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Chiang Mai

Things to see and do

Temples

  • Mai kham sari
    3.5 stars

    Visitors to almost any northern Thai temple won’t help but notice the numerous wooden poles propping up branches of the temple’s bo tree. What are they? Why are they there? The bo, or bodhi or pho tree (ficus religiosa) is the Buddhist holy tree par excellence, since it’s the species under ... read more

  • Wat Phra Singh
    3.5 stars

    While it doesn't hold a candle to Wat Doi Suthep in terms of scenery, Wat Phra Singh is Chiang Mai's most prestigious temple and therefore is the epicentre of yearly Songkran festivities among the Buddhist faithful. The temple was built in the mid 14th century by the Lanna king Pha Vu to house his ... read more

  • Wat Chedi Luang
    3 stars

    Built in the 14th-15th centuries, Chedi Luang means "royal chedi" in Thai and this was the official temple of Lanna kings. Although not quite as prestigious as Wat Phra Singh among Chiang Mai locals in modern times, Wat Chedi Luang is one of the city's most historically prominent and impressive ... read more

  • Wat Pan Tao
    3 stars

    This small temple isn't among Chiang Mai's most famous, but it's a pleasant and convenient stop after visiting the prestigious Wat Chedi Luang next door. Wat Pan Tao was originally built as an ancillary temple to Wat Chedi Luang in the late 14th century, making one of the oldest in the city. The ... read more

  • Wat Umong
    3.5 stars

    Set at the foot of Doi Suthep along the road leading to Wat Doi Suthep and Doi Pui village, Wat Umong is one of Chiang Mai's most unusual temples and makes a worthy addition to a day trip up the mountain. The temple dates from around the 14th century, although it was abandoned for many years before ... read more

  • Wat Pansao
    3.5 stars

    A small temple that sees few foreign visitors, Wat Pansao boasts an attractive Lanna-style wihaan and a crumbling brick chedi amid a pleasant garden setting. The chedi is hollow, making us reckon it to be Burmese influenced, and it looks to be a good 700 or so years old. The most interesting ... read more

  • Wat Jet Yot
    3.5 stars

    Officially known as Wat Potharam Mahavihara, this historic temple is locally known as Wat Jet Yot, or the "Temple of Seven Chedis". The centrepiece is, you guessed it, a soaring seven-spired chedi set atop a brick platform adorned with countless sitting Buddha images. The temple was constructed in ... read more

  • Wat Lok Molee
    3.5 stars

    This medium-sized wat isn't one of Chiang Mai's big draws, but it is worth a half-hour thanks as much to the temple's oddities and curios as its main features. The temple's history is obscure, but it's thought to have been built in the 14th century. A large brick chedi was added by the 16th ... read more

  • Wat Sri Suphan
    3.5 stars

    With Wualai being Chiang Mai’s traditional silver-making district, Wat Sri Suphan's claim to fame is unsurprisingly its silverwork. Wat Sri Suphan is adjacent to the Wualai walking street market making it very convenient to combine the two. With Wualai being Chiang Mai’s traditional ... read more

  • Wat Chiang Man
    4 stars

    Located inside the moat in the northeast corner of the old city, this is the oldest wat in Chiang Mai. Built in 1296 by King Mangrai, it originally served as home to the ruler but is now inhabited by monks. The bot boasts classical Thai features, including huge ornately decorated teak columns ... read more

  • Not so lost chedis of Chiang Mai
    3 stars

    I came across a few more of these odd, isolated stupas on our travels around Chiang Mai so here are a few more images of lost chedis in addition to my last set. Several of this set we found in the grounds of government buildings, so while not immediately obvious to the passerby, it does mean that ... read more

  • Lost chedis of Chiang Mai
    3.5 stars

    Walking or riding around Chiang Mai you can’t help but notice these isolated, old brick stupas — or chedis as they call them in these parts — liberally scattered around town. They’re found in the old city, around the edge of the moat and throughout Chiang Mai’s suburbs. Some are quite ... read more

Museums

  • Chiang Mai's museum district
    4 stars

    With the recent opening of several new museums in Chiang Mai, the part of the old town around the Three Kings Monument and along Phrappokklao Road is fast becoming something of a historical hub. This was formerly the administrative centre for the city, (and indeed location of the now disappeared ... read more

