Thailand’s “Rose of the North” is a cultural and natural paradise with indigenous diversity.
Fondly known as “the rose of the north” Chiang Mai is located in Northern Thailand, 700 km away from the capital city of Bangkok. The second largest city in Thailand with a population of around 200,000. It is a perfect getaway for the natives from the hum-drums of city-life. It has become popular amongst foreign travellers due to its magnificence and serenity.
In the past 25 or so years tourism has gradually transformed this slow paced city into traveller’s paradise while still preserving its rustic charm. The good-natured and polite Thai people welcome each tourist with open-arms. There are millions of places to visit along with enticing Thai cuisine. Chiang Mai is a heaven for shopaholics as shopping can be done on a shoestring.
The city was established in 1296 and bounded by a moat. On the other hand the old city was approximately 1.5km square. Chiang Mai is chiefly made-up now of the old city and the new city has developed around it. Get a Tuk-Tuk to go for a scenic visit to Chiang Mai’s placid moat and the ancient walls of the old city.
For history lovers Chiang Mai has an array of ancient temples and buildings catering to those who are interested in unveiling the historical facts.
Chiang Mai is swiftly becoming one of the most popular destinations in Thailand. The scenic mountain terrain beckons travellers to explore its peaks and forests, while the city is home to a wealth of historic and cultural sites waiting to be discovered.
Doi Suthep, a mountaintop temple of Lord Buddha is a must-visit attraction in Chiang Mai. It is one of the significant temples of the place which shrines revered, seated Buddha. Located at a distance of 30 km (around 50 minutes’ drive) from Chiang Mai, the shrine is situated in the Doi Suthep National Park on the Chiang Mai Mountain. Gird up your lions to reach the shrine by climbing up the mountain, although a sweat dripping task but certainly a memorable attempt. You can also hop to this place on Songthaew (commercial cabs) or rent a bike making your journey smooth. The whole trip can be completed in about three hours. You can also carry back some mementos from vendors selling souvenirs, antiques, etc. settled near the steep staircase.
ADDRESS: Phra That Doi Suthep Road Srivijaya Suthep Mueang Chiang Mai District, Chiang Mai, Thailand.
OPENING-CLOSING TIMINGS: 6.00 am - 5.00 pm
ENTRY FEE: 30 THB
TRAM FEE: 20 THB
Located at 1,685 above sea level, Doi Pui is the highest peak in the Doi Suthep-Pui National Park. The place is famous for its sparkling waterfalls, easily reachable from the nearby main road. One of the central attractions which make Doi Pui, a must visit place is Hmong Tribal Village. The village is situated around 5 km from the renowned Doi Suthep. Visit the place and witness the lives of Tribal villagers, traditional Thai homes and major occupations, etc. You can also peep into their culture through an assemblage of objects, such as musical instruments, traditional costumes and bamboo artefacts.
Doi Inthanon National Park
Being a part of the Himalayan mountain range, Doi Inthanon is Thailand’s highest peak at 2,565 metres above the sea level. This tallest peak is an abode of Doi Inthanon National Park, covering an area of 482.4 square kilometres in three districts of Chiang Mai province. The park draws a large number of visitors during winter season from December to February, as they can get a chance to see the blossom of Siamese Sakura flowers blooming all over the area.
ADDRESS: 119, Ban Luang, Chiang Mai, Amphur Chom Thong 50160, Thailand
OPENING-CLOSING TIMING: 06:00 – 18:00
ENTRY FEE: The entrance fee is 300 THB for foreigners (children 150 THB) and 50 THB for local tourists (children 20 THB).
Wat Chedi Luang
“Luang” means “large” in northern dialect, and as the name suggests, Wat Chedi Luang temple is home to Chiang Mai’s largest Buddhist chedi (Buddhist Stupa). It features 98 meters tall and 54 meters in diameter, the construction of the original chedi was completed in 1481 during the reign of King Mengrai. The current Chedi Luang is a restoration according to the deconstruction of Chedi due to an earthquake. The ordination hall located in the front is an exemplary example of beautiful Lanna architecture with its serpents.
