Chiang Mai is a city in the northernmost part of Thailand that caught my heart and became my instant favorite the first time I saw it from an airplane window.
Chiang Mai is a far cry from the hustle and bustle of Bangkok. It is smaller and laid-back but charming, packed with everything. You get your choice from mountains to verdant valleys, shopping malls, temples, rivers, food, nightlife, handicrafts, and antiques—ask for it, and you’ll find it here.
Things to do
There is so much to do in Chiang Mai and you’ll never get bored but here are the tops on my list:
1. Old Chiang Mai City and temple tours
Old Chiang Mai City and temple tours old city attracts visitors with its remnants of the past—vestiges of moats and walls, moats, and numerous beautiful temples. Check out the four most famous temples— Wat Phra Singh, Wat Chedi Luang, Wat Chiang Mun, and Wat Suan Dok.
2. Elephant Camp Tour
Chiang Mai gives you a chance to interact with elephants for half days, one or even two days . During these tours, you get to interact with elephants. You can feed them, ride or hug them, or go trekking. I only did the half-day and got to see the elephants bathing in the river. I also watched them in a spectacular show of skills.
3. Tha Pae Gate
This is one of the most favorite spots of the city, populated by hundreds of tame pigeons. Tha Pae Gate dates back to 1296. It was rebuilt in 1986 and is now a crumbling city wall that separates the new from the old city of Chiang Mai. It once acted as a fortress for the ‘Old City. Around the gate are numerous hotels, bars, restaurants, cafes, massage parlors, and shops. I tried to shoot a few video clips of the birds with my phone, but the birds just got curious and landed on top of my phone. This area is a favorite destination for photographers for pre-wedding shoot sessions. A couple in wedding clothes posing with the birds is natural every day.
You might also check out Sukhothai City’s old temple ruins
4. Khantoke Dinner Show
The Khantoke Dinner Show is a memorable dining experience complete with a cultural show. Guests get to sit on mats and are served a wide variety of food you can never even know where to start. The Khantoke Dinner show is offered by many tour agencies, including picking you up from your hotel and dropping you off back at your hotel afterward. I got busy taking photos of the show. I barely touched my food, which was a mistake because that was a 750 Baht dinner.
5. Handicrafts Market
A few minutes away from the city is a shopper’s haven for locally made arts and handcrafted items. Here you can visit the different shops for pottery, jewelry, wood carving, sculpture, silk products, colorfully designed umbrellas, and more. You also get to see how the handicrafts are made in the workrooms.
Check out a video of the San Kamphaeng Handicrafts here
6. Night Safari
This is a unique experience where you get to see animals in their natural habitat from the safety of a tram. It feels weird and scary but exciting to see the animals at night. The safari is also available during the daytime. Still, the night tours are more thrilling because the animals are all awake and alert. However, if you are looking forward to shooting photos, take the day trip because the light is so low at night you won’t be able to get anything at all.
7. Street food
The street food in Chiang Mai is a must-never-ever-miss experience. I joined three other people on a street food tour. We were transported from one food stall to another in different locations sampling a wide variety of Thailand’s local cuisine. Our guide told us not to eat so much on the first or second stop because more was to come. He was right. By the time we got to the Thai delicacies section, we were all so stuffed. You can walk off all the food in the streets to enjoy the nightlife.
8. Get Massages
Last but not least, pamper yourself and indulge in a buffet of body massages. They were so cheap and available almost everywhere that I had them every night until my body screamed for me to stop. After paying $25 an hour for Swedish massages for 8 years on Saipan, 500 Baht per hour of massage was just too unbelievable.
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