Located 700 km north of Bangkok, in the valley of the River Ping, Chiang Mai presents a combination of cultural heritage and natural beauty, and an escape from the urban maelstrom.
This second largest city, the former seat of the Lanna kingdom, surrounded by mountains and nature, is often a refuge for the people who got tired by dynamics and chaos of Thailand’s capital city. It takes only half an hour drive from Chiang Mai to be caught in the middle of incredible opportunities that nature offers. They even call it “Rose of the North”. The central part of the city is surrounded by the walls of the old city. Nightlife is in no way less interesting than the one in Bangkok.
Below you can find my recommendation what to do, to see when you arrive in Chiang Mai.
1. Wat Pra Thai Doi Suthep – the temple for which you will have the impression that it overlooks the town from the mountain. Magnificent temple and golden pagodas can be reached by crossing 309 steps. Both ends of the stairs have painted snakes (naga), which are coated in a colorful mosaic. If this solutions is too challenging, you can use the cable car to reach the top. The three of us counted each step together with a group of monks dressed in orange robes. Milena, a guide from Jungle Tribe Agency, made the two of us a company.
Before entering the temple, you need to take off your shoes and cover your knees and shoulders. This rule applies to all visits to temples in Thailand. If you come unprepared, clothes can be rented at the entrance to most temples. I recommend you, if you are going on a tour of the temples, wear a shirt that covers your shoulders and bring some light pants or long scarf, so you can wear it over shorts.
From here you will have the opportunity to enjoy the most beautiful view of the city. In the central part of the temple is a golden pagoda which holds the bone from Buddha’s shoulder. Legend tells that white elephant brought the relic to the base of mountain, to the current residence. The statue of the elephant is on the inside terrace so you can see it as soon as you step into the temple yard.
Temple exudes with serenity and peace. On every corner you will be charmed with colorful flowers and variegation statues.
We were walking on the hot concrete. Many visitors, believers were around us. Disturbing the peace where young Thai woman is praying (we would say young because it is difficult to recognize ages).
On the other hand, I constantly put my hands together in prayer before taking a picture, incorrectly, probably under the influence of Yoga classes, to which I went before taking this trip to Thailand.
You can get to the temple by a tuk tuk (bargain before entering the vehicle and do not enter into the first car you see. Try to find out the lowest possible price out of several drivers). Many visitors arrive by bicycle to the temple, if you are in a good shape, or are used to walk a lot. We chose the first option.
2. Night Bazaar – perhaps the greatest attraction of Chiang Mai, after the Doi Suthep temple. It takes place only on Sundays, so if you are planning to visit this city, plan to stay here at least for the weekend. That amount of people on the streets, who huddle around stands and try to get the best possible price, I’ve never seen. It is generally known that about every thing you want to buy you have to haggle. All over the city are stalls with clothes, objects and food. when we stop to ask for the price, Milica and I, sellers ask us are we twins (Milica is blond and completely different), and some of them wonder whether we are brother and sister. We looked each other significantly and tried to figure out for which of the two of us they think is male 🙂 Picture may not be the clearest, but I hope you can imagine the crowds in the streets.
3. Wat Phra Singh – Buddhist temple, built in the classic Lanna architecture. In the central part of the temple, there are mosaics. The best part of the temple is Thai temple library – Ho Trai. This is one of the oldest temples in Chiang Mai and in my opinion, in addition to Doi Suthep, the only one worth of attention.
4. Elephants, jungle and rafting on bamboo rafts – about the visit to the jungle I have already written, and this post can be found here. Riding and taking care of elephants everyone looks from their point of view, according to your conscience, decide whether you want to ride the elephants or not. The two of us did it and it was really different experience. You feel as if the world below you is too small. The elephant is hairy, you believe it or not, and its hair, I do not know how to say this differently, strangely thick. These elephants are not injured nor sad nor unhappy. They were cheerfully playing in water and chewing bamboo tree. The most interesting part was when the elephant rider jumped off and left us ride alone. And the two of us swinging in the basket at every elephant step. Quite tricky until you get used to it.
After walking through the jungle before returning to civilization, we had organized rafting on bamboo rafts. Peaceful drifting without much rapids. Very pleasing stay close to the water after the heat and high humidity in the jungle. A rower on the bow and the other at the stern of the raft. And nowhere without a happy Thai children 🙂
Travel agencies in Chiang Mai offer various kind of activities and have them at every step. Bungee jumping in the jungle, driving buggies, paintball and a variety of different activities for children. Ask about prices in several places before you decide.
5. Suan Buak Hat – park full of Yoga practitioner’s and people seeking escape from the heat. Located in the southwestern part of the old city. Relax after a long stroll through the town. Lie on the grass and read a book, feed pigeons or just watch the sky … the decision is on you.
All over the park there are highlighted signs saying some strange things. Let me know if one of you understands it 🙂
6. Hot Chili bar – the most romantic bar in the world with beautiful plates decorated with fruit, superb cocktails and cakes. Before entering the bar, you can see the hearts all over the trees. The entire bar has a seductive interior. Including swings and baskets lined with flowers. Otherwise, the food is fantastic everywhere in Chiang Mai. Try different variants, if you do not have a sensitive stomach. For the two of us, probiotics were not necessary at all in Thailand.
All photos by: Danica, Milica, Milena
Camera used: Nikon D3000, HTC M8