Masterstroke by master painter
Over the past few years, Prasat Phanom Rung in Buri Ram Province has been promoted for its solar events when the sun rises or sets visible through all 15 gates of the sanctuary.
Mae Sariang and Sop Moei seem ordinary towns that tourists generally skip on their way to the more famous Mae Hong Son, but if you have visited them you will know they are more than ordinary and might even get to love them.
For centuries residents of Ban Thung Luang in Sukhothai have been producing earthenware for home use but now their products, given their unique art lines and creative design, are also beginning to show great export potential.
Blessed with mountain scenery, peaceful Lampang offers not only a taste of northern urban ambience, but it is also the only place in the country where visitors can ride horse-drawn carriages, play the mahout or visit Burmese temples. Lampang has the largest number of Burmese temples in Thailand.
Reading the codes
Wat Phumin in the heart of Nan Province is noted for its architecture and murals, but it is its neatly hidden Buddhist symbols that make it unique and exciting and visitors need the service of an expert to read them and decipher their meaning.
For starters coffee or tea?
Coffee, fresh and cool mountain air and awesome scenery are all there to be had at Doi Chang and Doi Wawee.
Located in Mae Suai district of Chiang Rai, the two mountains can be visited on a day outing from Chiang Rai, and this is the best time of the year to visit them.
It was like another Chinatown, except that this one sat high up in the mountains of Doi Mae Salong in Chiang Rai and not the pollution infested, traffic-clogged streets of Yaowaraj in downtown Bangkok.
An escape to Mae Sam Laeb
So I headed out by car to Mae Sam Laeb - found in the outer reaches of Mae Hong Son province.
The sun rose behind thick dark clouds hanging over the vast lake created by the building of Sirikit Dam in Uttaradit. Raft houses near the dam's edge turned off their yellow lights. There was complete silence except for the chirping of birds, humming of insects and croaking of frogs as if they were begging for rain.
Bits and pieces
Those who have visited Chiang Mai might be surprised to know that the capital of Lanna Kingdom has a twin city that remained buried and was forgotten for centuries until its discovery two decades ago. "The city is 721 years old now, ten years older than Chiang Mai," Supoj Boonmuen, a local guide said of Wiang Kum Kam as the tram circled the excavated site.
Tryst with Tak
Tak is the hottest province in the North despite the fact that 70 percent of its landmass has dense forest cover. The province boasts of the most beautiful and largest waterfall in Thailand, the Thi Lo Su, located in Umphang district through which cuts one of the country's most challenging highways famous for its 1,219 sharp curves. The longest tree fossil in the world is in Ban Tak District and the Bhumibol Dam in Sam Ngo is the tallest in Thailand. Tak also has a large cache of culture and history for visitors to explore.
Heart to heart
High on ancient teak, Ban Prathabjai is a private house in Phrae that has become a magnet for visiting tourists
Mae Ngao - Mae Chaem
From Ban Mae Salit Luang, the gateway to Mae Moei National Park where we ended last week's journey, we're now continuing northwards along Highway 105. Our first stop today, Mae Ngao National Park, is 73 kilometres from Ban Mae Salit Luang and 14 kilometres or so before Sop Moei, the next town.
Mae Sot - Mae Moei
Our route today is in Tak Province, along the country's western border. The starting point is Mae Sot, 80 kilometres or so west of Tak town. Once you're there, the Thailand-Myanmar Friendship Bridge and Rim Moei Market are not difficult to find.
Museum in need
Museums located around historically significant communities house a wealth of information that provide a better understanding of the way of life in the good old days and help educate the new generation about their cultural heritage.
One such place is the Wat Ket Karam Museum in Chiang Mai that opened five years ago.
A college apart
The Prince Royal's College (PRC) photo museum showcases the history of Presbyterian missionaries in Chiang Mai, highlighting Rev William Harris, the founding father of one of the province's oldest educational institutions.
Nan's dominant ethnic minority
Speaking of ethnic groups, famous places where tourists can see them are in Chiang Rai, Chiang Mai and Mae Hong Son. However, in a quiet province like Nan you can also visit various hill tribe communities. The Mien are one of the most dominant tribes in Nan and then there are other lesser known tribes such as the Htin and Khamu.
Eating on the cheap
'Eat all you can for just 39 baht," blares the signboard at the entrance of Phitsanulok Restaurant on the outskirts of Chiang Mai city. In fact the Ring Road (Wong Waen), where it's located, is home to several low-budget eateries. What makes Phitsanulok Restaurant special is its popularity among locals and tourists alike.
Mae Hong Son - Ban Rak Thai
Last week we took a shortcut from Khun Wang in Chiang Mai to Khun Yuam in Mae Hong Son. Today let's go further north, skip Mae Hong Son town, and explore one of this mountainous province's most interesting areas. From the town take Highway 1095, and after just nine kilometres you'll see on the right-hand side a large sign and a side road that leads to the headquarters of Namtok Mae Surin National Park, today's Point A.
Worth its salt
For centuries now residents of Ban Bo Luang, a village in Bo Klue District of Nan Province in northern Thailand, have been producing salt from brine collected from two wells deep in mountains that tower 1,900 metres above sea level.
