If you’re looking to experience the real and authentic face of Thailand, then you should definitely add Chiang Mai in your itinerary when visiting ‘The Land of Smiles’.
To me, Chiang Mai has been the highlight of my two-week trip in Thailand as it is a lot less touristy compared to other parts of Thailand and you got to interact more with the people there. Prices tend to be cheaper and the culinary experience was just amazing.
Here are my top 5 things to do in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
#1 – Wat Phra That Doi Suthep
The temple is one of the most visited tourist attraction in the city. Located on a top of the mountain, Doi Suthep can be reached by hiking up the mountain or renting a songthaew (red trucks). The drive is a short one but it is pretty steep!
The temple itself is absolutely beautiful in gold and you can find many Buddhas as well as dragons and elephants statues. The view from the top of the hill is amazing, especially on the clear day, you can see the whole city of Chiang Mai.
There is a small fee to enter this tourist attraction and will be asked to cover yourself as in many temples in Thailand.
#2 – Night Bazaar
You’ll find no better place than the night bazaar to do some shopping in Chiang Mai. Whether you’re looking for souvenir, clothings or housewares, you’ll be sure to find what you’re looking for.
Be careful not to be ripped off as this is a very touristy place, vendors tend to take advantage of the situation.
#3 – Wat Chedi Luang
The imposing temple of Wat Chedi Luang is not your usual buddhist temple.
First of all, it is much taller than most chedi. Then a part of the chedi has been destroyed during the recapture of Chiang Mai in 1775 but some restoration work helped to stabilise the monument and prevented further degradation.
You’ll also find sculptures of elephants all around the temple and four staircases leading to the temple which are not accessible for tourists. Though I’ve seen the temple by day, it’s meant to be very beautiful lighted up at night.
#4 – Patara Elephant Farm
I really wanted to learn more about the elephants during my trip to Thailand but did not want to go to the touristy tours where the elephants are maltreated. After researching on the internet, I have finally chosen to go with the Patara Elephant Farm.
The farm is the only elephant breeding farm in Thailand and the people there are working really hard on making sure the elephants are in good health to reproduce.
They offer a program called ‘Elephant Owner For A Day’. This is an hands on program where you get to learn how to take care of an elephant (feed them, check their health signs, bath them) and interact with them as what a trainer would do daily.
It was a mind blowing day and definitely one of my highlight in Thailand. You can really tell the elephants are well looked after so I did not mind paying the hefty price to enjoy this once in a lifetime experience.
#5 – Wat Kong Rhun (The White Temple)
OK this temple is not in Chiang Mai but in Chiang Rai. However, it’s possible to visit it on a day trip from Chiang Mai so I thought this was worth mentioning it.
This has to be most beautiful temple I have ever seen and the picture does not even give it justice. I could spend hours looking at the reflection of the temple in the water!
You enter the temple through a small bridge which symbolises the link between death and rebirth where you are welcome by an ocean of hands reaching up to you. You then cross the bridge towards the main temple. Inside, you will find superheroes, movie stars and cartoons in murals depicting traditional Buddhist motifs.
The temple is still a work in progress and it has proven so popular that they have now started to charge an entrance fee to visitors.
Here you have it, my top 5 things to do in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Have you visited Chiang Mai? What would be your highlights?