Northern Thailand's culture and cuisine are distinctly different from international impressions of Thai food and culture, due to its strong hill-tribe influences and former Burmese city.
Its cuisine is not quite as polished and dainty, while the religious Burmese left their mark in the numerous temples including the serene hill-side Doi Suthep which overlooks the city. Before tourism cottoned on, Chiang Mai was once the epicentre for Thailand’s handicrafts such as pottery, umbrellas, weaving, silverwork and woodcarving. The city has grown and flourished outside of the moated walls of the Old City, a tiny complex riddled with boutique hotels, street stalls and temples which makes for an interesting stroll on arrival.
Chiang Rai, the northernmost province in Thailand, was once the centre for opium production in Thailand is now a quiet town that is the gateway to the Golden Triangle area. Dissected by the river, Chiang Rai does not offer much other than quiet rejuvenation with a book by the river. Learn the tricks of the trade from mahouts at the Elephant Camp, hop between the borders of Laos and Myanmar, and visit the colourful hill-tribes that still inhabit the lush green hills.