Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai
The ancient cities of the Lanna Kingdom
Northern Thailand, the ancient lands of the the Lana Kingdom is a lush a versatile region, but it is best known as the cultural capital of Thailand, Chiang Mai and its seat in the Golden Triangle, Chiang Rai. Located around 500 miles north of Bangkok, or just a short flight both cities offer authentic local experiences and lashings of culture for curious travelers.
Packed with temples, art galleries and northern-style Thai restaurants, Chiang Mai offers a great alternative to the hustle and bustle of Bangkok. A trip outside the city’s ancient walls reveals lush hills home tribal villagers and sprawling fields.
Must-visit spots are the Doi Suthep Temple, the night bazaar and the street market found within the old city on Sundays. While in Chiang Mai, tourists often find themselves riding a water buffalo, planting rice in the fields, giving alms to the city’s monks or taking a Thai cooking class.
Chiang Mai offers a small, laid-back LGBT+ scene, although the city is rapidly getting more integrated – the most Bangkok-like nightlife and cultural discoveries can be made in the hip Nimmanhaemin district, where alternative bookshops and cafés sit next to stylish cocktail bars that attract a cosmopolitan crowd. Other epicenters that are located outside the wall of the old city include nearby Chang Pueak and pretty Santitham.
Chiang Rai is to this day a sleepy provincial, but pleasant town, boasting a more friendly and down-to-earth feel. Founded in 1262, one can imagine that this is a destination that offers cultural highlights as well as plenty of history, for those interested in imbibing in age-old Thai culture and ways of life. But if you’re looking for nightlife, Chiang Rai may not be for you, although there is a night market and suprisingly, a Jazz Festival.