Northern Chiang Mai Province
North of Chiang Mai, the land rucks up into forested mountains on either side of the Mae Ping river as northern Thailand merges into southeastern Myanmar. With a chartered rót daang or rented motorcycle (with sufficient horsepower) you can roam high into the hills, visiting national parks, spectacular viewpoints, Royal Project farms and hill-tribe villages. The website www.
In a lush, jungle setting in the shadow of a mighty limestone mountain, Chiang Dao is where expats and Chiang Mai's growing middle classes come to escape the heat of the plains. It gets cooler still as you leave the village and climb towards the summit of Doi Chiang Dao (2175m).
About 15km south of Chiang Mai on Rte 108, the village of Hang Dong built its fortune on the production and sale of furniture, woodcarving, antiques (both real and imitation) and handicrafts. Hang Dong's 'furniture highway' – Th Thakhilek – runs east from Rte 108 towards Ban Tawai; look for the turn-off just south of the market.
The northernmost town in Chiang Mai Province feels a long way from the provincial capital. At one time, this jungle outpost was a key staging point for opium ferried across the border by Burmese warlord Khun Sa, but there is no legal border crossing and modern Tha Ton is a quiet backwater that sees just a trickle of tourists headed downriver towards Chiang Rai.
Doi Inthanon National Park
Thailand's highest peak – Doi Inthanon (often abbreviated to Doi In) – soars to 2565m above sea level, an impressive altitude for the kingdom, but a tad diminutive compared to its cousins in the Himalaya. Surrounding this granite massif is a 1000-sq-km national park, dotted with hiking trails and waterfalls and enveloped in an impenetrable curtain of jungle.
About 2km east of Hang Dong, Ban Tawai Tourism Village is a vast, pedestrian-friendly tourist market, with hundreds of small shops selling handicrafts and knick-knacks to spruce up your interiors back home. This vast enterprise was kicked off by local woodcarvers, who are famous for their artistry and prodigious output.
Few foreigners stop in at Fang, which was originally founded by King Phaya Mengrai in the 13th century. This sleepy market town was once a stop for Chinese trade caravans but these days, most goods come from Myanmar, including yah bâh (methamphetamine), which explains all the police checkpoints along the highway.
San Kamphaeng Hot Springs
About 36km east of Chiang Mai, down a small country lane leading north from Rte 1317 at Mae On, the San Kamphaeng Hot Springs are a delight. Set in a meandering country garden are public and private bathhouses, massage pavilions and a hot lazy river where you can soak away the tiredness from your calves.
Bo Sang & San Kamphaeng
About 14km southeast of Chiang Mai along Rte 1006, the town of San Kamphaeng was once famous as a production centre for cotton, silk and other handicrafts, but many of the small factories have relocated and those remaining seem a little down on their luck these days.
The nearest town north of Chiang Mai, sleepy Mae Rim is an easy 30km ride from the city along Rte 107. Here you can visit the former palace of princess Dara Rasmee, and kick back at the Huay Teung Thao reservoir. Mae Rim is easily accessible by bus or sŏrng·tăa·ou (20B, 15 minutes) from Chiang Mai's Pratu Chang Pheuak bus terminal.