Away from the hectic crowds of Bangkok and the relaxing beaches, tourists have found an escape to the north in Chiang Mai. If you’re planning your first trip to this laid-back town, you might not know all the things to do in Chiang Mai.
The capital city of Chiang Mai Province, and former capital of the Lanna kingdom, is home to more than 170,000 people within the city center and about a million in the metropolitan area. It is surrounded by lush mountains, giving it a more relaxing feel than Bangkok.
Travelers will be able to find everything from waterfalls and elephant sanctuaries to markets and temples in this Thai city.
The city is a top travel destination in Thailand for its rich history and modern creativity. Travelers also head there for a change of pace. It has even become Thailand’s creative hub.
Here are the top 5 things to do in Chiang Mai.
1. Ride a Motorbike to Doi Suthep
Although Chiang Mai is considered much more laid back than Bangkok, the center of the city can get crowded and tiring with more tourists visiting. This is the best time to rent a motorbike and head for the hills.
Doi Suthep is on every list of things to do in Chiang Mai for a reason.
Along the winding mountain road, you can stop at the royal palace. There are beautiful gardens throughout the palace.
If you take other routes around the area, you can take a detour to the Hmong hill tribe villages. The villages mostly offer souvenirs to tourists.
The highlight of the ride is Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep and its golden stupa. The temple grounds are a beautiful attraction and there are views of the city on clear days.
There are many motorbike rental companies in the city to choose from, but not all are the same quality. There’s also no need to fill up the gas tank all the way unless you plan to ride all day.
Of course, if you’d like to stay outside of the tourist center and still have easy access to Doi Suthep, you can book a room at Howie’s Homestay.
2. Monk Chat at Wat Chedi Luang
In the historic center of the city is Chiang Mai’s most visited temple. Wat Chedi Luang is made up of three temples dating back to the 14th century. It was severely damaged by an earthquake in the 16th century and then reconstructed in 1990s.
The temple contains a replica of the Emerald Buddha that it once housed. The Buddha was moved to Laos in the 16th century.
The best reason to visit this temple is the opportunity to talk with Buddhist monks. Visitors are invited to chat with the monks and ask questions about Buddhism and life at the monastery. It is also an opportunity for the monks to learn about the language and cultures of visitors.
3. Enjoy Thai Cuisine at the Night Bazaar
The Night Bazaar in the center of the city is a nightlife hotspot and one of the recommended things to do in Chiang Mai. This is the best place in town to shop from dusk to midnight every day.
This mall is filled with stalls offering souvenirs and Thai delicacies. There are also shops selling everyday goods for locals and foreign residents. There’s even a beer garden for anyone who is tired of shopping.
It’s easy enough to take a break from browsing the stalls; all that shopping can get tiring. So take a rest at any one of the cafes or food stalls and enjoy some Thai food.
Remember to bargain for any souvenirs you plan to purchase.
4. Take a Thai Cooking Class
One of the best parts about visiting Thailand is the food. What better way to take that experience home than with a Thai cooking class?
There are many places around Chiang Mai that offer cooking classes to all levels of cooks.
There are even some that cater to families with children.
You can choose your cooking class based on the location nearest your hotel or the Thai dishes you wish to learn. Most Thai cooking classes will focus on staples like Pad Thai and curry.
However, some schools will teach visitors to cook full meals with multiple dishes.
The best part about enrolling in a Thai cooking class is that you’ll get to enjoy the food when you’re finished cooking.
While some cooking schools may have space for same-day classes, it is best to book ahead. The better cooking schools are less likely to have available space for travelers who book last minute.
5. Relax with a Massage
What better way to enjoy a laid-back city than with a massage?
Even if you’re traveling on a budget, Chiang Mai offers affordable foot and full body massages. If you’re taking a leisurely trip through this northern Thai city, you can take some time out from sightseeing with a massage.
If you want to go upscale, head for one of the spas in the city. You can enjoy a full treatment in addition to a massage. Some of the luxury spas offer services for two or more hours of relaxation.
This is particularly recommended as one of the things to do in Chiang Mai after a long day of walking around. A foot massage followed by street food at the Night Bazaar is a great way to end a day of sightseeing.
Find More Things to Do in Chiang Mai
There are always more things to do in Chiang Mai. The city and surrounding area offer an array of activities to adventure seekers as well as those who want to immerse themselves in the local culture.
In addition to all the fun and exciting activities in the city, Chiang Mai also has an elephant rescue and rehabilitation center. While elephant-riding tours are offered around Southeast Asia, they are considered cruel. The Elephant Nature Park offers responsible tourism for visitors looking for an elephant experience.
If you’re planning a trip to Thailand, book some time in this beautiful city and enjoy all it has to offer.
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