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Covering a total area of 169,644 square kilometers, the Northern Region of Thailand is mainly mountainous with jungles. It is also the sources of several important rivers including the Ping, Wang, Yom and Nan, which converge into the mighty Chao Phraya at Nakhon Sawan. Because of its fertile soil, farming flourishes, the North has been the location of many ancient civilizations and today remains fairly populous.


The region borders on two countries, Myanmar and Laos by mountains and rivers. The northern frontier runs form Tak Province upward to Mae Hong Son, some districts of Chiang Mai and on to Chiang Rai. To the east, the border touches mainly on Lao PDR, mostly by mountain ranges from Phetchabun upward through Uttaradit, Nan, Phayao and Chiang Rai. Only the sectors passing through Chiang Saen and Chiang Khong districts are marked by the Mekong River along a stretch of 90 kilometres.


Evidence of long occupation by minorities has been found in the sites around the present0day basin areas. Each group followed its own lifestyle and developed individual cultures. Cultural and commercial contacts among the groups inevitable led to inter-cultural blending among themselves.

Prior to the 12th century, the land was under the domination of the Mons and the Khmers. There are chronicles and legends on ancient towns particularly of the upper area of the Mekong basin. Historical records became much more exact in the 13th century when large and small cities were merged into kingdoms.

Prominences were the Sukhothai Kingdom ruled by the Thais, and the Lanna with Chiang Mai as its core. Both kingdoms emerged almost during the same period and both flourished for about 200 years.

The kingdom of Sukhothai was founded in the 13th century when Khmer power was beginning to wane. Its power base was in the Yom basin with Sukhothai as its capital. There were several cities under its domination including Kamphaeng Phet and Phitsaulok. Sukhothai reached its zenith of influence during the reign of King Ramkamhaeng the Great militarily, administratively, culturally and commercially. Close commercial contacts were established with China. Its power began to decline after two centuries and the kingdom was eventually absorbed into the Ayutthaya Kingdom, which held sway in the central region.

The lanna Kingdom was established by King Mengrai with Chiang Mai as its centre. Nineteen successive kings ruled the land lasting about 280 years before it fell to the Burmese (circa 16th Century). Some two hundred years later, the Thip Chang dynasty was founded and ruled Lanna as a vassal state of Thailand during the reign of King Rama I.



Phahonyothin is the main highway from Bangkok connecting the central region with the North all the way to Chiang Rai, which is the uppermost province in the North. Branching out from Phahonyothin are secondary highways leading to all Northern provinces and many other districts.


Passenger buses and coaches are available at the Bus Terminal (Mo Chit Mai) on Kampang Phet Road serving all provinces and major districts. Call for information at 0 2576 5599 or visit www.transport.co.th

Provincial bus services run between the provincial seat and various districts. There are also inter-provincial services. In major cities such as Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai and Phitsanulok are car rental services to go to tourist attractions. For more traditional mode of transport, try pedal-tricycles which are available in all provinces. It is suggested that fares should be negotiated beforehand.


There are daily train services starting from Hua Lamphong Station in Bangkok which run through Bang Pa-in, Ayutthaya, lap Buri, nakhon Sawan, Phichit, Phitsanulok, Uttaradit, Den Chai, Lampang, Khun Tan, Lamphun and terminate in Chiang Mai.
Call 1690, 0 2220 4334, 0 2220 4444 or visit www.railway.co.th for more information.


Most of the boating routes in the North are designed for sightseeing purposes. Some major routings include cruising the Ping River by large tour boats from the Bhumiphol Dam in Tak to Doi Tao in Chiang Mai, or travelling by boats or rafts from Tha Ton in Chiang Mai along the Kok River to Chiang Rai. Then there is boating the Mekong River by long-tailed boats in Chiang Rai from chiang Saen district of the Golden Triangle to Chiang Khong.


There are many daily flights to the northern destinations. Thai Airways International operates frequent flights from Bangkok to northern destinations – Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, lampang, Phitsanulik, Nan, Mae Hong Son and Sukhothai. There are also inter-provincial services between Chiang Mai and other destinations such as Chiang Rai, Mae Hong Son, Nan, Phitsanulok and Phuket, as well as between nan and Phitsanulok. For more details, please contact

Bangkok Airways               Tel: 1771, 0 2270 6699            www.bangkokair.com

Nok Air                                 Tel: 1318, 0 2900 9955            www.nokair.co.th

One-Two-Go Airlines        Tel: 1126, 0 2229 4100-1         www.fly12go.com

PB Air                                   Tel: 0 2326 8000                       www.pbair.com

SGA Airlines                       Tel: 02664 6099                         www.sga.co.th

Thai Air Asia                       Tel: 0 2515 9999                       www.airasia.com

Thai Airways                      Tel: 0 2356 1111                         www.thaiairways.com