Chiang Mai Thailand – An Honest and Informative Travel Guide – Updated 2023

The culturally rich city of Chiang Mai Thailand is famous for its ancient temples, majestic waterfalls and national parks, ancient structures, and busy enchanting markets. Chiang Mai tourism has a lot to offer the millions of tourists who visit the city every year.

Where in the world can you holiday at a place, which lets u have unlimited fun, intriguing adventures, blissful sightseeing, unlimited shopping, and lip-smacking wine and dine experience? The answer is Chiang Mai in Thailand.

The culture and history of the place will fascinate you. The bastions, the old pagodas, the ancient temples, comfortable and affordable guesthouses, adventurous trips, and treks to the beautiful mountains and national parks will pack your holiday with an everlasting experience.

The people of Chiang Mai Thailand are hospitable and flaunt their culture because they are proud of their legacy. You will find charming people dressed in their traditional attires welcoming you to various tourist locations. Most of the hotel rooms are traditionally decorated using age-old designs and styles. The bars, the restaurants, and the spas add another glamorous touch to the ambiance.

There are a wide range of activities that you can do while taking a Chiang Mai tour. Go for sightseeing and explore the city. Stroll around the town scanning the historic monuments, ancient temples, or just spend a quite time sitting beside a moat.

Some of the major sightseeing attractions of this place are – the Wat Prathat Doi Suithep, Phuping Palace and National Park, Wat Chiang Man, Wat Chedi Luang, Chiang Mai zoo, Chiang Mai night safari, Chiang Mai Aquarium, Chiang Mai National Museum, Tweechol Botanical Garden and numerous other temples. If you want adventure then Chiang Mai Thailand tourism offers you trekking, mountain biking, white water rafting, elephant riding, kayaking, bungee jumping, and other adventure sports along its beautiful mountains and national parks.

Or you can also choose to meditate on yoga or learn the ancient Thai art of Tai chi. If you are a shopaholic then Chiang Mai is a paradise for you. You can shop unlimited here for various goods and you are pretty sure to get some great deals. In terms of shopping, it is considered to be the cheapest city in Thailand. You simply cannot resist the fabulous offers. You can shop for handicrafts, silk, silver, clothes, ceramics, antiques, and the list goes on. Another major attraction of Chiang Mai tours is its dining experience.

The people out here enjoy good food and have a relaxed attitude towards life. They indulge in fine dining and as a tourist, you are bound to be attracted to this habit of theirs. Their restaurants, bars, and discos are among the best in Thailand. The most pleasant time to take a Chiang Mai tour would be between the months of October and April. It is advisable to avoid the rainy season if you are not a local.

Apart from wandering around the canal which borders the Old Quarter, there are some quite pleasant gardens at Suan Buak Hart City Park which is located in the southwest corner of the Old Quarter. There are a large lake and various water features, flower beds, people selling snacks and drinks, and quite a few seats around – just right for a break in between sightseeing and looking at the Wats and Temples.

Hence if you are looking for a wonderful holiday filled with all pleasant experiences, you need to head to northern Thailand to the beautiful city of Chiang Mai.

Chiang Mai Thailand

Chiang Mai has located almost 600 km (360 miles) slightly north-west of Bangkok. Chiang Mai is a city with great diversity, history, and culture reaching far back in time which can be seen by the mix of new and old buildings. The city is the second biggest city in Thailand yet it is 10 times smaller than Bangkok. It is built on the Ping River and is set at just above 300 meters (1000 foot) elevation and in the west, the mountains rise over 1500 meters (5000 foot).

Before the tourists arrived the city was living on handcrafted goods such as umbrellas and silver but also other jewelry and woodcarving. Many people have their old languages and traditions from ancient times and still local tribes are found not least in this northern part of Thailand.