ADDRESS: 103 Road King Prajadhipok Phra Singh, Muang District, Chiang Mai, 50200, Thailand
OPENING-CLOSING TIMING: Daily 6.00 am - 6.00 pm
ENTRY FEE: FREE
Situated at Sam Lan Road, Wat Phra Sing’s Whian Lai Kham is an abode to Phra Phutthasihing, Chiang sean-style Buddha image. The holy image of Lord Buddha is most sacred to Chiang Mai province. During the holy festival of Songkran, which falls in-between April 13-15, Phra Phutthasihing is carried in a procession around town, allowing people to bath the holy image with scented water, which brings “good luck” as per a traditional belief.
ADDRESS: Mueang Chiang Mai District, 50200, Thailand
OPENING-CLOSING TIMING: 5am-8.30pm
Chiang Mai Zoo
Chiang Mai Zoo is turns out be the best especially, when it comes to animal well-being, and the setting, reclining across the woody slants of Doi Suthep, makes this place remarkable.
The zoo authorities have tried to provide the original habitat to all the animals as penguins in their own refrigerated ice-house. The zoo has several exhibits requiring separate admission fee, comprising an impressive aquarium (adult/child 225/175B), the panda house (adult/child 100/50B) and the snow dome (150/100B), where people come to savour the cold stuff. You can have a chance to witness gigantic bugs crawling out of the nearby forest. A shuttle bus (adult/ child 30/20B) roams within the premises, providing access to the slightly neglected upper reaches of the grounds, which are a steep hike from the entrance.
Opening hours: Daily 08.00 AM – 09.00 PM
Admission: 100 THB for adults and 20 THB for children.
Documentary Arts Asia
Documentary Arts Asia is a gallery that holds screenings and events related to the political and humanitarian situations throughout Asia through documentaries and Asian films . The Arts gallery houses a library that is open to the general public for browsing and continually rotate photographic exhibitions. It’s an excellent place to learn more about the historical and political contexts of Thailand and the entire region.
Address: 97/3 1 4 Soi 4 (Khai Muk) off Hang Dong Road, Muang, 50000, Thailand
Elephant Nature Park
Within the geographies of Chiang Mai, Elaephant Nature Park is a home for the elephants, where they can lead a harmonious life. It was established by Sangduen, an award-wining conservationist. This Nature Park is a project which rescues injured and mistreated elephants but also informs tourists about responsible exercise towards these robust gems of wildlife.
At the park you can spend the entire day interacting, watching and helping with the feeding of the elephants. The moment you arrive , you need to get through with the quick orientation tour, and then you are out in the vast lush 250 acres of land home of the elephants. This nature park is not only a park rather it is a verdant land which comprise a river and a mud bath, where the elephants are allowed to roam freely and are free to do anything. The cost of volunteering takes account of transference and food, and the money goes toward maintaining the grounds and for the betterment of the elephants. For a hassle free voleentring, do not forget to book in advance.
Address : Kuet Chang, Mae Taeng District, Chiang Mai, Thailand
Admission: 2,500THB per adult, 1,250THB per child
If elephants come in the priority list for travelers in Chiang Mai, then tigers are a close second. The Tiger Kingdom attracts a large number of visitors to have a face time with one of the world's fiercest predators on this earth. Amidst all the speculation that the tigers are intoxicated, the tigers are calm around visitors because due to being raised around humans. Once you reach there, you can cherry-pick the best package based on the choice of tiger, you want to see. The most popular amongst travellers are the babies and the adult tigers, though you can see mid-range ones too. At Tiger Kingdom, you get to spend 10-15 minutes in a caged area, where you can pet the tigers and click photos as a token of proof that you were really spend time with this ferocious creature.
Admission: 420-620THB per tiger group. Special packages also available.
Hours: Open 10am-6pm
Bua Thong Sticky Waterfalls
Being a traveller you will definitely want to spend a day outside the humdrums of city life, then Bua Thong Sticky Waterfalls are a real retreat for you. The wooded area surrounding the falls make this place more serene and peaceful to visit. The limestone is “sticky” even as the water runs over it, which enales you to climb up and down with some butterflies in your tummy. Aim to visit on a weekday, because the place gets fairly jam-packed during weekends. Hire a Songthaew or tuk-tuk driver to take you this exciting place.
Northern Thai Food is mostly associated with the food which originates around Chiang Mai, the former Kingdom of Lanna. Some dishes gained quite a lot of popularity amongst the natives of Thailand are nowadays available at different locations all through this country. But, many dishes belonge to Chaing Mai province only. According to northern region, Thai food is consumed at round tables, known as Kantoke tables.
