Chiang Mai Travel Guide
The largest city in northern Thailand, Chiang Mai, with its old town featuring unique temples, incredible local food, and endless night markets, is a perfect place to relax and escape from the hustle and bustle of big cities. It is a place full of cultural atmosphere, which you will feel as soon as you arrive.
Must-See Attractions in Chiang Mai
Wat Chedi Luang
Wat Chedi Luang, built in 1411, is the largest of the six major temples in Chiang Mai. The temple features the typical Lan Na kingdom architecture. Wat Chedi Luang is a very ancient temple, not as glossy as other temples, but it has a unique history and features. The temple itself reflects the appearance of the ancient dynasty.
The most prominent building is the massive chedi (pagoda), which is the oldest building in the temple. It features 98 meters tall and 54 meters in diameter.
But during the Great Chiang Mai Earthquake in 1545, the top of the pagoda collapsed overnight, so the pagoda we could see now is with a flat top. Besides, there are some small splendid Buddha halls, which are elegant and typical of Lan Na kingdom architecture. There is also a religious debate corner in Wat Chedi Luang, where people from all over the world discuss and share religion believes. Wat Chedi Luang, a great place to respectfully experience Thai Buddhism is an absolute must-see while in Chiang Mai. Early morning and late evening visits are recommended if you choose to enjoy the peaceful moment and unique evening view.
Wat Chedi Luang
The Old Town
During your visit to Chiang Mai, you will find out many of the best activities in Chiang Mai are in or near the famous old town. The old town of Chiang Mai, the relics of the Lan Na kingdom, is one of the places that tourists can't miss. The city wall and moat are preserved well in a square shape. Many relics and scenic spots can be discovered in the old town, among which the Thai-featuring temples and pagodas of Wat Chedi Luang, Wat Phra Singh, Wat Chiang Man are the most popular. It is also a town full of life, combining distinctive hotels, homestays, restaurants, various featured-crafts shops and booths, cafes, etc. There is also a bustling market on weekends, so you can experience the typical life of Chiang Mai.
The old town is not big and easy to be explored. Walking and cycling are both good choices to explore temples inside the old town as well as alleys to experience the typical life. There are four gates in the ancient city of Chiang Mai. The Thapae Gate by the east is strongly recommended for a walking tour of the old city of Chiang Mai.
One thing that makes the old town so impressive is that it demonstrates modern scenic spots as well as ancient sightseeing. Strolling around in the old town, you can enjoy the ancient architecture, hunt out local handicrafts to your taste, as well as spend the day at a spa. I'm pretty sure you won't be bored if five days stay in the old town.
The Old Town
Sunday Night Market
Night Market, the business card for Chiang Mai, attracts thousands of tourists every year. Some tourists even set aside two days for the night market in Chiang Mai. If you google Chiang Mai night market, you will be impressed by several names and addresses which are open all year around. Here Sunday night market, the largest and most lively night market in the local area is suggested. Sunday night market can be regarded as the best reflection of the local market life.
The night market runs through the ancient city on Sunday night, from the west to the east, from 4:00 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. The two kilometers-long night market is full of tourists from all over the world.
In the night market, you will be captured by the tasteful Thai sausage, Thai grilled fish, egg noodles of curry soup, curry noodles of fried pig skin, KhaoSoi, mango glutinous rice, fresh fruit juice, barbecued prawns...Of course, bold tourists can try all kinds of fried insects.
The most amazing experience is exploring gifts from thousands of varieties of Thai crafts, scarves, accessories, colorful lights, candlesticks, handmade bags and soap, glass, porcelain, painting, and Thai clothing. Besides, street artists playing musical instruments and painting on the spot will be impressive. Therefore, it is also a place for people in northern Thailand to display handicrafts and art.
Elephant Nature Park
Located 60km from Chiang Mai, Elephant Nature Park is a rescue center where people can volunteer and help.
In this semi-wild shelter or sanctuary for abused or retired elephants, there are no riding and performance programs. Instead, you can get close to elephants by preparing food for them, as well as walking with them, which are responsible ways of showing our love and care for elephants.
