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When travellers are planning their trips to Thailand, the first stops that come to mind are often the most well-trod ones: stops in Chiang Mai, for instance, and Bangkok are must-dos. But the beautiful Southeast Asian country has so much more to offer, in terms of urban wonders, than its most populous cities. Here, five lesser-known Thai cities that you should absolutely put on your bucket list.
1. Mae Hong Son
Where it is: On the border of Thailand and Myanmar, in the mountainous Thai province of the same name.
Why you should go: Because of its proximity to Thailand, visiting Mae Hong Son might feel like experiencing a little bit of Myanmar — there is some cultural overlap, and it's unlike anything (or anywhere) else on the planet.
Where it is: About 230 kilometres north of Bangkok, Sukhothai is characterized by its relative remoteness.
Why you should go: Sukhothai is a UNESCO World Heritage City, due to its proliferation of ancient temple ruins. In fact, the city was the birthplace of Thai architecture and culture, so if you want to get a good taste of Thailand's history, there's nowhere better to be.
3. Khao Lak
Where it is: On Thailand's south-central coast. "Khao lak" translates in English to "Lak mountain", which is the highest peak in the area's hilly region.
Why you should go: If you're seeking a bit of peace, quiet, and serenely calm beachfront, Khao Lak is the place to go. It's a change of pace from many of Thailand's other cities, which are vibrant, colourful, and bustling — and who doesn't need a moment to recharge every now and again?
Where it is: Western Thailand, in the province of the same name.
Why you should go: History buffs may be particularly interested in a visit: the Burma Railway — which includes the infamous bridge over the River Kwai — is located in Kanchanaburi.
5. Chiang Rai
Where it is: Northern Thailand, in the mountainous province of the same name.
Why you should go: Chiang Rai is the bustling Chiang Mai's sister town, and for all of the latter's popularity, Chiang Rai is decidedly more laid-back. Like Khao Lak, this is a great place to sit back and enjoy the scenery.