Northwest Heartland



Northwest Heartland

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Northwest thailand is the heartland of lanna thai. the ancient city of Chiang Mai, famed for its many fine temples and handicrafts, is the focal point for visitors. this and smaller towns are set in verdant valleys among thickly forested mountains. the Northwest is also home to a number of ethnic minorities, and the rich mix of diverse cultures and scenery is most enticing.

Chiang Mai, superbly sited in the Ping River Valley, was once the capital of the Lanna Kingdom. In the 12th–18th centuries this kingdom, strongly influenced by Burma (now Myanmar), ruled over what is now northern Thailand, and local Thais remain proud of their Lanna heritage. Indeed, the silverwork, woodcarving, pottery, and other crafts of the North are regarded by many as the most exquisite in Thailand. Nowhere in the country are crafts more readily available than in Chiang Mai and its environs

Chiang Mai is also a useful base from which to explore the mountains and villages. Trekking to hill-tribe villages is a popular, though controversial, activity. Although most trekkers are genuinely interested in hill-tribe culture, there is a danger that villages will become dependent on tourism and that traditional ways of life will be lost forever.

In the west, close to the Myanmar border, the remote towns of Mae Hong Son and Mae Sariang are in some ways more Myanmar than Thai. The wats, for instance, have multiroofed chedis reminiscent of Myanmar temples. North of Chiang Mai, the streets of Chiang Dao are lined with two-story teak buildings, a reminder that the surrounding countryside was once rich in teak forests. To the south of Chiang Mai, Lanna influence can again be seen in temples and museum artifacts within the cities of Lampang and Lamphun. The latter also has surviving traces of the older Kingdom of Haripunchai.

Thailand’s highest mountain, Doi Inthanon, lies west of Chiang Mai, within a national park with good facilities. Here can be seen dramatic waterfalls and a wide range of wildlife, including hundreds of migratory birds.

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