Chiang Mai has a population of about 1 million people which is half of the population in the whole province. The city is divided into 4 sub-parts (khwaeng) with the names Nakhon Phing, Srivijaya, Mengrai and Kavila.Chiang Mai is a popular destination among the Thais because of its fantastic nature, festivals, temples built more than 600 years ago and exotic fruits like apples, strawberries and peaches. People tend to think that Chiang Mai is far colder than other cities since the altitude.

getting around in chiang mai

The truth is that the altitude where the city is built doesn’t make a big impact on the temperature since it is not that high. During the hot season, in the spring, Chiang Mai actually have one of the hottest temperatures during the day but in the nights it all becomes very refreshing with slightly lower temperatures than many other popular destinations. In the cold season the temperature can drop down below 15 degrees in the night.

On the other hand you don’t have to go far to find high altitudes where the air is a lot colder. In these places the temperature can drop to sub-zero temperature.

The city was founded in 1296 and was the capital of the Kingdom “Lanna Thai” also known as “The Million Rise Fields Kingdom”. In the year 1556, it got invaded by the Burmese, however, the Thai took the control back again in 1785 and again become independent. The most famous temple is the Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep temple.

Most of the main sites of interest in Chiang Mai are located within the Old Quarter which is surrounded by a city wall (some parts of which are still quite evident – for instance at Tha Phae Gate) by the moat. Simple to walk around, the 1km square Old Quarter contains numerous temples and Wats all of which are free to enter although donations are always welcome. For visiting these Chiang Mai Temples correct dress is required in the Main Wat and shoes have to be removed as is normal in any of Thailand’s Temples.

Getting Around In Chiang Mai – songthaews, taxis and tuk-tuks.

Getting around in Chiang Mai is easy. You can either go by the classic tuk-tuk or song-teaw and also taxi is available. The tuk-tuks are very good at beating the traffic and as in most places in Thailand the traffic is anything but relaxing and a ride in the tuk-tuk is often an experience itself.

The best chance of negotiating a reasonable fare is by stopping one along the road. If possible try not to use any tuk-tuks which are parked together perhaps by restaurants or hotels etc as the drivers often pre-agree prices between themselves and will rarely negotiate prices – usually asking for far too much money.

If you feel the need to go where ever you want on your own you can also rent a motorbike. Remember that the traffic is probably not what you are used to.

One way (apart from walking) to get around is by using the City’s local buses called songthaews – these are used as shared taxis and are in effect fairly large vans with rudimentary seats. The songthaews are differently coloured depending on which route they take – the red songthaews operate around the main part of the City whilst the other coloured-types go a little further afield.

If you use one you may have to wait a while before it departs as they will not leave until they have filled up with enough passengers. There are of course also plenty of tuk-tuks around but ensure you agree on a price before using one.

Chiang Mai Long Distance Buses

Thailand has an excellent bus service and there are frequent buses connecting all major towns within the country. The main long-distance bus station is Arcade Bus Station which is on Thanon Kaeo Nawarat – around 3kms northeast from the center of town. You can only buy tickets from the bus station – travel agencies do not sell them.

weather for chiang mai

Chiang Mai Thailand has VIP and First Class buses offering cheap services north to Chiang Rai and connections up to the Lao border at Chiang Khong and south for Sukhothai, Ayutthaya, and of course Bangkok. The more expensive VIP buses are good for overnight traveling however the somewhat cheaper First Class are perfect for daytime as they are clean and comfortable.

Chiang Mai – Railways

Chiang Mai railway station is located 2kms east of the city center at the junction Charoen Muang Road and Rat Uthit Road. The stations have left-luggage facilities and there is also an ATM available. Train services are only available for heading south of Chiang Mai and there are usually 14 services a day to and from Bangkok’s Hualamphong Station, a journey which takes between 12 and 14 hours.

Chiang Mai Flights

Chiang Mai airport operates from 0600 to 2330 each day – it’s located just 3kms from the centre of Chiang Mai. There are frequent International flights to and from Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Luang Prabang (Laos), Kunming (China) – also flights twice a week to Yangon (Myanmar) and 4 flights a week direct to Taiwan.

