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13 Best Things to do Chiang Mai, Thailand
Are you ready for the best things to do Chiang Mai to have an awesome time in this top city in Thailand!
Thailand is one of the well-known places that is frequently visited by tourists. It’s because they always have something for everyone. In the southern part, you can enjoy their beautiful beaches while in the northern part, you can explore their mountain forests. Bangkok is its capital, however, if you want to discover its culture then you should visit the north of Thailand. One of the best cities to visit in Thailand is Chiang Mai. It is a mountainous city located in northern Thailand. It was founded in 1296 and was the capital of the Lanna Kingdom. This city is rich in history and has more than 300 temples.
Chiang Mai is known as the “Rose of the North.” Since it is located in the northern part of Thailand, then it has a cooler temperature. This means that you have more time to explore the city during the day without feeling overfatigue. There are so many things that you can do in Chiang Mai and here are some of them.
How to get to Chiang Mai?
Chiang Mai is easy to get to as most public transport systems pass through here. One of the most popular routes is the Bangkok to Chiang Mai train system.
The train takes a good stretch of hours, so, if you’re short on time, you may want to get the Bangkok to Chiang Mai flight. Which will save you a lot of time travelling.
If you’re travelling from Laos to Thailand. You can get the slow boat from Luang Prabang to Chiang Rai and then get a bus to Chiang Mai.
Top Chiang Mai attractions
1. Explore Ancient Temples
There are more than 300 amazing Buddhist temples in Chiang Mai and most of them are open to the public. Although it is quite impossible to visit all of them, if you happen to stumble one, then you can just stop by and take a look around.
One of the most beautiful temples is probably. However, you should also visit the other temples that are located in the city such as Wat Pan Tao, Wat Chedi Luang, Wat Phra Singh, and Wat Umong. One of the oldest temples in the city is Wat Chiang Man. Wat Chedi Luang and Wat Phra Singh are best known for their large golden Buddha statues. Visiting these awesome temples is probably one of the most unforgettable experiences that you can have while visiting Chiang Mai.
2. Chat with the Monks
This is a wonderful experience not only for you but also for the monks because they want to practice their English. While you are visiting the temples (also known as “wats”), you can also chat with the monks. Some temples offer a “Monk Chat” program, where visitors are given the chance to talk to the monks. One of the best temples to visit for a monk chat is Wat Chedi Luang.
You can discuss just anything such as their life in the temples, their beliefs as well as any other topics that interest you. They might even give you some advice on what you can do while you are in Chiang Mai! Be sure to check the schedule on when you can chat with the monks.
3. Get a Sak Yant Tattoo
One of the coolest things to do in Chiang Mai is getting a Sak Yant tattoo. This is completely different from any other typical tattoo since it is done by a monk free hand. Rather than using a tattoo gun, the monk uses a metal rod. You can’t choose what kind of tattoo you’ll be having since the monk will make that decision for you. The placement and the design of your tattoo will depend on the protection that you need. These Sak Yant tattoos will be placed on the back.
You can get a Sak Yant tattoo in Chiang Mai for as little as $60. Just make sure it’s a reputable place!
4. Ride in a Tuk Tuk
There are different types of transportation that you can use in Chiang Mai but the most popular one is the tuk tuk. This is a motorized vehicle that consists of three wheels. Most often you can find them all over the towns of Thailand. The fare varies between 60 baht to 100 baht, however, you can ask about the amount before hopping on!
This is a great way to explore Chian Mai and see everything this quirky place has to offer!
5. Embrace Chiang Mai’s Night Markets
There are lots of night markets that you can come across while you are in the city and each of them can give you a magical experience. Get mesmerized by the beauty of the lights that shines from the stalls. Wherever you go, you can enjoy the taste of their delicious street foods along with its lively atmosphere.
The Chiang Mai Night Bazaar is one of the most popular markets that you have to visit. It is open every night and you can find it along the Chang Klan Road. The Saturday Night Walking Market and the Sunday Night Walking Street Market are the perfect night markets in Chiang Mai. Keep in mind that both of these are not located on the same street. The Saturday night market, also known as the Wualai Market can be found on Wua Lai Road while the Sunday night market is on Ratchadamnoen Road.
6. Get a Thai Massage
After getting exhausted in wandering around the city, the best way to relax is to have a soothing Thai massage. In Chiang Mai, there are several massage parlours that you can find. At the same time, its prices greatly vary based on the level of its luxury. But generally, they are very affordable.
Most of the massage shops in Chiang Mai will charge you between 150 baht to 200 baht or approximately $5 an hour. The most important thing is after the massage, you will feel refreshed and reinvigorated so you can continue exploring this amazing city.
7. Visit the Chiang Mai Elephant sanctuary
It is quite unfortunate that Thailand has been known for animal and mainly elephant abuse in the past. They use it as a way to improve their tourism industry. Some examples of this animal cruelty activities include riding the elephants and sedating the tigers in the temples and then tourists have photos with the tigers. I am completely against these types of activities.
The Elephant jungle sanctuary in Chiang Mai is a place for education and rehabilitation. They devote their time in rescuing the elephants which suffered from animal abuse. You can visit the elephants which are placed in their natural environment or you can volunteer to help out in the Elephant Nature sanctuary. Rather than riding these elephants, you need to concentrate on rehabilitating and protecting these wonderful creatures.
