Chiang Mai is basically the second city in Thailand – a smaller and more relaxed answer to the madness of Bangkok. Formerly the capital of the Lanna Kingdom, it is now the main attraction for backpackers and travelers of all kinds, not to mention retired expatriates and humans. Many come here to come back again and again, or stay for years when they intend to stay only a few weeks. There is energy in the city that captivates those who visit, whether they are looking for adventure trekking or spiritual awakening when they travel from temple to temple.
The city itself offers many things to do in cooking classes, temple visits, street food and culture. But beyond its limits, you will find natural perfection, amazing animals, and a unique community deep in the mountains. Explore the sights with our list of the main attractions in Chiang Mai:
1 Wat Phra That Doi Suthep
This mountain peak temple is a must visit in Chiang Mai. Wat Doi Suthep’s main temple contains Buddhism which is highly respected and is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city. You can reach the temple by climbing the mountain (sweating but definitely memorable), renting a motorbike, or jumping to Songthaew (a red truck that basically operates as a communal taxi). The trip is short, so you can take this trip in about two hours. At the bottom of the stairs to the temple, you will find traders selling souvenirs, antiques and snacks. Be prepared to climb because the stairs are steep, but the effort is worth doing. Two demon statues guard the entrance to the police station. Generally only two of the six gates that lead to the gallery and chedis are open. This gallery is decorated with Buddha statues in the style of Chiang Mai and Sukhothai. The temple itself is carved, with many representations of Buddhas, detailed dragon sculptures, and elephant carvings. There is also a small museum in this place.
On a clear (and mostly clear) day, unless you visit during the rainy season or on fire, you can look throughout the city and see the chedi above other temples that stand out among clustered buildings. If you wear shorts, you will be asked to wear a sarong to cover your feet. It is recommended to cover your shoulders and your feet at least past your knees when visiting any temple. There is a small fee to enter the temple complex.
2 Doi Pui
This small village of Hmong is indeed more tourist-oriented than the original. But there is a small exhibition of traditional hill tribe homes and information about the history of many groups that have settled in the mountains of Thailand in past generations. If you feel very touristy, you can wear ethnic clothing for shooting, and there are many small shops where you can buy hand-woven textiles, handmade jewelry, tea, and other items.
You can also explore the large park with a variety of plants and enjoy the views from the village. Stop for lunch at one of the small restaurants overlooking the green below and order a hot bowl of khao soi, the most famous dish in Chiang Mai. We recommend that you add this to your itinerary on the same day when you visit Doi Suthep, because you only need to drive a little further into the mountains to reach Doi Pui. Enjoy the trip; this is beautiful.
3 Doi Inthanon
This is the highest peak in Thailand, and the national park surrounding it is filled with some natural wonders that make the country attractive in the first place. You can do trekking and mountain climbing, or take a more relaxed route around the park. Several waterfalls and a hill tribe village are other attractions, along with two pagodas built to honor King Bhumibol Adulyadej and Queen Sirikit. You should hire a driver for the day or rent a motorbike and see your site for yourself, because you will not be able to get through the entire park on foot. But it’s only about two hours drive from the city, so if you leave early, you can get a full and satisfying day on the mountain.
4 Wat Chedi Luang
Wat Chedi Luang
The actual ruins are not a rare sight in Chiang Mai, or in Thailand in general, in this case. But there is something about Wat Chedi Luang that is very beautiful and haunting. Built in 1401, the impressive structure was damaged during the earthquake in 1545. But it remains extraordinary today, and you can still see the carvings of massive elephants that adorn.
Under a large rubber tree to the left of the entrance to the police station stands a pleasant little temple, the Lak Muang. Built in 1940 at the location of an earlier wooden building, this temple is the residence of the guardian of Chiang Mai (Lak Muang). According to tradition, if the big tree falls, the disaster will dominate the city. The temple is something that must be seen at all times of the day, but it is very beautiful at night, when everything lights up.
