Chiang Mai is the start of Northern Thailand but don't miss that peaceful spot just a 3 hour drive north-Chiang Rai. Visiting both will increase your appreciation of both. Chiang Mai is bustling with nightmarkets/walking streets, bars, plenty of sites and comforts for foreigners. One of Southeast Asia's top expat communities. Chiang Rai is quieter, less sites, a little more spread out, but the peaceful charm and quiet evenings is very appealing. There are also plenty of sites to visit if you have transportation. I liked visiting the White Temple and Black Temple and I absolutely loved traveling up to Mae Salong to visit the old Republic of China/KMT town and it's tea hills and culture.
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