The first true Thai kingdom was located in the north at Sukhothai, hence the region is dotted with great temple ruins. The north is also the home of most Thai hill tribes and contains the infamous Golden Triangle, the region where Burma, Laos and Thailand meet. In recent years the Thai authorities have made strenuous efforts to eradicate the illicit drug trade and have met with considerable success.
Chiang Mai, Thailand second largest city, has over 300 temples and is surrounded by beautiful countryside. This is an excellent base if you intend to explore the north.
Just south of Chiang Mai is Lamphun which has an abundance of atmosphere and history.
Thailand's most north-western province of Mae Hong Son is a mountainous area with thick forests and breath taking scenery. In the far north is Chiang Rai which is a good place if you want to do a hill-tribe trek. Much further south is the province of Tak where you can visit the ancient kingdom of Sukhothai, or take a trip to Mae Sot on the Burmese border while taking in one of Thailand's National Parks along the way.
The small town of Mae Sai is at the northern most point of Thailand and is situated on the border with Myanmar (formerly Burma). In the markets there are full of products and produce from across the border and can be an interesting place to spend a few hours.
For the more adventuresome a day trip across the border is possible, with a minimum of formality.
Thai citizens require a Border pass, which can be purchased from the many photocopy shops in the district. A photocopy of the ID card is stapled to the Border Pass.
Get the border pass stamped on the Thai side of the bridge that forms the border. Pay an entry fee of 25 Baht to the Burmese officials.
Two photocopies of the id pages of a current passport are required.
Go to the Thai Immigration desk and they will stamp both copies of the passport, retaining your passport. They may also ask a fee of 50 Baht.
On the Burmese side of the border give one copy of your passport to the Immigration officer and pay a fee of US$5. It is best to have this money available in US dollar notes, otherwise you have to pay in Baht and the exchange rate is calculated at 50 Baht/$1, total 250 Baht.
On your return the Burmese will stamp you out on the remaining copy of your passport, and you can then use this to retrieve your passport from the Thai Immigration.
About 60 kilometres east of Mae Sai, is the famous (or perhaps infamous) Golden Triangle where the countries of Thailand, Myanmar and Laos meet at the confluence of the Mekong River and one of its tributaries. The area is best seen from Chieng Saen. The town was fortified back in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries and the remnants of the city wall and moat are still visible.
Crafts: Following the old road out of Chiang Mai to San Khampaeng leads through the craft area of Chiang Mai where factories co-exist with the shops. This gives visitors the chance to see how the items are made, before making their purchases. Products include teak and bamboo furniture; the distinctive pottery of Thai Celadon, silverware, parasols and hand held fans, to mention a few.
Moon On Caves:br> About 30 kilometres beyond the village of San Khampaeng, are the San Khampaeng Hot Springs. However just before the springs it is worth taking the turning to the left to visit the Moon On caves. At the foot of the hill is an attractive Chinese Temple. The road then climbs much higher up the hill to the caves.
A visit to the Moon On caves is only for the fit. Firstly there is a long climb up a Naga staircase from the car park, before reaching the entrance to the caves. The caves are well lit and there are young guides available to point out the major sites, which are also Buddhist shrines. However to reach the famous stalagmite it is necessary to climb down a long concrete staircase, which means it is along climb back up to exit the caves.
Hot Springs: Over the last few years the hot springs have been developed and are now surrounded by a very attractive and mature garden. The water
comes bubbling out of the ground at a temperature of
89°C. Packs of eggs are on sale in convenient wicker baskets, and there are instructions about how long to leave the eggs in the water to cook them correctly, 11 minutes gives hard-boiled. Hooks are conveniently provided around the water tank to hang the egg baskets.
There are also two geysers spouting a continuous flow of hot water into the air.
Bath houses are available for rent by the hour, for individuals or family groups to enjoy the waters or if you prefer there is also a swimming pool that is fed with the warm water.