Chiang Mai is Thailand’s Northern city. It is a smaller version of Bangkok, yet way more relaxed and a lot cheaper. The city itself has so many interesting things to see and do… and here are our top five things you should try in Chiang Mai.
1. Visit some of the temples.
This is a totally fun and free activity in Chiang Mai. You can position yourself in the Old City and find temples almost everywhere you look. Set aside a day to go temple hopping in the Old City and you will not be disappointed. Inside the Old City walls you can find some of the most popular temples in the North of Thailand, but you can also visit the oldest temple in Chiang Mai – Wat Chiang Man. Visit on a Sunday morning to get breakfast for free with the locals.
2. Visit an Elephant Sanctuary.
Make sure you do your research before picking an Elephant Sanctuary to go to. Thailand is notorious for having some Elephant camps which treat the animals terribly. Read up about the different places you can visit, there are over 150 of them in the area so this can be a little overwhelming. Just take time to read reviews from other travellers and it will become obvious which ones you should visit. Typically they offer no riding, don’t use hooks or other ways to harm the elephants.
3. Try some local dishes.
Food across Thailand varies wherever you eat it, and the North is famous for cooking up some great Khao Soy. The North of Thailand also makes some great curries so you should try them here, they are bound to taste a little different from the ones you have tried elsewhere in Thailand, and especially different from the ones you have tried in your home country.
4. Shop and eat at the local markets.
Chiang Mai is a buzzing hub for markets. No matter how poor I am or how much stuff I have I find myself drawn to the markets numerous times a week because there is such a buzz about them. My absolute favourite is the Sunday Walking Market which breeds out of the Tha Phae Gate. Begin at this gate to the Old City and follow the market streets and they spread and weave into every available space in the Old City. You could spend your while night here without getting bored. It happens every Sunday.
Another great weekly market is the Saturday night market. You can, obviously, go to this every Saturday night. This market is to the South of the old City walls.
Every night in Chiang Mai the night Bazaar is up and running. This huge market merges a few smaller markets into one huge event. You can also find a couple of smaller food markets hidden in nooks and crannies of the huge Chiang Mai Night Bazaar. Shop more like a local here with more hoemly goods on offer than at the Sunday Walking Market.
If you are staying by the Mae Ping River you should check out the Warorot Market. This is on every night and is a more authentic market which mainly only sees the locals visit. Find real traditional Thai food here along with lots of extremely cheap clothes and accessories.
5. Enjoy the Loi Krathong festival
The most interesting and beautiful festival Thailand has to offer. You can enjoy this spectacle for free if you avoid the regular tourist traps. Head to the Mae Ping river (usually the first weekend in November every year) to enjoy the many lanterns that are released into the air and watch the candles float in the river.