- Now that the rainy season is quickly upon us, places with wet sandy beaches and cloudy rainy skies seem less appealing. However, the culture rich mountainous north is at its most attractive time of year. There is a wonderful, scenic, and peaceful place where brief afternoon rain showers are definitely an advantage. This little known gem is the community of Ban Thaton in Mae Ai district and Chiangmai province. The spectacular scenery with the Mae Kok river snaking its way through the fertile Fang valley disappearing into tree covered mountains is a photographer's dream. The brief rain showers keep the air fresh and clean to offer unlimited visibility of this strikingly beautiful area. Big puffy white clouds decorating the mountain tops against a rich blue sky with numerous rainbows occur only during the rainy season. Colorful hilltribe people working in corn fields set on almost vertical slopes surrounded by many shades of green from the lush vegetation complete the picture. You will be equally impressed by the hospitality and friendliness of the Thaton people. The area is a unique cultural mixture of Thai, Chinese, and hill tribe people who welcome western visitors but do not change traditions to please them. The first place to visit is Wat Thaton. The temple grounds consisting of over 400 rai of land is famous for it large Buddha statues over looking the town. The breath taking vistas from the uppertemple grounds are unmatched anywhere in Thailand. The temple is a perfect place for meditation and study because of its quiet tree covered grounds and flower gardens. Contrary to popular belief, heavy rain showers only happen at night. Daytime showers occur only on the mountain tops. Between 5 and 7 p.m. the skies open up with torrent rain. These cool evening rains make it excellent for sleeping. The mornings are clean and clear with spectacular sun rise. A popular mode of transportation in the area is bicycle. The paved country road which winds along the river and through mountain canyon is easy by bike. Its possible to enjoy a hot spring bath and visit Akha, Lahu, Yao, Lisu, Karen and Shan hill tribe villages in one day. Guest houses are located in a Karen and Lisu village for those wishing to stay with the hill tribe people of the area . In summary, Thaton is a wonderful place. A quiet place that believes in keeping its culture intact. It enjoys western visitors but does not change traditions to please them.
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