Discover ancient Thailand

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iol travel jan 3 Chiang Mai

REUTERS

A long-neck Karen hill tribe girl prepares souvenirs as she waits for customers at her shop in Chiang Mai province.

Bangkok - While Thailand is perhaps best known for its beautiful beaches and islands, it is a country and people steeped in tradition comprising a vast and varied landscape.

From mountains to jungle terrain, from temples and monuments to archeological digs, tourists in Thailand can experience not only the beauty of its diverse terrain but will leave having encountered a rich cultural experience.

Thamanoon Kuprasert, general manager of Central, Eastern and Southern Africa for Thai Airways International has shortlisted some of Thailands top cultural hot spots, guaranteed to leave a lasting impression.

First on Kuprasert’s list of must see cultural destinations is Chiang Mai. Located in Northern Thailand it is the economic and cultural centre within the region and is one of Thailand’s most visited provinces. “Chiang Mai is also one of the kingdom’s most beautiful provinces and features mountain ranges and hills set amongst lush jungle vegetation.

Climate conditions in the area sometimes create mist and fog giving it a magical, mystical feel. For an authentic cultural experience I highly recommend a visit to one of the numerous tribal villages in the area where they can experience true Thai hospitality first-hand,” he says.

Another of Kuprasert’s cultural recommendations is a visit to Thailand’s most northerly province, Chiang Rai. It has a mainly mountainous terrain and forms part of the ‘Golden Triangle’ around the Mekong River.

iol travel jan 3 Ayutthaya

Also recognised as a World Heritage Site, is the ancient city of Ayutthaya.

REUTERS

“Having been built by King Mengrai in 1262 many tourists visit this region to learn about its significance in Thailand’s history. Other popular cultural activities are a visit to Mai Sai, Chiang Saen – home to numerous ancient ruins. Visitors also have the opportunity to visit one of the hill tribe villages where they are able to purchase the various trinkets and wares crafted by the hill tribes,” he comments.

“Yet more beautiful mountain terrain can be experienced in Mae Hong Son which is also known as Thailand’s ‘Switzerland’. The area is well-known for the mists and fog that lie in its mountains and valley’s and it is also home to some spectacular waterfalls, forests and national parks. It is also well known for its elephants and tourists can visit various places to witness elephants being trained to execute various tasks.

Another popular tourist activity is a visit to the ‘Long Neck Women’ Karen tribes. A visit to one of its many temples is also highly recommended as many of these are set in splendid mountainside locations.”

A visit to the Sukhothai kingdom and its capital, the historic city of Sukhothai is another of Kuprasert’s must do’s. The province was founded in the 13th century and was the first independent Thai Kingdom. Sukhothai Historical Park contains a number of historical sites and has been recognised by Unesco as a World Heritage Site.

“Also recognised as a World Heritage Site, is the ancient city of Ayutthaya, Thailand’s former capital. Situated 86km north of Bangkok it is a popular day-trip and numerous tours are available to the area. As it contains three rivers and is encircled by a large canal hiring a boat is perhaps the best and most novel way to access the city’s various historical landscapes and get a glimpse into the area’s former glory,” he adds.

Last but certainly not least of Kuprasert’s recommendations is a visit to Khon Kaen. “This area is of great historic significance and has been home to a number of civilizations. Various treasures from bygone eras have been unearthed and are now displayed in Khon Kaen’s well frequented museums.

Dinosaur enthusiasts will be interested to know that archeological digs in the area have also unearthed the highest number of dinosaur fossils in Thailand. All in all visitors to any of these recommended cultural destinations will not be disappointed,” he concludes.

Thai Airways travelers can take advantage of the Thailand & Asia Pacific Delight Promotion and purchase an air ticket to Thailand and Asia Pacific destinations such as Malaysia, Singapore, Bali, China, Indo-China, Australia & New Zealand until March 31, 2013. For more information, visit www.thaiair.co.za or phone (011) 268 2580.

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