Far North



Far North

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The Far North of Thailand is known as the Golden Triangle – the meeting point of Thailand, Myanmar, and Laos and an area historically associated with opium production. Nowadays, this picturesque region with numerous hill-tribe villages attracts large numbers of trekkers. Less well known delights in the Far North include, southeast of the Golden Triangle, quiet towns such as Phrae and Nan.

The fertile flood plains of the Mekong, which touch the tip of the Far North before running east into Laos, contrast with the breathtaking beauty of the mountains in the west and east of the area. Here can be found remote villages inhabited by hill tribes such as the Mien and Akha, who still preserve their traditional way of life. There are also settlements populated by ex- Chinese Nationalist soldiers and their descendants, who migrated here after Mao Tse-tung’s Communist army won the Chinese civil war in 1949.

Chiang Rai is the main town in the Far North. Though not picturesque, it has a few sights and is used as a trekking base. Of greater interest are the towns strung out by the Mekong along the Myanmar and Lao borders, including the ancient city of Chiang Saen and Chiang Khong, a Thai Lue settlement.

Most visitors to northern Thailand travel from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai, and then north to the Golden Triangle; thus some sights to the east are relatively unknown. The old, walled settlement of Phrae, for instance, with some of Thailand’s largest teak buildings, is visited by few tourists, despite being easily accessible from the Central Plains and Chiang Mai. The town of Nan is more remote, set in a valley far from the main highway to the Golden Triangle. The diversion is worthwhile, if only to see the murals at Wat Phumin. Northeast of here, Doi Phu Kha National Park offers superb bird-watching. To the south of Nan, and far from the beaten track, is extraordinarily diverse scenery ranging from the earth pillars of Sao Din and Phea Muang Phi to the vast Sirikit Reservoir.

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