Sukhothai, the first capital city of Siam, is the cradle of Thai art, architecture and language. A UNESCO World Heritage City, it is a home to hundreds of historical partially rebuilt ruins and temples, which are considered to be most traditional of Thai styles. It is also a quiet, rural city that offers a charming feel of Thailand’s rustic lifestyle. With the exception of one boutique hotel, most accommodation is for the economical traveler and most hotels can be found in the market town of New Sukhothai, which isn’t particularly exciting but has excellent transportation links to the ancient city ruins.
While Thailand is famous for its beautiful beaches and islands; the north is a luxurious sanctuary with its most major destination, Chiang Mai. A very laid-back and relaxing destination, Chiang Mai offers a much-celebrated culture to sightseers, nature lovers, and city enthusiasts. Ruled by the Lanna kings who built its many grand and stunning temples, it is the epicenter of Thai and Lanna culture. Visitors can explore the temples adorned with mirrored mosaics, tinkling bells and gabled rooftops while learning more about art, architecture and enlightenment. Seekers of cultural knowledge can also visit one of the many hill tribes in Chiang Mai to learn more about their traditional living experiences. While diverse cultural immersion is one of the main essences of Chiang Mai, its forested and mountainous topography offers many adventurous activities for thrill seekers: zip lining, rafting, hiking and spelunking are just a few of the many fun options tourists can enjoy.
Chiang Mai is also part of the second largest province in Thailand: the Chiang Mai province is further divided into various districts that offer unique experiences to travellers of all walks. Hence, if one seeks a more serene environment away from the city’s touristy outlets, Mae Rim is the mountainous outskirt of the Chiang Mai that has various high-end luxury hotels hidden away from the world for an idyllic vacation in some of Thailand’s finest accommodations. For nature buffs, the Mae Taeng district is nestled between the Chiang Dao Nature Preserve and Huai Nam Dang National Park. It is the home to various ethnic hill tribes, domestic elephants and other wildlife as well as lush jungles and a plethora of river activities. Finally, those seeking to find traditionally beautiful handicrafts and valuable souvenirs have the option to visit the Hang Dong District. Home to the popular Bai Tawan handicraft market, one can find everything from hill-tribe kitsch dolls to modern or traditional style designer furniture and objets d’art.
With a much more relaxed atmosphere than its sister city Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai is a small but delightful city with many historical, cultural and natural attractions. As a capital of the Mengrai Dynasty, it retains a strong Lanna identity through its impressive collection of temples, art, cuisine and music. While most accommodation is good-value, the waterfront banks offer more boutique options for a luxury stay. With underdeveloped nightlife, shopping and entertainment options, it is the perfect place for those looking to experience the north of Thailand without being overwhelmed by touristic developments. Tea lovers can take a trip to the remote mountain village of Doi Wawee or the slightly larger Doi Chang, where huge tea plantations have been developed for years for tea cultivation and distribution. Walking through the slopes and valleys of tea plants makes for some of the most beautiful vacation photos and sights. If plantations are not your cup of tea, the famous Golden Triangle where Thailand meets Myanmar and Laos, the Mekong and Ruak rivers converge, and many ancient structural remains can be explored. With two of the most luxurious hotels located in the area, visitors can enjoy visiting the gorgeous temples and opium museums, taking a hike with elephants through the lush jungles, and then relax with the breathtaking views from the hotel rooms.