Charming Chiang Mai
4 days in Chiang Mai, Thailand
In the Northern province of Thailand, lies a beautiful city. Her name is Chiang Mai (or "New City"). She was founded back in 1296, when she also became the new capital of the Lanna (Lan Na) Kingdom. Today, she is considered the Thai capital of the North. A very small "capital" with only some 200,000 people.
She has a distinctive charm, quite different from her much "bigger sister" Bangkok. Up until about a hundred years ago (1920), there were really only two ways to reach her - via river boat or an elephant trek. She was a walled city. Within her one square mile walls, are over thirty (30) historical Buddhist temples. In wider Chiang Mai, there are over 300 temples - beautiful and intricate places of spirituality.
When you visit, be sure to tour an ethical elephant sanctuary (hug an elephant for an Instagram op!), enter a temple, eat Thai cuisine, visit a neighbouring hill tribe and if you are very lucky, join in the local Loi Krathong festival of lights which is celebrated alongside Yi Peng (Full Moon or lantern festival, usually November, book super early); witness the spirituality and release of some "10,000" lanterns into the night sky all over Chiang Mai.
We wish you a trip of relaxation and idleness. Here is a little guide on how to make it a most memorable one! Enjoy.
(Cover Photo by Mariamichelle from Pixabay)
Chiang Mai International Airport
Welcome to the major gateway to Northern Thailand.
Head in and deposit your luggage, for check in later (after 13.00 hrs). Self-check is available 24 hours.
This is nice, comfortable and very affordable accomodation. Conveniently located in the North Eastern part of the Old City, this place is within easy walking distance to the attractions in town.
This café has the BEST banana pancake and latte, not just in Chiang Mai! This fantastic deal at about 100 baht. It’s a small café, and therefore easy to miss, but you shouldn’t judge it by its cover. The staff consists of a small family and everybody is beyond friendly and will treat you very special.
Kham Thiang Flower Market
Kham Tiang Flower Market is a lovely market where locals shop for their flowers. It is a little off the beaten path and will astonish you with its huge selection of various colors and different scents. Even for a non-flower lover, this place is worth a visit.
Wat Phra Singh is by far one of the most impressive temples in the city.
This must see temple was completed around 1400.
The main attraction is the Wihan Lai Kham at the back of the temple (pictured). It was built in 1345 to house the Phra Buddha Singh statue and it is a prime example of classical Lanna architecture. The murals of the wihan are also highly remarkable. The murals on the left show the history of Songthong and on the right the history of Suwanna Hongse.
The lovely Lai Kam chapel houses the revered Phra Singh Buddha image. Sadly, the head was stolen in 1922, and a reproduction is now seen. Your admission ticket is in a leaflet form containing useful information and map of Wat Phra Singh complex. The temple is most attractive during Songkran, the Thai New Year, in mid-April.
This is a place to pick up Thai vegetarian and vegan and a perfect entrance into Thai cuisine!
Several different cooking classes are offered here daily; the most popular being the 2 hour class, which provides outstanding food, cooked by your fabulous self!
Between the dishes, you will get to sit down and eat your freshly prepared meals. Finish it with the quintessential sticky rice with Mango; a must-try!
If you’re lucky, you’ll be here on a Sunday (open 18:00 to 22:30), when the night market is at its best. However, it’s nice walking through it on any given day to shop for unique items and bring back a gift or two.
As with any crowded place, do secure your belongings and be aware of pickpockets.
Check out the fantastic “lady boys” show, within walking distance from the market. Its humorous, very interesting, and, at times, interactive!
Showtimes should be at about 9:30pm. Best to check in advance on the day.
In the heart of Chiang Mai are the remains of a massive chedi (temple) that toppled in the great earthquake of 1545.
Originally constructed in 1401 on the orders of King Saeng Muang Ma. In 1454, reigning King Tilo-Garaj enlarged the chedi (pronounced jedee) to a height of 86 m.
This place is a magnificent testament to Lanna (northern Thai) architecture and art. Restored sections hint at its former glory.
Wat Chedi Luang is also home to the "Pillar of the City", a totem used in ancient Thai fertility rites.
Yoga / Massage @ Wild Rose
After some resting and a nice lunch, why not relax a bit more and try a yoga class in Chiang Mai? Wild Rose Yoga is one of the better ones in town, and perfect for an hour of stretching, some meditation, and getting out of your comfort zone, or even pushing some of your own limits.
