North Thailand

Table of Contents

Northern or North Thailand

Northern or North Thailand comprises 17 of the 76 provinces of the kingdom, divided in two regions: the upper and the lower northern region. The upper region consists of these provinces: Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Phrae, Nan, Uttaradit, Mae Hong Son, Lampang, Phayao and Lamphun. The lower region consists of these provinces: Phichit, Sukhothai, Nakhon Sawan, Petchabun, Phitsanulok, Kamphaeng Phet and Tak.

We have limited ourselves mostly to the upper region but also organize historical tours in the lower region such as to Sukhothai, Si Satchanalai and Kamphaeng Phet. Most of our research takes place in the upper North provinces, primarily in Chiang Rai, Chiang Mai, Lampang, Lamphun and Mae Hong Son provinces.

Man playing wind instrument
Chu Chai Market

The people of the North

The ethnic and linguistic diversity of North Thailand is simply mind-boggling and never ceases to amaze me. I have devoted pages to the Tai Lue, the Lawa, Tai Ya and the Pa’O people but there are more pages under construction. The Lawa people are considered the indigenous people of the North. In general, all the other ethnic groups once entered the territory that is now Thailand for various reasons: Muslims came to Mae Sariang all the way from Chittagong (now in Bangla Desh); Karen and Shan people escaped violence in Myanmar; Chinese Nationalist soldiers (Kuomintang) came from Yunnan via Burma, just to give a few examples.

People in traditional dress
Pa'O people before the Songkran parade

Festivals of North Thailand

There are some great festival in the North. By far my most popular festival is the Songkran Festival, which is also the longest and the most intense of all festivals in the country. Songkran is the Buddhist New year, that takes place in April. Another very popular festival is the Loy Krathong festival which is a full moon festival. Every year the date of Loy Krathong, the Festival of Light, is different. Authorities in Chiang Mai publish the date and program of Loy Krathong usually quite late, which causes a lot of confusion and irritation. The release of sky lanterns attracts many tourists.

Another interesting event is the Poy Sang Long ceremony, a Shan Buddhist ordination event. This takes place in many temples, mostly in Chiang Mai and Mae Hong Son provinces.

Tourist releasing sky lantern Loy Krathong tour North Thailand
Loy Krathong Sky Lantern release

Buddhist Temples of the North

I have focused on the Buddhist temples in the upper north region. There are thousands of temples in the North of Thailand so I had to make a selection, based on my own preference and on popularity. There are just too many interesting temples and I had to skip some. This section is a work under construction and it probably will never be finalized. I visit all the temples personally.

Chedi of a Buddhist temple
The Nam Hoo Temple in Pai