  • Chiang Mai National Museum
    3.5 stars

    Chiang Mai's medium-sized provincial museum sees only a trickle of visitors, but it provides an easily followed and succinct look into the area's long and fascinating history. Displays are divided into several sections that include prehistoric background, history of the Lanna kingdom, Lanna ... read more

  • Chiang Mai Arts and Culture Museum
    3.5 stars

    This medium-size museum joins the smaller Lanna Heritage Centre and Chiang Mai Historical Centre to round out the new museum district -- as we're calling it -- near the Three Kings Monument. The museum occupies the splendid old provincial hall, and this restored building is perhaps as interesting ... read more

  • Chiang Mai Historical Centre
    4 stars

    Along with the Lanna Folklife Centre, the excellent Chiang Mai Historical Centre is another brand new museum in the northern capital. New as of early 2013, this mid-sized museum is devoted explicitly to the history of northern Thailand. It's situated in a lovely, brand new building and has a less ... read more

  • Lanna Folklife Museum
    4 stars

    This is an excellent initiative on the part of Chiang Mai city council and we feel it deserves support. The museum is housed in the splendid old Chiang Mai courthouse building, which has received a full make-over inside and out and is located in leafy grounds on Phrapokklao Road opposite the Three ... read more

Markets

  • Chiang Mai Sunday Walking Street market
    4.5 stars

    Every Sunday the entire lengths of Ratchadamnoen and Pra Singh Roads become one long, crowded and eclectic night bazaar that stretches over a kilometre from Wat Phra Singh to Tha Pae Gate. Seemingly endless displays of local art, music, clothing, handicrafts and endless nick-knacks can all be ... read more

  • Worawot (Chiang Mai's "Chinatown")
    4 stars

    Chiang Mai's "Chinatown" is spread amid an area known collectively as Worawot in the vicinity of Chang Moi Road near the Ping River. To be clear, somewhere around 20 to 30% of Thai citizens are of ethnic Chinese origin, but they've largely assimilated into Thai culture, so Chiang Mai's Chinatown ... read more

  • Saturday Walking Street Market
    4 stars

    Located on Wualai Road the Saturday Market (locally known as Wualai Market) is similar to the Sunday one but smaller, more chilled out and less touristy. With a more local vibe, it's a better bet for bargain hunting than the Sunday Market or the "official" night bazaar on the south side of town. ... read more

  • Don Phayam Market
    4 stars

    Located in a rather out-of-the-way location at the junction of Suthep and Canal roads just outside the northwestern corner of the old town, Don Phayam market is worth seeking out if wanting to experience an outstanding northern Thai fresh market. Take all of the typical Thai fresh market cliches ... read more

  • Kamthieng Market
    4 stars

    Kamthieng Market is essentially what we would call a garden centre in the West, but this is a Thai-style tropical garden centre, and an enormous one at that. You'll see just about any tropical or sub-tropical plant imaginable, including potted herbs, rare collector orchids, temperate flowers ... read more

  • Somphet market
    3.5 stars

    Somphet Market is a colourful, non-touristy market that’s worth a peek in central Chiang Mai. In the midst of Chiang Mai’s Guesthouse-land off Moonmuang Rd, Somphet Market is a colourful, non-touristy market that’s worth a peek if you’re interested in exotic local foods and the people who ... read more

  • Organic farmers' market
    3.5 stars

    Organic, free-range foods are now available at several Chiang Mai supermarkets, but you won't beat the prices, variety or atmosphere of the organic farmers' market near Chiang Mai University. Though it's within the city, the market feels very much like a village farmers' market with its rustic ... read more

  • Lang Prince Market
    3.5 stars

    Lang Prince Market, also known simply as the secondhand market, runs across the river in eastern Chiang Mai and is well worth a poke around to see how Thais love to buy and sell a bargain. It’s not as well known to foreigners as Saturday’s Wualai walking street or the Sunday Ratchadamnoen ... read more

General Activites

  • Flight of the Gibbon
    4.5 stars

    This jungle zip line course is one of the area's most popular activities and it was easy to see why when we finally got over our fear of "flying" and tried it for ourselves. The location near tiny Mae Kompong village amid a lush, sloped valley an hour's drive from Chiang Mai is a stunning one -- ... read more

  • Monk chat clubs
    3.5 stars

    Many temples in Chiang Mai's touristy areas set aside a time each week -- often on Sunday afternoons -- for tourists to have informal chats with English speaking monks (or those wanting to practise their English). Anyone can stop in for a chat about Buddhism, Thailand, Chiang Mai or anything ... read more

