Emerald landscapes, jungle forests, and charming craftspeople make Northern Thailand a fascinating destination.
Maybe the kingdom, once known as Siam, has maintained its exotic purity because, unlike its neighbors – Cambodia, Vietnam, and Myanmar (Burma) – Thailand has never been colonized by a foreign power, thus preserving its unique identity and legacy.
Northern Thailand is a Place Onto its Own
The legacy of the past appears to be virtually untouched in northern Thailand, where visitors are transported back 700 years to a time when Chiang Mai, with its more than 300 wats (temples), was the capital of the kingdom of Lanna. That era is even more evident in the remote villages where semi-nomadic people conduct their lives in much the same way as they did in the 13th century. One of the most intriguing ways of visiting the villages is by an elephant.
Elephants Are Revered
Elephants are very clever and easily trained. Used as beasts of burden for logging, many are now without work since the teak forests have been depleted. Because Thai people consider the elephant a holy animal and a symbol of prosperity, they take good care of them – there is even an elephant hospital in the northeast region – and have ensured a continuous role for them throughout their lifespan of 65 to 70 years.
The Thai people are spontaneous, whimsical, inconsistent, and somewhat superstitious. They are also a disarmingly charming people with impeccable manners and those famous gorgeous smiles that suggest every whim of foreign visitors is the most important priority in their lives at the moment.
Thailand Has a Rich History
Thailand has a certain glamour that comes partly from its loyalty to a monarchy that maintains some of the vestiges from the days when the country was called Siam (up until 1939). The Thais cherish the rich history of their ancient ruins and the pomp and ceremony of royalty – their kings, queens, and concubines – although the custom of taking multiple wives, (depicted in the movie The King and I, which is banned in Thailand) ended with Rama the Seventh in 1935.
Thai Exotica is Part of Daily Life
Exotica is part of everyday life among Thai. Farm women sit in market stalls and fashion objects of beauty from fruits such as Durian, mangosteen, dragon fruit; craftsmen carve intricate designs out of teak; children weave necklaces of orchids, roses, lotus flowers, and French peonies.
Their highly developed aesthetic sense touches everything from classical dances based on stories of their rich history and breathtaking murals and sculptures in temples and hotel lobbies to the food they prepare in their homes and on the streets, where vendors season their pork or chicken satays with perfumed kaffir-lime leaves, lashings of chilies and dabs of red cutty, perfecting the meat until it’s just the right blend of flavors.
Northern Thailand is more than a destination. It’s a rich experience.