Here is the list of Top 10 food items which should come in your list while you are heading towards Chiang Mai:
Khao Soi is broadly considered as one of the most famous northern Thai dishes and one of the few you can get at other locations across Thailand. A thick and relish curry prepared from a blend of coconut, red curry, chilli and soy sauce, classically served in a bowl along with a slow cooked chicken drum stick and yellow egg noodles. So, when you are in Chiang Mai try out this lip-smacking dish for sure.
Sai Oua (northern Thai sausage)
One more extremely popular dish from the North region is Sai Oua, a pork based sausage famous for its spicy flavour. It combines numerous ingredients which are importantly used in preparing northern Thai dishes such as lemongrass, chilli, ginger and kaffir lime leaves.
Miang Kham (Leaf Wrapped Bites)
In Thai Miang Kham means ‘eating many things in one bite’ and is a perfect food to get aquianted with the taste of northern Thai food. Give wings to your foodie insticts by creating your own snacks by combining savour, sour, sweet and salty ingredients like peanuts, ginger, chillies, shallots, green mango and onions and wrap those in a Cha Plu leaf and have it.
Kaeng Hang Lei (northern pork curry)
Kaeng Hang Lei reminds is a curry consists of a sauce made from a blend of several spices such as ginger, tamarind , turmeric and garlic. The major ingredient which makes Kaeng Hang Lei is pork belly.It is yet another popular curry dish, usually less spicy than Khao Soi.
Laap Khua Mu (spicy pork salad)
Originally from Yunnan province, southwest China and different versions can be found in Laos, Isaan and in northern Thainland i.e. Chiang Mai terrain. Within the geographies of Chiang Mai it is prepared with a rich blend of spices, giving a tinge of peppery and aromatic taste.
Aeb Pla (fish in herb curry paste)
Aeb Pla contains enticing fish fillets seasoned with a variety of spices, red curry and sweet basil, wrapped and grilled in banana leafs. This dish stands out with its remarkable herb flavour and is definitely a must-try food.
Kaeng Khanun (green jackfruit curry)
For few Kaeng Khanun is the northern similar to Som Tam as it is also a mix of soup and salad. The flavour are mainly spicy and sour with unripe jackfruit, Kaeng Khanun comes along with chunks of pork and cherry tomatoes, common ingredients for northern Thai dishes.
Jeen Som Mok Kai (fermented pork and egg sausage)
Jeen Som Mok Kai is a sausage consisting pig skin and fat, mixed with egg, salt and garlic, wrapped in a banana leaf and then served with roasted peanuts and chillies. It a complete mixture of great flavours, spice and fatty texture which make this dish, tummy-filling.
Gaeng Ho is usually prepared from leftovers from the day before, then taken and stir fried up. If you eat this dish today at two different eatries, don’t be wondered if they are made with different ingredients. Gaeng Ho is a blend of diffierent vegetables, vermicelli style noodles and chilli paste.
Northern Thai Noodle Soup
Last of all, a soup made it to our list! This soup which has the tongue-twisted Thai name Kaeng Pak Wan Kai Mode Daeng has delightful glass noodles, sugary leaves and ant eggs (strange!! But yeah)on the whole it has a mild, sweet flavour.
In Chiang Mai you can experience Thai and Lanna festivals in their traditional form. The people of Chiang Mai take their traditions and festivals very seriously and celebrate each inch of its.
The two festivals are hold greater importance i.e. Songkran and Loy Krathong/Yee Peng. In Chiang Mai there are some native festivals which are celebrated within the confined walls of Chiang Mai.
The city holds the biggest and widely recognized Songkran water festival which marks the beginning of Thailand’s New Year. In this water festival everyone is invited to take part in the parade by pouring water over the legs and arms of the Lord Buddha. In Chiang Mai, Songkran is celebrated with utmost zeal and enthusiasm than other locations in Thailand. The reason being a large number of Chaing Mai’s population work in Bangkok and other neighbouring areas on Songkran they come back home to celebrate this festival with their loved ones.
