Chiang Mai is Thailand’s second largest city, but it feels like a quaint town compared to bustling Bangkok. This vibe makes it the perfect place to pause, take a breath and then continue on your Thai adventure.
Modern Chiang Mai has been built around the ancient city. This has helped it keep its sleepy feel and rural heritage, while embracing the role of a major metropolis. Chiang Mai was once the capital of Lanna, but it was then taken over by the Burmese. You can still see their influence today. Compared with Bangkok, there’s a much better focus on green and sustainable energy (so the air is clear) and the atmosphere is much more relaxed than the capital.
At the weekend, the people of Chiang Mai shut off the roads and create ‘walking streets’. Vendors sell clothes, musical instruments and snacks as well as traditional northern Thai handicrafts like:
- Wooden carvings
For a little bit of religious history, head to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep in the west of the city. It’s a shrine to the sacred white elephant that carried part of Buddha’s shoulder bone. You’ll see a glorious golden temple with unforgettable and intricate decorations. You’ll be astonished at the detail that went into creating this monumental building.
There are a few other temples to visit: Wat Phra Singh, Wat Chedi Luang and Wat Chiang Man are all quite close together. Like monks you’ll have met in other areas, the monks you find here will probably be keen to talk and test their English skills.
A popular tourist spot is the Mae Sa Valley; it can get a bit crowded but it’s worth the trip. You’ll see the Queen Sirikit Botanic Gardens, Huay Tung Tao and the Dara Pirom Palace.
You might be in a city, but you’re never far away from green open spaces in Chiang Mai. Use it as a starting point for treks through the countryside and rainforests. You’ll discover waterfalls, hidden temples and ethically-run elephant sanctuaries. This link to nature might be the reason that Chiang Mai is much more easy-going than Bangkok – making it the perfect spot for a peaceful retreat.
Plan your trip to Chiang Mai today.