8 Things You Have To Do in Chiang Mai
This June I travelled to Thailand to explore Northern Thailand. Having previously only visited Bangkok and the Southern part of Thailand and the beaches, I was really interested to find out more about this fascinating part of the country.
We flew direct from Zurich to Bangkok with Thai Airways and then on to Sukhothai, Lampang and finally Chiang Mai before returning to Bangkok and back to Switzerland. Each of the places I visited was amazing in its own right but I found Chiang Mai to be fascinating and I could have stayed for weeks!
Chiang Mai Ancient Capital of Lanna Kingdom
It’s a vibrant city with a population of around 170,000 people and is the fourth most populous city in Thailand, surrounded by mountainous countryside and lush forests.
Due to its northerly position Chiang Mai is a little cooler than Bangkok and the whole area is steeped in history. It was capital of the independent Lanna Kingdom until 1558 and the ruins of the old city bear testament to its rich cultural and religious heritage.
There are hundreds of Buddhist temples or “Wats” as they are known to visit, amazing cuisine and lots of shopping to be had too with all the local handicrafts such as silk, silverware and lacquerware at amazing prices.
1. Delicious Local Food
One of the best thing about our stay in Thailand was the food. It was absolutely one of the key highlights wherever we went. Chiang Mai was no exception and whether you’re eating in a five star hotel restaurant or in a street market, there is so much delicious food to try.
We had an amazing meal at one of the small restaurants along Walking Street and another memorable meal was a delicious dinner at the 137 Pillars Hotel.
Delicious dinner at 137 Pillars Hotel Chiang Mai
We also had two fabulous lunches with an wonderful array of different flavours at Hotel Anantra where we were staying.
Lunch at the Anantara Hotel Chiang Mai
One of the highlights for me was the fresh fruit bought at the markets. Everywhere we went our wonderful guide Suree Pong, ensured that we tasted fresh seasonal fruit. My absolute favourite were the mangoes. They were in season when we visited and as well as tasting lots of “mango sticky rice”, a Thai speciality we found almost everywhere, the fresh sliced mangoes on their own were simply divine!
It was also wonderful to see all the unusual fruit growing – such as this Jack Fruit Tree below.
2. The Amazing Wats and Temples
Visiting Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep
One of the most impressive temples we visited during our trip was the Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep located high above the city, surrounded by lush, green jungle and with views as far as the eye can see.
Other Wats we were recommended to visit in Chiang Mai include:
Wat Phra Singh another very grand temple where you can find the Lion Buddha and which is situated in the old city.
Wat Chedi Luang – an imposing temple which was the tallest building in medieval Chiang Mai before the top of the chedi was destroyed in either the 16th-century or 18th century.
Wat Phra That Doi Kham – high above the city with wonderful views the gilded chedi and huge Buddha statues make this a great place to visit.
3. Sunday Walking Street Market
Every Sunday there is a Street Market called Walking Street Market which is located in the streets around Rajdamnoen Road and from Thapae Gate along to Wat Pra Sing in the centre of the city.
As the name implies the streets are closed to traffic and you walk along past vast amounts of stalls selling everything you can possibly imagine from antiques to food to clothes to household furniture and wonderful hand made crafts.
Unlike many markets you will find, this is not a touristy one full of fakes and copies, but aimed at locals and visitors alike. Stall holders were busy carving, creating and making all sort of handicrafts as we walked by and were more than happy to chat and tell you all about them.
They didn’t call out and actual try and sell you goods, but were happy to talk if you wanted to. The prices were unbelievably reasonable and you didn’t really need to haggle as the prices were fairly fixed – and all at very low prices. It’s one of the most memorable markets I’ve visited and definitely worth a visit – oh, and they sell amazing street food too!
Open very Sunday from approximately 4.30pm until midnight. Click here to see on Google Maps.
4. Chiang Mai Night Market
There is also a night market every evening in Chiang Mai too. This is more of a tourist destination with quite a lot of copies, however it also had quite a few local specialities and crafts as well as wonderful food too. At both this and the Walking Street market they had a great selection of silk scarves and there are lots of souvenirs you can purchase at very good prices.
5. Have A Great Massage at the Oasis Spa
Thailand is well known for its massages and you can find one on almost every street corner. However, if you are looking for a really good professional one I can highly recommend the Oasis Spa. Clean, beautiful and very welcoming, the masseurs were highly skilled and did an excellent job.
As a word of advice though, if you’ve never had a Thai massage before, it may be wise to start with a soft one. They ask you whether you would like hard, medium or soft and I made a mistake of going for a hard one when I was in Bangkok – and it really was quite an experience! I went for a medium one at Oasis Spa and although still fairly vigorous it was amazing. I felt so much better for it.
Chiang Mai Oasis Spa is located at:
6. Visit An Ethical Elephant Sanctuary
One of the best days of our whole trip to Thailand was a visit to an elephant sanctuary. There are numerous sanctuaries and farms all over the country but according to a recent report in the Guardian newspaper it is really important to check that you’re visiting one which supports the interests and well being of the elephants themselves. Some are just aimed at bringing in money from tourists but there are also good ones which rescue maltreated elephants and are really doing a good job with the animals in their care.
Each elephant eats an incredible amount of food and drinks a huge amount of water each day, so by allowing small groups of tourists to visit and learn about these wonderful creatures they are able to keep the animals in the reserve.
7. Treat Your Feet and Hands
There were no worries about achieving the 10,000 steps per day as we did so much walking. The downside is that your feet can get quite sore, especially if you’re in open sandals for the first time for a while. One of the nicest things you can do for your feet is give them a foot massage and a pedicure. While you’re at it, it’s a great idea to have a manicure too! The prices are amazingly inexpensive in comparison to back home – but again choose your salon carefully so that you are going to a quality establishment.
The best way is to get a recommendation from your hotel or from someone you’ve met. I had an excellent pedicure 5 minutes walk from the Hotel Anantara and my feet felt amazing afterwards.
8. Take a Ride on a Tuk Tuk
If you’ve not been for a ride on a Tuk Tuk, then this is something that just has to be done! There are a huge variety of them with all sorts of colours, flashing lights and adornments. We took one back to our hotel after visiting the Walking Street Market and it was a really fun experience. Just hold on tight!
There is so much more you can do in Chiang Mai, but our visit was just for three days and they really were action packed. Other activities which friends have recommended include doing Thai Food Cookery Courses, and visiting some of the many museums. Whatever you do, you’re bound to have fun and the locals are friendly, kindly and extremely helpful.
Where To Stay in Chiang Mai
The Anantara Hotel
A luxury 5 star hotel with stunning rooms, beautiful grounds and a very zen atmosphere. The rooms have large floor to ceiling windows and the rooms are well designed and spacious.
The Anantara Hotel
137 Pillars Hotel
137 Pillars Hotel
I was invited to Thailand however all views are entirely my own
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