For some reason, Thailand doesn’t have the same appeal to photographers as the likes of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. But this is a country with so much diversity that it makes it a photography paradise. Whilst the bustling city of Bangkok is a great place to start your photography adventure, and the southern beaches and islands provide those postcard-perfect pictures, northern Thailand is equally if not more photogenic. So, here are 5 reasons why you should visit northern Thailand on your next photography trip.
The iconic temples in this part of the world are incredibly beautiful and ornate and are a must on any photography trip. Northern Thailand features some of the most beautiful and historic temples in the whole country. From the ancient Wat Chedi Luang and Doi Sutep in Chiang Mai to the White Temple in Chiang Rai, there are no shortages of temples to capture. But don’t make the mistake that most tourists make and just turn up take a couple of photos and leave. Instead plan to spend a couple of hours at the important temples to really get a sense of the place. Look at ways of being able to integrate people into your shots. For example, a monk walking past, or a Person praying to a statue of the Buddha. These sorts of shots will help tell much more of a story in your photos then just photos of the temple.
Here is a list of some of the important temples that you should aim to capture in northern Thailand.
- Wat Rang Khun (The White Temple – Chiang Rai)
- Wat Phra Kaew (Chiang Rai)
- Wat Rong Seur Ten (The Blue Temple – Chiang Rai)
- Wat Chedi Luang (Chiang Mai)
- Wat Phra Singh (Chiang Mai)
- Wat Doi Sutep (Chiang Mai)
- Wat Sri Suphan (The silver temple – Chiang Mai)
- Wat Phra That Doi Kong Mu (Mae Hong Son)
Anyone who’s ever travelled to South East Asia will understand how important markets are to the everyday life of the people who live there. This is where all activity seems to centre around and markets are often full of food, fruit, vegetables, produce and anything else that you can think off. In Northern Thailand, there are no shortages of markets. The biggest of them all is the Sunday Walking Market that occurs weekly in Chiang Mai. The two-kilometre market is amongst the biggest in the world and can be incredibly busy. But it also provides wonderful photography opportunities.
The best of these are around the many food stalls that are dotted throughout the market. The mouth-watering food is great to photograph but be sure to also take photos of the sellers whilst they are making a sale or preparing food.
Some of the other notable markets in Chiang Mai are:
- Muang Mai Fruit Market
- Saturday Market
- Sompet Market
- Chiang Mai Night Bazaar
- Wororot Market
- Flower Market
- Night Bazaar
People are such an integral part of any story about a destination. Whether it’s a businessman on their way to work or local hill tribes working in the field, a story about a destination won’t be complete without people.
Thailand is fairly westernised but there are still parts where people live in local villages. Northern Thailand is one of the best areas for this. If you are willing to get off the beaten path in places like Pai or Mae Hong Son then you will be treated to hill tribes such as H’mong, Lisu, Lahu, Shan and the more famous Karen tribe. These local tribes will have their own customs, clothes and even dialect. It is essential that you get a local guide to help you not only to navigate but also to translate.
Always be respectful of people’s wishes and if someone doesn’t want their photo to be taken (which will be very rare) then just smile and walk on.
Most people associate Thailand with beaches that are in the South. But Northern Thailand is very mountainous and so it offers some incredible views of the vast jungles below. The great thing is that anyone can see some of these views as there are great roadside viewpoints around Pai and Mae Hong Son. To see more remote views will require a local guide and 4-wheel drive vehicle as the roads can be dirt tracks and very steep.
But the reward will be views of endless layers upon layers of mountains, farmland on mountainsides and stunning sunsets.
Festivals are one of the best situations for travel photography. Wherever you are in the world, there will be festivals at some time in the year. Northern Thailand is no exception. The most famous festivals in Northern Thailand are Loi Krathong (festival of light) and Yi Peng. These are when vast amounts of lanterns are launched into the sky and little floats containing candles and flowers are drifted into the waters.
In Chiang Mai, during Loi Krathong, there’s also a huge parade with some beautifully designed floats. The festivals only last for a couple of days and dates change from year to year as it needs to coincide with the lunar calendar. It is generally in November but be sure you check the dates before you book your flights.
Some of the other notable festivals in Northern Thailand are:
- Songkran – the water festival
- Lam Yai Festival
- Poi Sang Long Festival
- Jong Para Festival
Thailand may not seem like the remote exotic country that it once was. But beyond the chaos of Bangkok and the resorts that dot the Southern coasts and islands, “another” Thailand does exist. Northern Thailand is often an area that is yet to be explored fully. In some parts you may go days before seeing another foreign tourist. As for photography, it offers a unique view of a country that has been photographed millions of times.