For the time pressed
We sincerely hope you are considering spending more than just one day in Thailand’s northern capital to explore its wealth of sights and fine accommodation and eating options. But as an introductory one-day programme is what you need, here are our suggestions.
To begin, head into the walled and moated square of the Old City, where we’d recommend doing something along the lines of our half-day Old City walking tour. Begin with either a local-style breakfast in or around Somphet Market or Blue Diamond, and finish up with a classic Chiang Mai-style lunch at Inthawarorot Road.
The morning walking tour should give you a good feel for the city, allowing you to take in a few of the key sites such as Wat Phra Singh and Wat Chedi Luang, and enjoying a quick introduction to the region’s history and culture at the Chiang Mai Historical Centre. Allow time to get side-tracked at an additional museum or temple, or go off piste with an hour’s massage, for example.
If you want to stay in town for the afternoon, then continue with the second half of the walking tour, which shows you a very different side to the city. It includes the huge Worarot Market, Chinatown and picturesque riverside area. Otherwise, bearing in mind the local saying, “You haven’t seen Chiang Mai until you’ve seen Wat Phra That Doi Suthep”, head up the nearest mountain. Quite how that programme pans out will depend upon your means of transport. Your options are to hire a bike, rent a songthaew, join an organised tour or grab public transport.
Hiring a small bike for 200 baht or so for the day makes things easy and would allow you to add on your choice of diversions and stops en route at Wat Jet Yot or Wat Umong, all of which are easily combined with a trip up Doi Suthep. Renting a red songthaew is an economical and easy option if you can get a few people together, and again you can choose between various side attractions on your way up or down the mountain, with prices varying accordingly. (Allow 500 to 1,000 baht.) Many guesthouses and travel agents offer organised half-day tours to Doi Suthep, which may or may not include additions. Expect to pay 400 to 600 baht, depending upon number of participants and stops.
Finally, if you’re not in too much of a hurry and are on a budget, get yourself up to the zoo on Huay Kaew Road by tuk tuk or songthaew, where you’ll find a bus stop for public transport up the mountain. For prices and details see our Doi Suthep section. While this makes adding on any side trips tricky, it is a cheap and workable plan.
When you're back in town, if it’s a weekend swing by the Saturday or Sunday walking street markets early on before they get crazy busy. After which try the lively Chang Puak Gate night market for dinner. If you’ve got serious shopping to do and it's not the weekend, then the night bazaar will have to be your next stop. Follow this perhaps by a wander around the Moonmuang/Tha Pae Gate part of town for a few cold ones and see what live music offerings are on at Loco Elvis or down Soi 1. Jazz aficionados should know that the North gate Jazz Co-op is almost directly opposite Chang Puak Gate.
This would be an interesting one-day taster of Chiang Mai. If you have more time, then see our three days in Chiang Mai itinerary.
Based in Chiang Mai, Mark Ord has been travelling Southeast Asia for over two decades and first crossed paths with Travelfish on Ko Lipe in the early 1990s.
These tours are provided by Travelfish partner GetYourGuide.
Our top 10 other sights and activities in and around Chiang Mai