If the mention of Thailand only means party destination for you, it’s time you experienced the chilled out cultural side of it with wildlife thrown in. Head north of Bangkok to Chiang Mai and experience the moated, creative and the laid-back charm of this fantasy town.
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.
1. Wat Sri Suphan Chiang Mai Thailand
There are uncountable glittering Wats in Chiang 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 carvings in beaten silver panels. Thanks to the community’s desire to maintain local trade traditions, Wat Srisuphan even houses a silver-working school.
2. Wat Chiang Man Temple Chiang Mai
Also check out Wat Chiang Man, considered to be the oldest in the city. This Buddhist temple features typical northern Thai temple architecture.
3. Chiang Rai White Temple Chiang Mai
Mostly referred to as the ‘White Temple’ by the travelers, Wat Rong Khun is a contemporary, unconventional temple made by a local Thai architect. The original temple was in a bad shape. So a young Thai visual artist, Chalermchai Kositpipat, rebuilt it with his own money. It is now a privately owned property that was opened to the public in 1997. You’ll be amazed by the intricate work on this temple.
4. Doi Suthep Temple Chiang Mai Thailand
A short drive along a scenic mountain road from Chiang Mai lies the famous temple complex of Doi Suthep. The 300-step Naga-guarded stairway leads you to the temple. Once you reach the top, the panoramic view of the city from one of the most beautiful temples in Thailand will make it all worth it.
5. Thai Cooking Class Chiang Mai
When you love Thai food so much, you might as well learn how to make it. For about 1000 Thai Baht (about $30), 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 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.
6. Sunday Walking Street Chiang Mai
Experience a unique shopping activity at the Sunday Walking Street. Many of the products sold here are handmade 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.
7. White Water Rafting Chiang Mai
For the wild at heart, the countryside and mountains are the ultimate escape. Go white water rafting through the spectacular scenery of Mae Tang River valley or bike to the stunning mountains.
8. Elephant Nature Park Chiang Mai Thailand
Spend an entire day interacting, feeding and observing the elephants in the Elephant Nature Park. Founded by conservationist, Sangduen Lek Chailert, this sanctuary is home to the rescued elephants.
They freely roam around indulging in mud baths, looking out for each other and such. You can bathe them, feed them or simply observe their interaction with each other. This is one soul-fulfilling experience!
9. Traditional Thai Massage Chiang Mai
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 the countryside massage, lie down at Pai Traditional Thai Massage – a village bungalow. Or head to Lek Chaiya to learn the craft.
10. Best Chiang Mai Restaurants
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 pasta. 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!
Be a culture geek or a nature lover for some time and take in the charm that is unique to Chiang Mai.
And if it’s the boarding, lodging and such details that bog you down, check out this amazing tour >> Active Chiang Mai (4 Days). It’ll take care of all your travel needs while you soak in the beauty and charm of Chiang Mai.