The North is densely forested mountainous regions, inhabited by Thailand's many hilltribe people. Exploration of this beautiful area is possible by trekking, river rafting, mountain biking, and even elephant safaris. Chiang Mai is the main northern city and is a good base from which to explore the surrounding countryside.
Prior to the 13th century the northern region of Thailand existed as a number of separate states heavily influenced by f'Ion culture. At the beginning of the 13th century many Thai chieftans began to expand control over neighbouring states to create kingdoms. The most notable of these was King Mengrai of Chiang Saen who founded Chiang Rai then overthrew the Horripunchai Kingdom of lamphun and then later founded Chiang Mai (New Town) as the capital of vast new kingdom which was to become known as Lanna. The kingdom was so powerful that it lasted until the 16th century after which it came under control of Burma . Burmese control lasted for the next two hundred years until General Taksin reunited the northem Thai kingdom in 1775.
The extensive region of Cbiang Mai. Mae Hong Son and Lamphun consists of rugged mountain ranges with secluded valleys and river systems. Situated approximatf-ly 700 km north of Bangkok there are large expanses of rainforests. parts of which are protected by National Parks. The mountainous terrain ha~ created two ethnic divisions. those that live in the hills and those that live in the volleys or lowlands. Lying adjacent to the borders of Myanmar and Loei the region has a frontier feel with the relative inaccessibility ond isolation of many places tending to develop more localised communities. Due to the higher altitude the weather here is significantly cooler than Bangkok and the central plains.