Located in Thailand, Chiang Mai is a calm and laid-back city to experience pure relaxation and bliss. Both nature, the Lanna culture, and the colours of contemporary Chiang Mai combine perfectly to create a unique city. A modern city has been erected around the old city, yet it feels relaxed, a world away from the hustle and bustle of the modern city. On the outskirts, there is beautiful green countryside and rainforest where you can find waterfalls and peaceful villages. Chiang Mai offers great rest bite from the Thai capital, Bangkok.
Visit the temples
The temples at Chiang Mai are some of the best places to visit. They are dotted around the old town everywhere and the majority are free to enter with a few charging a small entry fee.
Wat Phra Sing: This is probably the most famous temple in the city. It was built in 1345 and is located on Sam Lan Road. Inside this temple is the most revered Buddha statue in north Thailand, Phra Phuttha.
Wat Chei Luang: This temple is rather large as the name suggests “Luang”. It was built in the 14th century and measured 282 feet high. The temple is home to the largest Buddhist stupa at a height of 98 meters tall. It also once housed the Emerald Buddha that can be seen today in Bangkok’s Grand palace. The temple was unfortunately damaged in an earthquake years ago however, it is still an impressive site to visit. There is an entrance fee.
Wat Chiang Man: This is the oldest temple in the town, having been built in 1296 by King Mengrai of the Lanna Kingdom. Situated off Ratchapakhinai road, the temple has Lanna-style chedi which is supported by rows of elephants, a truly unusual and spectacular sight. It also houses two Buddha statues, one made in marble and the other in crystal.
Wat Si Suphan: This temple is rather unique and is nicknamed “The silver temple” due to it’s silver and aluminum decoration over delicate carvings. The art portrays the stories of Buddhism and the history of the temple to preserve the religion, conserve local wisdom of silverware, and boast pride on the Lanna Kingdom.
Wat Mahawan: Located 200 meters east of the city wall, this temple combines styles from Lanna and Birman. The reason for its Burmese influences are due to the teach merchants in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. There are several sculptures of different animals inside. Definitely another unique temple that is worth a visit.
Visit the National Park
Just outside of the city, there is the Doi Suthep National Park. If you wish to see beautiful views of the city, you should climb the 300 steps (or use the elevator for a small fee) up to the Wat Phra That Doi Suthep temple at the top of the hill. You will see 360 views of Chiang Mai and views of the surrounding rainforest. There is an entrance fee to enter the temple.
Once at the national park, a visit to the Bhubing Palace gardens should be on your list, the palace itself is not open to visitors however, the gardens are. It is the winter residence of the Thai royal family that they use when visiting the north of the country. There are giant bamboo plants in the gardens which are very awe-inspiring.
The Hmong village at Doi Pui is well worth a visit also, the village has an impressive garden and also traditional houses. In this village, they grow lychees, coffee, and other fruits all on the hillside. These fruits and coffee can be sampled at the café overlooking the gardens. The village blends traditional and modern notes which are seen throughout their housing. At the market, you can find a range of items but you will also find local people hand-sewing traditional clothing for sale!
The quickest and easiest waterfall to access from Chiang Mai is Huay Kaew Waterfall. It can be accessed via the back of the Wat Kruba Sivichai temple car park. The waterfall falls on multiple layers of rocks before falling into pools at the bottom. It is important to note that during the dry season sometimes the waterfall is dried out; the best months to visit are July to November.
Explore the markets
If you are searching for souvenirs, fresh fruits, and spices a walk through the city’s markets is a must. They are markets located all over the city, you are bound to come across one.
The largest market of the city is the Talat Warorot Market, this market is very much like a Thai supermarket. You will find everything you need here with aisles and aisles of stalls with fresh food, local delicacies, footwear, accessories, and even domestic appliances. This market is a favourite amongst locals and is very authentic so it is worth a visit for a unique experience. A tip is to visit the market after 10pm onwards as deliveries of fresh fruit and flowers arrive from the countryside. Warorot Market is located east of the old town next to Chinatown.
Visiting a market in the evening is always a fun experience and Chiang Mai has one specifically open in the evening. The Night Bazar opens daily from 6pm, this market is famous for its lively atmosphere and is one of the oldest evening markets in Thailand. It is quite large, one mile long, and makes for an exciting evening out, there are a range of handcrafted items, jewelry, art, and Chiang Mai’s famous street food. The Bazar can be found on the east side of the old walled city along Chang Klan Road.
Feed Elephants at a Sanctuary
There are plenty of elephant sanctuaries across Chiang Mai. They take in abused, abandoned, or ex-circus elephants and give them a good life. There are many tour packages available but you can expect to get up and personal with the elephants and learn all about their care and what the sanctuary is doing. You may also get the chance to help feed and bathe the elephants in the river which is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
There are many agencies in the city that offer packages and many sanctuaries all with similar names. Be sure to get all the information on the sanctuary you intend to visit and visit their websites, ensure the sanctuary you are visiting observes ethical standards.
Relax by Lake Huay Tung Tao
If you are after somewhere to relax and watch the day go past then a trip out of the city to Lake Huay Tung Tao is a no-brainer. It is located 15 minutes from the city center by car and is popular with locals at weekends.
You will find plenty of wooden huts alongside the bank of the lake with a tranquil laid back atmosphere. Here you can eat fresh fish, and take strolls around the lake where you can buy fresh fruit and snacks. If you like to fish you can do this on the lake as there is a raft specifically built for fishing.
There is also an opportunity to rent a pedal boat and swim in the dedicated areas. The lake is peaceful and has beautiful mountain views with food. It is not popular amongst tourists, only locals so it is a real hidden gem and perfect to have some downtime.