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Going Off-the-Beaten Path in Thailand

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Going Off-the-Beaten Path in Thailand
AFAR Ambassador Dan Tom (@dantom) recently traveled deep into Northern Thailand, curious to experience this lesser-known region. “The easy-going pace of life and hospitality of the people are just a couple of things that stood out to me,” he says. It wound up being the perfect combination of opportunities to unwind and to immerse himself in the local culture and natural beauty. Here he shares seven favorite photos—and the stories behind them.
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    Ride with a View
    It takes some effort to reach Rai Saeng Arun Resort, located in a sleepy Chiang Khong on the Mekong River bordering Laos. But the reward is finding yourself amidst an evocative landscape, with stylish bungalows that bend seamlessly into the bamboo forest, terrific food sourced from the onsite farm, and bikes available for a ride that yields views like this of lush mountains shrouded in mist.
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    Farm Hand for a Day
    One of the most memorable activities from my trip turned out to be visiting the Bangkok Airways’ organic farm in Sukhothai, just minutes from the Sukhothai airport. You can join a tour to experience first hand what goes into a days work on the farm by pitching in yourself—with guidance of local farmers (available for booking through Sukhothai Heritage Resort). Then sit down to a fresh meal prepared from the farm directly.
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    A Hilltop Temple
    Two keys to life in Northern Thailand are farming and Buddhism. If you make it to Nan, a must is to catch sunset at Wat Phra That Khao Noi temple, just a 10-minute drive from the main city area. You can park steps away from this view pictured or choose to walk up the famous 300+ step staircase to the top. (I chose to drive!)
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    Countless Shades of Green
    It is impossible to avoid the numerous lush rice fields across all of Northern Thailand. I recommend driving around and stopping off to get a closer view and meet a few local farmers. They are all so welcoming that if you ask, most will allow you to walk in the farming areas.
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    A Roadside Portrait
    Spontaneous stops while driving around Northern Thailand and the conversations that ensued ended up being my favorite part of my time there. Here’s a photo from one such encounter, with Uncle Sakorn Kodchun, who has been farming for over 40 years. He explained that all the farmers help each other out so that no one is left with the task of farming on their own.
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    In the Fields
    Farming plays a huge role in the culture and economy of Northern Thailand. Rice, corn, and tea are the main products that come out of this region. Pictured above are tea farmers sporting colorful hats to shield them from the elements.
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    Sunset over Chiang Rai
    A challenge with exploring Northern Thailand is that the weather can be unpredictable. One minute it’s raining and the next the sun is out with clear skies. Lucky for me, I was able to catch this blazing sunset as my trip was coming to a close—which was all the more special since some of previous evenings had been overcast or cloudy.