Chiang Mai in the north of Thailand is laid-back, calm and picturesque. Time spent here is an antidote to Bangkok’s hectic, rushed atmosphere. Theo Porter from our London office recently experienced this city on our Time for Thailand tour. Here he shares the five things not to miss in Chiang Mai.
Chiang Mai is an adrenaline junkies dream. Everything from zip lining to white water rafting as well as off-road cycling and kayaking are all available.
With verdant rainforest surrounding the city, it’s the perfect location to zip line through the lush green canopy. There are many companies offering this adventure, so you can either spend the morning or the whole day up in the trees.
Alternatively if you’re not a fan of heights but more comfortable in (or hopefully out of) water then white water rafting is for you. Rafting into class III and IV rapids, which are classed as some of Thailand’s best, is an exhilarating way to spend a day.
Hitting The Shops
Chiang Mai has an abundance of shopping options. From shiny modern malls to traditional street markets, there are plenty of options to keep the most avid shopper busy. Those in search of a bargain should head to Chiang Mai Night Bazaar. This sprawl of stalls offers a huge variety of things to browse and purchase.
Two other markets worth visiting are the Chiang Mai walking market, held on Ratchadamneon Road on Sundays, and Wualai Walking Street which is located south of the old town and takes place on Saturdays.
For those with an interest in the traditional umbrellas that have become a cultural icon of Chiang Mai you should head to Bo Sang Handicraft Village. Located around 10 km from the city, it’s here you’ll find beautifully decorated paper-umbrellas as well Japanese hand fans.
With over 300 temples dotted across the city it would be quite easy to spend a few days here simply visiting these ‘Wats’. The most famous temple in Chiang Mai is undoubtedly Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, the beautiful golden temple overlooking the city. But there are a few more you’ll want to visit.
Located right in the heart of the city is Wat Chedi Luang. This enormous temple dates back to 1385, with a few necessary renovations made along the way. Right next door is Wat Phan Tao. This teak temple dates back to the 14th century and offers an interesting contrast between the orange robes of the monks and the dark wood of the temple. During the Visakha Bucha festival, monks flock to the temple and light hundreds of lamps around the grounds and the pond.
For a more atmospheric temple, outside of the city you’ll find Wat Umong. Located in the forest, the highlight of this 700 year old temple is the enchanting tunnels that run beneath the stupa. Decorated with wall paintings and statues of Buddha, it’s a really interesting place to explore.
Cooking Up A Storm
Thai food is delicious, dishes made with fresh ingredients and combining sweet, spicy and salty flavours. Chiang Mai especially has a reputation for being a foodie heaven, the street-stalls, markets and restaurants serving mouth-watering fare. It’s very likely you’ll want to recreate these dishes after your holiday.
Thankfully, this is achievable by attending one of Chiang Mai’s hands-on cooking classes. You’ll be amazed at how easy it is to whip up these tasty dishes.
There are dozens of cooking schools throughout the city. You’ll learn how to cook spicy soup, curry paste from scratch and spring rolls. It’s also likely you’ll try your hand at making Thailand’s signature dish, Pad Thai. And the best thing about these classes is you get to eat everything you’ve lovingly created.
Going for a Hike
Doi Inthanon National Park is the perfect place to escape the heat of the city and reconnect with nature. Thailand’s highest peak, with an altitude of 2,565m, it’s nicknamed the ‘roof of Thailand’.
The mountain and the national park is full of dazzling natural beauty. The national park is threaded with hiking trails which take you through tropical forests, over rugged mountains and past tumbling waterfalls. It’s also a haven for wildlife, with 362 different species of bird and 65 of mammals.
The views from here are absolutely breath-taking, stretching for miles on a clear day. As with many spectacular vistas, they are at there best during sunrise and sunset.
If you now feel inspired to explore Chiang Mai for yourself, this wonderful city is included on all our Thailand group tours.