With its striking mountain backdrop, over 300 temples and a quaint historical aura, Chiang Mai offers much to explore. As well as showcasing Thailand's diverse cultural heritage, Chiang Mai is also a bustling, modern, international city. Its people are friendly, the food and shopping are top quality and cheap, and its favorable climate make it an ideal place to spend time.
About 100 miles north, Chiang Rai serves as a smaller alternative to Chiang Mai, although it's not nearly as colorful and there's less to do in town. On the other hand it's a little more laid-back, and anyone interested in trekking will find they can reach village areas quicker than from Chiang Mai.