Thailand in Brief – A Quick Guide to Chiang Mai
A Quick Guide to Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai is the place to go if you want to escape from crowded and buzzing Bangkok. In the North the speed of life is noticeably slower than in Central Thailand. It is one of the few towns in Thailand that have kept traditional city planning almost intact. Old town is still surrounded by a moat, ancient city gates are still marking major roads of Lanna Kingdom, and roofs of more than 400 temples glitter in the sun. Locals spend their afternoons in numerous coffee shops drinking locally grown tea and coffee. Chiang Mai is the cultural capital of Thailand with many art galleries and workshops opened for the public.
What to do and see in Chiang Mai
Listen to monks chanting in Doi Suthep
Doi Suthep is a 14th century monastery located on the top of the mountain just 45 minutes drive from Chiang Mai city centre. From the temple viewpoint you can see the whole town spread in the valley. Doi Suthep has an excellent collection of Buddha statues, including tribal Buddhas with round faces and narrow eyes. The best time to visit the monastery is in the late afternoon just before the sunset prayers. Sit down on the marble floor in one of the temple galleries and listen to deep chanting voices travelling through the mountain forest. Monks are very friendly, and will happily pose for photographs.
Learn how to cook Thai curry
Thai cuisine is not only one of the best in the world, it’s also one of the simplest: all ingredients are fresh and cooking time doesn’t take long. Take an afternoon to learn how to make your favourite dishes: spring rolls, Pad Thai, different types of curry and sweet coconut milk based desserts. Lessons often start with the visit to the local market. Most schools also have small gardens where you can learn about different herbs and vegetables used in Thai cuisine. And the best part – you will be given a recipe book. So when you return home, you’ll be able to surprise your guests with your culinary skills.
Shop till you drop at Night Bazaar
There’s no question about where to spend an evening in Chiang Mai. Head out to the Night Bazaar – the centre of the city’s nightlife. Huge market area is filled with food courts, restaurants, bars, and of course – rows and rows of stalls. It’s a perfect place to buy presents for everyone back home and some cool souvenir for yourself. Check out bags and clothes made of traditional northern tribal fabrics. If you are interested in art – check out stalls owned by independent artists. And don’t forget to bargain to get the best deals.
Cycle in the old town
If you want to fit in a lot of sightseeing during your stay in Chiang Mai – rent a bicycle. This way you will be able to see most of city’s temples, markets and museums. You will be provided with a lock when you get the bicycle, so you will be able to park it everywhere safely. When exploring the town don’t miss Wat Ket Karam on the eastern bank of Ping River. It’s one of the oldest and most unusual temples in Chiang Mai. The temple architecture is a mix of traditional tribal houses with a bit of Chinese influence.
Be blinded by all the glitter at a Ladyboy Cabaret show
Thailand’s entertainment industry is famous all over the world. One of the best and most professional Ladyboy Cabarets can be found in Chiang Mai hiding in the heart of Anusan market. After dining and shopping at the Night Bazaar head out to the Cabaret for an excellent performance and a drink. You will be amazed (and amused) by bright costumes and perfectly rehearsed dance moves. Extra points for singing along!
How’s the food?
Like everywhere in Thailand food in Chiang Mai is excellent. City’s cafes and restaurants offer a great mix of Central and Northern Thai cuisines. Don’t miss Chiang Mai speciality – Khao Soi – spicy thick chicken curry with two types of egg noodles. Or head out to one of the city’s markets to taste spicy buffalo sausage with sticky rice and green chilli dip. If you fancy to spend an afternoon eating delicious food and enjoying the view, try one of the riverside restaurants. All of them have huge menus that can satisfy even the pickiest eaters.
How’s the accommodation?
Being one of the major tourist centres of Thailand, Chiang Mai has all types of accommodation: from budget guesthouses and small hotels to 5 star international hotel chains and resorts. For those who like comfortable and cozy accommodation, the city can offer a huge variety of boutique hotels.
One of the best ways to get around Chiang Mai is a songtaew – shared taxi. Long red cars can be seen everywhere. Just flag one and tell the driver where you want to go. If there are other passengers in the car already and they head in the same direction, you’ll be invited to join. Songtaew is also one of the cheapest ways to get around: set price per person is only 20 THB everywhere in town.
Is Chiang Mai for you?
Everyone will find something to do in Chiang Mai. Families with kids, adrenalin junkies, honeymooners, independent travellers, shoppers, foodies and photographers, history buffs, art and culture lovers – whatever is the main focus of your travel, you will find some exciting activities there.
The best time to go to Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai weather is good all year around. Because it’s surrounded by mountains in winter months (end of November – mid-January) the temperature might drop to 8 degrees Celsius at night. During the day, though, it stays at pleasant 20 degrees. Thai New Year in mid-April is the hottest time in Chiang Mai, when the temperature goes up to 37 degrees Celsius. Rainy season lasts for roughly 5 months from mid-June until mid-October. Like everywhere in Thailand monsoon weather is warm, and it rains for only a couple of hours a day.
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