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Northern Thailand's hub for tourists seems to be Chiang Mai.
After our first tiring night of buying things at the Chiang Mai night bazaar, we hailed a Tuk-tuk back to the hotel. Our driver gave us his business card (every driver proudly offers this, and if another driver see this, then you will receive two) and mentioned various sights that he could take us to. The next day we called him in the morning and charterd his service for the day. He drove us to the Mae Sa Elephant Camp, a monkey show, an orchid farm, a silk factory, a jewelery factory, and an umbrella factory. Lunch was at another orchid-farm-like place for which we didn't pay an entrance fee - we were ushered past the entrace gate and towards the restaurant hiding deep in its compound.
The monkey show was expensive for what we saw and attended only by other tourists delivered to its ticket booth by like-minded Tuk-tuk drivers. Afterwards he suggested a snake show but, much to his dismay, we decided to pass on the offer and headed for the orchid farm instead.
The silk "factory" was a small abode in what seemed like the middle of nowhere. Upon entry we were greeted by a tall fellow in a white shirt, black slacks, polished shoes and a leather jacket. This place had air conditioning. He spoke english well and we later learned that he was from Kashmir. After the usual chit-chat, he had began to sell us all kinds of materials that were hanging from the walls and on display tables. There were green materials, and red materials, and blue materials, and some were pashmina while others were pure silk, and others still had golden patterns on the sides. It was a high pressure situation that culminated in us telling him we didn't actually want to buy anything. In response he showed us the door, literally. This was a different door than that which we entered. Outside this door were three other tall men in white shirts, black slacks and polished shoes, but no leather jackets. I suspected they were his brothers. They eyed us carefully as we left empty handed. The entire stay lasted no more than ten minutes.
As you can imagine, there are many tour agencies in the city willing to book you on a trip through the country. We opted for several trips: Golden Triangle, Doi Inthanon, and Doi Suthep. On some of these trips we encountered the Karen Hilltribe villages.
On one of these trips we visited Wat Jadeeloung in Chiang Saen, a quite old monastery.
"The area's oldest wat is still an active Buddhist monastery. Rising from a cluster of wooden dorms, Wat Phra Chedi Luang (or Jadeeloung) has a huge brick chedi that dominates the main street. The wat complex was established in 1331 under the reign of King Saen Phu and was rebuilt in 1515 by King Muang Kaeo. The old brick foundations, now supporting a very large, plaster seated Buddha flanked by smaller ones, are all that remain." (Source: frommers.com)
http://michal.guerquin.com/photo/thailand/november2005/north.html, updated 2006-04-05 00:55 EDT