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Travelling to the north of Thailand is a trip that has been gaining popularity in recent times. A Bangkok and Chiang Mai trip combo is an alternative to the coastal itineraries of Thailand, offering a perfect combination of bustling city life and a tranquil natural experience.
The bustling metropolis of Bangkok is the best place to familiarise yourself with Thailand before heading off to more exotic locations. Bangkok has many incredible shopping options to offer visitors, from the surprise-filled Chatuchak market to its several malls and shopping centres. The city has everything to offer for all budgets, but it is advised to push the shopping to the end of the trip, to keep the travelling light. For backpackers and budget travellers, Khao San Road is a haven offering cheap and comfortable lodging options. The street becomes an open party in the evenings with music blaring and cocktails overflowing and is the best place to start with your Thailand travel planner.
The Trip North
Thailand's second largest city, Chiang Mai is a gateway to the interior of the country. The city is 700 kilometres north of the capital and it takes an overnight journey by train or bus from Bangkok to get there. Frequent flights are available, and it is a 70-minute trip. The city's climate is continental with April being the hottest month and winter being the peak tourist season. With a lower profile than Bangkok, Chiang Mai offers visitors a chance to immerse themselves in old Thai culture and understand this millennia-old civilisation a little more. The Inspirock travel planner for northern Thailand is designed around the themes of culture, cuisine and nature and will make the best use of your vacation time.
Cuisine with a Kick
Thai cuisine is a culinary experience that covers a wide spectrum of flavours and combinations. Chiang Mai street and the Sunday Walking Street are a good start for a culinary adventure, with many food stalls offering Thai staples and some regional specials like the Khan Toke, a spread of northern Thai dishes, more commonly referred to as Lanna cuisine. The Night Bazaar in Chiang Mai offers visitors the unique opportunity to watch live Muay Thai fights, another Thai staple.
Tranquillity Mode On
Northern Thailand is defined by its Buddhist culture and the architecture and customs that have evolved around this faith. Visiting the wats (temples) of Chiang Mai is an integral part of a Thailand travel planner and a perfect way to spend the day. Three of the most famous wats in the region are the hauntingly beautiful ruins of Wat Chedi Luang, the largest in the region – Wat Prasing, and the mountaintop wat– Prathat Doi Suthep, which offers views of the city on clear days.
Chiang Mai is a city surrounded by verdant mountains, and there are many trekking routes and hiking trails. Moderate hikes around DoiInthanon are very popular, and views from the top of Thailand's highest mountain are a rewarding experience. The national park around the mountain is very scenic, and there are several waterfalls and streams around the reserve. A hired car or motorbike would be the best way to explore the larger region, which is just two hours away from the main city centre.
Other spots where one can unwind amidst nature are the Huay Tung Tao reservoir and the Bua Thong waterfalls. Climbing up a waterfall isn't usually advised but at Bua Thong, this unique activity is possible, due to the sticky nature of the limestone rock.
Even though Thailand has recently been in the news for the notoriety of some of its famous tiger and elephant parks, the Elephant Nature Park is not one of them. The best way to round up a trip to Chiang Mai is to spend a day with these lovely giants, who were rescued from appalling conditions under previous caretakers. This is probably the most satisfying experience you will have on your entire trip, as you get to spend time close to these wonderful animals, and learn about the challenges that elephants face due to human exploitation and greed.
Chiang Mai and Bangkok are two contrasting cities, and this would be more noticeable on the return journey to the capital, as the terrain changes and the ubiquitous skyline of Bangkok beckons. As you get back to some last-minute retail therapy, the peaceful moments spent amidst the beautiful forests, and the talks with the giants of Chiang Mai will still resonate.