Chiang Mai Tourism Information
Going north of the country you will find Thailand's second most important city, Chiang Mai. Its renowned for its calm stress-free atmosphere, laid back locals, with the city set between mountains and planes. Its also a heaven for temple lovers.
Chiang Mai is set in the foothills of the Himalayas and is known for its elephant-back safaris, magnificent temples and famed Night Market. The city is the gateway to the north of Thailand and has plenty of attractions and excursions to enchant visitors, from orchid farms to puppet shows. A holiday in Chiang Mai appeals to anyone who is interested in the Thai culture, customs and traditions, reflecting the real life in Thailand and its way of life. It is a very inviting city, well suited for family tourism and romantic escapes.
Expect a warm climate year round, but as Chiang Mai is higher in altitude the evenings and nights can be at times fresher reaching about 15C. Day time can be in the 20-25°C except during the hot season reaching up to 33°C. It's definitely more comfortable to be in the city walking around than Bangkok, but still bring sun protection if you're not used to tropical climates.
The best time to visit Chiang Mai, is between November and May when cooling winds blow through the city, ensuring warm to mild days.
Chiang Mai has one main airport (CNX) which handles domestic and international traffic. Most tourists arrive from Bangkok by air, but it's possible to get there by train and bus.
It's infrastructure has improved a lot in the last years, thanks to the tourist boom, and now it's much safer to travel on its roads.
When arriving to the airport be sure to check the arrival tourist info stands, as like Phuket, if you don't drive or lack time, arranging your tours from the airport are a good alternative and you will save time immediately as they will often give you the option of transportation to your Hotel.
To get to the city centre from the airport, it takes about 15 min and you can share a minivan with other travellers, being this a better option than going by taxi. If you want to use a cheaper taxi option, download the APP, "GRAB".
Once in Chiang Mai city, the tuk tuks, also known as samlors, are usually the quickest means of transport, and fares should be negotiated before travelling. Songthaews are another way of travelling. Songthaews are small, usually red, pickup trucks with benches fitted along the side; they have no fixed route but pick up and drop off passengers like buses and need to be flagged down. Passengers should be sure to check the destination with the driver.
The Chiang Mai bus service is very limited. Renting a motorbike is a popular option, and car rental agencies are also available. Bicycles are another good way to explore Chiang Mai and can be hired in the old city, though travellers will have to watch out for other drivers.
Visiting this city is a true representation of the most traditional side of Thailand. Temples are in abundance and visiting them all can be quite daunting. Also can't leave without visiting some famous parks, gardens, wild life sanctuary (Elephants and Tigers), waterfalls and the "long-neck" village.
Arranging a visit by yourself to the Temples in the city is easy but it's advised to organise tours to the rest of the locations due to the distances needed to travel to the remote areas.
The most important things to see are:
- Temples of Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep and Wat Prasingh,
- Night Bazar Market in Chiang Mai,
- Doi Inthanon (highest park in Thailand),
- Wat Chedi Luang (Temple Ruins from 1400)
- Bua Thong Sticky Waterfalls.
- Chiang Dao Cave
- Long Neck VIllage: Padung Village introduces you to the ‘Long Neck Karen’ ethnic hill-tribe. The women wear brass rings around their necks, wrists and ankles as part of their culture. It is a good idea to explore, with respect, the village a little to get a feel of their culture and way of life. Its recommended to donate some food or money to support them or by purchasing a few souvenirs (not a requirement though).
The best idea to be able to see as much as possible is to arrange tours. You can do this from the airport as you arrive, or from the many agencies in the city centre. Big groups can even ask for discounts and get personalised tours.
Tours range from €25 to €50 depending on how many activities you include.
Most tours include an English speaking guide, hotel pick up and drop off, water bottle and meals, if the tours are full days.
Chiang Mai is a nice change from the hustle and bustle of the bigger Bangkok, or some of the islands, when it comes to partying. Here you will experience more of a laid-back atmosphere when going out. The riverside is especially great for having drinks while listening to live music.
The city is full of locals and tourists, so there is still plenty of opportunities to go out and find a good nightlife, from bars and pubs to Thai Boxing. Note that clubs close early because of city law. Additionally, many of the hotel bars offer great places to start your evening drinks. If you do not have this in your hotel, check out the centre of the town where many of the bars and clubs are located.
There is a good variety of tastes and crowds, from exclusive venues, types of music and even catering for LGBT nights as well.
Shopping in Chiang Mai is often cheaper and a more authentic experience than in Bangkok. As one of the handicraft centres of Asia, Chiang Mai is the place to buy anything from silk, silver and ceramics to antiques and Buddhist objects (for pray or spiritual purposes only, not decoration). Electronic equipment is also readily available, although sometimes of dubious origin.
The first stop has to be the Night Bazaar on Chang Klan road, with stalls and arcades offering all kinds of Northern Thai handicrafts including silk, cotton, wooden carvings, silver and saa (mulberry) paper. Another good market is held on Ratchadamnoen Road, in the old city. Near Chiang Mai, Bor Sang village also sells its famous colourful umbrellas.
In the centre of Chiang Mai there are numerous shops trading gadgets, western-style clothes and multimedia goods. The biggest are located at the Kad Suan Kaew mall and Central Plaza at Chiang Mai Airport, while computer equipment can be found at the Pantip Plaza.
Hotels are cheap and reasonable and on a budget you can expect to find rooms from about €20 per night. Staying around the city centre is advised as Chiang Mai does not have a proper transport network so everywhere you want to go should be in walking distance or a short hop on the tuk-tuks.
A short but complete visit to Chiang Mai would be ideal, including some tours. 3 nights would be enough time.
Chiang Mai Photo Slide 📷