Chiang Mai is one of the most culturally significant cities in North Thailand. It is the capital of Chiang Mai Province. Chiang Mai means “new city” and was so named after being made the new capital of the Lanna Kingdom. The Ping river flows through the city of Chiang Mai.
Surrounded by the high mountain ranges of the Thai highlands, Chiang Mai’s weather is a few degrees cooler than Bangkok and the nights slightly chilly.
Chiang Mai Culture
Chiang Mai is an interesting mix of both tradition and modernity. With 85% of people in Chiang Mai following Buddhism, the city has more than 300 Buddhist temples (known as “wat” in Thai language) scattered around the city. However, one can also see many trendy bars, hotels and restaurants too.
Things to do in Chiang Mai
Famouse Wats of Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai has many famous Buddhist temples important from tourism perspective. Some of these are Chiang Man Wat (Oldest temple), Wat Doi Suthep, Wat Phra Singh, Wat Chedi Luang, Wat Phan Tao and Wat Chedi Chet Yot. A visit to these Wats and the cultural centres will help you experience the Buddhist way of living. You may also get a chance to ask a question to the monk. Some of the temples here give you this opportunity through their “monk chats”.
Lanna Folklife Museum, Chiang Mai Zoo, Doi Suthep- Doi Pui National Park are among other must visit places.
You can spend an evening enjoying Khantoke Dinner- traditional north Thai style of eating. You will be sitting on mats on the floor and food will be served on the low tables in front. Dining is also accompanied by northern cultural performances including Fon Lep (Thai Finger Dance), Ram Dab (Thai Sword Dance), Fon Thiean (Thai Candle Dance), and Ram Wong (Group Dance).
Scorpion Tailed River Cruise
The boat cruise takes you back to the history of Chiang Mai and the Ping River. It shows you picturesque of several historical places along the riverbanks. You pass by the First bridge, First Christian church, First post office, and get a chance to view lifestyles of the local people who lived along the both sides of the river.
Elephant jungle trek is a famous activity in Chiang Mai. You can combine this with bamboo rafting a hill tribe village visit. Here you get to witness the elephants displaying their skills at the command of their mahouts. You can witness the elephant’s way of living, eating, playing, working and even painting.
White water rafting at the Mae Tang river is a good option for thrill seekers. Push your way through the grade 3 and 4 rapids as the river winds its way through the picturesque valleys and canyons of verdant Mae Taeng forests.
Thailand’s first night safari in Doi Suthep-Pui National Park is an experience one should not miss. A journey in a 50-seat open air tram to meet elephants, giraffes, zebras, lions, Asiatic black bears, tigers, hyenas, crocodiles, and many more is different from the rest.
Asia’s longest and highest Zip line, enjoy the 5 km of ziplines deep in the Thai rainforest. From the 33 platforms, sky-bridges and five-km zip line that runs through trees, glide through different layers of the rainforest canopy in pretty much the same fashion as the apes.
Nightlife in Chiang Mai
The Nimmanheimin Road area is quite popular among the young and happening. They also have a Riverside nightlife where residents and visitors settle down by the Ping River with a chilled drink and some good company, while the live band entertains them with classic blues, jazz and rock tunes – a hallmark of any Chiang Mai visit.
Chiang Mai night bazaar is one of the main night-time attractions especially for families. It opens at about 5PM, with many vendors opening shop at about 7PM. The bazaar goes on until 11 PM. It's not just a place to shop, but possibly Chiang Mai's largest tourist attraction, with products from Northern Thailand and neighbouring countries.
Chiang Mai Flower Festival in February
Visiting Chiang Mai in February you get the opportunity to witness one of the most wonderful flower festivals ever. You can see sculptures crafted from flowers in various forms. Some even depict stories from ancient scriptures. The Flower Festival Parade is unmissable! It has gaily decorated floats, pretty girls, and colorful hill tribe people in their costumes. The Parade takes various halts and at these stops the dancers in traditional costumes perform Thai dances. Those taking part in the parade hand out roses to the spectators lining the road! Everywhere the tourist will find displays of yellow and white chrysanthemums, and the Damask Rose, a variety found only in Chiang Mai.
Follow our blog through the week to know about some more destinations to travel between December 2014 and March 2015.