Travel guide -> Thailand -> Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai is the main town of Thailand and the provincial capital of the province of the same name. It is in the north, 700 km from Bangkok.

Beautifully located by the Ping River, this city and its surroundings have great natural beauty; besides, it is also called “The Rose of the North”.

Founded in 1296 by King Meng Rai, the city of Chiang Mai has a rich history and a unique cultural identity.

At the time, under the reign of Mengrai, it was the capital of the Lanna Kingdom.

This is this past and this wealth that preserved its cultural identity, as visible in the daily lives of its inhabitants, who still speak in their original dialect, as in their costumes, cuisine and architectural heritage made of ancient temples with the richly decorated typical architecture of northern Thailand,

The city is also traditionally a craft centre. It produces objects of silver and wood, as well as ceramics, among other things, that make the city attractive for trade crafts in the whole country.

The Chiang Mai province has an area of ​​over 20,000 square kilometres and offers the most picturesque sceneries of the Kingdom. The Ping River has dug a very fertile valley, adorned with a real cameo of poppy fields, exotic jungles and rivers, between rolling hills and verdant mountains. This is where the highest peak in the country, the Doi Inthanon lies.

Adventure lover, Chiang Mai is for you. On this ground, one can make river rafting, safari with 4 x 4WD, elephant trekking, hiking in natural surroundings of great beauty. Extreme sports, very fashionable now, are passable in the mountains, rivers and surrounding tracks.

We can also go discover traditional villages whose inhabitants, who are organized tribally, wear outfits in the colours of their tribe and live in another time, far from the modern world.

But comfort is always available through many luxury hotels, accommodations in mountain lodges and multiple and essential services for travellers today.

Chiang Mai is surrounded by very charming provinces, Lampang, Lamphun and Mae Hong Son, offering many opportunities to enjoy all the beauties of the northern region and the uniqueness of its culture.

The surroundings of Chiang Mai are perfect for cycling or motorcycling, and the green space closest to the city, Doi Suthep, is known specifically for mountain biking and the loop Mae Sa-Samoeng, nearby, is ideal for a wonderful getaway in the mountains.

In Chiang Mai, one can also get to know the elephants: it is one of the best destinations to meet these animals in good conditions. At the time, this type of activity was closer to a circus, but in recent years the quality of this animal, emblematic in the country, has impaired and thus aroused a legitimate concern, and soon the proposed animations were depreciated, by the establishment of nature reserves and the establishment of schools forming mahouts.

Thanks to an impressive site of limestone cliffs, located behind Tham Meuang On, 45 km east of Chiang Mai, near Sankamphaeng, rock climbing enthusiasts will find their happiness. The landscape, though less exceptional than in Krabi, offers, from above, a beautiful view over the surrounding countryside.

It is also possible to go rafting on the Mae Taeng River, flowing north of Chiang Mai, which crosses national parks of Doi Chiang Dao and Huai Nam Dang. It is a rushing river, with many rapids, where rafting is also part of the possibilities. From July to March, about 9 months a year, this river is turbulent and punctuated by rapids. In a climate of harvest, this represents a remarkably long season. For example, on a 10 km course, level II to IV rapids will be to cross, some even level V, and on an especially exciting part, the river goes down about 60 m over a distance of 1, 5 km.

The City centres of interest

-Wat Phra Sing
This lovely temple, dating from 1345, houses, in Sam Lan street, the venerated statue of the Phra Phuttasihing Buddha. It is a flagship location as part of the celebrations of the Thai New Year, Songkran, which takes place from April 13 to 15.
The Lai Kham chapel, which houses masterpieces in carved wood, is in its enclosure. One can also admire murals frescoes in pure style of the north, a stunning bas-relief, a superb scriptural receptacle along with a bell-shaped stupa.

Suan Dok –Wat
This temple, located on Suthep street, dates from the 14th century and was built in the pleasure gardens of the King of Lanna. It presents the peculiarity of having several white Chedi where are preserved the ashes of previous members of the royal family of Chiang Mai.
In a second chapel, we can admire an old bronze Buddha, 500 years old, which is one of the largests in Thailand.

