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North Thailand is studded with mountains and borders Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia. The Golden Triangle, a region famous for its illegal opium production, is also situated up here. If you go to the mountains you can have some great views, but it can also be rather chilly up there at night. One destination you should not forget is Paaj (ปาย) which is exactly in the mountains. It is a great hang-out place for backpackers and artists. The area has great views and some interesting natural and cultural sites. Thais also like to come here and find it exiting that farangs like the place.
Mountain ranges extend from the Daen Lao Range in the southern region of the Shan Hills, in a north/south direction, the Dawna Range forming the western border of Thailand between Mae Hong Son and the Salween River. To the east the Thanon Thong Chai Range, the Khun Tan Range, the Phi Pan Nam Range, as well as the western part of the Luang Prabang Range, form the natural region of the Thai Highlands together with the former. These high mountains are incised by steep river valleys and upland areas that border the central plain. A series of rivers, including the Nan, Ping, Wang, Yom and Nan, flow southwards through mountain valleys and join to form the Chao Phraya in Nakhon Sawan Province in the central region. Sirikit Dam is situated on the Nan River in Uttaradit Province. The northeastern part is drained by rivers flowing into the Mekong basin, like the Kok and Ing.
There are 17 provinces in Northern Thailand.
Poy Sang Long festival is one of the most colourful festivals in northern Thailand. It is celebrated by the Tai Yai/ Shan (an ethnic minority who are close cousins to the Thais, and originate from Xishuanbanna province in Southern China), and so can only been seen in the provinces of Mae Hong Son and Chiang Mai. It celebrates the rite of passage for boys aged 7-14 years who will be ordained as novice Buddhist monks. The origins of the festival imitate the footsteps of Prince Siddhartha, before he left the palace and become Buddha. The young boys are extravagantly dressed and beautifully made up as little princes, carried on the shoulders of elder men which can be seen as part of a lively and colourful procession on the way to the temple
The north of Thailand has 3 seasons; winter, summer and rainy season.
Chiang Mai International Airport (CNX) is found to the west of the old city. Low-cost Airline Air Asia flies to Bangkok, Hat Yai, Phuket and Kuala Lumpur. Many other airlines serve destinations like Yangon, Koh Samui, Taipei, Singapore, Seoul and Luang Prabang.
Flight time from Bangkok to Chiang Mai is approximately 1 hour. Thai Airways, Bangkok airways and Air Asia have daily flights from Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK) near Bangkok. Other budget airlines such as Nok Air fly from Don Muang airport Bangkok
Upon arrival at Chiang Mai airport, there is a taxi counter offering transfers into town. The fare is approximately 150bt.
From Bangkok there are day and overnight trains to Chiang Mai. Journey time is approximately 12-15 hours depending on the type of train you take. For timetables and fares see the State Railway of Thailand website. It is advisable to book tickets in advance especially during busy travel periods such as weekends and public holidays. Tickets can be booked in advance via Thai Rail Link. Trains will normally depart on time, but with old single way tracks it is very common that they are delayed, arriving late by several hours
From Bangkok it is an approximately 800-kilometre drive to Chiang Mai. Once outside of Bangkok city, traffic is not bad and the roads are pretty clear
There are over 30 buses per day that depart from Bangkok's Mo Chit bus terminal to Chiang Mai. VIP buses cost approx 450bt and journey time is approximately 10 hours.
There are no trains connecting Chiang Mai to other districts or town in the north. There are only services to Bangkok, which stop at major towns along the way: Lampang, Phitsanulok, Nakhon Sawan and Lop Buri. Chiang Mai train station is located on Charoen Muan road, a few kilometres outside of the old city centre.
Northern Thailand has a good bus network connecting the hub of Chiang Mai to all major towns and districts in the north. The main bus stations in Chiang Mai city are Arcade bus station and Chang Puak bus station. Arcade bus station is located on the the eastern end of Kaew Nawarat Road near the super highway intersection (highway 118), Tel: (053) 244 664. There are bus services that go to Mae Hong Son, Mae Sariang, Pai, Nakorn Ratchisima (Korat), Udon Thani (via Uttaradit, Phitsanoluk, Nong Bua Lamphu), Hua Hin, Khon Kaen, Sukothai and Bangkok.
Chang Puak bus station is located on the southern of Chotana Road. Tel: (053) 211 586. There are bus services that go in northerly direction to Mae Rim, Chiang Dao, Fang, Thaton, Mae Taeng and Sameong.
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Living in Thailand since 1989 I get many questions about dos and don't s, what staying in a hill tribe village is really like and other possible experiences. I have written several articles and stories on such matters for magazines, in internet travel blogs, forums and journal sites. Rather than trying to find them I have added them here. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I have writing them.
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