Thailand is a very touristy country. She attracts travelers of all ages, young backpackers, adults and even families with children who have discovered her charm in recent years. As such, it offers a wide range of options, places to stay, attractions and also wonderful hiking routes, which you should combine during your vacation. The northern part of Thailand is known as a very quiet and peaceful area, an area with mountain views, forests and large flat areas, as well as a local culture that tells quite a bit about Thailand itself and its inhabitants.
Planning to take a trip to Thailand? Here’s an overview of some places in this part of the country that you might want to stop, whether it’s a short stop or a few days or more:
Chiang Mai – the big city
It is the largest, most central and most popular city in northern Thailand and one of the most prominent destinations in the country (second largest after Bangkok). Chiang Mai is the starting point for many trips in the North and is visited by tourists from all over the world and of all ages to experience this beautiful region, which they combine on their big trip to Thailand or on the short vacation. Among the highlights of Chiang Mai is the temple of Wat Doi Suthep, a large and very active temple. It was built in the 14th century and attracts Buddhists from all over the world. Another equally impressive temple is Wat Phra Singh, considered one of the holiest temples in the world. Another place is the Chaing Mai Night Bazaar, where crowds of tourists flock. You can find items of all kinds (some of them fake) at cheap prices: wooden works by local artists, clothes, jewelry, bags and more. Along the market are carts, which offer their wares, as well as several fast-food restaurants.
Those looking for challenging activities can find a wide selection of such options in Chiang Mai and the surrounding area. There are jeep tours of a few days (usually two or three days) with a variety of attractions, such as elephant riding, visiting the mountain tribes, sailing on the Mekong and more. Another option is a trip to Mae Sa Valley & Mae Rim, 55 km away from Chiang Mai, and the unique attractions of these places, such as orchids and butterflies, snake farms, elephants, A bungee jumping site and a beautiful waterfall – the May waterfall.
Doi I nathanon National Park – to meet the beautiful nature from close up
Although it is not far from Chiang Mai (an hour’s drive away) it is an attraction in itself, justifying a visit. The high mountain (2,565 meters) is perhaps the crowning glory of the reserve and its icon, as are the two pagodas, which were built in honor of the royal family – in honor of the king and the queen. There are also a number of impressive waterfalls and a stalactite cave that is worth stopping in, and anyone who wants to can take the many walking paths, along with incredible vegetation and quite a few unique villages. The visit to the reserve usually lasts a whole day and it is highly recommended not to miss it.
Long Neck (Long Neck Hilltribe Village) – Learn about local culture
It is known as one of the most popular attractions in northern Thailand and not for nothing. The long-necked tribe, the Karen tribe, invites travelers in the vicinity to visit it (for a fee) and learn about its special culture, which is expressed, among other things, by putting hoops on women’s necks to extend them. The hoop is laid at the young ages, and each year the woman adds another ring around the neck. The village of Nai Soi is the familiar village from all these tribal villages, where you can also take pictures with the tribe’s girls and even tour the place. It is highly recommended to arrange a tour in advance.
Pai – Enjoy a peaceful and pleasant city
Pai is a pleasant town in the far north of Thailand, a three-hour drive from Chiang Mai (near the Burma / Myanmar border). Here, too, it is a very popular tourist attraction, thanks to the many attractions it offers. The beauty of the pie, which is why it attracts many travelers, is the fact that it is less commercial compared to the large and crowded Chang Mai and still has the authenticity that they are looking for. Visitors to Pai can enjoy the warm and pampering springs south-east of the city, from many treks to the nearby nature, from elephants, rafting on a bamboo raft, various courses (such as a Thai cooking course) and much more. The visit to Pai is suitable for all ages: for backpackers, for families with children and for adults.
Caiang Rai – to meet closely temples and special sites
It is the northernmost city in the country and, like Chiang Mai, is also a base for travelers around. Those leaving it focus on the city in the Golden Triangle area and combine in their trip rafting for the most part, jeep tours and sometimes short trips to neighboring countries – Laos and Burma / Myanmar. The visit to Chiang Rai is highly recommended for those who wish to delve into the area itself, learn about the northern part of Thailand and also experience it as much as possible. The Black Hpuse is a slightly different temple and perhaps one of the city’s most interesting attractions. This is a complex of several pavilions, each of which is made of different materials, and displays special collections. There is a sense of mystery place and it is open to visitors every day. The Hill Tribe Museum is another special attraction in Chiang Mai, where you can learn quite a bit about the tribes of the region. Lam Nam Kok National Park is 30 km south of the city and is considered one of the most beautiful natural spots in the area, with waterfalls, hiking trails and charming views that are a charming setting.
To the north of Thailand there are many other attractions that will make you hold your breath and want to stay in the north as much as possible.
Transportation in the north
If you’ve wondered how you’ll come from here in Thailand, here are some convenient ways to do this:
- Buses – By bus you can travel from city to city within Thailand, and from Thailand to other countries, such as Malaysia, Singapore and Cambodia.
- Domestic flights – If your time is limited and you do not want to “carry” trains (worth giving up, adding a few dozen shekels and choosing a domestic flight) and buses, another way to travel in Thailand is by domestic flights. Direct flights for example are from Chiang Mai to Phuket, or from Phuket to Bangkok.
The history of northern Thailand
It is impossible to talk about the history of northern Thailand without mentioning a kingdom that had a great influence on this part of the country: the Monarchy of Hariponchai (today the city of Lamphon), which ruled from the eighth to the 13th century. During the 13th century, princely kingdoms that migrated south from China in the seventh century united and established the Siamese kingdom of Sukhothai, which took control of Harifonchai and established Chiang Mai instead.
In the 14th and 15th centuries, Chiang Mai and Sukhothai became part of a larger kingdom called Lan Lan Thai, or Lana. In the 15th century, Anna had a golden age, and Chiang Mai became a significant cultural and religious center. Unfortunately, many Thai alliances broke up in the 16th century, making Anna vulnerable and exposing her to the Burmese occupation. Lana remained under Burma’s control for the next two centuries. During the 18th century Chiang Mai was captured back by the Thais led by King Cavila. At the end of the 19th century, Siam took control of Chiang Mai, and at the beginning of the 20th century, the north became part of Siam (the former name of Thailand).
The culture of northern Thailand
The main ethnic dialect spoken in northern Thailand is Kam Muang. The language of northern Thailand is quite different from that of central Thailand, to the extent that a person from central Thailand can not automatically understand a person from the north. However, residents of northern Thailand can understand who speaks with them in standard Thai. The main religion in northern Thailand is Buddhism in the tradition of Tharuda.
The culture of northern Thailand is heavily influenced by neighboring cultures – Yunnan Province in China and Burma. The art of the Kingdom of Lana (which eventually became northern Thailand) was influenced both by the culture of the Mon kingdom and by craftsmen who came from Burma; Later, the influence of monks returning from Sri Lanka infiltrated into culture.
In northern Thailand there are also many tribes that have migrated to it from more inland regions of Asia, bringing with them colorful attire and special customs that they maintain successfully to this day – like the Karen women wearing metal rings to extend their necks. The North-Thais, descendants of the Kingdom of Lanna, also feature clothing, music and other cultural features that are unique. Residents of northern Thailand tend to be slower and more relaxed than residents of Bangkok, for example.