Chiang Mai, Thailand’s northern hub, is contemporary Southeast Asia in miniature: confident, youthful, on the move and yet deeply reverential towards its diverse heritage and long history.
Situated around a moat-lined square of ancient city walls, the Old Town is home to a dizzying number of historic buildings, museums and temples. But this is no relic of an era long since passed: with its large university, thriving creative industries and a bustling scene of expat entrepreneurs, Chiang Mai feels like a young city on the edge of greatness.
Along with the historically significant temples of Wat Phra Singh and Wat Doi Suthep, other downtown highlights include the city’s famous night bazaar, Worawat market in the busy Chinese quarter, and the weekly pedestrian-only street market every Sunday evening.
And, as you might expect from Thailand, one of the city’s main draws is its excellent food, from cheap and cheerful street vendors to fine-dining restaurants and everything in between.
The surrounding countryside is dotted with enjoyable towns and villages, and the hills are perfect for adventures ranging from easy day hikes to multi-day treks, all of which can be arranged by Yonder.
Two hundred kilometres to the north west lies Chiang Rai, a name that can make the hairs on the back of the neck stand on end. It is the frontier to the Golden Triangle, the legendary intersection between Thailand, Laos and Burma where the mighty Mekong river flows. It’s super remote, intensely mysterious and achingly beautiful.
And it’s classic Yonder territory, with some very special Chiang Rai hotels we have selected for you. There is culture in abundance, with some of the region’s oldest civilizations. Chiang Rai was the capital of the Lanna kingdom dating back to the 13th Century and is home to some spectacular temples and monuments.
The city of Chiang Rai itself is a delight. Unlike most Thai cities, it has a laid-back, casual atmosphere, with the pace of life running at a trot rather than a gallop. It is cool, in both sense of the word, with an upcountry climate and some excellent eateries in which to sample the northern Thai delicacies. In fact, this part of Thailand is renowned for its cooking classes, so if you want to use local ingredients to master your Khao Soy and your Som Tam, roll up your sleeves.
For many, however, it is the borderlands that are the magnet. The routes that used to be the crossroads for the lucrative opium trade have now been transformed into fertile agricultural lands for the growth of coffee, fruit and highland crops. The old smugglers routes at the convergence of Ruak and Mekong rivers and their tributaries are now prime for exploration by longtail boat.
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