There is more visible historical evidence of past eras in Thailand than in any other South-East Asian country, so if you're interested in ruins, temples and deserted cities, this is the place to go.
For pure holiday-making magic, Thailand's islands and beaches are working definitions of heaven (once you get out of the shadows of the evil multinational hotels). And as for urban delights, the huge metropolis of Bangkok, although it can alarm with its chaos and its scale, tends to so charm visitors with its energy and cultural treasures that the steamy soupy diesel mixture that passes for air in this city is more than forgiven.
Thailand is an easy country to travel in, with efficient transport, cheap accommodation and a delicious national cuisine. The Thais are renowned for their friendliness and hospitality to strangers.
Although they're often depicted as fun-loving, happy-go-lucky folk (which they often are), they are also very strong-minded and have struggled for centuries to preserve their spirit of independence.
The city of Chiang Mai is considered to be Thailand's second most important city and one of its largest. Despite this, it remains a tenth of the size of Bangkok, with an estimated 400,000 people living in the greater urban area of the city.
It sits well within the tropics and is surrounded by mountain ranges which form the tail end of the Himalayan range. As much as 70 per cent of Chiang Mai province is covered in mountains and forests. Agriculture, mainly fruit, vegetables and some rice cultivation, is the mainstay of the local economy.
Chiang Mai is also home to Thailand's highest mountain, Doi Inthanon, along with five other peaks counted among the country's ten highest. It also has five main national parks and more than a dozen smaller ones.
The city of Nophaburi Sri Nakorn Ping Chiang Mai was auspiciously founded by King Mengrai in the early hours of April 12 1296. Chiang Mai was intended to be the great new capital of the thriving Lanna Kingdom and indeed it was to become one of the most important cities in the region.
Chiang Mai is constructed as a square with a moat to mark out its boundaries and safeguard the people within. At each corner stands a bastion, while the four main gates face towards the four points of the compass. Today these landmarks remain to form the overwhelmingly unique character of the city.
Over 100,000 people come to experience the beautiful mountainous scenery of Northern Thailand, go trekking, eat, drink, party, delve into history and seek out adventure. The quiet winding lanes of the old town, the rustic old wooden guest houses, lively riverside restaurants, colorful hill tribe folk and bustling night bazaar all contribute to make Chiang Mai an unforgettable destination.
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