Thailand’s second largest city, Chiang Mai is considered by many locals as a keystone to any journey through South-East Asia. Famous for its easy-going ambience, this town is set in the lush mountains of the northern Chiang Mai province and is an excellent base from which to explore the natural wonders of the region.
From fertile rainforests to blossoming hilltops, this part of Thailand is a nature lover’s dream. A popular holiday idea is to take a trek up into the mountains for a few days to visit the hill tribes, learning more about their cuisine and way of life.
But perhaps what Chiang Mai is most famous for is its wats. The hundreds of wats – or temples to the rest of us – are elegant, beautiful structures that lend the city an air of peace and tranquillity.
With excellent restaurants flaunting the unique northern Thai cuisine, and expansive shopping markets scattered about town, Chiang Mai is an exciting and cultural exploration for anyone to enjoy.
Holiday in Chiang Mai
As already mentioned, a holiday in Chiang Mai is sure to feature two things: nature and temples.
For temples, out of the multitudes to see, Wat Pra Singh, Wat Chedi Luang and Wat Chiang Man are all most definitely worth a look as they are grand examples of true serenity and great places to visit Buddhist monks and watch their journey towards enlightenment.
If you wish to explore the natural world surrounding town, there are a number of companies offering treks and hikes which can include rafting, elephant rides and hill tribe visits; spanning any length of time you have time for. However we recommend at least 3 days to make the journey really worthwhile. Make sure to ascend Doi Suthep, the granite mountain peak with the beautifully wrought temple of Wat Phra That Doi Suthep at its summit, for panoramic views of Chiang Mai. Other ideas for day trips outside of town are to the ancient temple of Lamphun or to Mae Sa Valley, with its elephant shows and orchid farms.
Back into the city, the Old Quarter is still mostly inhabited by traditional wooden houses and quiet, leafy gardens; making for a restful area to wander through and enjoy. Here you can also find many of Chiang Mai’s museums, which include the National Museum, the Arts & Cultural Centre and the Tribal Museum to the north.
When the sun starts to set, head to the centre of town and along the Ping River, where most of the entertainment for ‘farangs’ or foreigners can be found, including excellent dining and first-class bars and clubs.
With its nightlife, craft shops, night markets, good-value everything, rich cuisine and an enticing range of courses in all sorts from Thai cookery to traditional massage, Chiang Mai is a truly authentic window into Siam and the origins of the Thai people, and where they are today.
Renting holiday accommodation in Chiang Mai
When choosing a place to stay in Chiang Mai, a city renowned for being authentically Thai, consider choosing a holiday rental instead of a more expensive, smaller and touristy hotel. As well as getting all the benefits of your own personal space, such as the couch, garden and your very own kitchen; living in a holiday home means you can choose a neighbourhood away from the foreigners and get a true taste of living like a local. So at the end of a busy day exploring this beautiful city, visit the fresh produce market the neighbours told you about, collect ingredients for a meal you learned in your Thai cookery course, and prepare a feast in your very own kitchen. You’ll be talking about the other travellers as ‘farangs’ in no time.