During the trip, you could see the volunteers in the sanctuary treating these elephants as family members. They can easily call out the name of each elephant and tell the story of each elephant at any time.
Besides, it's a perfect chance to learn the life habits of elephants and wild nature in detail. I guess the "care for elephant" day will be impressive to all aged tourists.
But the number of visitors to the Elephant Nature park is limited. An appointment in advance is required. All the fees will be used for the rescue and care of elephants.
Elephant Nature Park
Top Experiences You Should not Miss in Chiang Mai
Thai Cooking Course
Spicy tom yum soup, king prawns, PAT THAI (Thai fried rice noodles), mango glutinous rice... There are so many delicious foods in Chiang Mai, but one meal is surely not enough. Attending a half-day or a full-day Thai cooking course in Chiang Mai is the most authentic experience. It will build up a deeper connection between your trip and Thai culture.
Chiang Mai is a place especially suitable for cooking classes, which has already become one of the most common traditional tourist activities.
Following the local people to the market to buy fresh local ingredients for cooking class is an excellent way to explore Thai cuisine culture. Besides, you will find that there are many local snacks you have never tasted. Professional chefs teach Thai cuisine skills on the spot so that you can fully immerse yourselves in the cooking class and food. From ingredients to cooking can, the fantastic experience will turn out to be the highlight of the Chiang Mai tour.
Thai Cooking Course
Muay Thai Boxing
Muay Thai boxing, the national treasure of Thailand is something you can't miss during your visit to Chiang Mai. Muay Thai boxing performances can be easily discovered around the street corner. It is a performance that shows the integration of traditional Thai boxing, modern boxing, and western skills. The boxing fights on the spot are always nail-biting. What's more, after the show, you can take photos with the players!
If you would like to have a deep touch with Muay Thai boxing, participating in boxing class is a perfect choice that can make your holiday unique and memorable.
In Muay Thai boxing class, you can learn the basic knowledge of authentic Thai boxing.
Whether you want to build up your body, lose weight, try new things, prepare for battle, or just enjoy yourself, this is a great way to experience or improve your skills.
This Traditional Thai boxing techniques are taught by experienced trainers at various professional levels. So, classes are suitable for all ages and skill levels.
SPA and Thai Massage
Thailand has long been known for its highly-rated spas and splendid spa therapists; meanwhile, Chiang Mai has some of the best spas in the country!
In Chiang Mai, spas and Thai massage are a must-do. On-street corners, in fancy hotels, as well as in luxurious SPA gardens, spas, and Thai massage vary from service, environment, etc., so that tourists can choose their favorite spa shops according to their needs. Whether you're looking for a soft, silky oil massage or a back and elbow massage, Chiang Mai won't disappoint you as it will offer you the perfect balance of body and soul.
Local Transport in Chiang Mai
Songthaew (meaning "two rows" in Thai) is a modified pickup truck which can accommodate 8 to 12 passengers, with two rows of seats facing each other.
A songthaew is the most common transportation in Chiang Mai. It is very convenient because It can stop whenever you want. As long as you ring the bell, it will stop.
There are different colors for Songthaew, but red ones are the most common ones in the old town.
tuk-tuk, a unique motorized taxi with the word "taxi" hanging on the top, shuttle around the main tourist attractions around the old town and Nimman area. Unlike Songthaew, you don't have to share with other passengers when taking tuk-tuk.
Destination and price should be confirmed as soon as you get an available tuk-tuk. It is around 100 baht, making it the most economic transportation.
Cabs are commonly found in airports and bus stops. An appointment in advance is very necessary for a cab because it is difficult to see an available taxi on the road.
Motorbikes, bicycles, and automobiles are also common ways to explore Chiang Mai. Rent shops can be found everywhere and the daily price is about 300~500 Baht.
The rickshaw is a unique scenery on the street of Chiang Mai, especially in the old city. It is a relatively leisurely transportation.
Chiang Mai is such a paradise full of amusement. But In my opinion, in Chiang Mai, the most fantastic thing is to stroll along the street, to pick up a café, to enjoy a spa. I guess this is the best way to enjoy the relaxed moment in Chiang Mai.
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