The farther north a visitor travels through the Central Plains, the more sparsely populated the countryside becomes – the landscape here is typified by gentle, rolling hills and rice farms. There are few interesting modern cities in this region. Its major attractions are ancient city ruins, relics of an illustrious past when competing princedoms and city-states fought each other for land and power.
Visitors to Thailand traveling north from Bangkok tend not to stop off in the North Central Plains, but instead press on to the major destination of Thailand’s second city, Chiang Mai. However, some of the most fascinating ruins in Southeast Asia are found here.
In the 13th century, during the reign of King Ramkamhaeng, one city, Sukhothai, came to dominate the region to such an extent that its influence was felt far beyond Thailand’s present borders. But its power was short-lived, and by the mid-14th century the region was once more a collection of fiefdoms. The ruins the kingdom left behind at Suk hothai, and at its satellite cities of Kamphaeng Phet and Si Satchanalai, still inspire wonder. They have been extensively restored and turned into well-managed historical parks. Other places of interest in the region include the prosperous trading center Phitsanulok, which is at the heart of a transportation network connecting the region to Bangkok and the north. This, and other towns, support a local rice-farming economy..
The hillier areas, in the west and northeast of the region, are the set ting for a number of national parks and wildlife sanctuaries. These provide a much needed refuge for endangered plant and animal species whose habitats are threatened by the impact of illegal logging and the widespread loss of land to agriculture.
Around Mae Sot the influence of Myanmar (Burma) is felt; the town is characterized by Myanmar architecture, and a common sight is Karen and Shan tribespeople and Myanmar who cross the border at this point to trade.