Chang Mai Travel Guide
Often living under the shadow of Bangkok, Chiang Mai in the north of Thailand is sometimes the forgotten city. However, those that do venture beyond discover that Chiang Mai is Thailand's favourite city. Away from the beach and the craziness of central Thailand, Chiang Mai is the second largest city, with extensive cultural and recreational offerings. Trek through the jungles along the Burmese border, discover Thailand's true shopping capital and respect some the country's rich cultural heritage in the northern hilltribes. Whereas Bangkok has become overrun by influences of the western world, Chiang Mai preserves much of its traditions and history. For a look at some authentic monasteries and temples, Chiang Mai is the place to go.
Within the northern section of Thailand bordering Burma you will find the fascinating hilltribes of the Golden Triangle. There are 8-10 different tribes living off the land and holding true to the old tradition and way of life. It is up here that you can catch a glimpse of authentic Thailand as it has been untouched by the western world. Perhaps the most notable of the tribes is the Padaung. Often photographed and found on postcards throughout the country are the women of the tribe with their stretched and braceleted necks. While visiting the north you will have the opportunity to partake in a hilltribe trek where you will visit some of these tribes and overnight on their land. It is a fantastic way to encounter Thailand's Tribal people but you must first battle with your conscience. Should they really be a tourist attraction? If you do decide to visit the tribes, proceed with the utmost respect. Be warned, there are many touts pinching and poaching so ask other travellers for their suggestions of guides and tours.
One of Thailand's true treasures is its exotic, fresh cuisine and you will find some of its finest in Chiang Mai. Whether you like it hot or not, Thailand has plenty on offer especially found in stalls or carts littering the streets. In the morning head to any of the fruit vendors where you can indulge in some fresh exotic fruits or perhaps get them whipped into a tasty shake. For the midday munchies try some chicken satay or some seriously yummy hot and sour soup. Finally for a little sweet treat, try a banana pancake with chocolate sauce smothered in condensed milk, bad for the waistline, great for the tastebuds. The options are truly endless, be adventurous and shop around. Just a tip: Avoid stalls that have had raw poultry or fish roasting in the sun all day.
Bangkok often outshines Chiang Mai as the city of Thailand. However, one thing is undeniable - Chiang Mai's shopping is out of this world and Bangkok's knock-off designer stalls and its markets do not even come close to Chiang Mai's retail therapy options. Fabrics and textiles, especially bolts of Thai silk, can be found in abundance in Chiang Mai's finer shops. Wood carvings, silver and lacquer items are also popular in the area. For the serious bargain hunter, the Night Bazaar cannot be missed. Here you can weave in and out of the thousands of stalls selling everything from Thai spices to exquisite art.
Be prepared to bargain though or you will run the risk of getting ripped off.
When the sun goes down Chiang Mai heats up. Nightlife comprises the usual hedonistic hotchpotch of topless bars and massage parlours, but with a touch of karaoke as a break from the seemingly endless supply of sex. Not nearly as raunchy as Bangkok, Chiang Mai has some respectable bars and lounges to hang out in as well as full on nightclubs if you want to shake your bootie. Some excellent live music venues and traditional folk dance studios are also scattered around the city.
So, there you have it, Chiang Mai, Thailand's second city, the 'Rose of the North', home to 300 temples and the best trained masseurs in the country, simply must be experienced.
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