  • Thai cooking classes
    4 stars

    Cooking classes are extremely popular in Chiang Mai and northern Thailand in general, with a plethora of places in Chiang Mai offering more or less the same thing. Most courses kick off with a trip to the market to peruse and learn about fresh ingredients. The teacher will then give a ... read more

  • Bamboo rafting
    3.5 stars

    A relaxing way to see the river and local countryside, bamboo rafting takes you at a slow pace downriver on rafts made of bamboo poles lashed together. Between two and four passengers travel with a guide who propels the raft along with a long bamboo pole. Guides can be cheeky, splashing water on ... read more

  • Mae Ping River Cruise
    3.5 stars

    A handful of companies now offer boat cruises up and down the Ping River and while not a "can't miss" experience it is a pleasant enough way to spend a couple of hours. We had a jolly good time with the company aptly known as Mae Ping River Cruise which has boats departing regularly from Wat Chai ... read more

  • Learn Thai
    4 stars

    Learning just a little Thai can really make the difference between a good and a great holiday. Here are your options in Chiang Mai. The American University Alumni (AUA) has courses in both spoken and written Thai. Their first two beginner classes focus on spoken Thai, while more advanced classes ... read more

  • Rock climbing
    3.5 stars

    Rock climbing is becoming a very popular pastime in northern Thailand. Outside of town stunning cliffs and rock formations have become regular climbing locations. The long running Chiang Mai Rock Climbing Adventures offers a comprehensive range of rock climbing courses catering to nearly everyone ... read more

Public Parks and Zoos

  • Chiang Mai Zoo
    3 stars

    Set on an expansive and hilly piece of land at the foot of Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai Zoo is the best the kingdom has to offer. Although not an actual safari, the zoo covers an area that includes forests and stream valleys which straddle Doi Suthep National Park. You can get around on foot, by raised ... read more

  • Chiang Mai aquarium
    3.5 stars

    Part of the large Chiang Mai Zoo complex, the Chiang Mai Aquarium is the best place in Thailand (apart from the actual seas) to get up close and personal with the region's marine life. The aquarium boasts more than 20,000 animals, including tropical fish along with reptiles, snakes and other ... read more

  • Chiang Mai Aviary
    4 stars

    Set in a pleasant enclosed valley on the slopes of Doi Suthep, the Chiang Mai aviary is a worthwhile but easily missed part of the vast Chiang Mai Zoo. Some 800 birds from around the world fly and waddle around the aviary's lush jungle vegetation, including hornbills, parrots, ibis, flamingos, ... read more

  • Suan Buak Hat
    2 stars

    Until relatively recently Chiang Mai was a small and green city with plenty of open spaces, so the local government apparently didn't see any need to create public green spaces. But with its rapid urbanisation -- the city is now home to one million -- many gardens have been lost to condo ... read more

  • Dokmai Gardens
    4 stars

    Dokmai is a privately-run botanic garden outside of Chiang Mai that makes for a worthy half-day trip if you enjoy plant life, and cold beer or cocktails. Its genial host is Swedish botanical professor, Eric, who not only runs a wonderful operation but is also fun to hang around with -- he's good ... read more

Natural Attraction - General

  • Doi Suthep
    4.5 stars

    Doi Suthep is a stunning and lushly forested mountain that looms over the north of the city. The 1,600-metre high mountain's most famous attraction -- and perhaps Chiang Mai's most popular sight -- is Wat Doi Suthep, a sacred and opulent temple built in the 1300s that affords sweeping views of the ... read more

  • Mon Thaa Than Falls Nature Trail
    3.5 stars

    This hike through some of the area's pristine natural environment begins near the national park headquarters on Doi Suthep (it's a right just after Wat Doi Suthep). Among the highlights are a huge strangler fig tree, abundant wild flowers including the rare red and yellow speckled sapria, some ... read more

  • Huay Tung Tao
    3.5 stars

    Located around five kilometres outside of town a short way past the 700-year-old stadium, Huay Tung Tao is an artificial lake popular among Chiang Mai locals but little known by travellers. The lake affords spectacular views of Doi Suthep, with the main activity here simply setting up a mat ... read more

Day trips

  • Easy motorbike day trips
    3.5 stars

    A list of our favourite Chiang Mai getaways that are all easily accessible to someone who’s relatively new on two wheels. Here’s a list of our favourite Chiang Mai getaways that are all easily accessible to someone who’s relatively new on two wheels. Huay Tong Tao This majestic ... read more

