Chiang Mai is a city in northern Thailand, famous for its beautiful, mountainous landscape, temples and night market. There’s plenty to do and see here, but if you’re not sure where to start, this post shares my top tips for a visit to Chiang Mai.
Visit fascinating temples with stunning views
Chiang Mai is home to hundreds of Buddhist temples, the most famous of which is 1,000 metres up Mount Suthep just outside the city. It’s said that a white elephant carrying a religious relic climbed up the mountain and died on the spot where the temple was built. There’s a white elephant statue there to mark the story.
The journey up was almost as fascinating as the temple itself. The road was incredibly steep but we saw some heroic cyclists pedalling all the way – I was in complete awe! Luckily, we had a minivan take the strain for us and we were treated to a stunning view of Chiang Mai from the top. It’s no wonder this is one of the most beautiful places to visit in Thailand!
The temple itself was a riot of gold leaf and buddha statues. Although it was busy with tourists, I felt a huge sense of serenity and calm up there. It was my favourite temple visit in Thailand.
We also visited Wat Chedi Luang in the historic centre of Chiang Mai. The main temple is in ruin following a major earthquake in 1545, after which the famous emerald buddha was moved to a different province. One of the other buildings has a slightly creepy wax statue of a monk who had reached nirvana.
We enjoyed wandering around the site and spotting monks in their bright orange robes. It was a great visit, and another sight definitely worth putting on your Chiang Mai to do list.
Top Tip: Remember to cover your shoulders in places of worship. And if you want to use the toilet at Wat Chedi Luang, take your own flip flops or slippers. They have spares available there, but you just don’t know where they’ve been…
Sample Khao Soi
Lemongrass is a wonderful little restaurant, just a few steps from the Night Bazaar. It is deliciously rustic with visitor graffiti all over the walls and waiters that looked more like Thai backpackers than staff. But that’s why I loved it – I felt so at home.
It was also where I had my absolute favourite meal of the entire trip – khao soi, a curry-like noodle broth and one of the best things to eat in Chiang Mai. I’m salivating just at the thought.
Top Tip: As we left Lemongrass, there were people queuing halfway down the street to get in, it was obviously popular. Arrive early and prepare to want to stay the whole night if you do go.
Enjoy a trip on bamboo rafts
Have a look for bamboo rafting trips along the rivers nearby Chiang Mai. It’s possibly the most relaxing and serene thing you can do in the whole of Thailand. The land was just so peaceful – we could only hear the movement of the water and the faint chirps of tropical birds. Plus, give me a hat and you’re on to a winner.
Visit the Night Bazaar
Make sure you visit the Night Bazaar – an absolutely huge outdoor market that just seemed to go on forever. It sells everything you could ever wish to buy – food, clothes, souvenirs, accessories, gadgets, toys, massages and cut-price brands. But it’s not just a place to go for shopping. There are mini stages all over the bazaar with Thai dancers and music, all decorated with lanterns and lights. It makes a great night out all on its own!
Top Tip: Our guide book that says if it’s sold outside, it’s fake. We weren’t sure which bits of the market counted as ‘inside’ so we just assumed it was all fake. You should probably do the same.
The biggest Top Tip of all: Go to Chiang Mai! It is a region of juxtaposition – peaceful countryside and temples are just a few minutes’ drive from the hustle and bustle of the most fantastic market I’ve ever been to. One thing’s for sure – you’ll never get bored.
What are your top tips for visitors to Chiang Mai?