-Wat Chiang Man
In Ratchaphakhinai street, in the old fortifications of the city, can be admired the oldest temple of the city of Chiang Mai. It was built around 1296, at a time when, according to legend, King Mengrai lived there during the erection of the new city of Chiang Mai.
This Temple is distinguished by a fine Chedi supported by rows of elephant, as well as by a remarkable chapel that houses Khao Phra Sila and an ancient image of the Phra Kaeo Khao Buddha. There is also a tiny crystal statue supposed to have the power to bring rain

-Wat Chedi Luang
It is in the Phrapokklao Street that you will find the largest Chedi in the city, with a length of 98 meters by 54 wide.
Completed in 1481, it was partly destroyed in 1545 following an earthquake.
A superb Naga staircase decorates the main entrance towards the chapel.
The temple has housed quite a while the Emerald Buddha, currently visible in the Wat Pra Kaeo in Bangkok.

-Wat Ku Tao
Remarkable for an exceptional bulbous Chedi, reminiscent of a watermelon, hence his Thai name, the temple is located near the Chiang Mai Stadium and is decorated on its structure by colourful porcelain pieces, probably representing the five bowls alms possessed by monks.

-Wat Chet Yot
Temple characteristic by its square Chedi and its seven arrows, this temple, the architecture of which is inspired by the Hindu temple in Bodhgaya (site where the Buddha attained enlightenment), it is located outside of the city. It is accessed via the main motorway, north of the intersection of Huai Kaeo Nimmanhemin.

-Wat U-mong
Here is a charming temple for meditation, located on Suthep Street. Founded during the reign of King Meng Rai, it differs from other major temples ofChiang Mai, nestled in the heart of an almost bucolic landscape, and also has an ancient Chedi.

-Wat Saen Fang
This is an ancient temple, located Tha Phae Street, interesting for its Burmese architecture.

-Wiang Kum Kam<
The site of Wiang Kum Kam is the one of an ancient city built during the reign of King Meng Rai, before the advent Chiang Mai. It includes the remains of at least 20 ancient temples and other buildings that have been discovered by archaeologists.
It is located southeast of Chiang Mai, on the road Chiang Mai - Lamphun, between the km 3 to 4.

- Chiang Mai National Museim
This museum, next to Wat Chet Yot, was built in a modern Lanna stryle architecture and houses an interesting collection of northern art objects and handicrafts.
It can be accessed from Wednesday to Sunday between 9 am and 4 pm, except during Songkran and New Year (tel. 66 (0) 53 22 13 08).

-Insects and Natural Wonders Museum
It is a Museum to visit absolutely to enjoy a unique and educational experience.
You'll find a collection of insects of the world, and a thousand other wonders of nature between shells, fossils, exceptional stones and many other things from Thailand and elsewhere.

Trekking in the Thai mountains

Forward to adventure!

You will travel through the jungle, home stay in a tribal village in the lush vegetation, you will go down the river on bamboo raft, you can swim under the waterfalls in nature, and ride on elephant back.

This is all that can offer you a two-day trek!

Discussion with a Buddhist monk.

It would be really a shame to go in Chiang Mai without enjoying a moment of discussion with a Buddhist monk, who will present the precepts of his religion, will explain how monastic life is organized, and also about the Thai culture in general.

These discussions, exciting, are organized in several temples in the city and give you the opportunity to enjoy a moment of sharing of great value.

(Wat Chedi Luang, Phra Pok Klao Road 103, Phra Singh, Chiang Mai 50200, Thailand)

Thai cooking classes

Integral part of the culture of Thailand, its gastronomy, with all its flavours and colours will delight you. Take the time one day to attend a cooking class to discover the recipe of the "pad-thai", the "mango sticky rice", or "the green curry chicken” it will open an unsuspected culinary universe.

(Thai Farm Cooking School, 38, Soi 9 Moonmuang Rd |. Sriphoom, Chiang Mai, Thaïland)

Watching elephants

Unfortunately, too many tour operators in Thailand, who offer elephant rides, do not properly take care of their animals and even abuse them. It is impossible, in these circumstances, to keep a good memory of an experience with these unscrupulous organizers.

It is therefore recommended to go to the Elephant Nature Park: this sanctuary ensures the rehabilitation of elephants in an environment, safe and caring. Here you can watch them, feed them and even play with them for a day that you will never forget.