Thailand’s northern capital is an overnight train ride and light years away from the bustle of Bangkok. Wrestled from Burmese control by the kingdom of Siam, the former capital of the Lanna people is a captivating collection of glimmering monasteries, manic markets, modern shopping centres, and quiet residential streets that wouldn't look amiss in a country village.
It's more country retreat than mega-metropolis, but this beguiling city still lures everyone from backpacking teenagers to young families, round-the-world retirees and a huge contingent of tourists from China, who are redefining the traveller experience in the city.
Historic monasteries and cooking courses are just part of the picture. Get out into the surrounding province to find a jumble of forested hills, great for rafting, hiking, mountain biking and other adrenalin-charged activities. Most visitors will leave the city at least once to interact with elephants and wander around experimental farms and lush botanic gardens.