  • Elephant camps: Should you go?
    3.5 stars

    A few things to bear in mind about elephants camps and some suggested places to go from Chiang Mai if you'd like to see pachyderms in the flesh. Here is a little background information to keep in mind when making a decision on whether to see elephants and where to see them, if so. When Thailand ... read more

  • Ob Khan National Park
    3.5 stars

    Whether it be simply to swim and relax by the river, or to do some full-on hiking and camping, visiting Ob Khan National Park will make it feel like you've left the city hours behind you. Less than an hour away from the Old City of Chiang Mai lies an expanse of natural beauty teeming with ... read more

  • Thailand's Mae Salong Loop
    4.5 stars

    As far as Northern Thai loops go, this is a particularly good one: Chiang Mai, Chiang Dao, Fang, Tha Ton, Mae Salong, Chiang Rai and back to Chiang Mai. Here’s how to do it. This loop can be completed in a hurry – say three days – or at a leisurely pace to take in each of the varied and ... read more

  • Chiang Dao caves
    4.5 stars

    Chiang Dao is the name of the town as well as the district, the nearby national park, the mountain that towers over the town (one of the highest in the country), but it’s probably best known for its famous limestone caves — the, yes, Chiang Dao Caves. It’s an approximately 12-kilometre ... read more

  • Wiang Khum Kham ancient city
    3.5 stars

    Located a 10 minutes' tuk tuk ride from downtown Chiang Mai on the edge of the "super highway", the ruins of this ancient city make for a pleasant half day trip. First re-emerging during archaeological excavations in the 1980s, nine individual sites have been unearthed while an estimated 40 more ... read more

  • Doi Pui
    3 stars

    Doi Pui is almost reminiscent of a tourist village in Provence, perched on a hillside with windy stone alleys and stairs, tourist cafes and shops, with occasional glimpses of magnificent mountain vistas To reach Doi Pui Hmong Village carry on past Wat Doi Suthep, skirt the Pu Ping palace and a few ... read more

  • Wat Pra Prabat Si Roy (Temple of the Four Buddha Footprints)
    3.5 stars

    Located in Mae Rim's Salouang district some 45 kilometres from central Chiang Mai, Wat Pra Prabat Si Roy is a relatively new temple that houses four famous footprints of the Buddha. The footprints seem to have been carved relatively recently and aren't all that amazing by themselves, but the ... read more

  • Mon Cham: Restaurant and camping in Mae Rim
    4 stars

    Mon Cham is a restaurant and “camping resort” situated in the Nong Hoi Royal Project in a remote corner of Chiang Mai’s Mae Rim district. Numerous projects funded by Thailand's Royal Family have popped up over the last couple of decades throughout northern Thailand to assist villagers in, for ... read more

  • Chiang Mai's final frontier: Tha Ton
    4 stars

    “To boldly go where no tourist has gone before” — well not so many, anyway! The small town of Tha Ton, located on the border of Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai provinces and a mere stone’s throw from the Burma border, used to be a popular stop on the backpacker trail. It’s the starting ... read more

Shopping

  • Night Bazaar
    3.5 stars

    Chiang Mai Night Bazaar is the best one-stop shop in town to pick up cheap souvenirs and a broad range of items. Nuzzled into the southeastern region of Chiang Mai amid the towering hotels and seedy and not so seedy haunts of Loi Kroh road is the famed Chiang Mai Night Bazaar. Open every night of ... read more

  • Chiang Mai Hilltribe Handicraft Training Centre
    3.5 stars

    Hill tribe shoulder bags, pouches, hats and skirts aren't hard to find in the Chiang Mai night bazaar and Sunday market, but if you want to see the artisans at work and buy straight from them, come to the Handicraft Training Centre. Established in 2007 by the Seventh Day Adventist Church, the ... read more

  • Buying a secondhand book in Chiang Mai
    4 stars

    Thailand is not like Vietnam or Cambodia, where you can get half-decent photocopied editions of popular novels for a few bucks, so here are some pointers to get you started. We often get asked by visitors about bookstores in Chiang Mai, perhaps because a) it’s hard to choose from among the ... read more

  • Buying new books in Chiang Mai
    3 stars

    We’ve written about secondhand bookstores in Chiang Mai so next up is a wrap on where to buy new books, even if the options in Thailand’s northern capital are rather sadly limited. DK books, despite being right in the middle of tourist land on the moat road down from Tha Pae, and having a huge ... read more

