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Most Charming City in the North

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My family and I are traveling to Thailand this upcoming December and are looking to spend four to five days of our 2 week trip in the northern region of the country. We have looked into Ching Mai although I fear it will be to busy in December and we are really trying to avoid a big and busy city atmosphere and instead find a town with more cultural charm and laid back atmosphere that is not as touristy as Chiang Mai. We would like to find a city with easy access to great hikes and trekking as well as maybe some agricultural fields to walk through. We would love to see some Buddhist Temples and buildings with Thai architecture. We would also love to visit a good elephant sanctuary or a place where we could elephant trek and would also love to find a place where we could day trip to and explore some hill tribe villages. I am hoping to find a city that has still kept some of its charm and is not over run with tourism so my family and I can witness some authentic thai culture (or at least as close as we can get to it). We have looked into visiting Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Pai, Mae Hong Son, Chiang Sean, Mae Salong, and Mae Sai... it is just hard for me to get a feel for what city would suit us best. We are open to all of these places and any new suggestions as well!
Thanks!

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