Visit the film location: Chiang Mai
The mist-swathed mountains of Chiang Mai in northern Thailand have long enticed intrepid backpackers to explore this southern slice of the magnificent Himalayan mountain range. And with visitors drawn by tales of elephants and vine-filled jungles, it's no wonder that French movie-maker, Frederic Lepage, decided to shoot his latest film Sunny and the Elephant in this high-altitude valley, beautifully capturing the traditions of the region.
The real charm of Chiang Mai lies in its heavily forested mountains, resplendent with natural beauty. And the highland jungles provide the setting for myriad mountain biking, hiking and motorcycling opportunities, so strike out on a bicycle or rented motorcycle for a trek through the jungle and the villages of the area's hill tribes, such as the Karen and the Hmong. Half-day biking tours are a great way to get to know the area, and you'll be taken along the River Ping, where you'll encounter temple ruins and remote villages.
The region is riddled with caves and cliffs, with the 61-metre monolith that is Crazy Horse Buttress offering a particularly tempting challenge to rock climbers. If you want to get up high, but not that high, get up close and personal with an elephant by spending two days at the region's elephant sanctuary, helping to care for the giant pachyderms and learning how they're trained, along with a leisurely ride on the beasts.
Another alluring feature of the northern Thai city is the shopping, with weekend markets jam-packed with local vendors manning carts filled with colourful displays of arts and crafts, fashion and jewellery.
Watch out for the Sunday Walking Street market, which boasts plenty of handmade goods, including cotton scarves, leather sandals and wood carvings. And Chiang Mai lets down its hippie hair at this market with lots of ethnic chic accessories, undyed, natural cotton T-shirts and canvas tote bags.
If you start to feel a little peckish, you'll find food stalls serving up flavoursome northern Thai cuisine, in the temples along the roadside. And near the grounds of Wat Chedi Luang on Th Phra Pokklao, take time out to enjoy an earthenware bowl of traditional kôw soy.
If you're staying in Chiang Mai for a few days then a visit to one of its 300+ temples that date from the 16th century and beyond, is a must, and you can feast your eyes on the beautiful wood carvings and frescoes in almost every temple. If you still have time to spare, book in for a cookery course, where the chef will take you to the market to buy your supplies, and you'll learn how to make traditional Thai dishes.
Air America, The Quest, Beyond Borders, Alexander, Sniper 3, Sunny and the Elephant
Meg Ryan, Gail Porter, Angelina Jolie, Jean Claude Van Damme