Northern Thailand is a cultural and natural wonderland with ethnic diversity, a multitude
of attractions and welcoming hospitality.
Chiang Mai literally means “new city” and has retained the name despite celebrating its
700th anniversary in 1996. Chiang Mai not only became the capital and cultural core of the
Lanna Kingdom, it was also to be the center of Buddhism in northern Thailand. Once in Chiang
Mai, however, tourists are surprised by the fact that there are so many things to discover
other than its beautiful and historic temples. Intriguing diversity among ethnic tribes, a
number of elephant camps, many cooking and massage schools, numerous outdoor activities, a
variety of handicrafts workshops, various cultural performances, and breathtaking scenery make
Chiang Mai one of Asia’s most attractive tourist destinations. The phrase "a day in Chiang Mai
is enough to see things around town" was once a common expression. Today, two weeks in Chiang
Mai may not be long enough for travelers to experience all that Chiang Mai has.
The quieter neighbor of Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai is a land of outstanding natural beauty, where
visitors looking to avoid the hordes can visit remote hill tribes, spot exotic wildlife, and
check out the golden triangle, the former center of the world’s opium trade. Today, Chiang Rai
is a traveler’s paradise, endowed with abundant natural attractions and antiquities. Attractions
range from ruins of ancient settlements and Buddhist shrines to magnificent mountain scenery and
hill tribe villages. For those interested in the natural side of Chiang Rai, jungle trekking is
a magical experience; explore the mountains of the north along various hiking trails, many of
which access the villages of diverse hill tribes groups, many of whom maintain their traditional
lifestyles. Chiang Rai town, which tends to be a little more ‘laid back’ than its more popular
neighbor, now competes with Chiang Mai as a tourist attraction and is fast becoming a popular
escape for tourists wanting to leave their troubles behind.