Loy Krathong takes place on the full moon of the last month of the traditional Thai lunar calendar. It is associated with the actual, ancient Siamese lunar New Year celebration. Loy means “to float, to let float”, while Krathong is the name of the float, the lotus-designed holder filled with flowers, betel nuts, joss sticks, candles, coins to wave off to the river spirits. Traditionally, the slices of banana trunk use as the intricately folded decorations of the floats.
Yi Peng or Yee Peng (native name) is celebrated as the festival of lights in Northern Thailand to show respect and gratitude to reverend Buddha. The date overlaps with Loi (Loy) Krathong which all of Thailand celebrates with lights sky lanterns floating up into the air. The festival is celebrated followed by fireworks, exhibition of colourful lanterns. Chiang Mai being the former capital of the Lanna Kingdom thus it holds the greatest Yi Peng festival.
Chiang Mai Flower Festival
This flower festival is celebrated annually in the beginning of February nearby Suan Buak Haad Park at the South-western Corner of the trench. Stands decorated with vibrant flowers such as orchids and other decorative floral patterns. The celebration remains incomplete without a procession of large, stunningly decorated flower boats starting from Nawarat Bridge through Thapae Road towards the Suan Buak Haad Park.
You may come to Chiang Mai for the temples, historical Lanna buildings, the nature or spas. You may be for practising meditation, yoga or traditional Thai massage. One of the biggest delights is the abundance of colourful markets.
Here is the list of seven most important markets you should keep in your bucket list while visiting Chiang Mai:
Warorot Market is a well-known landmark in Chiang Mai and known as mini Chinatown. The peculiar market excites visitors with its vibrant atmosphere and is considered as an amalgamation of both old and new Chiang Mai. Warorot Market is a multi-storied shopping centre with dozens of shops selling food (ground floor) and clothes (upper floors) catering to all strata of society. The open-market lying outside the buildings a home to hundreds of vendors selling everything from food, clothes, ceramics to flowers and handicrafts. All three markets are combined and has become the largest market place in town.
Open-Closing Timing: 05:00-18:00 (Warorot/Ton Lamyai), 05:00-23:00 (the outside market)
Address: At the end of Chiang Moi Road, near the Ping River
Morning Market at Chiang Mai Gate
Chiang Mai Gate is ruled by two regular markets: the morning market until noontime and the night food market. The morning market is a true gem amidst all the markets. It takes mainly place in the semi-open market hall giving you plenty of fantastic photo opportunities. Waking up early for this market is totally worth it. Watch local haggling, preparing delicious Thai treats and monks collecting offerings. Traveling the morning market gives you a unique glimpse of the typical Thai life.
Opening-Closing Timing: Daily, 04:30-12:00
Address: Chiang Mai Gate
Satuday -& Sunday Night Walking Street
As the name suggests the markets take place on weekends. By visiting this market you may have the finest shopping experiences Chiang Mai. The boulevards of this market are glittered with vendors selling artefacts, antique articles and unique garments. Other vendors are expert in making food, a perfect destination to taste some scrumptious and authentic northern Thai cuisine.
- Saturday Night Walking Street:
Every Saturday when the clock hit 17:00, the bustling Wualai Road converts into a vast pedestrian zone. Wualai Road starts southwest of Chiang Mai Gate and once was the centre of the silversmiths demonstrating their skills by manufacturing items made from zinc and alloy.
- Sunday Night Walking Street
The Sunday market is like the bigger version of the above mentioned Saturday market; it opens by noon around Thapae Gate and grows during the late afternoons along the length of Rachadamnoen Road which is also turned into a pedestrian zone. The icing on the cake is an open-air food court, located around a huge golden Stupa.
The well-known Night Bazaar opens seven days a week and allures big hoards of visitors each night. vendors sell everything at affordable prices ranging from garments, souvenirs, replica of famous watches, cheap DVD’s and etc. It is a perfect place to develop and brush up your bargaining skills. The market area is clustered with many local and international restaurants with live music and traditional Thai dancers.
Open-Closing Timing: Daily, from 18:00-midnight
Address: Chang Klan Road
Kham Tiang Flower Market
In this picturesque market, you can find a huge variety of tropical flower species from orchids over lilies to lotuses. With the upper hand, the market has also a large fish section with a lot of garden figures.
