With the advice of our guide by chance on Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Sukhothai park
Northern Thailand differs from the rest of the country in terms of culture, history, geography and peoples. This diversity has attracted travelers since the late 1970s, making the north a major destination, especially for temples, mountains, forests and ethnic minorities.
WHAT NOT TO BE MISSED
Given that the north deserves a trip of its own, if a Thai says "north" immediately think of Chiang Mai - considered the "capital" of the north - and its temples. So this is definitely the main destination. And in Chiang Mai a local saying mentions "You can't say you went to Chiang Mai if you didn't go to Doi Suthep". And to respect the old Thai saying, it cannot therefore miss a visit to Doi Suthep, which is actually called Doi Suthep-Pui, is a national park and is the mountain visible from central Chiang Mai. For Thais, it is associated with the very famous Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, the temple on the mountain, which is one of the most revered in the country. But the Doi Suthep-Pui offers much more. There are waterfalls, short treks in the forest, ethnic villages and the Royal Bhubing palace with its beautiful gardens.
In addition to Chiang Mai, an important stop in the north is the Sukhothai historical park, a UNESCO heritage site, rich in testimonies of the Kingdom of Sukhothai (1238-1378); while the other "classic" destination is Chiang Rai, with tea plantations, Chinese villages, the Mekong River and the famous golden triangle. Another interesting area is the province of Mae Hong Son, always touristic, but less mass tourism than the areas mentioned above, with the exception of Pai, which over the years has become the most touristic place in the whole north. In addition to the capital Mae Hong Son, which is the area where originally the Karen Padaung had taken refuge, the ethnicity of the famous giraffe women, there is the village of Soppong, famous above all for the Tham Lod cave. To have an experience in non-tourist areas, but which are beginning to become famous among independent travelers, we recommend the areas of Phayao and the province of Nan. The latter, due to its remoteness and its being enclosed in the mountains, was unknown to the Thais until the early nineties. In Nan, in addition to the temples of the capital, which have become very famous among Thai tourists for their different style from those of Chiang Mai, there are seven national parks where it is still possible to see non-tourist ethnic villages, especially in the areas of the Doi Phuka National Park and in the area of Mani Phruek.
SPECIAL TIPS FOR 'TRUE TPC'
Often one is disappointed after a visit to an ethnic village, because it is "too touristy". Over the years, many villages near Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai have been built specifically for tourists. This has happened because most tourists have little time available. In the most famous areas there are also "real" villages, even if they become tourist with the years, and they are usually the most difficult to reach, in the most "distant" areas, especially those near the borders with Burma and Laos.
To visit the north, you can organize in complete autonomy, traveling by public transport. This solution requires not being "in a hurry" and not wanting to "see everything" in a few days. Bus connections are frequent and you can reach most of the areas. When you arrive in the desired area, you can possibly book excursions at the numerous local agencies with English speaking guides, or rent a songthaew or a car with a driver for the day.