And, you also need a break from the Southern beach scene. Take the next train to Chiang Mai and experience the moated, creative and the laid back charm of this fantasy town!
Do The city is packed with glittering wats (temples), restaurants, shopping malls, bazaars, just within walking distance. There are schools to learn Buddhism, cooking or even massage. Or if you’d rather be outdoors, head into the wilderness not far from the city.
Silver Wats: There are uncountable glittering Wats in Chaing Mai (Over 300) but look out for the silver ones. Head over to Wat Srisuphan off Wualai Road, the shrine is a handy work of the locals, complete with intricate cravings in beaten silver panels. Thanks to the community’s desire to maintain local trade traditions, Wat Srisuphan even houses a silver-working school. Also check out Wat Chiang Man, considered to be the oldest in the city, it features typical northern Thai temple architecture.
Thai Cooking Classes: When you love the food so much, you might as well learn to make it! For about Rs. 1000/-, you will get a tour of the market – shopping for ingredients, and preparing a set menu. Check out Baan Thai Cooking School—the owners teach from their home. Basil Thai Cookery School takes about 6 students per class and you can pick 7 dishes that you wish to learn. You also get to take the food home, so pay attention.
Sunday Walking Street: Experience a unique shopping activity at the Sunday Walking Street. Many of the products sold here are hand made including scarves, leather sandals and wood carvings. Get the ‘Save the Planet’ Canvas tote bag; apart from supporting the local women, it’ll make a great style statement too. Also to get a taste of the city’s cosmopolitan edge, stroll by the Ping River and have a drink or two—this is where the young professionals and university students hang out.
Night Safari: This slick night safari is opened during the day too but the real action happens in the night. The ‘Predator Prowl’ and ‘Savannah Safar’ safaris will take you through areas where tigers, lions, Asiatic black bears, and crocodiles are kept in safe distance. The Night Safari is about 12 Kms from Central Chiang Mai.
Adventure: For the wild at heart, the countryside and mountains are the ultimate escape. Go whitewater rafting through the spectacular scenery of Mae Tang River valley or bike to the stunning mountains. Check out Chiang Mai Mountain Biking and Click and Travel for bike rentals and tours.
Nerve Touch Massage: Recover from your long walks and rides at the Chiang Mai Massage spas. No place in the world matches up to the massages you get here. For a countryside massage lie down at Pai Traditional Thai Massage, a village bungalow, or Lek Chaiya to learn the craft.
Chaing Mai University: To savor a little bit of academic atmosphere, swing by the University campus. An idyllic collegiate setting with a distinctively Thai version, the diverse young crowd from all over the world makes this an exceptionally lively campus. If you have the time, check out the Art Museum—it displays temporary exhibitions of Thai and International art.
Chaing Mai is one city where you’ll never go hungry! From the modest family run restaurants to bazaars your choices are endless. Eat at the Japanese bars around the Chaing Mai University for authentic sushi.
For a wholesome Thai palate, the bazaars are a foodie’s paradise. But if you must do some gourmet eating, go to Dash! Restaurant and Bar. It has a variety of Thai dishes as well as homemade burgers and Italian pastas. Opened till midnight, you can either indulge in Arabica and Robusta organic coffee or the chilled beers.
For a healthier option, go to Dada Kafe –they have a great selection of juices and salads in generous portions. Do not miss the luscious smoothies!
Chiang Mai houses some of the best boutique hotels and resorts but it is also very kind to the thrifty traveller. There are tons of guesthouses in affordable rates — Stay at Julie Guesthouse for an interesting social scene with fellow backpackers. The happening places are the garden café and roof terrace with hammocks for just Rs. 200- Rs. 700 a night.
If your budget is mid-range, the Sri Pat Guest House is convenient and comfortable with the right dose of personality. The perfect base to lead you through town.
Don’t mind splurging a little? Stay at Mandarin Oriental Dhara Dhevi, (just 15 minutes from the center of Chiang Mai) almost a kingdom on its own, it’s a re-creation of Myanmar’s Mandalay Palace! It also holds itself as a cultural attraction so you would have guides showing you around. Stay here and have an aristocratic experience.
Be a culture geek for a week and take in the charm that is unique to Chiang Mai.