Opening-Closing Timing: Daily, 09:00-18:00
Address: Behind TESCO Lotus on the Superhighway, north of the city
JJ (Jing Jai) Market is accessibly located at walking distance to Kham Tiang Market. The market complex consists of indoor and outdoor areas, focusing on organic food, fruits, vegetables, handicrafts, pre-owned furniture and antique goods. The building blocks are designed in archetypal Lanna style and the market houses several dining facilities and coffee shops.
Open-Closing Timing: Daily, 11:00-20:00
Address: 45 Assadathon Road, near the Super-highway
When you are planning to visit the main tourist attractions in the city of mountains, Chiang Mai. The best place to stay within the confined walls of Old City, an outstanding place to discover on foot, with its shrines, vintage shops, book stalls and coffee bars. Neighbouring to the Old City’s Tha Phae Gate, the vibrant Night Bazaar tinkles with loads of happenings. Hotels in the Riverside area lies within accessible reach of all the major attractions.
Chiang Mai has an array of accommodation options ranging from luxury hotels, mid-range hotels and budget hotels. Luxury hotels are present within the geographies of the Old City and Night Bazaar. There are some other options available away from the bustling streets, 10 minutes away from the Old City via shuttle services provided by hotels. Chiang Mai houses lavish and sumptuous villa and resorts designed in the style of an ancient palace set in the middle of plush tropical gardens.
On the same note, there are some mid-range accommodation prospects present in the heart of the city few steps away from the Sunday Walking Street market. If you are here to rejuvenate yourself or to pamper to yourself then soak into the serene beauty, go for some boutique hotels lying on the outskirts of the city with easy access via tuk-tuk to all the prime tourist spots.
Chiang Mai has a lot to offer to shoestring travellers with best budget hotels at a walking distance from the Old City. There are guest houses and boutiques centrally located at a short hop away from the Night Bazaar.
The first option is to move around within the area of Chiang Mai is to travel in the famous Thailand tuk-tuk. Riding a tuk tuk is the classic Thai experience for any traveller, but haggled a fare in advance to have a hassled free-ride.
Then there’s the over-abundant Songtaews, these are red pick-up trucks with a canopy and twin rows of bench seating. Songtaew in Chiang Mai ply the popular routes and due to there frequent service you do not need to wait for too long. The standard fare is 20 baht, if they heading towards your direction.
Apart from Tuk tuk and Songtaew, yellow metered taxis are now trickling into Chiang Mai, offering comfortable ride laced with air-conditioning. Here a journey never takes more than 25 miutes to roam around contrasting to Bangkok.
The most easiest way of travelling around in Chiang Mai is by hired motorbike. Some travellers do not have courage to tackle the traffic and eccentric driving patterns here, but the city has travelling solutions for every tourist.
From Airport, Train & Bus Terminal to Town
There is an airport taxi service available which can be contacted at the taxi stands. From the airport, train station and bus terminal, you can easily get a songthaew or a mini-bus to town. Before hiring a minibus or car, better check the correct fare at the TAT (Tourism Authority Thailand) counter first. Generally, first-class hotels provide free transportation between the airport, railway station or bus depots and the hotel for their guests.
Getting Around In Town
The chief mode of public transport in the city is mini-buses. Waging around town, these buses are present in vivid colours with a roof. You just need to tell the destination to the driver and negotiate the fare before getting on. Generally the journeys cost in between 10 and 20 baht.
Most of the travellers prefer to go for a bicycle to get around and this is very convenient option in Chiang Mai city. Bicycles can be rented at bicycle shops and certain guesthouses.
Motorbikes, Mountainbikes & Private Cars
These can be rented from any authorized car rent company in Chiang Mai city.
Getting to/from Other Regions
From Arcade Bus Station on Kaeo Nawarat Road, there are ordinary and air-con buses going to other northern provinces, e.g. Chiang Rai, Mae Hong Son, Sukhothai, Phitsanulok and Phrae and some major provinces in the northeastern, e.g. Khon Kaen, Udon Thani and Ubon Ratchathani.
Besides Bangkok, tourists can travel between Chiang Mai and some northern and central provinces by train, too.
Domestic airlines operate flights between Chiang Mai and other provinces, e.g. Mae Hong Son, Sukhothai, Nan, Phrae, Mae Sot (Tak province) Udon Thani, Samui and Phuket as well. International fights operating from Chiang Mai to Kunming and to Xishuangbanna in China.