Domestic flights are available to and from Nan, Chiang Rai, Mae Hong Son, Udon Thani, Hat Yai, Phuket and Bangkok. As you get into the Arrivals you are likely to be approached by taxi-touts however there is an official airport taxi booking service desk inside the arrivals hall which seems a much safer bet – they will give you the number of your taxi – then you simply wait outside for it to turn up.

Chiang Mai Hotels and Restaurants

There are so many hotels and guest houses around that you are really spoiled for choice and they all advertise on the web – and also this means that room prices are pretty reasonable. We stayed at a small hotel with nice views of the Ping River and this cost 600 Baht per night with cooked breakfast. There are also quite a few restaurants and cafes especially down at the Old City Wall by the moat and also along the Ping River (these are somewhat more expensive but you often get live music).

Weather For Chiang Mai Thailand

Chiang Mai is one of the places in Thailand where it rains less. Most of the rain falls between May and October, however, it never reaches over 250 mm in a month compared to other places as the beautiful island Koh Chang where it during some summer months can rain 4 times more. During the winter especially the night becomes far colder than in the summer and since it doesn’t rain that much Chiang Mai can be a great choice all year round depending on what you prefer.

Things To Do – Chiang Mai

Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep – This amazing temple is set 15 km (9 miles) from Chiang Mai. This is for many Thai people a very sacred place and from here you can see the impressive views of Chiang Mai. The temple was build in 1383 but over time the temple area has expanded. The road leading to the temple was built as late as 1935.

The temple was built after the white elephant legend which is about a monk named Sumanathera from Sukhothai. He had a dream where God told him to go to Pang Cha and look for a relic and so he did. He also did find a bone which many claims were the bone of Buddha’s shoulder. It had magical powers and could glow, vanish, move by itself and even replicate itself. The monk brought it to the king but the bone did not show any magic and the king asked the monk to keep it himself.

Soon after, Nu Naone the king of the Lanna Kingdom heard about the relic and wanted to see it. In the year 1368 with permission from King Dharmmaraja who earlier rejected to the relic, the monk brought it to Lamphun in northern Thailand where the relic split in half. One-piece remained the same size while the other piece was smaller. The elephant climbed the mountain Doi Suthep and at that time the mountain had the name Doy Aoy Chang meaning “The Sugar Elephant Mountain” which trumpeted three times and then died.

things to do in chiang mai

That was interpreted as a sign and the King Nu Naone ordered a temple to be set up at the site.
The temple can be reached by foot via the 309 step stairway or you can go by tram. Remember to have a proper dressing when entering the temple area.

Wiang Kum Kham – This is an ancient city that was first discovered in 1984. The city was left for more than 700 years ago after floods and in 2005 three floods occurred in the same year. The biggest temples in the area are Wat Khan Tom also known as Wat Chang Kum which is still a working temple and there is even a school attached to it. When the school was built they also prepared a playground and ancient amulets were found in the ground. An investigation by the Fine Arts Department uncovered the foundation of a wihan (vihara in Sanskrit) dating from King Mengrais time who became the King of Lanna and parts of Laos in 1261.

Another maybe the most spectacular temple is Wat Chedi Liam with its pyramid shaped tall appearance. This temple was built around 1286 on the order from King Mengrai. Many temples in the area have recently been renovated.

Doi Inthanon – This is the highest mountain in Thailand rising 2,565 meters (8 416 feet) above sea level. Here you find the Doi Inthanon National Park only 90 minutes drive southwest of Chiang Mai. It is famous for its great waterfalls, flora, and excellent views. There is possible to drive all the way to the top where the climate is very refreshing all year round dropping down to sub-zero degrees Celsius (32 degrees Fahrenheit).

There are numerous waterfalls to be seen and you are able to swim in natural pools below some of the waterfalls making the experience an even stronger memory. The cost is 400 Baht for tourists while Thais only pay 20 Baht.

That’s our quick Chiang Mai Travel Guide! More updates to come in the future!

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2 thoughts on “Chiang Mai Thailand – An Honest and Informative Travel Guide – Updated 2023”

  1. Hi,
    I want to live my retirement in Chiang Mai, how can I find an apartment or house?
    Is it possible?
    Thank you,


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