Northern Thailand is, for me, the ultimate mix of culture, adventure, and amazing sceneries. Northern Thailand is home to the Lanna Kingdom that ruled the north from the 13th to 18th centuries.
In the old days, it was only permitted for temples and palaces to use stones as building materials. For ordinary houses, wood and bamboo were the preferred material, but both wood and bamboo do not last long in the hot, humid air, so mostly only temples are preserved to this day.
Chiang Mai is the 2nd largest city in Thailand and is the center of education and culture in the north, and here you find a strong presence of Lanna Culture. This is especially evident in the many beautiful temples you will find within the moat of Chiang Mai´s Old Town.
It is in the mountains of northern Thailand I have been on the most amazing off-road trips. Many of the small mountain villages you find here are only connected to the outside world via primitive gravel roads. I really like exploring these little dirt roads. Mostly when I come to a village, I get the feeling that visitors are not an everyday occurrence.
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An experience I once had gives a good impression of how desolate it can be in the mountains of the north.
After driving 6 hours on terrible mountain dirt roads in the Golden Triangle close to the border of Burma without seeing any sign of life, I come to a military camp. Of course, I was stopped and asked where I come from, where I was going, and especially what my business was in the middle of nowhere in the Golden Triangle.
I explained that I liked to drive off-road and had heard that one could drive from Pai, which is a well-known city, through mountainous dirt roads to Chiang Rai. I thought it sounded exciting, so I wanted to try it.
The soldier looked at me very skeptically, he explained to me that the only Westerners they saw on this road were either missionaries or drug runners.
So he wanted to know what I was; Missionary or drug runner? After thoroughly searching my car and luggage without finding Bibles, drugs, or large amounts of cash, he was convinced that I was what I said, and my story was true.
The soldiers explained to me how I got to Chiang Rai the easiest way and wished me a good trip.