Things to do in Chiang Mai

by Guest

The capital of the north was founded in the 12th century and has been ruled over by the Lanna Kingdom and the Burmese before becoming part of Thailand. These cultures have left their influences on the culture, architecture, and the food. The old town is surrounding by a moat and parts of the wall built hundreds of years ago. It’s a popular spot for travellers who come to try the delicious Northern Thai cuisine, and go on the adventure activities in the surrounding mountainous jungles. Here’s our rundown of the best things to do in Chiang Mai.

Discover the hundreds of temples

Chiang Mai is blessed with over 200 temples, many of which date back hundreds of years. There are simply too many to list here, but highlights includes the beautifully decorated Wat Chiang Man, the 14th century Wat Suan Dok, Wat Phra Sinh famous for its lion image, Wat Umong which is nestled outside the city surrounded by mountains, and Wat Sri Suphan which is made entirely from silver and alloy metals. Another popular temple is Wat Lok Molee which sits next to the city moat and is one of the most impressive. You can visit the temples by yourself, or book a tour with a local who will explain the architecture and history. Just remember, whenever you are visited a temple, you would always dress modestly, take off your shoes, and be respectful.

Chiang Mai Temples

Also read about: Chiang Mai Night Safari

Sample Northern Thai cuisine

Most travellers don’t know this, but Thai cuisine is very regional. While Central Thailand and the South are coconut heavy, the North uses more herbs in its cuisine and has influences from India and Myanmar. It’s most famous for sai oua, a delicious grilled herbal sausage and khao soi, more commonly known as jungle curry and includes crispy noodles on to of a spicy herbal broth. The best way to see the local markets and sample the cuisine is on a Chiang Mai food tour. Leaving each evening, the tour takes small groups on a four hour food adventure, sampling myriad dishes including century eggs, Northern chili dips, Thai curries, Shan cuisine and Thai desserts. The tour leaves at 5 p.m. each night and costs US $49 including transport, guides and all food and drinks. There are also many cookery classes which take you on market tours and then teach you to cook Northern Thai cuisine and pastes.

Also read about: Lamai Beach

Explore the city by tuk tuk

There is no better way to see the city than on one of Thailand’s iconic tuk tuks. A single journey on a tuk tuk costs around US $2, and if you want to hire one for the afternoon, it’s going to cost at least US $20. During this time, you can visit the markets, alleyways, temples, and the old city. Tuk tuk drivers are friendly and happy to show you around. Look for one which speaks good English and negotiate your rates before you depart.

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Chiang Mai explore

Hire a motorbike and drive to Pai

The beautiful little town of Pai is nestled in the forested mountain among paddy fields. It’s popular with backpackers who usually take one of the shuttle minivans. If you have a motorbike license, a great way to reach the town is by bike. The meandering roads are well paved and the traffic is low making a for the perfect 6 hour journey. Alternatively, if you are not confident on a motorbike, you can hire a scooter at a cheaper rate. Prices should start from around US $10 a day and you will need to provide a copy of your passport and sometimes a deposit. It’s worth remembering that you won’t be able to get bike insurance, so you will be fully responsible for the vehicle if it gets damaged or stolen. Check with your travel and medical insurance to check that you are covered for biking. Bike rentals companies are everywhere in Chiang Mai, so you won’t have trouble finding one.

Also read about: Phi Phi Island Tour

Go trekking near Chiang Mai

There are some excellent trekking opportunities around Chiang Mai which range from 8 day hikes to one day walks. We recommend doing the day trek up to Doi Chiang Chao for spectacular views, trekking through the beautiful Mae Su Valley (and camp overnight if you wish), or walk the trails in the Doi Inthanon National Park. All are easily reachable from the city by taxi. Some have entrance fees, but these are never very expensive.

Chiang Mai

Eat the fried insects

It’s commonly through that insects are only eaten by tourists, but in the north of Thailand they are a staple. While you might be squeamish, trust us when we say they are actually really delicious. Crickets and silkworms are deep fried and covered in salt. Like peanuts, they accompany cold beer very well. You can typically find them being sold in the local produce markets across the city and cost around US $2 for a small bag. If you have the chance, give them a go!

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See the wildlife at the Chiang Mai Night Safari

Just outside the city is one of the world’s largest nocturnal zoos measuring up at twice the size of the Singapore Night Safari. Though you can walk the trails in the day looking at the tigers, tapirs and birds, the real magic happens at night when guests board open sided trams to take the 5 kilometre journey around the 300 acre park. Along the way you can spot koalas, deer, white tigers, white lions, monkeys, porcupines, iguanas, and much more. The park also has a Children’s World with amusement centre, the Photo Corner where guests can take pictures with baby wildlife, and the unrelated, but equally impressive Magic Fountain water and music show. There is a free shuttle bus taking guests out to the park each night.

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See a Muay Thai fight

Muay Thai is the national sport of Thailand, and you’ll never be too far from a ring. There are several gyms in Chiang Mai offering travelers the opportunity to live and learn the martial art.  For those who are less energetic, be sure to visit one of the weekly Muay Thai bouts which pits international and Thai fighters with each. The fight nights are well advertised on posters around the town, but if you are unsure, just ask your hotel’s reception desk. The fights always start with traditional dancing and music, but make sure you get there early as the nights are popular. Tickets usually cost around US $10.

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