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One of the best ways to get ready for a Thailand tour is to start dreaming about this faraway land. Here are a few highlights from the 13th edition of Lonely Planet’s Thailand guide, released this month:

BEST ECOTOURISM SPOTS

Chiang Rai – the centre for hill-tribe trekking with a social justice hook; some trekking companies employ hill-tribe guides or foster community development programs.

Northeastern Thailand – loads of village homestays are sprouting up all over this rural landscape to put you in touch with the people and rice paddies.

Chiang Mai – a pretty northern town that is evolving into a cycling mecca for in-town touring and off-roading.

BEST SCENIC JOURNEYS

Overnight ferry from Chumphon to Ko Tao – it’s just a simple fishing boat with mats on the upper deck and winking stars overhead.

Mahachai Shortline train – this day’s diversion from Bangkok trundles through forests, marshland and wet markets.

Mae Sa–Samoeng loop – the mountain equivalent of a rollercoaster ride that climbs, dips and twists along the peaks outside Chiang Mai.

Bus ride from Kanchanaburi to Sangkhlaburi – the local tin-can bus slides in between the toothy green mountains.

BEST THAILAND FESTIVALS

SONGKRAN 12-14 Apr
Thailand’s famous water fight marks the Thai New Year (12 to 14 April; dates vary). The traditional religious activities are held in the morning and involve showing respect to elders and sacred temple images by sprinkling water on them. Afterwards Thais in Chiang Mai and Bangkok load up their water guns and head out to the streets for battle: water is thrown, catapulted and sprayed from roving commandos and outfitted pick-up trucks at willing and unwilling targets.

LOI KRATHONG Nov-Dec

One of Thailand’s most beloved festivals, Loi Krathong is celebrated on the first full moon of the 12th lunar month. The festival thanks the river goddess for providing life to the fields and forests and asks for forgiveness for the polluting ways of humans. Small handmade boats (called kràthong) are sent adrift in the country’s waterways. The kràthong are origami-like vessels made from banana leaves, they’re decorated with flowers, and incense, candles and coins are placed in them.

This is an edited extract form Thailand 13th Edition, by China Williams © Lonely Planet Publications, 2009, $48.99

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