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Saturday, October 1, 2011

In-Depth New Guidebook On Northern Thailand

Other Places Publishing’s newest edition to their lineup of culturally-smart and travel-savvy guidebooks is entitled Chiang Mai and Northern Thailand. (Amazon & Retail: $13.82, 216 pages).

Like their other publications on Africa, Europe and Latin America, Other Places Publishing uses former Peace Corps Volunteers to lead their team of writers. The concept is simple: former volunteers will know the culture and the country better than the normal travel writer, so why not employ that depth of cultural, linguistic and practical knowledge for a travel series.  Chiang Mai and Northern Thailand  is their first foray into Southeast Asia travel experience.

The North of Thailand is emerging as a standalone, off-the-beaten-path destination in the otherwise well-traversed Southeast Asia travel route. With the northern mountains covered in verdant jungle and sprinkled with age-old hill tribes, elephant camps, and ancient ruins, it is no wonder that the North is becoming an unforgettable experience for travelers. Laid-back cities like Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai offer a burgeoning restaurant and nightlife scene that provides the perfect respite after experiencing the natural beauty of Northern Thailand.

 What’s interesting about this guidebook is that uses experienced writers. T. F. Rhoden, the lead writer for this project, has spent seven years exploring this fascinating country—first as a college student, then as a Peace Corps Volunteer, and finally as an aid worker on the Thai-Burma border. Through his unique experiences, Rhoden provides insight into the country that has become his second home. With a comprehensive background section covering the history, culture, and logistics of travel, and sixteen sections dedicated to each stop on his recommended travel route, this book will allow travelers to feel like locals while enjoying the indisputable beauty that the North has to offer.

Some highlights that I really enjoyed and found useful:
Sights & Activities: From the elephant treks around Chiang Mai to the ancient ruins of Sukhothai Historical Park, the book provides everything one will need to experience the beauty of the North.
 • Volunteering: There are a lot of opportunities to give back, and in so many different ways. But I think this guidebook will tell you where, why — and most importantly — how to get involved.
 • Nightlife: The North offers travelers a night out that many thought only Bangkok could offer. There are some really cool spots to steal a cocktail, spend a relaxing evening, or party with the best of Thailand.
  • Guesthouses & Resorts: There is a vibrant scene to be discovered here with backpacker guesthouses and a world-class lineup of luxurious hotels and spas; all without breaking your budget.
 • Language: Thai is not an easy language to learn, but provided the essential everyday phrases and a few more slangy ones just for fun!
 Chiang Mai and Northern Thailand by Other Places Publishing can’t be recommended enough! Finally, there is a guidebook on the market for those of us who need a break from the LonelyPlanet series.

Review by Mike Fruct, former Education Officer with Jesuit Refugee Services, Mae Hong Son, Thailand


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