Chiang Mai

Always something new in Chiang Mai

Welcome to Chiang Mai, the largest city in Northern Thailand. It’s set in the mountains, and therefore brings a different experience from the rest of the country, famous for its stunning beaches.

Some will tell you that the capital of the north is nothing special, but the majority finds it to be the perfect escape from the loud noises of brimming Bangkok and a place to cool down after sunny and hot islands weather.
In the end, almost every traveler stops here, and if you look closer it’s easy to understand why so.

Thailand, Chiang mai - Royal Flora Ratchaphruek Park

This second largest city in Thailand used to be the capital of the Lanna Kingdom and carries the title of the cultural capital of the country. Its modern vibes can easily hide the fact that the city is in fact very old. Even the name translates as the “new city”. But this old new city has its attributes that are impossible to resist. For starters, it’s very easy going and has a strong local feel. Its diversity has caught the attention of the digital nomads and thousands of expats who now call it home.
If you add the stunning lush rainforests, sleepy villages, inviting markets, magnificent waterfalls, placid forest wat, elephant sanctuaries,… that are only a short motorcycle or red truck drive away, it is no surprise so many consider this place to be a perfect haven. Read more about why visit and what to see and do below in this short and helpful guide.

Things to do and see in Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai City

Was founded in 1296 and used to be closed off by walls. This is also the area where you’ll find most of the main landmarks, including numerous temples the city is well-known for, museums and galleries. Must see include: Wat Chedi Luang, Wat Phan Tao, Wat Phra Sing, Wat Chiang Man, Suan Buak Hat Park,… A wonderful and unique mixture of modern and old life will surely impress you.

Go on a shopping spree

And spend some time (and money!) at one of the many out-of-this-world malls Chiang Mai offers. Delicious food, established Western brands, movie theaters, and fancy luxury promise a great fun for all the shopaholics… Check out Maya, Promenade, Central Festival Malls, Kad Suan Kaew…to name just a few.

Meet the elephants

And have an unforgettable experience at the Elephant Nature Park. This sanctuary is a rescue and rehabilitation center for elephants, where you can meet and work with this magnificent gentle giants. Take this unique peek into their lives, learn more about them and help them by spreading awareness.

Enjoy the view from the “Roof of Thailand”

Tourists visit The Giant Coffee Shop - Chiang Mai, Thailand

At 2,565 meters above sea level, Doi Inthanon is the highest peak of Thailand. There’s a lot to see and do here: enjoy the breathtaking views, go bird watching, take a walk, and marble beautiful King and Queen stupas set in the fairy-tale like gardens. Don’t forget to dress up, though. It’s quite chilly up there.

Get crafty

in Bo Sang Village, home to handcrafted umbrellas and parasols. Its fame is well-known all over the world. No wonder that umbrella is one of the Chiang Mai’s symbols. Small umbrellas to decorate your cocktail with, large garden parasols, and pretty hand-painted umbrellas- are all waiting for you to buy them at a very good price.

Travel costs

Accommodation

The main question might be- which area is the best to stay in? While it all depends on the preferences, a lot of people decide to stay in the old city area. It’s not too crowded nor too loud, most of the sights are easily accessible, plus there’s tons of restaurants and bars. You can choose from backpackers, guesthouses, B&B’s, hotels… Budget friendly prices start at as low as 5 USD. If you want to save some bucks, you can try couch-surfing.

Food and drinks

Food lovers, rejoice! Not only is the rose of the north famous for its delicious food, it’s also noticeably cheaper. At food stands, you’ll pay less than 1.50 USD for a meal, and under 13 USD for two people at a mid-range restaurant for a standard three-course meal. You might want to go for a domestic beer as it’s way more budget friendly at 1.60 USD than its imported “brother” that costs nearly 3.20 USD. Sodas aren’t too costly and neither are coffee or other caffeinated drinks. Avoid tap water and choose bottled ones. They will cost you less than 1 USD per litre. If you’re sensitive, you might want to use bottled water for brushing your teeth too.

Transportation

Getting around isn’t expensive. Price for a one-way ticket for local transport is around 0.60 USD. Taxis are a bit more costly, starting price is roughly 1 USD and any additional mile costs less than 0.30 USD. Keep your eyes on the “red trucks” (Rót daang)- these shared red taxis, without any fixed routes, are an amazing and super easy way to get around. Short trips shouldn’t cost you more than 0.60 USD. You can try tuk-tuks but they are more pricey, particularly at nights. Beware of pushy drivers.

Renting a bicycle

might be a good option, and luckily inside the city, lots of attractions are easy to reach on foot. To get from the airport, the most budget friendly is the shuttle minibus, prices start at 1.20 USD. But there’s a catch. Shuttles only leave when they’re full so you might have to wait. If you want to avoid that, consider licensed taxis instead. The average price is under 5 USD, but it mostly depends on your desired destination.

Sights

Fields in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Most of the attractions are either free or so cheap they won’t eat into your budget noticeably. Just like anywhere else in Thailand, a bargain is a way to go and keep in mind that it all comes down to planning and checking your options.

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