8. Attend Thai Cooking Classes
Aside from the beautiful architecture in Thailand, one of the things that you will love in Thailand is their food. They have different varieties of dishes that you can try and it’s filled with amazing flavours. However, when you will be finally going back to your home, you will surely miss Thai food. The best thing to do is to learn how to cook these Thai dishes.
You can attend Thai cooking classes just about anywhere in Chiang Mai. Once you have learned how to cook their dishes, you’ll realize that cooking your favourite dishes is not hard. Learning different types of cooking techniques can be fun. Additionally, you can also use your new cooking skills in impressing your friends and relatives at home.
I now class myself as a Thai MasterChef!
9. Rent a Motorbike and do the Mae Hong Son Loop
Your Chiang Mai adventure wouldn’t be complete without renting a motorbike and taking a ride to the Mae Hong Son Loop which is regarded as one of the best things to do Chiang Mai. This is located in Northern Thailand and the trip will take four days. Your journey will start at Chiang Mai, then you will reach Mae Sariang at night. You can spend some time in Pai before you go back to the city.
The Mae Hong Son Loop is considered as one of the greatest motorbike loops in Southeast Asia. Along the way, there are a lot of things that you can do and see. Get ready with your travel camera so you can take some pictures on the astonishing mountain scenery.
You can also choose to take some detours so you can visit the people in hill tribes. Don’t worry, they are very friendly and welcoming as long as you know how to show them some respect. There are a lot of superb waterfalls where you can take a quick dip in case the temperature is getting worse. Taking a trip to Mae Hong Son Loop is probably one of the best things that you can do in Chiang Rai. This is something that you certainly won’t regret.
10. Trekking in Hill Tribes
Most of the people who visit Thailand will start exploring in the southern area. Although it is quite amazing out there, however, it will not show you more about their history and culture. That is why it’s no surprise that most visitors will choose to travel to Chiang Mai. Here, they can learn more about the culture and history of the country.
If you love trekking, then you should do it in the jungles of Chiang Mai. You can explore their magical waterfalls, mountains, valleys, and most of all the different hill tribes. Be sure to sign up with a legit tour operator for your trekking trip. Most often, these reputable tour operators will donate most of the money to the local people. However, you should not visit those Karen long neck tribes. The government wants them to continue with their paralyzing tradition to boost the country’s tourism industry.
11. Do Some Meditation
In Chiang Mai, there are a lot of ways that you can get in touch with your inner self. One of the best places that you can visit is the Doi Suthep Vipassana Meditation Centre. Although this is located on the top of Suthep Mountain, there are still thousands of people who love to visit this temple.
If you are planning to stay longer, then you can take the Vipassana meditation course offered by the monks. Usually, this will take between 3 to 28 days. Once you are inside the temple, you should avoid speaking since you will be clearing your mind from your thoughts and focus more on breathing. The Wat Doi Suthep is one of the best temples to practice Vipassana Meditation in Chiang Mai.
12. Cliff Diving
If you are an adventurous person who loves to jump in high places, then you should be heading to the Hang Dong Rock Quarry. Previously, this quarry is used for mining limestone. But now it is filled with sparkling water. The pool is so huge that you can even jump from the highest cliffs. However, if you just want to take a dip rather than diving there are a lot of spots for swimming. If you are having a hard time finding it, then you can hire a scooter.
13. Visit Catmosphere
If you are missing your cats at home, then Catmosphere is the place for you. This is a cat café where you can see lots of cats wandering around freely. These cats will come and go as they please. This is a great place for you to grab a coffee if you love cats. There is no fee, but you must make a purchase.
Where to Stay?
There is plenty of places to stay in Chiang Mai. You can find luxury hotels or hostels that will cost less than $6 a night. We stayed in homestays that was less than $10 a night.
Okay, let’s have a look at some of the best accommodation in Chiang Mai;
- Hostel By BED – This cheap hostel in Chiang Mai has clean rooms, comes with free Wifi and is only 500 metres from walking street.
- Oxotel – This is a great place to stay and offers the guests a real bargain for your buck. It’s also in a perfect location and has useful things like an onsight cafe.
- Kamala’s House – A 5-minute walk to the Sunday Walking Street on Thapae Road. Also, Kamala’s Guesthouse offers clean and comfortable rooms with air-conditioning and free Wifi.
Anumat Premium Budget Hotel – Anumat Premium Budget Hotel is a 3-star property, located in Chiang Mai Old City. It offers a courtesy corner snack bar, free WiFi access in all areas and a complimentary welcome drink on arrival. Happy days.
Anantara Chiang Mai Resort – Located along the banks of Mae Ping River, Anantara Chiang Mai Resort provides a peaceful retreat overlooking Suthep Mountain. Boasting minimalist Asian designs, the resort features a spa and pool for chilling out in!
X2 Chiangmai Riverside Resort – Situated along the tranquil banks of the majestic Ping River locates the luxurious X2 Chiangmai Riverside Resort. This is one of the ultimate luxuries stays in Chiang Mai. I never stayed here, I wasn’t that lucky! But the reviews for this hotel are insane.
Now you have your awesome free complete guide of the best things to do Chiang Mai on your visit.
Chiang Mai is a top place to visit in Thailand if you want to experience the hustle ‘n’ bustle of city life. You will only need to spend 2 or 3 days in Chiang Mai to see all the top attractions on this list!