Chiang Mai: The Cultural Capital of Thailand
Thailand is an extremely beautiful and enticing country, and for many years it's been the tourist hub of Asia. Even the most seasoned of travellers get weak at the knees upon visited Thailand, and with so many fantastic natural attractions combined with the charming hospitality of the locals, the country ranks high on the bucket lists of millions. Although the South of Thailand has been dominated by the commercial arm of tourism, the north remains traditional and somewhat unaffected. One of the most visited places in the north is Chiang Mai, the cultural capital of Thailand, and just one visit to this historic and authentic town will leave you hooked on Thai culture for life.
Bearing in mind that it's a 13 hour overnight train to Chiang Mai from Bangkok, 3 hours here or there won't make much of a difference, so why not take a trip to the town of Pai. If you are typically car sick on long journeys then you'll probably need a sedative or some plastic bags on your way to Pai - although its only 3 hours away, the drive will take you up, around and down the northern mountains, with the high above sea level changing dramatically. Once you're there however, you'll instantly realise that the trip was well worth it.
Pai is without doubt one of the most relax and traditional places in Thailand outside of Chiang Mai; there are no big clubs or crazy tourist infested bars - just gorgeous mountainous landscapes, coffee houses and small places to eat. The hotels are very traditional too, and unlike the south you won't be asked to book your room for at least 3 days during a festival. On the outskirts of Pai you'll find amazing elephant and buffalo conservation camps, and after a hard day feeding and washing the animals, why not retreat to one of Pai's many spas.
Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep
If you're not keen on the 13 hour train ride to Chiang Mai, you can take a flight that will get you there in far less time, leaving you free to visit the Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep temple for the rest of the day! Dating back to around 1383, this is one of the most historical monuments in Thailand, and it spectacularly looks over the city from its mountainside perch. At over 3,500 feet above sea level, its also one of the highest temples in Thailand, and there are around 300 steps to climb in order to get to it. Not only are the gardens here simply wonderful, but there are also a small group of holy Buddha relics that permanently live in the temple too.
The Chiang Mai Zoo
Getting up close with the animals in Thailand is one of the biggest activities that attracts tourists, and the zoo at Chiang Mai is a great place to do it. From elephants to tiger cubs, you can feed, wash and play with these amazing creatures, and even take pictures with them. With over 6,000 animals here, it can be tough seeing them all, however the giant pandas are a particular sight not to be missed.