Chiang Mai is the largest city in northern Thailand, about 440 miles north of Bangkok and serves as a base for the many activities that travelers are able to find in this part of the country. The city is home to dozens of temples, lively food markets, a beautiful surrounding landscape and friendly people. Although becoming more and more popular with backpackers, digital nomads, and other expats, Chiang Mai still oozes authenticity and a genuine Thai feel. There plenty of Thailand holidays and deals in the Chiang Mai area and here are some the top things to do.
Things to do in Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai has dozens of temples, some dating back to the 13th century. but you probably won’t have the time (or the patience, for that matter) to visit them all. However, they’re all different and beautiful in their own ways. Wat Phra Singh is in the center of town and features a large reclining Buddha and some beautiful chedis (spherical structures housing artifacts and a meditation area.) Wat Doi Suthep is the area’s most famous temple with a great view of the city and surrounding area. You can climb a steep staircase or pay for a ride to the top in a funicular.
Yi Peng Festival
Although it only happens once a year (late October/early November) depending on the lunar calendar, the Yi Peng festival is characterized by the release of thousands of flaming paper lanterns carrying people’s hopes and dreams into the sky. Houses, gardens, and temples are also decorated with lanterns.
Also dependent on the lunar calendar, this festival falls around the same time as Yi Peng. Loi Krathong translates as “to float a basket” which comes from the tradition of creating decorative baskets which are floated on the river. These baskets typically contain banana leaves, a candle, a coin and possibly nail or hair clippings to help carry away worries. The festival is accompanied by beauty contests, carnivals, and parades.
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Cooking classes in Chiang Mai are extremely popular and quite economical. You’ll typically learn about the ingredients you’re about to source from the local market before bringing them back to the kitchen. You’ll end up eating what you cook and learning about Thai culture while you do it.
Chiang Mai is the home base for many jungle trekking tour groups. The landscape surrounding Chiang Mai makes for excellent hiking, white water rafting, and waterfall chasing. Tours can last anywhere from an afternoon to weeks at a stretch. Shopping around and reading online reviews is in your best interest as the quality of the tours can vary significantly.
Chiang Mai is the main hub of handicraft selling in northern Thailand. The night bazaar allows you to bargain for all sorts of souvenirs, clothing and almost anything else you can think of. It’s open until midnight every night of the year regardless of weather and attracts huge numbers of locals and tourists. Haggling is expected and part of the attraction.