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Chiang Mai & Chiang Rai

Best time to visit November to March

Transfer Only one hour from Bangkok

THIS IS THAILAND’S eco and activity centre. A green land of cultural diversity. Chiang Mai is Thailand’s second largest

city, famous for its temples and markets, while quieter Chiang Rai is the gateway to the scenic Golden Triangle where Thailand, Laos and Burma meet. Children and adults alike will be

enchanted by the elephants, best experienced on a jungle ride or at Mae Sa Mai Elephant Training Centre, 19 miles from Chiang Mai, where they demonstrate their forestry skills. Nature lovers look for orchid farms, the hot springs of Sam Kamphaeng and Roong

Aroon and Doi Inthanon National Park, which encompasses several hill tribe villages, plus a scenery of wild orchids and waterfalls. Or Doi Tung, forest-covered limestone peaks which rise dramatically to a height of 1500 metres. Active types can try bamboo or white-

water rafting, bungy jumping, hot air ballooning and mountain biking. And for softer adventure, the trekking opportunities here have cultural interest with the presence of hill tribe villages with their unique culture and handicrafts. The Lanna culture of the North means visitors will encounter new foods like sticky rice and mild Burmese curries. Lanna capital Chiang Saen on the Mekong River combines 14th Century temples with bustling markets, where Burmese, Lao and Thais buy rice paste and catfish.

UNIQUE SELL Visit three countries in one day in the ‘Golden Triangle’. Anantara Golden Triangle does a package incorporating Thailand with Myanmar and Laos. Highlights include Burmese border town of Tachilek, Thai village Sop Ruak and its golden Buddha, and tax-free shopping on Don Sao Island.

DAY TRIP Hire a longtail boat and speed along the Mekong river, visit the ancient walled city of Chiang Saen or further to Chiang Khong and gaze across to Laos.

RECENTLY opened Le Meridien Chiang Mai ~ Joining recent openings in Bangkok and Chiang Rai, this has 384 rooms and suites overlooking Doi Suthep mountain. Each comes with glass and marble bathrooms with massaging rain showers, high speed Internet access, and flat-screen TVs. There’s also a spa, state-of-the-art gym housing the latest cardiovascular equipment and an outdoor swimming pool offering panoramic views of the city and mountain.

Siripanna Villa Resort Chiang Mai ~ Also open last year was this five-star boutique which aims to offer ‘a friendly

Chiang Mai/Rai THINGS TO DO

• Visit the Opium Museum, Chiang Rai

• Take a Thai cookery course in Chiang Mai

• Tee off on one of the numerous golf courses

• Barter in Chiang Mai’s night bazaar

• Visit the National Elephant Institute

• Climb the serpent staircase of Wat Doi SuthepWat, 1,022 metres above sea level

Thailand's northern cities are a base for tradition, culture, natural beauty - and adrenaline-fuelled fun

traditional Lanna (Northern) style resort right in the heart of Chiang Mai’. Spacious grounds close to the Gymkhana Golf Course house a collection of 74 appointed rooms, villas, and suite as well as a traditional Thai Lanna House location for the hotel’s ‘Activities of the North’ including a cooking school.

Furama Chiang Mai ~ Open since May this year (2010) is the 17-storey, 295- room four-star Furama just 15 minutes from the city’s airport. It has a whirlpool and swimming pool, gym and four food outlets.

LUXURY choice Mandarin Oriental Dhara Dhevi ~ A luxury 60-acre resort in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Features private villas, luxury suites and world class spa.

ECO choice Kaomai Lanna Resort ~ Converted tobacco curing barns with Burmese and Thai touches, Kaomai Lanna grows its own herbs and vegetables, offers classes in papermaking, cooking and Lanna art, and heads projects to preserve local culture. See the TAT’s GREET brochure for more details.

Clockwise from top left: Orchids; elephants are the star atttraction; bamboo rafting; mountain biking at Phu Chi Fah, near the Laos border

Thailand Guide 2011 21



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