(CNN) With spectacular mountains, vibrant hill tribes and a relaxed vibe, Thailand’s unofficial “second city” of Chiang Mai is everything Bangkok isn’t.
As the travel hub for northern Thailand, the city of Chiang Mai and the province that shares its name (population 1.6 million) blend ancient culture and natural wonders to create a character that’s unique to a region once known as the Kingdom of a Million Rice Fields, or “Lanna” in Thai.
In a kind of repeat of history, parts of the city have been invaded by regional neighbors in recent years.
In the past, invaders came from Burma, Siam or other regional rivals.
This time, it’s tour groups from China, lured by the success of a massive-hit Chinese comedy movie called “Lost in Thailand,” which is partially based in Chiang Mai.
Fortunately, you can still lose yourself in Chiang Mai’s majestic mountains, find a quiet picnic spot next to a cascading stream or visit with its friendly people.
The dish is traditionally served with chicken or beef with a side of chili paste, pickled cabbage, raw shallots and wedge of lime.