|Bordered by Burma and Laos, characterised
by forested mountains - - lower extremities of Himalayan foothills
- - and fertile river valleys, northern Thailand encompasses part
of the fabled Golden Triangle and was the cradle of Thai civilization
where, several centuries ago, small independent kingdoms held away.
In 1238, the aptly named Sukhothai ("Dawn of Happiness")
became the first truly independent Thai kingdom where the Thai alphabet
was created and nascent art forms developed.
Diverse elements, including crisp mountain scenery, exotic hill
tribes, forests worked by elephants, colourful festivals, invigorating
Cool Season weather, ancient cities, exquisite northern Thai and
Burmese style temples, and friendly people contribute to northern
Thailand's enduring charm.
427 kilometres north of Bangkok, is notable for massive sentinel
stone Buddha images that preside over ruins within the old city
walls. The largest temple, Wat Mahathat, and Wat Si Chum, with its
massive seated Buddha measuring some 11 metres from knee to knee,
merit special attention.
Phitsanulok, some 60
kilometres south of Sukhothai, is famous as the site of the riverside
Wat Phra Si Rattana Maha That which enshrines the venerated Phra
Buddha Chinarat, cast in 1357, and commonly regarded as Thailand's
most beautiful Buddha image.
Si Satchanallai, 55 kilometres north of Sukhothai, was the ancient
seat of Sukhothai's viceroys, and is noted for several magnificent
ruins, including Wat Chang Lom and Wat Chedi Chet Thaeo.
600 kilometres north of Bangkok, is the sole provincial Thai capital
where horsedrawn carriages remain in daily use. Lampang is noted
for several Burmese-style temples, including Wat Phra Kaeo Don Tao
and Wat Si Chum, the magnificent Wat Lampang Luang, and a Thai Elephant
670 kilometres from Bangkok, is famed for beautiful women, bountiful
orchards and the stunning Wat Phra That Hariphunchai, a classic
example of northern religious architecture.
The principal northern city, some 700 kilometres north of Bangkok,
was founded in 1296 and is located in a fertile valley some 1,000
feet above sea level.
Chiang Mai is famous for beautiful women, historic temples dating
from the 1300s, crisp mountain scenery, distinctive festivals and
handicrafts, and several formerly itinerant hill tribes of Tibeto-Burman
Wat Phra Sing, Wat Chiang Man, Wat Chedi Luang, Wat Suan Dok, Wat
Ku Tao and Wat Phra That Doi Suthep merit visits.
The Bor Sang-San Kampaeng area is particularly rich in cottage
industries which produce handicrafts such as parasols, silks, cottons
, jewellery, woodcarvings, silverware, ceramics and lacquerware.
Doi Inthanon, Thailand's highest mountain, lies to the west. A
90 kilometre drive from Chiang Mai brings the visitor to the 8,514
footsummit, passing the beautiful and popular Mae Klang, Wachirathan
and Siriphurn waterfalls.
Mae Hong Son
A 35-minute flight northwest of Chiang Mai, is the tiniest and most
isolated northern provincial capital, nestling in a valley surrounded
by mountains containing several hill tribes and Burmese style temples.
Northeast of Chiang Mai, and 785 kilometres from Bangkok, lies in
the very heart of the Golden Triangle and is particularly famed
for majestic mountains and many highaltitude hilltribe villages.
Popular attractions include Chiang Saen, an ancient capital facing
Laos across the Mekong River, and the mountaintop Wat Phra That
Doi Tung which commands a spectacular view of surrounding mountains
, and several Akha hilltribe villages.
some 790 kilometres from Bangkok, is the site of famous annual boat
races, and several historic temples, including Wat Chang Kham, Wat
Chae Haeng, Wat Phra That Khao Noi and Wat Phumin with its undulating
Naga balustrades and famous murals.