Outback in Lanna, Thailand

Elephants in River Outback must be one of the most descriptive words in the Aussie language. Yet it applies so perfectly to the philosophy of traveling Lanna style that we decided to borrow it.

Chiang Mai can be a wonderful destination, but the bars on Loi Kroh road, the hectic activity of the night market and Starbucks on Changklan can make you forget why you came to Thailand.

One way to avoid the packaging aspect of travel is to head for the hills, so to speak. You can still have cold beer and hot showers .. well, most of the time. But you will gradually ease into a style of travel that is much more rewarding. Sitting quietly in the remoteness of Wat Doi Tung can be a reward unto itself. Watching a weaver craft a shard of fine cloth is easy on the budget and mind as well.

How long can you watch elephants play in the river, or children play in a hill tribe village? Maybe it's time to find out.

Because of the elevation and latitude, the hills of Lanna are usually cool. That makes Northern Thailand a great destination for the hot season .. March to May.

Family style is perfect for Lanna. Cheaper accommodations, dozens of national parks, floating the rivers, walkable towns and elephant rides.

Even in the rainy season, June and July can be more dry than wet. But rainy season presents a unique opportunity. The rivers swell and white water rafting gets good. And fewer tourists means lower prices.

Luxury need not be sacrificed. You can find luxury health spas and luxury nature resorts in virtually every Lanna province.

"What about golf?" Some of Thailand's great courses stretch around the green hills of Lanna.

Rock climbing anyone? Sure enough, the North has it.

What outback Lanna does not have? Smog, traffic, high prices, go go bars .. no beaches? Well, almost. Try Pattaya Noi in Chiang Rai.