Seven centuries of history greet visitors in every corner of Chiang Mai, Thailand, from its 300 ancient temples to the tranquil moat surrounding its walled city. Until the 1920s, Thailand's fifth biggest city was only reachable by dangerous river or elephant journeys. Even though Chiang Mai is far more accessible today, its distinct charm remains intact thanks to its surrounding mountain scenery and cooler climate, when compared to most other Thai regions.
No Chiang Mai visit would be complete without admiring the city and its surrounding green foothills from the lofty Doi Suthep summit. The temple on this mountain's slopes, Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep, was first built in 1383 and ranks among the city's most distinctive landmarks. A cable car is available for visitors unable or unwilling to climb the temple's over 300 steps.
Another way to admire Chiang Mai is aboard a Mae Ping River cruise. Most of these one- to three-hour cruises depart from a pier near Wat Chaimongkhon and take passengers past lush jungles, hill tribes, and even the nearby city of Chiang Rai. Evening dinner cruises are also quite popular.
Visitors wishing to enjoy one of Chiang Mai's elephant shows should arrive early in the morning or the afternoon. Many establishments also offer elephant rides after their shows. Baanchang Elephant Park ranks among one of the area's cheapest and most reputable elephant camps. Eddy Elephant Care visitors will not only enjoy private tours of this property, but also learn how to bathe and train these mighty beasts.
Restaurants and Bars
Chiang Mai ranks only second to Bangkok on the list of Thai cities with amazing food options. Mild curries, noodles and rice are some of the traditional northern Thai dishes served in many Chiang Mai guesthouse and hotels. The city is also filled with food carts and noodle shops which serve these same dishes at rock bottom prices.
Chiang Mai's nightlife may not be as notorious as many other Thai cities, but Loi Kroh Road, Tha Phae Gate, Moon Muang Road, and the Chiang Mai Entertainment Complex are the city's liveliest areas after dark.
Shopping in Chiang Mai
The legendary Night Bazaar is undoubtedly Chiang Mai's most famous shopping spot, but the entire city contains some of Thailand's best bargains on Buddhist ornaments, jewellery, antiques, and silk goods. The Chiang Mai Night Bazaar alone includes not only crowds of street vendors, but also a building filled with a permanent selection of clothing boutiques and craft shops. The Saturday Walking Street market is also great for souvenir shopping. Many more Chiang Mai non-profit shopping outlets sell high quality handicrafts created by neighbouring hill tribes.