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December 18, 2003

Not enough of the North

We're in Cambodia now, but before blathering about that I wanted to get down some observations about the north of Thailand and how much I want to go back there sometime.

We stayed in Chiang Mai and Nan, but didn't see nearly enough of the surrounding area. The friendliness of these places was amazing; their compact size, too, also gave a comfy feel, yet in Chiang Mai especially there was plenty of energy and stuff to do. Nan felt more like a small American town from the 60s; there was a downtown, a market, shops, you name it; even down to the farming focus of the area, you easily put a bunch of small-town Americans in there and it would've taken on a Rockefeller feel.

There is so much left unseen though.

  • Chiang Rai. It's mainly a gateway to the Golden Triangle or for day entry into Burma or border crossing to Laos, but the town is supposed to be becoming quite a scene in itself.

  • Pai. A lot of the travelers we met in Chiang Mai were heading to Pai next. It's apparently a laidback, hippyish expat have town (to the west I believe?), also in the midst of the hills and gorgeous country.

  • Mae Sot & Umphaeng. We thought about going here from Sukhothai. There's a big trekking focus in this region, not as much so as in Chiang Mai, which added to the draw for us. Time wasn't really allowing for it though. From Mae Sot you can also do another day crossing into Burma if you want. Claudia wasn't keen on that; I kicked it around if we went, but at the same time I'm not sure how I feel about literally handing money to the Burmese military.

  • Phitsanulok. It's mainly a transit center for buses and trains in the north or heading to Isaan province in the northeast, but it has enough sights for, say, a day or half-day on its own. The main thing to see is the second-most important Buddha statue in Thailand, located not far from the main bus station.

  • Around Nan. Nan itself is the epicenter of some beautiful country, including some national parks. We had planned to rent a motorbike and do some exploring during our main day there, but with me recovering from a bit of dodgy tummy and Claudia landing a slight case of her own, we decided to play it safer and stay in town.

  • Don Inthanon. The highest peak in Thailand is outside of Chiang Mai, and would've made another motorbike adventure. We probably could've made this happen, but didn't. That's okay though; that's why we make second trips. And third and fourth and fifth...

    That's a short list, and what I can recall from off the top of my head. Put a map in front of me though, and ideas start pouring out... as well as plans... and a couple of laments for what we didn't get to — this time, anyway.

    Posted by Ant on December 18, 2003 12:36 AM
    Category: Thailand
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