Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Pai, Mae Hong Son
An alternative destination
The Northern Thailand is a region rich of fertile valleys, mountains covered with virgin forests, rivers and lakes that have always facilitated the commercial and cultural exchanges with China, Laos and Myanmar. For this reason the northern part of Thailand is made up of a multiethnic and multicultural society which embraces many tribal communities that know no geographical boundaries and politicians, among them the Hmong Mien, the Thai Lu and Phuan. The Province of Chiang Mai is the principal North of Thailand and boasts the most extensive forests, which is why offers lovers of the nature holiday and adventure the possibility of hiking, biking or to participate in one of the beautiful hiking (2 to 5 days) that allow you to get in touch with the tribes of the mountains and go up to the Golden Triangle .
Chiang Mai: between temples and markets
The picturesque town of Chiang Mai, the capital of the region, is a must for all travellers who decide to visit the North of Thailand. Protected by its majestic walls and numerous canals, surrounded by the beautiful mountains of the north, the subject of myths and legends, Chiang Mai is a city rich in art and mystical, increasingly projected towards a future of modernization.
Indulge in long walks in the city centre, through its winding cobbled streets, discover the many massage schools or traditional Thai, discover its beautiful stupa in ruins, the small bar and nice stalls. Walk along the narrow streets and discover its craft shops (probably the most beautiful in Thailand) and lose yourself in its night markets. In Chiang Mai you will always find something interesting to do: visit the picturesque ruins of the temples of Wiang Kum Kam, the temple Lanna fourteenth century Wat Phra Singh, where you can admire one of the most sacred images of Buddha in all of Thailand. Inevitable then a walk in the famous Chiang Mai Night Bazaar, among its many colourful stalls full of all kinds of merchandise, a traditional massage, when you’re tired of walking and a visit to Doi Inthanon National Park, if you want to get out of the city walls .
Chiang Mai is located about 700 km from the capital Bangkok, the city has more than 300 temples (almost as many as Bangkok), a characteristic that gives to the city a special charm. Just outside the city stand out the 1,676 m of Mount Doi Suthep , which seems to watch over the city and offers a unique landscape from the top especially at sunrise and sunset. Many travellers stop in Chiang Mai longer than originally anticipated, enraptured by its charm, enchanted by the atmosphere that you breathe and the delightful hospitality of the local people. Besides that Chiang Mai offers visitors an increasing number of cultural experiences and spiritual courses including massage, meditation and Thai cuisine. The best time to visit Chiang Mai is from July to March, when the weather is cool and pleasant, the air is blue and the natural surroundings of a green living.
In the city, in addition to the numerous temples, you can visit the National Museum, which houses a fine collection of statues of the Buddha and the Tribal Museum, where you can admire the objects and clothes typical of the tribes of Northern Thailand.
In the evening, you will not miss a visit to the famous Night Bazaar of Chiang Mai, a legacy of the ancient caravans of merchants who arrived in the city from China, Laos and Myanmar (ex Burma);but if you want the best, you will have to wait for the Sunday market. From early afternoon until late at night the centre of Chiang Mai is transformed into a market full of craft stalls, masseurs, street performers and local chefs, offering one of the most impressive performances of the city.
From Chiang Mai depart most of the trekking that go to the extreme north of Thailand; in particular, we point to the Doi Inthanon National Park, which includes the highest mountain in Thailand with its 2595 m. In the park you will have the opportunity to visit the beautiful waterfalls, picturesque rice terraces, spectacular valleys and small villages inhabited by Hill Tribes. On the slopes of the mountain is home to about 5000 Karen and Hmong. This mountain destination for naturalists and lovers of bird watching around the world is home to many species of orchids, more than 400 bird species, the Asiatic black bear, the macaque and many other typical species. Still further north near Mae Taeng you can take a hike in the villages of Lisu, Lahu, Karen and Hmong and enjoy one of the most exciting rafting across Thailand. From there you can reach Tham Chiang Dao, a cave complex that stretches more than 10 kilometers into the mountain Doi Chiang Dao.
In addition to hiking Chiang Mai offers the opportunity to visit a wonderful zoo, full of a multitude of flora and fauna as well as an aquarium full of tropical fish and sharks.
Chiang Rai province: the way to the Golden Triangle
The province of Chiag Rai is the northernmost of all of Thailand and is one of the more rural areas of the country. Much of its border with Laos is made from the famous Mekong River (the river which rises in Tibet), while the rest of the border is bounded by mountain ranges that separate Thailand from Myanmar.
Until a few years ago Chiang Rai was a centre of opium production, but in recent years the Thai government has tried to combat the problem, relegating him across the border into the territory of Laos and Myanmar. That is why the fame of Chiang Rai as the main centre of the Golden Triangle is now just history (of the recent past).
King Phaya Mangrai of the Lanna Kingdom (Lao-Thai) founded Chiang Rai in 1262, but the city was annexed to the Kingdom of Siam only in 1786. Chiang Rai, also called Siang Hai by Thais, is around 180 km from Chiang Mai and has always been the gateway to the famous Golden Triangle. The smallest Chiang Rai, though perhaps less picturesque is still a viable alternative to the more tourist Chiang Mai, making it a very relaxing town and where trekkers can more easily reach the various tribal villages scattered in the area.
In Chiang Rai, please visit the Wat Phra Kaeo (Wat means temple) which is the most revered Buddhist temple in the city and where once stood the famous Jade Buddha, now housed in Bangkok. Also worth a visit is the Museum of the Tribes.
Chiang Rai has become famous as the starting point of many trekking heading to the Golden Triangle and the extreme north of the country, many agencies organize these trips of several days, suitable for younger adventurous, which allow you to visit some tribal villages ( Karen, Lahu, Mien, Akha and Lisu) through beautiful jungle trails, tour on elephant back or navigation of rivers aboard typical boats made from native guides.