Chiang Mai lies in the mountains 700km north of Bangkok and is renowned for its culture and history. Founded in 1296, it was for a long time the capital of the Lanna Kingdom, and the distinctive moat and wall that surround the city were built to hold off Burmese and Mongol invaders. By 1892, the Lanna Kingdom had partnered with neighbouring Siam and was renowned for its silverwork, pottery and teak furniture production. Today it is a thoroughly modern city and Thailand’s second largest. It is popular with tourists for its wealth of beautiful temples, nature and excellent accommodation.
Finding Apartments, Guest Houses and Villas in Chiang Mai
Despite it’s popularity, Chiang Mai is a beautiful leafy city which has retained many of its traditional Thai features. Whether you wish to stay in a romantic villa or family apartment, there is plenty of unforgettable accommodation on offer blending Thai hospitality and western conveniences.
Exploring Chiang Mai
There are over 300 temples in Chiang Mai, representing the last eight hundred years of Buddhist and Hindu worship in the area. Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, the biggest, is a magnificent hill-top temple about 15km outside of Chiang Mai. The gilded complex of pagodas, bells and shrines refers to both Buddhism and Hinduism and is a place of reverence for many Thai people. It also offers a sweeping view over the city, jungle and rice fields below. At Wat Phan Tao, look out for the main hall constructed entirely of teak, a subdued but masterful display of reverence. Outside of the central city, 70% of the region is covered by mountains, vegetation and plenty of wildlife. Doi Inthananon is Thailand’s highest peak, surrounded by the lush national park. Hire a car in town and explore it yourself, or sign up to one of the many specialised tours including nature walks, visits with local villages and a look at some forest shrines. To get higher up into the trees, try a zipline or platform walk tour, and if you’re lucky you might spot a Gibbon or tree snake. At night, wander around the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar and try out your bargaining skills at the hundred of stalls selling both modern goods and traditional handicrafts. It’s also an excellent place to snack on Thai street food. Try Khao Soi, a yellow curry with egg noodles or Miang Kham, betel leaves with a variety of spicy fillings.
Festivals in Chiang MaiChiang Mai hosts several traditional festivals throughout the year and with a little planning it should be easy to align your trip with one of them. A highlight is the The Flower Festival in February, an eye popping celebration of floral arts and includes a parade of flower studded floats, demonstrations and elaborate displays. The Chiang Mai Songkran and Lannathai Festival in April is a popular festival to ring in the Thai New Year. It is particularly well known for the water soaking event, which is exactly what it sounds like - a lot of fun. In Thai culture being splashed with water brings good luck and at this family friendly festival, everyone gets involved in the splashing with whatever vessels they can find. It also brings cool relief from the April heat. In November, the Yee Peng Festival occurs at the full moon and is a time for Buddhists to give and be virtuous. In Chiang Mai, the celebrations involve thousands of lanterns being launched into the sky or river and is a stunning evening not to be missed.
Chiang Mai used to be extremely remote from Central Thailand and until the railway was completed in 1921 it could take months to reach from Bangkok. Today it is easily accessed by plane to Chiang Mai International Airport from Bangkok, train and road. Public transport within the town is unreliable, so the best way to get around is by Tuk-Tuk or Songthaew, a small truck with benches in the back. Your accommodation provider should also be able to recommend someone who can take you out for the day if you want to explore the countryside. It’s also easy to hire a motorbike, but keep in mind they are often in poor shape and the roads are notoriously dangerous.