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Chiang Mai

3.9 /5 26 votes

Weather:

Best Time: December - February Read More

Ideal duration: 2-4 days

Nearest Airport: Chiang Mai Check Flights

"Of Misty Mountains and Colourful Hill Tribes"

Chiang Mai Tourism

Formerly the seat of the Lanna Kingdom and regarded as the northern capital of Thailand, Chiang Mai is completely opposite to what first-timers to Thailand expect it to be. Unlike its southern counterparts, Chiang Mai is known for its laid back vibes, numerous temples and monasteries, crowded local markets, natural and historical sites and countryside with lush greenery. Catering to a large number of expats, young contemporary travellers and families alike, Chiang Mai is a backpacking haven where activities like hiking, cycling, rafting and a plethora of outdoor activities take precedence over a supercharged nightlife of drinks and loud music. Serviced by Chiang Mai International Airport and lying just an overnight train journey away from Bangkok, this sleepy northern town sees a rising footfall of enthusiastic tourists with each passing year. But despite the increase in demand for modern-day tourism, Chiang Mai vehemently has been able to defend it's rustic and old world charm.

Wat Phra Doi Suthep and Wat Phra Singh are some of the most visited Buddhist temples in this region with the former being a landmark attraction housing the famous Emerald Buddha statue. Old world temples like Wat Chedi Luang and Wat Umong are also frequented by tourists. Visits to these temples involve hikes through scenic routes and sometimes tropical vegetation. Chiang Mai also caters to those who love the outdoors and all things natural with Doi Inthanon National Park catering to hikers and trekkers and the Chiang Mai Grand Canyon offering cliff jumping and swimming. If adventurous enough one can hike through uncharted paths to go waterfall hopping. Similar to Phuket down south, the elephant farms such as Elephant Jungle Sanctuary and Patara Elephant Farm offer tourists a vibrant experience of interacting and feeding the gentle giants.

Cultural experiences too are at the forefront in Chiang Mai. Dishes like Khao Soi are proudly presented to tourists who are looking to try the local flavours. If interested enough, one could even indulge in affordable cooking classes. Visitors are encouraged to visit the many hill tribes in the region such as the Karen Longneck tribe and interact with them. Local bazaars like the Warorot Market and the Sunday and Saturday weekend markets offer a wide variety of souvenirs, clothes, accessories and an unapologetic course in bartering with the locals. On the more modern side of things, Nimmanhaemin Road hosts many shopping complexes, cinemas, bars and high-end restaurants.

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Nightlife in Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai has a great up and coming bar scene. Drinking at the side of the Ping River is common amongst locals and tourists alike with live music playing in the background. Nimmanheimin Road is one of the more popular areas amongst people who like good music and good food. Look out for Monkey Club when in that area. In keeping with the theme of entertainment venues in Thailand in general many places have cushion laden mattresses on the floor where backpackers can kick back with a beer and enjoy live music. Some of the popular bars in the area being Boy Blues Bar, Oasis Rooftop Garden and North Gate Jazz Co-op.

Shopping in Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai hosts a multitude of flea markets with the most popular being the Saturday and the Sunday Walking Street. Both markets run from 4pm in the evening to midnight. Be ready to haggle for the best price as the sellers usually quote 3 - 4 times the price on every item. Popular items which can be taken home from here are imitation Buddhist relics, paintings, musical instruments, small trinkets and junk jewellery.

Daily Budget for Chiang Mai

A budget traveller to Chiang Mai should consider carrying THB 1400 - 1500 which would include food, travel, souvenirs, transport, water and some emergency funds. A comfortable trip to Chiang Mai may be covered in double the amount. Thailand is very pocket-friendly and one need not worry about spending too much on things like food and transport which are relatively cheap here.

Exchanging Money in Chiang Mai

There are many options for currency exchange in Chiang Mai like ATMs and foreign exchange bureaus. These are easily accessible at the airport and almost all major tourist attractions. FOREX booths are quite common and exchanging currency should not be a problem. The safest option is to exchange money on arriving at the airport. DO NOT exchange currency before arriving in Thailand.

Religion of Chiang Mai

The most popular religion in Chiang Mai is Buddhism with over 300 Buddhist temples spread across the city.

Chiang Mai Customs

As with any Asian country, neat and conservative dress is expected when entering a temple. Ladies can carry a thin shawl with them to cover arms and/or low-cut necks of tops. One can initiate the 'wai' or a Thai Namaste as a form of greeting on the streets which is performed by bringing the palms of your hands together at the chest or below your nose. One should take care to not point one's feet at people and always remove footwear before entering a temple or someone's house. If ever in doubt about a custom or if in a pickle, try to diffuse the situation with a smile. Thailand is known as the land of smiles and the people are very polite with raised voices rare between strangers. Tipping is not expected of customers in Thailand as service charges are added to any purchase and shown in the bill. However, a small token amount of TBH 20 - 30 to show your appreciation at a small stall or with a tuk-tuk driver is optional if the service is exceptionally good.

Language of Chiang Mai

When in Chiang Mai you will hear Kham Muang being spoken in the streets which is also known as Northern Thai or Lann. The second most popular language will be Central Thai. Being a popular tourist location in recent times, English is well spoken by hotels and tour operators.

History of Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai, which means 'New city', is actually more than 700 years old. It was founded by King Mengrai in 1296. Burma and the Mongol Empire being a constant threat to the city led to the formation of a moat and a defensive wall which still stands to this day. Due to constant Burmese intervention the city was abandoned for 1776 - 1791. The city has since been regaining its importance as the second most sought after destination economically and culturally after the capital city of Bangkok. Hardly a square mile in area, the city is accessible best on foot. Temples more than half a millennium old are spread across the city giving it an old world charm which is complemented by the Buddhist monks who beg for alms and pray in the morning.

Restaurants and Local Food in Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai is famous for its Thai noodles cooked in various broths ranging from mild to can't-handle-it-the-next-morning spicy. Non-vegetarians should try the Kho Sui or the Egg Noodle Curry and the Sai Oua made from pork sausages. Be sure to try the vegetarian friendly red/green chilli dip available at local stalls.
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How To Reach Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai has an international airport so is well connected with other major international cities. Buses to and from Bangkok take 9 - 12 hours and run at a decent frequency as well.

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