is truly the spice of life in Thailand and the natural beauty of
country is not limited to beaches and islands. Hills, mountains, forests,
jungles, rivers and waterfalls are all features in picturesque landscapes
which present refreshing contrasts to both the city and the beach resort.
Moreover, Thailand's countryside is easily accessible.
Most popular with visitors is the hill country of the North, a region of teak forests and jungle-covered peaks where the folds of the mountains hide secret little valleys, any one of them a contender for Shangri-La. Attractive figures in this breathtaking landscape are the colourful hilltribes, semi-nomadic people who follow independent lifestyles.
Wild and remote though some parts of the North are, you'll nonetheless find an easy path into this charming region. Chiang Mai, Thailand's second city, lies in the heart of the area and provides the perfect base from which to explore the surrounding country-side.
Here there is an excellent range of hotel accommodation in all categories from deluxe to guesthouse, while travel agents operate numerous day excursions as well as mini safaris by four-wheel-drive, mountain biking, or on elephant back.
Nature lovers can also take pleasure in Thailand's many national parks where flora and fauna are preserved. These are found in all regions of the country and encompass various habitats. Best known is perhaps Khao Yai National Park, northeast of Bangkok, which covers 542,000 acres of forest, jungle, and grassland spread over rolling hills. It is an area of magnificent natural beauty, and protected within its borders are bears, tigers, elephants, monkeys, deer, and many species of birds and butterflies.
Other famous national parks are found in the northeast and in the south where, amongst others, there is the excellent marine national park of Tarutao, a group of protected islands off the western shore. In all you can enjoy natural scenery of rare beauty, and in most cases, you'll also appreciate easy access and bungalow accommodation for overnight stays.
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