Northern Thailand is a mountainous part of the country which borders Laos and Myanmar, characterized by its rugged terrain and mix of peoples such as mainland Thais, Burmese, Shan and hilltribe groups (Hmong, Karen, Lisu, Lahu, and Akha).
The second biggest city in Thailand and the capital of the North, Chiang Mai attracts thousands of tourists every year. A city of old and new, where east meets west, it guarantees something for everybody. Most people allow a few days in Chiang Mai but one could easily spend a week soaking up the sights and sounds and falling for the allure of this city. The Northern Thailand is known for the beauty so do explore it.
For those looking to explore more of Northern Thailand past the environs of Chiang Mai, there are two popular options. One is to head directly north to Chiang Rai or west to Mae Hong Son. Chiang Rai can be comfortably explored in 3 days covering destinations such as Fang, Thaton and Mae Salong. Most people set aside 3 days or less to discover Chiang Rai, although some make Chiang Rai a day trip- this is not recommended as most of the day is spent traveling as it is a good 4 hours’ drive from Chiang Mai.
For those with 4 days or more on their hands Mae Hong Son province which lies west of Chiang Mai is highly recommended. Mae Hong Son has a more remote feel to it as more time is needed to navigate through this mountainous province it remains less chartered by tourists. Home to a mix of peoples such as the Burmese, Shan, hilltribes and Thais, another distinctive feature of Mae Hong Son is the Shan and Burmese influence not found anywhere else in Thailand. This can be seen through the architecture, where ornate Shan style temples are scattered throughout this province. This area is also famous for its mists, named the land of 3 mists due to the dewy mist in the winter, rainy mist in the wet season and mist from forest fires in the summer.