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COOLING DOWN BY GOING NORTH

By Kevin Cain

Before you know it, it is that time of year again that sends people scurrying for cover and running for the air conditioning. Yes it is time again, love it or hate it, that summertime is here. And with temperatures scheduled to reach the mid 40s, it is forecasted that this year is going to be a hot one.

As the temperatures start to soar, is there an alternative destination that is a tad cooler than Pattaya and the rest of the Central Region? My advice as the hot season rapidly approaches is to head north. Look towards the mountainous regions around Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai.The climate up in this part of Thailand is cooler than the rest of the kingdom, the architecture is different, and even the food differs from the rest of the country. Northern Thailand has its own distinct feel to it, it has many beautiful and interesting places to visit as well as Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai. Take a trip to the remote town of Mae Hong Son, which is just a few kilometers from the border with Myanmar.

Mae Hong Son is an extremely attractive place, situated in a narrow valley with steep forested hills that seem to crowd the isolated hamlet. In the centre of Mae Hong Son is a picturesque lake that attracts many visitors for an evening stroll or a tasty picnic.

The buildings that surround the lake include Shan-style temples and old teak houses that cling to the hillside, perched precariously on the slopes.

Slightly to the northwest of Mae Hong Son is Pai, and the small town is simply enchanting. Pai nestles in the mountains, surrounded by waterfalls and marvellous walking tracks that open up new vistas at every turn.Life in Pai is at a snail’s pace, and is far removed from the bustling towns and cities of central and southern Thailand. For the more adventurous there are plenty of places to explore from stunning waterfalls, to bat infested caves. Take a trip to Mo Paeng waterfall, where you can cool off in the mountain water, later travel to Sai Ngam hot springs and finally the caves.

If you keep travelling north and slightly west then you will come across Chiang Rai. It is one of my favourite areas in Thailand. This is the most northern region of the Kingdom and has been defined by many of the surrounding lands, territories and peoples.To the west of the Chiang Rai are the mountains of Doi Mae Salong, Doi Chang and Doi Tung, and they look down on the town with glorious menace and are strikingly beautiful. The mountains give way to a broad, lush valley that stretches all the way to Laos and the Mekong River.

There are plenty of things to do and see in this wondrous green country, including a trip to visit the numerous hill-tribes and their stupendous way of life. The area is ideal for trekking and there are many tea and coffee plantations to explore and visit.The temples around Chiang Mai are stunning including the famous Wat Rong Khun otherwise known as The White Temple. Even if you are not particularly into visiting temples, this is certainly one that will captivate you.

If you have yet to discover wonderful northern Thailand, then the hot season is a perfect time to do it. The hospitality is second to none and the scenery is breathtaking, so what are you waiting for?