever so helpful in the planning of our trip, it's greatly appreciated.
Where to start? :) Our travelling party consisted of 9 thirty something friends. We spent 5 nights in CM over the Songkran period and had an absolute blast!
We stayed at Sakorn Residence, which is outside the city and we were extremely happy over there. We arrived the night of the 12th from BKK, checked in easily and then hit the streets for some dinner. Because the hotel is a bit out of the city and it was our 1st time in CM we didn't venture too far away from the hotel. A 5 minute walk from the hotel we entered the strip where we found some great restaurants. In this strip you will find the likes of Vieng Joom, The Gallery, Deck 1 etc. The atmosphere was great here, as both the Good view bar and Riverside restaurant & bar had live bands playing to big crowds. We settled on Riverside bar, unfortunately we couldn't sit on the river side as they were at capacity, so they ushered us across the street to the other section. Setting was nice outside with water cascading from a mini waterfall feature. The restaurants pricing is very reasonable and the menu is really huge. Unfortunately the food was only ok, my massaman curry however was terrible.
Next day was the start of the Songkran celebrations and what a day it was! We headed into the city around 10am, and decided to walk it from the hotel. We had so much fun heading to the thapae gate, what a great atmosphere throughout the the day! Amazing how much water was thrown about during the day. Ended up having a light snack for lunch at Loco Elvis. Headed back to the hotel at about 4pm to get cleaned up, i guess there's a limit to how much moat water you can take to the face :D
The evening we took a songthaew @ 20 baht per person from our area to the main gate. So according to TA there's an unwritten law that water play stops after sunset, yeah, somebody needs to write that down because nobody got the memo :) Got a bit wet on route to the Sunday market, but once we passed through the gates it was all dry from there. The sunday market was great, and really cheap too. We picked up some really nice T shirts from as little as 120 baht. We all wished we bought some more because when we arrived in the Patong later in our stay, not only could we not get the same value, but the selection was so much poorer :(
The next day we hired a Van from North wheels with a driver for 2000 baht. I had booked this before our arrival. The driver is not a guide and english was very basic, but what a pleasant chap he was! We started the morning at tiger kingdom, got there at 08h30 only to find that they only open their doors at 9am. Was well worth it though as by the time we left the place was pretty packed, so if you plan on going get there early. It really was an experience, the Tigers were all very active and lively. We spent time in the medium and large cat cages. I cant remember the pricing but i think it could have been about 860 baht for visiting both. After that we headed out to Doi Suthep. Against the advice i received on TA but we couldn't fit it in any other time in our stay so took the plunge. TA helpers were spot on though as the Wat was packed with people. We took the steps and spent some time exploring. After that we headed to the mall near the airport as some of us needed essentials. Ended up eating at the food court on the bottom floor. Great food and awesome cheap prices! Tried the Khao soi at a vendor that seemed to be very busy with locals and enjoyed it. The night we headed out to the night bazaar area where we wanted to go to Lemongrass for dinner, unfortunately they we closed :( We ended up at The Kitchen i think. I had a Fried chicken and cashew nut dish which was surprisingly fantastic. The others opted for western food and were envious of how tasty my dish was compared to theirs.
Next morning we went to pick up our scooters at the thapae gate at pops rental. 200 baht a day for a Honda wave. We did the Samoeng loop and what a day it was! We were aware of the dangers of water play while on the scooters and we had a plan. Namely slow down and take your water like a man and move on. Those not comfortable to ride a scooter hired a Honda City from North wheels, we were late to book so they were billed 1500 baht for the car. It's a great way to spend a day meandering through the Thai countryside. It really is very pretty. And as we went through the little village's, seeing the joy on kids faces when they finally got to blast someone with water was priceless. We did the loop anti clockwise with our final stretch through Mae Rim, where the Songkran festivities were still in full flight, an amazing atmosphere seeing the locals really enjoy themselves.
The next day we were picked up by the team from Spicy Eco Village. We headed out to the countryside again where we did river rafting and bareback elephant trekking. Between lunch and elephants we had some time to kill and ended up having a swim at Maewang Waterfall. I must commend the guides Wason and James from Spicy for their awesome hospitality, they were a joy to spend the day with. After we bathed the elephants in the river we headed out to Spicy eco village for a 1 night stay. Great place with great people and waking up in the hillsides was amazing.
During Songkran is a fantastic time to visit CM, the atmosphere is electric. It does however have it's drawbacks albeit minor. A lot of the smaller stores and shops are closed during this period. So in parts it's like a ghost town in certain area's. Also you wont be dry for 3-4 days :)
This being our first visit to CM we really loved it and would like to come back one day as we barely scratched the surface. Something we noticed and I'm sure has been documented already is that the food is not very spicy up north. You can always add your own chillies etc but for me that's not always the same as it being cooked with these ingredients. The weather is also very different to the south of Thailand. In April we had great weather with high temperatures, but because it's not very humid it's very bearable and even reminds me a bit of our summers in Cape Town.
From CM we left for Patong where we spent a week split up with Phi Phi, but thats a story for another day! :) Thanks again for all your help TA contributors! Sorry for the long winded report!