Khun Wang - Khun Yuam
Weeks ago, I told you about an alternative route between Chiang Mai and Mae Hong Son provinces - the offroad track that starts from Ban Wat Chan northeast of Chiang Mai past Karen villages of Huai Pu Loei and Huai Pu Ling to meet Highway 108 at Ban Hua Mae Sakued just south of Mae Hong Son. Well, today I've got another for you, this one is exclusively for skilful 4x4 drivers.
Arunothai - Mae Fang
We ended last week's journey at Ban Arunothai, a community of former Kuomintang troops in Chiang Dao District of Chiang Mai Province. Today we'll continue from there along Highway 1340 which winds uphill along the Thai-Burmese border to the famous Doi Ang Khang.
Mae Malai - Arunothai
There are still a few more routes in the North that I need to tell you about while the weather over there is still nice and cool. This one starts from Mae Malai, the point where Highway 1095 from Pai meets with Highway 107 from Chiang Mai.
Foreigners first began visiting Chiang Mai in the late 19th century when the British opened a "mountain station" to extract teak trees and other timber. During the Vietnam War, Americans found it to be the most beautiful and sleepy of Thailand's mountain cities.
Wat Chan - Mae Hong Son
Unlike the Samoeng-Wat Chan Road which doesn't appear on some commercial maps, this unpaved trail which starts from Wat Chan and goes further west to Ban Hua Nam Mae Sakued, a village just seven kilometres or so south of Mae Hong Son town, is clearly marked.
Bo Klue - Nan
I'm not sure if you remember but a couple of weeks ago I wrote about Highway 1256, the mountain road that connects two districts of Nan Province, Pua and Bo Klue.
Cold front beckons
Northern Thailand is the preferred destination of local denizens who enjoy cold weather, particularly Chiang Mai which after the New Year will officially open night safari, the first in the country.
Around Nan on two wheels
For cyclists, Nan province way up north is a real charmer. It takes a couple of days to explore the city itself, with its appealing heritage and the lure of its community network, but there is much more to investigate, from tranquil temples, a national museum and the residences of Lanna royalty to the quaint old homes of regular folk.
Biking in Chiang Rai
It's that time of the year when Bangkok residents dust off their winter woollies and plan a trip north. The mercury slipped a few bars last week in the Chiang Rai valley, causing evening shivers and email alerts from northern residents to Bangkokians warning them to prepare for a nip in the air.
Pua - Bo Kluea
Falling temperatures the past few days are the sign that the cool season has "officially" arrived. Yes, it's time to travel up north so we can enjoy the real chill that's waiting to shake us at high altitudes.
All set for Surin rally
The third edition of Surin Elephant Rally scheduled November 19 seeks to foster better understanding and improve the lot of elephants and mahouts. It will be preceded by a showcase of the role of the animals in Thai history.
San Sai - Khun Jae
We'll begin from San Sai market northeast of downtown Chiang Mai and travel along Highway 118 which connects Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai. No, we're not going the entire stretch. Our final destination, Khun Jae National Park , is less than half way between the two northern cities.
Old houses with tales to tell
Tak, the town of King Taksin , sits 426 kilometres north of Bangkok . From a town it has grown to become a province today.
Chiang Mai has been transformed from the hushed days a decade or two ago when temple-studded streets lured tourists content to be entranced by their glitter during strolls from their guesthouses by the Ping River.
Phu Sang - Phu Chi Fah
Last Thursday we took a ride from Phayao to Chiang Kham. But actually that's just a prelude to the route we're taking today. Our plan is to visit Phu Chi Fah in the rainy season.
Phayao - Chiang Kham
It's been a while since the last time we toured the North. So this week we're going all the way to Phayao, 150 kilometres northeast of Chiang Mai which was hit by a flash flood last weekend.
Princess Mother's fingerprints all over the province
Getting around Chiang Rai town, you can rest assured you won't come across anything that would make your heart beat faster. The province has somehow managed to retain its tranquility, which in fact is its genuine charm.
Nature, travel and education
Positioning itself as a tourist attraction as well as a centre of learning, the Mae Fah Luang University is poised to set a new benchmark for the development of tourism in Chiang Rai.
Visitors to Wat Rong Khun temple in Chiang Rai Province can often see renown artist Chalermchai Kositpipat immersed deeply in the cause of building a contemporary Thai temple that he wishes to dedicate to His Majesty the King.
Safari 'green' vow
The Chiang Mai Night Safari promises to be a popular, world-class destination for travellers within three years, said Natural Resources and Environment Minister Yongyuth Tiyapairat. During a trip to deliver about 200 wild animals to the Night Safari, Yongyuth said the safari would hold its official opening on the night of Loy Krathong in November.
Runway project meets environmental reality
Airports of Thailand Plc (AoT) has made headway in its 1.8-billion-baht scheme to turn Chiang Mai airport into a regional aviation hub, but a limit on the length of a runway extension could hinder the bid to become a full fledged airport for unlimited international flight operations.
Chiang Mai buses this month: mayor
The long-awaited municipal bus service will finally be launched this month in response to demand from residents, Chiang Mai mayor Boonlert Buranuprakorn has promised.
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