Alternatively, you could do a traditional Thai massage (or do both!). Wild Rose Yoga can offer some personal suggestions! They are very affordable and wonderful tension releasers. It’s quite different than a regular massage, since your body is being put in different contortions throughout the massage, but it will make you feel like a million bucks afterwards!
This is a very traditional Northern Thailand dinner. You’re seated on the floor, and witness a beautiful performance of Lanna Dance. It’s fantastic to watch. Depending on where your accomodations are, hotel pickups may be arranged.
* travel to Chai Lai Orchid in Mae Wang
Please pre-arrange for transport to Chai Lai. Your accomodation host can assist you with this.
Chai Lai Orchid (Part 1: Elephants)
This is about an hour away from central Chiang Mai. A beautiful oasis where you can make friends with elephants, visit a Karen hilltribe village, swim in waterfalls and bamboo rafting.
This is one of the few places that offer bare back elephant rides, which are amazing, and make the elephants happy and healthy! There is a company across from it, which passes by the eco-lodge and they DO use chairs, but please stay away from them! If you book a tour, you start by feeding the elephants and getting to know them, followed by a ride through the forest, and it ends with bathing one of the smaller elephants.
You can spend the night there (great option and highly recommended), or make a day-trip out of it. Pick-ups can be arranged for a fee.
The restaurant, attached to the lodge, is a piece of heaven with its Thai cuisine and wonderful views! This is the spot for your lunch, or all your meals, if you end up staying a night or two!
Chai Lai Orchid (Part 2: Bamboo Rafting)
.. continue your hike through Northern Thailand’s most scenic landscapes, jungle, and rice terraces. See the hill tribe village, swim in waterfalls and enjoy the bamboo rafting.
For dinner, have some bites from the famous and well visited “cowgirl” stall, recognizable by the woman’s cowboy hat. She sells out almost every night, and it’s a statement to her cooking! It’s located by the North Gate Night market entrance.
travel with a driver for the day
Make prior arrangements to have a driver take you around attractions around the wider Chiang Mai.
Try to do this in the morning, right after breakfast, as to avoid the afternoon heat. It’s an absolutely gorgeous Botanical Garden with gigantic grounds to explore and the magnificent Ho Kham Royal Pavilion. This will take several hours to see, and even though they offer a little bus to take you around the gardens, walking is the better way, if you can, and allow yourself enough time for this. It’s very peaceful and quiet during most mornings.
The most famous temple of Chiang Mai, and her quintessential image. With her large gilded chedi, visible from the city on a clear day. Built in 1383 during the Lanna Thai period, legend has it that the temple's site was selected by an elephant sent to roam the mountain side, where upon reaching a suitable spot, it trumpeted, circled three times, knelt down and promptly died, which was interpreted as a sign indicating an auspicious site.
This temple offers grand views over the city, but no reward is without effort as you must accent the 200-plus steep steps of the Naga-lined stairs. The climb may be a strain in the high altitude's thin air for the less fit, so you may opt to take the cable car for 20 baht.
For the Visaka Bucha holiday around May each year, it is traditional for people to walk from the zoo to the temple and vast numbers make the pilgrimage to the top, which takes around 4–5 hours.
Doi Pui Mong Hill Tribe Village
Visit an authentic Thai village. Get to know some locals and their routines. There is a market to walk through, which offers nice things to buy, if desired, and in the end, somewhat hidden, there’s a “museum” (there is not really a museum, but you pay a small price to enter), and it is well worth going up there. Ideally have a guide with you for this (this can be your driver), since it’s easy to get lost. When you get to the top, there is a lovely garden to walk up and, finally, there is a little café, which overlooks the breathtaking mountains.
Bhubing Rajanives Palace is a royal residence in Doi Buak Ha, Muang District, Chiang Mai Province, Thailand. It was built in 1961 to accommodate the royal family during state visits to Chiang Mai. There is also a guesthouse for receiving foreign dignitaries. It is built in the mountains overlooking Chiang Mai, to take advantage of the cool mountain air. The rose gardens are particularly famous (Suan Suwaree), with temperate plants grown here that are not commonly found in Thailand.
The palace was built in central Thai architectural style called ruean mu ("group of houses"). The building sits on stilts. The upper floor is the royal residence while the ground floor houses the royal entourage.
The palace is open to the public, except when the royal family is in residence (usually January to March).
A reservoir in surrounding woodlands.
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