Some 700 kms north of Bangkok, Chiang Mai, dubbed the ‘Rose of the North’ is the first stop for visitors looking to explore and experience the charms of Northern Thailand. Founded in 1292 by King Mengrai, it soon became the heart and soul of the Lanna Kingdom that he had established.
Tucked away in a valley, and bounded by high, lush green hills, the old walled city encircled by a fortified wall with four gates and a moat, and located along the banks of the languid Ping River, has now metamorphosed into a modern metropolis that continues to pay tribute to its golden historical past. The pace of life is slower and the weather is much cooler in winter and less humid in summer here compared to the Thai capital.
A great tourist destination it offers a variety of attractions, including elegant temples like Doi Suthep, cultural performances, and cuisine typical to the region. It is also a convenient jumping-off point for treks, hill resorts, river rafting and scenic nature trails. The famous Night Bazaar Chan Klan Road offers a veritable treasure chest of handicrafts, clothes, jewellery, toys, while the Bo Sang district is renowned for exquisite hand-painted umbrellas made from mulberry paper and silk, and decorated with beautiful floral motifs. Don’t miss Nimmanhemin Road where you can find designer product, handmade souvenirs and art galleries.
With it wonderful blend of the old and the new, Chiang Mai is a wedding destination with a difference, perfect for the couple looking to give their guests a distinctive experience.
Interact with the elephants at the Elephant Nature Park
Sharpen your cooking skills at Thai Akha Cooking School
Trek the many trails of Doi Inthanon
Zipline through the jungle with the Flight of the Gibbons
Go on a cruise with the Mae Ping River Cruise
Enjoy Chiang Mai’s night safari tour
Enjoy bird’s eye views of the city with Balloon Adventure Thailand
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep
Wat Chedi Luang
Queen Sirikit Botanic Garden
Chiang Mai City & Arts Cultural Center
Chiang Mai National Museum
San Kamphaeng hot springs
Chiang Mai Day Zoo
Bo Sang Village
Doi Ang Khang
Chiang Mai offers a wide variety of cuisines ranging from Thai to international. There are also many vegetarian restaurants. But what’s really unique about the city are the traditional dishes born within the Lanna kingdom, which have been handed down from one generation to the next, as well as those influenced by neighbouring Burma.
Some of Chiang Mai’s specialties include spicy sausage, khao soy (the local noodle soup), and a staple in northern cuisine: the khantoke dinner. This consists of a meal served on a small round table and includes several dishes of curry, crispy fried pork skin, and northern-style sausages served with sticky rice. It is usually accompanied by a traditional dance performance
The Service 1921 Restaurant & Bar
Le Grand Lanna
Le Crystal Restaurant
Araksa Tea Garden
Drink or Play
Whether it’s a rooftop bar or a riverside pub, live music is very common in Chiang Mai. The vibe is relaxed and friendly, and reggae, pop, rock, and even jazz will have a place.
The UN Irish Pub
The Writer’s Club & Wine Bar
Home furnishings, décor, handicrafts, textiles, silverware, and gourmet goodies are all products worth buying in Chiang Mai. There are a few shopping malls but the really must-visit places for shopping are its markets:
- Chiang Mai Night Bazar: Daily market
- Rajapruek Walking Street: Friday market
- Wualai Walking Street: Saturday market from 5-10 pm.
- Thapae Walking Street: Sunday market from 5-10 pm.
Central Plaza Chiang Mai Airport
Maya Lifestyle Shopping Centre
Central Festival Chiang Mai
Kad Suan Kaew Department Store
Promenada Resort Mall Chiang Mai
- Many elephant camps do not engage in elephant-friendly practices. Avoid patronising camps that exploit Thailand’s elephants.
- Patronising the Royal Folk Arts and Crafts Training Centre in Mae Hong Son benefits both villagers and the authenticity of native arts.
- The admission fee for the Chiang Mai Zoo does not include the fee to visit the pandas.
- Chiang Mai could be one of the best places in Thailand to celebrate Loy Krathong (the Festival of Lights), which takes place on the evening of the 12th month in the traditional Thai lunar calendar, usually falling in November. While hundreds of people are putting their “floats” in rivers and canals, hundreds more release lanterns into the sky to on the occasion of Yi Peng, a Lanna festival celebrated in northern Thailand that coincides with Loy Krathong. This time of the year is one of the best to be in Chiang Mai, although hotel bookings should be done well in advance as occupancy is very high
Flights from Bangkok (Suvarnabhumi and Don Muang airports) to Chiang Mai International Airport take 1.30 hours. Airlines like Thai Airways, Bangkok Airways, Thai AirAsia, and Nok Air, operate several daily flights between both cities.