Chiang Mai is located in the north of the country, on the edge of the Golden Triangle. It is often the starting point for excursions to the surrounding mountains. This is an interesting part to visit, because Thailand is not only paradisiacal islands, but also villages and rice fields. It’s very green, so it’s a good place to oxygenate yourself.
Chiang Mai is easily accessible from Bangkok. There are several flights a day for just 30 euros. Otherwise, you can take the bus or the train for 650 bahts. In this case, I would advise you to travel overnight.
Chiang Mai, one foot in the countryside
Although Chiang Mai is a big city, it is definitely quieter and less intense than the capital. There are no big building, no business center, and no subway. The pace of the city is much quieter. The city invites you to get lost sit down in the first coffee shop that you come across.
I have been there several times and I have always appreciated it. Chiang Mai has a good life that I like. It is less dense and intense than Bangkok and the surrounding landscapes are beautiful.
The temples of Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai is a city of temples. There are tons and tons of temples to visit Large, small, old, new. The omnipresence of religion certainly contributes to this very Zen atmosphere.
Most of the temples are in the old town. What is nice is that you can walk around without worrying about the direction you are taking, you will always find one on your way.
Right in the center of the city is the City Arts & Historical Center, which is worth a visit for 90 bahts. Here you can learn a lot about the history of the area, and about the Lanna kingdom.
I visited most of the temples, they are all very charming. Take the time to get lost. You yourself can arouse the curiosity of a monk who will start a conversation. If ever a ceremony takes place, sit in a corner, watch and meditate. Moreover, it is possible to take meditation classes if you are ever tempted. For this, go to Wat Sri Gerd every Monday at 3pm.
In the surroundings of Chiang Mai, one can push the spiritual experience even further and go to a retreat in a monastery, like in Doi Suthep. Your days will consist of prayers, meditations, and discussions. It is an incredible experience to clear your mind, analyze yourself and focus your energy on yourself. Participation is a free donation. If you are interested, click here for more details.
Chiang Mai Markets
There are essentially two well-known markets in Chiang Mai: the night market and the weekend market.
The night market takes place every night outside the walls. It’s worth a look, but most of what you will find is mass produced junk. Of course, you can still find some handcrafted items, but after several years, the market still offers the same things and has lost its charm.
The weekend market is my favorite. It takes place every Saturday and Sunday from 4pm in the old town. The roads are closed to traffic, and there are stand everywhere. It’s really charming. Here, we can find real handicrafts such as scarves, jewelry or traditional musical instruments. They install giant food courts for the happiness of our taste buds, and you can often find some sort of organized entertainment. I even had the chance to visit an astronomy class given by students. Finally, this market has something to charm you.
Getting to Chiang Mai without knowing where you are staying is a risk. Cause there are a lot of scammers … I visited some shabby rooms that stank of humidity for almost 1000 baths at night. Here are the ones I recommend.
– Hostel de La-Mer. This little guesthouse is very nice. The building is relatively new, the comfort quite acceptable. It is in the center of the pedestrian area close to all amenities. You can book online. The price is about 500 bath a night for a double room. It’s the best offer of the city.
– Uncle Bear’s Home. It is a small guesthouse on one of the main avenues of the old town. It’s very kawai.Do not go there if you have teddy bear phobia. The double room starts at 1200 baths a night.
– Baan Hanibah Bed & Breakfast. This hotel is a good intermediary between the guesthouse and the luxury hotel. Located outside the Old City, but only 10 minutes from Tahpae Gate, the wooden building makes it a charming place. The rate is 1600 baths for a double room.
– Antanara Hotel. If you have some money to spend and want a very nice hotel, then the Antanara Hotel is for you. The hotel is located on the edge of the river behind the night market. A few years ago, we could afford an exceptional room for 80 euros per night. Unfortunately, I think the hotel has a new owner and the price has doubled, but if money is not a problem, go for it. The building is modern and worth a look. In addition, you can enter for a drink by the pool.
The surroundings of Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai is surrounded by mountains and greenery. And it’s beautiful.
I advise to rent a scooter or a car and discover the surrounding areas by yourself. If you go high, the landscapes are breathtaking, mainly north to Mae Hong Son, close to the burmese frontier. There are many very charming little villages. Do not be surprised to meet an elephant in a field.
If you love hiking, this is also the perfect opportunity to trek, with or without a guide.
Absolutely refuse treks organized in groups, which are more like Disneyland outings than a real approach to the Thai countryside. You will spend 2-3 days to walk between the rice fields, ride elephants, bamboo rafting, and go see the giraffe women. The elephants you ride are abused to better serve the tourists, and the giraffe women are introduced to you like in a zoo, but no tourist takes the time to stop in the village and chat with them. The organizers are one step away from making you buy a banana to give to them. Thank you for not endorsing animal abuse or zoo tourism. These women are human beings first and foremost.
If you love elephants, spend a few days in a sanctuary taking care of them.
The village is about ten kilometers from Chiang Mai.
On the way there, you will find numerous organized bus tours, that stop by jewelry stores or tailors. I myself not did not find this village to be very exceptional. Mass tourism has made it lose his authenticity I guess.
Maybe if you go there for the umbrella festival it can be interesting.
Pai, the village of hippies
To know more about, read my article dedicated to Pai.