Temples and trunks: exploring Chiang Mai

Thailand is one of the world's most popular beach destinations, with hoards of party-ready backpackers and beach-seeking families hitting the islands via Bangkok each year.

But if you're interested in seeing more than beaches, buddhas and the infamous bucket cocktails, take a trip north.

The Golden Triangle - once famed for its opium farming, now more for its opium museums and five-star resorts - is probable the most well-known northern tourist spot. But there are plenty of other intriguing places to visit, including the provincial capital and ancient capital of Chiang Rai; Chiang Khong, which leads into Laos; the northernmost town of Mae Sai, which is the gateway into Myanmar; and of course, Chiang Mai.

This city's importance has fluctuated over the centuries, but today it is undoubtedly an important tourism hub, with visitors pouring in to experience the region's historical and religious sites, authentic food, protected flora and fauna and renowned festivals.

With the traditional and the modern standing side by side, Chiang Mai offers a real insight into traditional Thailand, its culture and customs.