Thailand’s second-largest and second-oldest city, Chiang Mai is far removed from the hectic metropolis of Bangkok. A charming city with a moat and remnants of fortified walls, Chiang Mai is the kind of place where a simple stroll from thehotel to a café turns into a sightseeing experience.
Chiang Mai is sprinkled with hundreds of temples, and wherever tourists venture they’ll see pagodas peeking up over the tree line. Most of the hotels in Chiang Mai city center offer views of nearby temples and shrines. The most dignified temple crests Doi Suthep Mountain on the fringe of the city center. It’s visible from all corners of central Chiang Mai Shopping is a must while in Chiang Mai, whether that means spending an afternoon in the mall near Chiang Mai International Airport or strolling through the city’s extensive evening markets. Ideally, it involves both, as the handicrafts, delicate carvings, silk fashions and original artwork in Chiang Mai are first rate.
This is also a great place to learn about Thai culture. At relatively low cost, tourists can enroll in cooking, language, yoga or massage classes. Guided meditation retreats to mountain monasteries are also popular, as are visits to elephant camps, including the conservation project, Elephant Nature Park. Chiang Mai is also home to the famous panda cub, Lin Ping, who currently resides with mum Lin Hui at Chiang Mai Zoo and draws hundreds of visitors a day.
After hours, the city’s modern vibe ignites. International restaurants, live music venues and nightclubs are well-located across town. A string of riverside clubs play a mix of Thai music and well-known international covers. Other prominent strips include the hostess bars of Loy Kroh and the ultra-chic lounges on Nimmanhaemin Road.
Apart from its blend of cosmopolitan and rustic charm, Chiang Mai is also famous for its outdoor activities. Tourists based here can arrange treks through the northern jungles; adventure activities like rock climbing or mountain biking; and homestays in remote hill-tribe villages.