  • Buying or fixing a camera in Chiang Mai
    4 stars

    Following on from our recent Songkran post: if your $1,000 Nikon gets destroyed by water pistol-frenzied 5-year-olds during the festivities then the following may well be a useful address for you: Den Chai Trading. It’s the largest photographic store in Chiang Mai and possesses the most efficient ... read more

  • Central Department Store, Chiang Mai
    3 stars

    Chiang Mai is home to two Central department stores, Kad Suan Kaew and Airport Plaza — here we’ll deal with the former since it’s the closest to downtown and probably more frequented by tourists. The giant red brick monstrosity, situated at the foot of Huay Kaew Road, just off the moat, can ... read more

Hiking, walking tours and itineraries

  • Hikes around Chiang Mai: Nam Tok Huay Tung Tao
    4 stars

    An easy but very scenic short hike near Chiang Mai that’s practical to do on your own is this trail from Doi Suthep’s ranger sub-station at Huay Tung Tao to the nearby waterfall of the same name. At present our route is about an hour there and an hour back by the same route, though we are ... read more

  • The Chiang Mai soi tours: Ratchamanka Soi 2
    3.5 stars

    But what about all the narrow side alleys leading off in every direction into the old town, or into the maze of winding lanes between the night bazaar and the moat? Lets explore Ratchamanka Soi 2. Any expat or visitor to Chiang Mai will quickly become familiar with the town’s main drags. ... read more

  • A walk around Chiang Mai's old city: part 1
    3.5 stars

    We have complained about downtown Chiang Mai’s lack of parks before but there is a stretch of grass and trees that we inconsiderately overlooked, a very long stretch in fact — nearly eight kilometres long. We’re talking of course about the strip of tree-lined parkland that borders the moat ... read more

  • Walking Chiang Mai: The north side
    3.5 stars

    We begin our circumnavigation of Chiang Mai’s old city at the northwest corner known as Hua Lim, for no particular reason other than you have start somewhere. And we move in a clockwise direction simply because it’s considered the more auspicious by Buddhists. Leading east the exterior moat ... read more

  • Walking Chiang Mai: the east side
    3.5 stars

    This takes us past the old backpacker area of Somphet, Tha Pae Gate — Chiang Mai’s equivalent of, say, Piccadilly Circus — and Loi Kroh Road (the naughty bit!) Having reached Sri Phum corner on our last Chiang Mai city walk and continuing in our auspicious clockwise direction, we’re going ... read more

  • Walking Chiang Mai: the south side
    3.5 stars

    Having snacked, supped and cappuccino-ed your way along the Tha Pae side of town you’ll probably be ready to hit the much quieter southside of Chiang Mai’s old city. Well, okay, it’s true you’ve got to ignore the four lanes of traffic, but the roadside action is much less in what’s more ... read more

  • Walking Chiang Mai: the west side
    3.5 stars

    We’ve covered north, south and east: now it’s time for the final stretch, which covers the section of moat road between Suan Buak Hat Park and our initial starting point at the northwest corner and junction of Huay Kaew Road. This stretch is one of the least built up and most scenic of the ... read more

Festivals and events

  • Songkran in Chiang Mai
    4 stars

    Songkran is the Thai name for the Theravada Buddhist New Year which falls on the 13th April. (The Mahayana Buddhist New Year, in Vietnam or China for example, is based on the lunar calender – in Thailand it’s always a fixed date.) It’s not only Thai New Year but in theory is the same for ... read more

  • New Year's Eve in Chiang Mai
    4 stars

    Here’s a brief rundown on what to expect in Thailand’s northern capital of Chiang Mai for New Year’s Eve festivities. It’s always any excuse for a party in Thailand (and cynics may say excuse for some merchandising), so Thais are always more than happy to join in a Western New Year ... read more

  • Christmas in Chiang Mai
    4 stars

    I like Christmas in Chiang Mai — most decent nearby getaways from here are either booked out ages ahead and/or charge ridiculous festive season supplements. There’s a crisp edge to the weather in Chiang Mai too which, without climbing Mount Fansipan, is about a festive season a feel as ... read more

Art Gallery or venues

  • Art galleries
    4 stars

    Chiang Mai hosts a wealth of young creative talent and spending some time gallery hopping may show you a whole new side to Chiang Mai. An abundance of college students plus some stellar art and music departments at local universities have made Chiang Mai Thailand's artistic capital in the eyes of ... read more


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