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Thai Culture Guide >> Travel Reviews >> Siam Chiang Mai

Siam Chiang Mai, The Rose of the North

Chiang Mai is Thailand's 2nd largest city and the center of culture and arts in Thailand. Chiang Mai celebrated its 700th year anniversary about 7 or 8 years ago. Siam Chiang Mai is the Home of adventure Tourism in the far North of Thailand. Chiang Mai was the capital of Siam for many years, being serviced from the south by river barge on the Mai Ping River. The large morning markets are still situated by the Mai Ping. All the main Consulates are still in Chiang Mai, with the British Consulate taking up a large block. The British had considerable influence here in the 1800s and early 1900s, helping the Thai Government set up the mail, railway and transport infrastructure. Thailand means FREELAND. Thailand was never colonized as they had a very astute King who did his schooling in Europe, When the British and French started encroaching on Thailand he summoned the respective consoles to his Palace and put forth the proposition that went something like this, We have (the Kings personal army) 5000 battle trained elephants with full body Armour, you have cannon.

Your cannon will take out some of my elephants but the other 4000 will trample you to death, we also have a massive army of foot solders that will mop up any survivors. To the British consul he said as a peace offering I will give you all the land on the other side of the mountains bordering Burma. As for Thailand at this time of history it was very hard to service (because of the mountain range). To the French he said something along the same lines but offering them all the land on the other side of the Mekong river. Both Governments looked at the logistics of the situation and accepted the proposition. Thailand has always maintained large armed forces as it was surrounded by hostile Countries who over the last 1000 years or so have each at one time or another ruled the whole Area.

During the cold war America supported Thailand to the hilt with planes, tanks, equipment and training. During the Vietnam War the Americans had many bases here, Airport bases at Uban Thani etc. Then came Air America (but that's a whole story on its own) with arms for drug deals, CIA backing of the Hill tribe Drug Lord Armies, as in the CIA's mind they were the bastion against Russian and Chinese communist forces. Many of the treaties put in place in the cold war with the Shan people etc of Burma are still in place today and ratified by each incoming Prime Minister.

Thailand was the launching pad for the secret War in Loa, Cambodia and of course Vietnam. That all said explains why the Thai's are such a happy care free people, they have never had there spirit broken and don't have the undercurrent of hate that you see in a lot of the old French and British colonies.

Thailand is a sub Tropical paradise, with plenty of lush rain forests, rivers and lakes. The mountains of the north run down to the flatlands and ocean. Chiang Mai is 11 or so hours by train from Bangkok or 1 hour by plane, It has its own International Air port, so depending on were you are coming from you can fly straight into Chiang Mai. If you take the train from Bangkok the overnight sleeper is a good idea (book a bottom bunk) you get on the train, they serve dinner, make up the beds and you wake up in the morning for breakfast coming into Chiang Mai all for the price of dinner back home. Thailand is a safe pace to travel; I have traveled back and forth from New Zealand for many years making 20 or more return trips with out ever having any thing stolen or the like. Getting over 16,000,000 tourists a year, tourism is its no one $ earner surpassing the rice crop for export $s. From Chiang Mai you can book and plan small excursions into the unknown ha (Burma, Laos and China) with return air tickets from as little as $50 - $150 or you can book on a over land cross river execution to Laos. Traveling up to Chiang Kong and then across the river to Loa.

About the Author

Grant was born in Lower Hutt, New Zealand in 1947. Grant started his working life at age 11 working after school for a local green grocer. In Upper Hutt, Wellington, New Zealand. --- So started his life long love of South East Asia. More @