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About Thailand

Map of ThailandThe Kingdom of Thailand draws travelers from all over the world because of its renowned hospitality, delectable cuisine, and breath-taking natural retreats. The mountainous region of the north contains a host of ancient ruins, Buddhist temples, and the historic city of Chiang Mai . Thailand's southern region stretches for hundreds of miles along the Malay Peninsula and is rich with tropical islands and stunning beaches.

Eating ranks high on the list of Thai pleasures. Thai cuisine is spicy and medicinal, using market-fresh ingredients and local herbs for bursts of flavor and prevention of common ailments. Thai cuisine is the artful balance of salty, sweet, sour, spicy, and bitter.

The main religion of Thailand is Buddhism, based on kindness and compassion to all beings. Temples can be seen dotted all over Thailand with intricate carvings of nagas, Buddhas, and elephants. You will be introduced to the Thai concept of "jai yen" ("cool heart"), which refers to the ability to remain calm, patient and level-headed. This philosophy of life contributes to the laid back welcoming atmosphere in this aptly named "Land of Smiles."

Chiang Mai

boat in seaIn Thai, Chiang Mai means “new city,” but in this ancient kingdom new is a relative term. Founded by Lanna settlers in the 13th century, Chiang Mai was once the capital of northern kingdom of Lanna (meaning one-million rice fields). Situated between picturesque mountains and the Ping River, this ancient capital was carefully planned with a moat and protective walls whose remnants mark the heart of the city today. Dotted around the city you will notice many beautiful Buddhist temples or “wats” dating back as far as the 14th century, an eye-catching testament to Chiang Mai’s rich Lanna background.

Chiang Mai is Thailand’s second most important city after Bangkok, with a much smaller population of approximately one-million people. Despite being a thriving and bustling metropolis, visitors find the “small town feel,” accentuated by small lanes (soi) lined with teakwood houses and beautiful gardens, to be very welcoming.

Annual festivals like the Flower Festival (early February) and the Loi Krathong Fire Festival (mid November) see the city come alive with activity and color. Regular music festivals, art shows and craft fairs bring artists and visitors swarming to Chiang Mai. Songkran, the Buddhist New Year celebration occurs in April. Chiang Mai hosts the grandest water parade of all of Thailand and the streets are filled with every nationality and age group spraying water in joyous respite from the scorching sun.

In addition to the aesthetic beauty and cultural wealth, Chiang Mai is a great place for trekking in the surrounding mountains, bamboo and white water rafting, retreats, and cleansing and meditation holidays, while others come simply to shop at the wide range of markets.

The combination of activities, scenic treats and the rich cultural foundations make Chiang Mai an experience in itself. Once you have visited, Chiang Mai always holds a place in your heart.

Women in traditional costume

Some helpful links

Thailand’s Country Watch Profile:

http://www.countrywatch.com/country_profile.aspx?vcountry=170

Lonely Planet’s Guide to Thailand: http://www.lonelyplanet.com/thailand

Bangkok Post, “The World’s Window on Thailand”: http://www.bangkokpost.com/

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