Top 8 Things to do in Chiang Mai
“If you haven’t tasted Khao Soi or seen the view from Doi Suthep, you haven’t been to Chiang Mai.” This famous Thai saying clearly rings true, as visitors to Northern Thailand will find that there are certain things to try in order to fully experience the city. Chiang Mai is definitely more relaxed than Bangkok, and its northern mountain air definitely offers respite from the country’s normally hot and humid weather.
Nature lovers choose Chiang Mai as their top place in which to experience a unique and organic trip, full of waterfalls, mountains, and rare wildlife. From Doi Inthanon to Mae Ping River, the opportunities are endless when it comes to touring the natural side of Northern Thailand.
8 Best Things To Do In Chiang Mai
1. Doi Suthep
Some of Thailand’s most deeply loved symbols are featured at Doi Suthep. As Chiang Mai’s backdrop, the mountain overlooks the city from the northwest, offering amazing summit views. The area made national park status in 1981, with its dense forests and evergreens gaining protection.
The highest peak in the park is Doi Pui, where you can find some of the most beautiful waterfalls. Mae Sa Falls, Monthathan Falls, and Huay Kaew Falls are the most popular and are easily accessible from the main road. The national park also features a variety of wildlife, including the rare Crocodile Salamander, which is only found in 4 places in the country.
2. San Kamphaeng Road
San Kamphaeng is the best place to go if you enjoy crafts. The road is 18 kilometres long and features villages and factories that produce all kinds of textiles. Here, you can find pottery, paper umbrellas, and silk among other things. And, one of the best things about this road is that you can actually watch them make such products.
Known as the Handicrafts Highway, the 2 lane road can get quite busy during peak travel times, so it is best to go in the morning to avoid crowds. Local artists flock here to practise their age-old crafts, shining a light on Thai traditions. San Kamphaeng is the best place to go for Thai silk, which is considered to be the best in the world. However, if silk isn’t your thing, ceramics are plentiful here, including Thai celadon. If you are looking for lacquerware, this is also the place to find it. For a bit of history, visitors can see the ancient kilns of the first Lanna potters and purchase small bits of this rare type of pottery.
3. Warorot Market
Warorot Market, or Kad Luang, is definitely a place to visit if you like to try different foods. Food lovers can shop or eat meals, regional snacks and a wide variety of fresh produce. It is truly the place to experience the local way of life as many Thais frequent this market. Furthermore, if you are looking for cheap clothing, accessories or personal care products, this is the place for you.
The market is located in a 3 story building and is close to the riverside at the end of Chang Moi Road. In addition to trying out the food at the market, visitors can venture to the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar in the evening as it is just south of Warorot Market.
4. Doi Inthanon National Park
This national park will give you access to the highest peak in Thailand. Doi Inthanon is truly magnificent as it is 2,565 metres tall. And, at that altitude, expect to feel cooler air than normal as the temperatures can fall below freezing during the cool season. Nature lovers can also enjoy the rugged mountainous terrain which is covered by tropical forests, waterfalls, and rivers. Speaking of waterfalls, the national park features some of Thailand’s best.
Moreover, if you like to watch birds, the park is home to 362 different species of them. In fact, many are not found in any other part of Thailand. But, it is not just plant and animals that have made their home here. The Northern Hilltribes have made this area their home, where their unique villages coexist with more modernised developments in the area.
5. Try Khao Soi
Khao Soi is the most famous dish of Northern Thailand and its taste is divine! With creamy and yellow coconut curry, just a spoonful of this dish will surely melt in your mouth. But, it’s not just a few ingredients that make this cuisine a delight. In fact, it’s the fusion of coconut milk, chicken broth, soy sauce, sugar, lime, and egg noodles that make this dish part of anyone’s Chiang Mai experience.
Furthermore, each Khao Soi dish can be altered to feature the meat of your choice. And, if you aren’t into meat, try tofu as an added ingredient. To top it all off, the dish is garnished with dried cilantro and crispy noodles to surely engage all of your taste buds. Moreover, if you try more than 1 restaurant, you may see a variety of other ingredients being added to this wildly popular Northern Thailand dish.
6. Chiang Mai “Grand Canyon”
Despite its name, Chiang Mai’s Grand Canyon isn’t exactly what it sounds like. This waterpark was built in an abandoned limestone quarry that has been filled over the years with monsoon rains. Locals came to like swimming in the spot due to its natural beauty, which then sparked ideas to develop the area into a waterpark. Fun for the entire family, the waterpark features an inflatable obstacle course, wakeboarding, slides, and a small zipline.
The waterpark costs adults 450 baht to enter, and kids 350 baht. For children under 90 cm, the entry price is only 90 baht. To rent a locker, visitors need to pay a refundable deposit of 100 baht and 50 baht for the actual locker rental. Visitors can choose to stay all day enjoying the waterpark as there is no time limit. A restaurant and coffee shop are also available in case you get hungry or thirsty. Towels, goggles, water toys, and kayaks are also available to rent at an extra cost. And, for added safety, everyone who enters the water, must wear a life jacket. In summary, this waterpark will surely offer a fun and wet-filled day!
7. Mae Ping River
Located about 100 km north of Chiang Mai, the Mae Ping River is popular for kayakers as they love to navigate the clear, green waters. Nature lovers definitely enjoy the quietness of the river, which winds through calm woods and farmland. Bird watching is abundant, as the park features many native, migrating bird species.
Aside from a peaceful day cruising the river, visitors can stop at a local farmer’s house to see the cultivation of Jasmine rice and herbs. And, if you are thirsty, try some fresh lemongrass or other herb juice to refresh your palate. Taking a day out and floating down the Mae Ping River is definitely something that will help you connect with nature while seeing a bit of the local way of life.
8. Night Bazaar
Visitors to Chiang Mai will definitely want to stop by the Night Bazaar as it is one of the main venues in Thailand to find some amazing deals and threads. Thus, missing out on this will leave your trip incomplete. The centre of the bazaar is located at the intersection of Chang Khlan Road and Loi Khro Road, but it spans 2 blocks in both directions.
Here, you can find almost anything your heart desires, with a wide variety of clothing, accessories, electronics, and many other bargain deals. Speaking of bargaining, try to be patient if something catches your eye as there is almost another stall selling the same thing at a possibly lower price. Regardless of what you may be looking for, the bazaar provides a cultural experience that is sure to leave you visually stimulated.
Chiang Mai is undoubtedly one of the most amazing cities to visit in all of Thailand. With a more laid back feel than Bangkok, travellers can enjoy this slice of unique Northern Thai culture. No matter what you may have planned for your trip, taking in the natural beauty of the mountains and waterfalls will have you enjoying a breath of fresh air.
From food markets to waterparks, spending time in this delightful Northern Thai city will almost surely have you appreciating the different cultural pockets of the country that make Thailand so unique. Finally, don’t forget to try the Khao Soi, as its taste has made it the most famous dish in the region.
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