Nestled in the foothills of northern Thailand, Chiang Mai is a sanctuary. The pace is laid-back, the accouterments are international and the landscape is picturesque. It is a fine urban specimen with a much-celebrated traditional culture ideal for sightseers, nature buffs, and city connoisseurs. Thailand’s “Rose of the North” is a cultural and natural wonderland with ethnic diversity, a multitude of attractions and welcoming hospitality.
Where can you find Chiang Mai?
Chiang Mai is situated in Northern Thailand, 700km north of the capital city of Bangkok. Chiang Mai is the second largest city in Thailand, yet only has a population of around 200,000.
Compare this to Bangkok which has about 9 million and it is easy to see why even the Thai people in Bangkok love to visit Chiang Mai for a holiday.
The city is now becoming increasingly popular with overseas travelers as word spreads of this magnificent tourist location. There are various ways to travel to and visit Chiang Mai. From Bangkok, it is a 1hr flight, 11hrs by bus or 12hrs by overnight train.
Chiang Mai’s temples
Chiang Mai is overflowing with ancient Buddhist Temples (Wats) dating back to when the city was originally founded in 1296. The intricate carving and stunning hand painted murals inside them are absolute treasures.
Since Chiang Mai was founded over 700 years ago successive Kings left their own mark on the city by building everlasting Temples. That so many Temples have survived is a testament to both the skills of the original builders and the dedication of the many artisans that followed to maintain them for future generations. The Temples today still form an important part in the lives of the Thai people and are in use daily.
There are over 200 Chiang Mai Temples in and around Chiang Mai to see and experience. The following is only an overview of the most well-known Temples, all of which are easily accessible.
What to see and do in Chiang Mai?
The following is a quick overview of just some of the Chiang Mai activities available. There are more things to See and Do in Chiang Mai and Northern Thailand than most tourists have the time to experience.
Elephant Farms – Numerous elephant camps have been established to help protect the numerous elephants in the area. The camps put on elephant shows and activities for tourists where the elephants display their various skills.
Most of the camps have elephant rides where tourists ride the elephants for an hour or two through the jungle surrounding the camps. There is the Mae Ping Elephant Camp, Patara Elephant Farm, Mae Sa Elephant Camp, Thai Elephant Conservation Center (near Lampang) and lots more.
Elephant Nature Park no rides or shows for tourists here. This is a sanctuary and rescue centre for elephants. You can visit or volunteer to stay for days/weeks looking after the elephants. That’s absolutely a beautiful place.
Festivals – Flower Festival (1st weekend in February), Songkran (Thai New Year) (13-15 April), Yi Peng (Thanksgiving) (three days of the full moon of the twelfth lunar month, usually in November)
Treetop Zip Lining – “Flight of the Gibbon” – includes 3 hours of exhilarating rides through the rainforest canopy on zipping lines and sky bridges
high above the forest floor, have lunch and then spend time exploring an amazing 7 level waterfall. See Flight of the Gibbon website for more information. Great fun for all ages.
Tiger Kingdom – Get up close and personal playing with the tigers. Ultimate experience for lovers of the big cats. See Tiger Kingdom website for locatTigersimes and costs. Absolutely exhilarating.
Trekking – Chiang Mai province was originally populated by many different hill-tribe peoples. Many still are there today. Lots of tourists/travelers go on organized treks through the mountain regions to visit and even stay in the various hill tribe villages.
You can see various hill tribe people around Chiang Mai daily, often at the markets selling their locally produced goods to support the families in the villages. See a tour operator for the different types of trekking activities available as Trek lengths can vary from half a day to several weeks.
Wood Handicrafts – Chiang Mai has a large and famous night bazaar for local arts and handicrafts. The night bazaar extends across several city blocks along footpaths, inside buildings and temple grounds, and in open squares.
A handicraft and food market opens every Sunday afternoon until late at night on Rachadamnoen Road, the main street in the historical center, which is then closed to motorized traffic.
Every Saturday evening a handicraft market is held along Wua Lai Road, Chiang Mai’s silver street on the south side of the city beyond Chiang Mai Gate, which is then also closed to motorized traffic
Markets in Chiang Mai
There are lots of Markets in Chiang Mai to suits everyone, they are scattered all over the city.
The Sunday Market, The Saturday (Wua Lai) Market and the Night Bazaar (including Kalare & Anusarn) are the 3 biggest catering for the tourist trade and should be included on any visit. Warorot Market is where the locals shop and is defiantly worth checking out.
The following is a short list of the most interesting Markets to be found in Chiang Mai:
Sunday Markets (Sunday only) (also called Walking Street Markets) (late afternoon till midnight) In the center of Chiang Mai’s Old City section from the Tha Phae Gate to all the way down Rachadamnoen Road, about 1klm long, and spreading out down all the side streets.
Saturday (Wua Lai) Market (Saturday only) (late afternoon till midnight) All the way down Wua Lai Road opposite Chiang Mai Gate, about 1km long. South side of Chiang Mai’s Old City section.
Night Bazaar (daily open from late afternoon till midnight) The famous Night Bazaar is a bargain hunters paradise. Eastern side of Old City all the way along Chang Khlan Road, about 1km long.
Kalare Night Market (1/3 way down from the top of Night Bazaar) (daily open from dusk till midnight) Eastern side of Old City on Chang Khlan Road.
Anusarn Night Market (1/3 way up from the bottom of Night Bazaar) (daily open from dusk till midnight) Eastern side of Old City on Chang Khlan Road.
Transportation in Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai is well-connected by bus, train, and air transportation services. A number of bus stations link the city to Central and Northern Thailand.
The Central Chang Pheuak terminal (north of Chiang Phwuak Gate) provides local services within Chiang Mai Province. The Chiang Mai Arcade bus terminal northeast of the city (which can be reached with a songthaew or tuk-tuk ride) provides services to over 20 other destinations in Thailand including Bangkok, Pattaya, Hua Hin, and Phuket.
There are several services a day from Chiang Mai Arcade terminal to Mo Chit Station in Bangkok (a 10–12-hour journey).
The state railway operates 10 trains a day to Chiang Mai Station from Bangkok. Most journeys run overnight and take approximately 12–15 hours. Most trains offer first-class (private cabins) and second-class (seats fold out to make sleeping berths) service. Chiang Mai is the northern terminus of the Thai railway system.
Chiang Mai International Airport receives up to 28 flights a day from Bangkok (flight time about 1 hour 10 minutes) and also serves as a local hub for services to other northern cities such as Chiang Rai, Phrae, and Mae Hong Son. International services also connect Chiang Mai with other regional centers, including cities in other Asian countries.
The locally preferred form of transport is a personal motorbike and, increasingly, private car.
Local public transport is via tuk-tuk, songthaew, or rickshaws. Local songthaew fare is usually 20–50 baht per person for trips in and around the city. For groups, the fare per person is less.
Tuk-tuk fare is usually at least 20 baht per trip (the vehicles are comfortable for two passengers, but some can squeeze in four passengers); fares increase with distance.
Chiang Mai is totally a promised land for visitors thanks to its landscapes and people. We bet that you will be excited and have a great time when being in Chiang Mai.
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