Chiang Mai Destination Guide
Chiang Mai Holidays
Known as ‘The Rose of the North’ and surrounded by lush mountains, wild jungles and sprawling countryside, Chiang Mai is as beautiful as it is diverse. Spend your time visiting sacred temples, exploring the urban city streets, taking Thai cooking classes or setting out on wildlife adventures. With friendly locals, a tropical climate all year round, and some of Thailand’s best regional cuisine, Chiang Mai is fast becoming a hot spot for tourists the world over.
Begin your Southeast Asia venture with a trip to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. Whether you get there by taxi, motorbike or tuk-tuk, this sacred temple that commands the mountaintop is not to be missed. If you’re moderately fit, climb the 309 paved steps to the top. The less ambitious may prefer to board the tram to the summit. Upon arrival you’ll be rewarded with glorious panoramic views over Chiang Mai.
Want more? The Buddhist temple Wat Chedi Luang in the historic centre is also a must-see. To escape the hustle and bustle and enjoy a delightful respite, head to the beautiful Suan Buak Haad Park nestled in the southwest corner of the city. Set out for a morning jog, wander over the pond via the footbridge, or simply pack up a picnic, claim a grassy spot and enjoy a lazy afternoon.
For a touch of modern culture, the Art in Paradise museum won’t disappoint. Chiang Mai’s first 3D art museum will provide hours of mind-bending fun for the whole family. The museum is made up of expertly painted flat walls with scenes that seem to spill over into real life, allowing visitors to jump in and become part of the action. You’ve got to see it to believe it.
Eat and Drink
For coffee houses, restaurants and pubs with a young and creative vibe, Nimmanhaemin Road is popular with trendy locals and tourists alike. But if you want to really immerse yourself in Chiang Mai’s food culture, get amongst the street food stalls and food markets sprinkled throughout the city. The most famous local dish to try is khao soi, a bowl of fragrant coconut curry broth packed with deep-fried and boiled egg noodles, shallots, lime, pickled cabbage, ground chillies and your meat of choice. For nightlife visit Loi Kroh Road, the main tourist strip lined with bars and pubs, or try the expat hangouts and go-go bars on Moon Muang Road.
Where to Stay
For your own little piece of paradise in this bustling city, opt for a Thai-style boutique resort near the old city centre. If you prefer to stay in the heart of the action the old town district is for you. Set within the remains of the old city walls, this popular precinct is close to temples, historic sites, markets, restaurants and more. Hotels and guesthouses with excellent facilities can be found in abundance here. Given Chiang Mai’s popularity as a tourist destination, it’s wise to book your accommodation in advance to avoid disappointment.
Venture to the east side of the old city where the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar sets up shop on the main strip after dark. Stretching for around 1 kilometre, this outdoor market is the place to buy clothing, souvenirs and other tourist wares. Inside the Night Bazaar Building you’ll find antiques and handicrafts, while across the street the Galare Night Bazaar entices customers with high-end clothing and homewares. Nimmanhaemin Road is the city’s daytime shopping destination of choice for hip locals and tourists who want to browse the boutiques and hang out in the super cool coffee houses.
Chiang Mai Like a Local
Ditch the tuk-tuk and hop onboard a songthaew. Literally meaning ‘2 rows’ for the long bench seats in the back, these colourful trucks haul locals every which way around the city. This communal form of transport is not only much cheaper, it’s also an authentic way to hang out with the locals. Just be sure to negotiate a price before you hop on.