5 Wat Prasingh
This temple stands in the heart of the Old City, where travelers spend a lot of their time. In the midst of the sois, or the aisles, and heavy motorcycle traffic, Wat Prasingh rises at the end of Rachadamnoen Road. This is the largest wat in the city and originated in 1345, when an ancient king built it in honor of his father. The father’s ashes are still buried in the yard – but don’t let that scare you into visiting. The decadent structure is very impressive, and this is a very good place to visit on Sundays.
The most sacred temple is a small building called Phra Viharn Lai Kam, established during the reign of King San Muang Ma (1385-1401) for a famous house, now headless, the Sukhothai-style figure known as Buddha Phra Singh. According to tradition, the Buddha, in the known “call to earth” pose, came to Thailand from Ceylon, found his first way to Ayutthaya and then to Kamphaeng Phet, Chiang Rai, Luang Prabang, and returned to Ayutthaya before, in 1767, arrived in Chiang Mai, where since then (but there are doubts about the authenticity of the relics). Head to Wat Prasingh in the afternoon, and you will have the opportunity to explore the market on the grounds, peruse creative souvenirs and taste fresh juices and teas after visiting the temple.
6 Chiang Mai Gate Market
This is the place to find the best street food in Chiang Mai. Every night, the merchants arrange at Chiang Mai Gate and sell everything from the kra pow pad (spicy meat and basil dish) to the perfect dessert from the sticky rice of fresh mango which is given coconut milk. Help yourself and the smoothie message from Mrs. Pa. His position is directly opposite 7-Eleven and says Pa Smoothies on the sign. Your best bet is to let him mix the ingredients of his plans; You can never go wrong this way. The market is held seven nights a week, but it’s best to go at night because there are fewer vendors on Saturday and Sunday nights.
7 Sunday Walking Street
If you’re wondering where to get dirty roads over the weekend, don’t be afraid. Chiang Mai has a market for every opportunity. The Sunday Walking Street is a must to eat and shop in Chiang Mai. Go early, though, if you’re not one for the crowd. The main market street is Rachadamnoen Street, which starts right behind Thapae Gate, where you will find merchants selling handmade lamps, dolls, soaps, jewelry, clothing, Christmas ornaments, local crafts, and almost every other memento that can You imagine. When you reach the end of the first Rachadamnoen block, you will find yourself flanked by two temples. The second page is filled with food stalls offering a great blend of Thai, Japanese curry, 15 cents of sushi per piece, samosas, fried bananas, and dumpling cakes. The market stretches along the road, and if you are interested in shopping at all, leave yourself a few hours to take a walk, shop, and eat. Also, make sure you are patient, because the crowd can slow down the search process.
That Saturday Walking Street on Wualai Road is a Sunday market version that is a bit more tamer, and a little less crowded. You will find it right behind the Chiang Mai Gate, and it is a good place to pick up hand-woven clothes, pillowcases, wallets, purses, and other items sold by members of the local hill tribe community.
8 Night Bazaar
This is a great place to shop, if you are ready to bargain. Because the Night Bazaar attracts many tourists, you have to be vigilant so as not to be damaged. But there are some great discoveries here, ranging from clothing and scarves to carvings and household appliances. When you finish shopping, you can take in Muay Thai boxing to fight in the stadium on the spot. Muay Thai fights are a big part of local culture, and can add interesting elements to your stay in Chiang Mai. Getting into fights is usually between 200 and 400 THB.
9 Elephant Nature Park
There are many elephant camps around Chiang Mai, but all of them are not created equal. Many are criticized for treating animals badly and overwork. Elephant Nature Park is not one of these places. Visitors are invited to spend the day volunteering for elephants, feeding them, and bathing them in the river. Most elephants are saviors, after suffering like animals that show or work. Once they come to the ENP, they are no longer workers and are treated gently and respectfully.
One day spent here is an eye-opening experience, because you can spend more time with elephants and learn about their suffering. Volunteer fees include transportation and lunch, and the money is used to maintain the land and provide for the animals. Be sure to order in advance, because the volunteer place fills up before the time.