Entries in chiang mai (6)


Chiang Mai side-trips

Any Thailand vacation deserves a side trip to Chiang Mai, up in the north of the country. Though it's one of Thailand's largest cities, it's refreshingly free of the bright lights, pungent aromas and noisy, frenetic whirl of places like Bangkok. Though it has all the accoutrement of a proper city – an international airport, a lively night scene, big malls and luxury stores etc – Chiang Mai is more like a big spread-out hillside town and a popular retreat for Bangkokians.

The pace might be slower in Chiang Mai, but there’s plenty to do within city limits. Inside the old city walls and moat are an array of drinking and dining spots by the River Ping – many with delicious affordable Thai food and live bands. The night – and day – markets are must-visits, and there's the zoo, where the country's cutest four-legged celebrities reside (pandas Lim Ping and mum Lin Hue). Chiang Mai is also where you'll find wholesalers and manufacturers of Lanna style furniture and various cultural artefacts for much better prices than in Bangkok. Days could be lost visiting the wholesalers on the outskirts of town.

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A peek behind the curtain of the Golden Triangle

The lush, mountainous chunk of land where Thailand, Laos Myanmar and Vietnam meet has long been one of Southeast Asia’s most noteworthy areas for a variety of reasons. There are the inevitable issues with cross-border migration and smuggling, but the “Wild West” image that some like to play up doesn’t really reflect the reality of this beautiful area.

Too many travel operators in Northern Thailand tack a night in Chiang Rai city onto a slapdash tour of the entire region. Visitors whisk in, see the statue of King Mengrai and drive past the brand-new clock tower before heading out to the ‘lawless’ frontier of the Golden Triangle. It’s too bad because there are some spectacular side trips in this laid-back regional hub – hill-tribe treks and elephant rides of course, but there are also a few surprises.

The best way to visit Chiang Rai is to snub the package tours and take a VIP bus from Rose-of-the-North Chiang Mai. You’ll arrive near the Night Bazaar, where there are plenty of Chiang Rai hotels. If you can stomach driving in Thailand, you may want to rent a car to explore the countryside on your own. Otherwise, hire a car and driver.

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Thailand Short Getaways

Living in Thailand or one of its neighboring countries brings with it the considerable privilege of being close to a vast array of weekend destinations. Luxurious seaside resorts, island bungalows, high-rises – even remote mountain villas – dot Thailand's terrain and many of them are just a short flight from Southeast Asia's major cities.

With Valentine's Day looming, here's a quick guide to five of Thailand's most relaxing and romantic destinations for a last-minute getaway.

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chiang mai: volunteering in the northern capital

elephant rides in chiang mai

The 2000s will go down in the annals of marketing as the century tourism without a prefix went out of fashion. I’m told my ancestors justified their holidays with hard work and an ‘I’ve-earned-it’ attitude, but these days you feel obligated to buy carbon offsets just for a visa run to Mae Sai.

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southeast asia: five bang-for-buck destinations

raft house rooms at kanchanaburi

I don't mind staying in five-star hotels; they have their charm. But I would rather make my money go a long way. A very long way. In Southeast Asia, for the kind of cash you could easily blow on a hotel bed in London or San Francisco in a single night, you can stretch into a month-long holiday. 

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chiang mai: extreme chiang mai 

extreme trips in chaing mai

Extreme sport can sound like a recipe for getting drowned, shot or generally mangled. In a sense, it is – I know, I've explored the field in depth, deployed by past editors gleefully keen to see a reporter suffer. But the stress serves a purpose: it tests your limits and the theory that what cannot destroy you makes you stronger. For a lightning immersion in 'controlled edge' extreme sport culture, visit Chiang Mai, the Thai town 700 kilometres north of Bangkok.

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