A 700-year-old city with a thriving creative scene, modern attractions and a vast array of adventure activities, Chiang Mai (meaning “New City” in Thai) has all the fun of Bangkok without the rough edges. From leafy boulevards to misty mountains and lush green rainforests, this serene city offers the perfect balance between the traditional and the contemporary.
Population: 400,000 (with up to 1 million in the surrounding region)
Vibe: Chiang Mai has an unmistakably youthful vibe and is popular with expats, artists, and backpackers. The ideal place to relax and unwind or participate in various adventurous activities.
Known for: Being an adventure hub for outdoor enthusiasts with a huge range of adventure activities to get your adrenaline pumping and one of the best places to go hiking in Thailand.
THINGS TO SEE AND DO
Chiang Mai is paradise for adventure junkies! Choose from trekking, kayaking, mountain biking, abseiling, stand up paddle boarding and ATV or segway tours.
Take a Thai Cooking Class
Learn the secrets of creating delicious authentic Thai cuisine. The class starts with a trip to the local market before learning how to cook a range of Thai dishes. Impress your friends and family at the next pot-luck dinner!
Catch a Muay Thai Boxing Night
Betting on Muay Thai is the entertainment choice of the locals. Enjoy the atmosphere and a few beers at the Thaphae Stadium.
Explore the Old City
In Chiang Mai, the heart of the action lies in its Old City, which is a square surrounded by a moat and the old city walls. Spend an afternoon or two just walking through the Old City’s streets, where you’ll find an abundance of innovative cafes, hidden art galleries, and local boutiques.
Visit Chiang Mai's temples
This is a city of temples, with one shining bright on almost every turn! Visit the oldest temple in the city, Wat Chiang Man, Wat Phra Singh to see the revered Phra Singh Buddha, and the bright gold Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep for its picturesque views over Chiang Mai.
Lanna Festival of Lights
Chiang Mai is home to its own unique culture, which can most easily be seen in its festivals. Ever seen those pictures of hundreds of glowing rice paper lanterns being released into the sky? That spectacular experience takes place at Yi Peng, the Lanna festival of lights that coincides with the Thai Loi Krathong, typically around November or October. It’s an experience not to be missed during your travels.
Another famous festival is Songkran, a city-wide water fight that takes place around April. Grab a waterproof bag, the biggest water gun you can find, and get ready to duke it out.
Learn about Chiang Mai's History
Chiang Mai was once the capital city of the Kingdom of Lanna (13th-18th centuries). The Chiang Mai City Arts & Cultural Centre and the National Museum are great to learn more about traditional Lanna culture.
Venture just outside of the old city walls to Nimmanhaemin Road, the heart of Chiang Mai and known to be super trendy! Here you’ll spot fashionable restaurants for every budget, cool cafes, crafty boutiques, exotic cocktails and even funky high-tech Japanese toilets (that do almost everything for you!) in the Maya Lifestyle Shopping Centre.
Anusarn Night Market
Once night falls, get your shopping in at one of Chiang Mai’s many markets, such as the Sunday and Saturday markets near Tha Pae Gate. Any night of the week you can head to the Night Bazaar to put your bargaining skills to the test or check out a fantastically flamboyant ladyboy cabarets. You'll never be bored in this city!
EATING AND DRINKING
Street Food Vendor in Chiang Mai. Photo Credit: Esme Vos - Flickr
Chiang Mai has some of the best and cheapest street food in Thailand keeping you and your wallet full.
Top dishes include:
Khao Soi, officially the number one dish to try in Chiang Mai. A coconut and curry-based soup with egg noodles, chicken, and some crunchy fried noodles for texture. It’s rich, distinctive, and best served with a lime wedge and a pickled mustard greens garnish.
Gaeng Hang Lay, a Burmese-style sweet curry with a tamarind-based soup, pork and shallots. If you're watching your baht you can't go past the night markets for delicious, affordable Thai food.
Chiang Mai has many great bars and pubs located within walking distance of the Night Market or Old Town and generally drink prices are cheaper than in Bangkok. Many bars have theme nights, live music or pool tables and you can often catch the football playing on the big screens.
WHERE STRAY STAYS
Freestyle Tours (Shared, Twin-share and Single)
153 Chang Moi Road
Chiang Mai, 50300
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Hugnur hostel is located just 400 m from Tha Pae Gate and is close to many stunning temples and Chiang Mai attractions. The excellent facilities and value for money are unrivalled. It's an awesome place to meet travellers and create lifelong memories.
Facilities: Free WiFi, Bar & Restaurant, outdoor garden, luggage storage.