Would do 3 and 4 personally.
It all depends on what you are looking for, but in my opinion, two days is enough in Bangkok, especially seeing you are from LA. Bangkok is a large city, with a few sites that you'll want to see, such as the palace, the canals, the reclining buddha etc., which can be done in two days. You will regret having only 3 or 4 days in Chiang Mai. I find it to be a more engaging city.
In the past year I have taken three groups of friends to Bangkok and northern Thailand (and the beach also). The feedback has consistently been that two days in Bangkok would have been plenty and they all wished they had a longer period of time in Northern Thailand.
Good luck with your decisions.
IMO, 5 days is too long in Chiang Mai. I would go 4 days Bangkok / 3 days Chiang Mai.
Or can you change your itinerary ??
Both places are well worth visiting. Perhaps it's a good idea to do some more reading about what there is to see and do in both places. Personally, I could spend the whole time shopping in Bangkok alone.
Im going for half and half myself... 2 days in Bangkok, 4days in Chiang Mai (then beach) and finally 2 days in Bangkok..
I love Bangkok but many hate it the first time they are there... Because it can be reather chaotic...
Chiang Mai on the other is something completely different... more laidback..
But when you going to both Thailand and Cambodia, I would chose a couple of extra days in Bangkok over Chiang Mai. Reason is that Chiang Mai are more similar to the cities of Cambodia (Phnom Phen & Siem Reap - where I have been) - The Bangkok experience you wont get in Cambodia... While you will experience similiar wibe that you experience in CM... So 4 days in BKK and 3 days in CM would be my suggestion.
Have a great trip!
Thanks so much for everyone's kind input. Trip advisor forums never cease to amaze me. It's much appreciated.
Lisa, It all depends on your interests but I spend 2 weeks in Bangkok 2-3 times a year and never tire of it nor have I seen everything. Its not all about sightseeing, but experiencing the people and seeing the Bangkok beyond the Palace and temples. Go to the malls, get a massage, go to a VIP movie theater, etc. Just walk around. And Bangkok is NOTHING like LA---not even close!!!
Chiangmai is beautiful, and interesting too. I've been many times. But I prefer Bangkok over Chiangmai and its Bangkok I come back to time and again.
You will have the time of your life regardless of how you decide t obreak it up.
Personally, I love Chiang Mai more, and I will do 3 days Bangkok and 4 days Chiang Mai, and will do Bangkok in the end of Thailand-Cambodia trip.
Bangkok is a mega city like Hong Kong, Taipei, Shanghai, and Tokyo, and you can enjoy what Asian mega cities offer. So, if you like an Asian mega city, you can do 4 days Bangkok and 3 days Chiang Mai.
On the other hand, Chaing Mai is more laid-back than Bangkok, but still has plenty to offer. Although Chiang Mai is the second (third?) largest city in Thailand, you don't feel so because there are not many high-rise buildings, and because there are a lot of greens all over the city. Chiang Mai has a good vibe and gives more friendly Thai feel.
And, if possible, make your itinerary to be in Chaing Mai on Sunday. IMHO, Sunday Walking Street Market in Chiang Mai is one of the best street markets in Asia.
I have just done both and would choose Chiang Mai every time.
Saying that, Bangkok is lovely. The Grand Palace, Emerald Buddha sights etc. etc are fantastic. I am not a 'large shop' shopper, tho, so thats probably what makes me choose Chiang Mai. The Sky Train is very easy to get around on so that does help squeezing alot in. We did the Chatuchak Weekend Market on Sunday which was great and much more enjoyable to me than a department store. It is a HUGE market and the heat didn't help!! I would return to Bangkok and would definitely tell anyone to visit.
Chiang Mai is so relaxed and friendly. The food, shopping and the culture just won me over :)
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