Friday, May 11, 2007

Top 10 things to see and do in Chiang Mai Thailand

By Andy Barrows

In light of its optimal location as a gateway into the Northern provinces of Thailand, along with its small-town feel complemented by the perks of being in a major city, Chiang Mai's appeal as a travel destination is truly impressive. Handicrafts, adventure sports and trekking, and provincial food are all in full supply, always provided with a smile and often at amazing prices.

Doi Inthanon National Park
Doi Inthanon National Park has Thailand's largest peak, at more than 8,000 feet. It's located to the south of Chiang Mai, and much of its wildlife is uniquely allocated only to this region. Visitors come for a cool weather retreat and to camp and watch the wildlife. Locals will tell you that it's a welcome relief from the smoggy city air. Tours from Chiang Mai to this park are recommended.

Wat Phratat Doi Suthep
Anytime you meet a Chiang Mai local, they'll undoubtedly ask you if you've visited Doi Suthep yet. It's a hallmark of any trip to the city, and the views from the summit are spectacular. Climb the 300-step flight of stairs or take a lift to see the restored 14th century chedi which hides sacred relics, and stroll around the marble courtyard. One of Thailand’s most important temples!

Chiang Mai Night Bazaar
Open every night from dusk until midnight, the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar has achieved legendary status worldwide for its sheer volume and low prices. At the centre of all Chiang Mai maps, it's located on Chang Klan road and stays open every evening until midnight. Products you'll find here include silver, antiques, jewellery and every kind of knock-off designer item you could want. Many of the Chiang Mai hotels are conveniently located here.

Thai massage and spas
You'll have no problem finding a place to get a massage or a beauty treatment in Chiang Mai. Hotels even offer spas in house now. Everywhere you go, you will see signs inviting you to relax for a foot massage, whole body massage or spa treatment. The quality and price vary quite a bit depending on where you go, and some of the best values can be found by word of mouth or by simply sizing up the location and facility before you commit yourself. When in Thailand this is one good value activity you must try.

A trip to Mae Sa
Mae Sa is well-known for its seven-tiered waterfall as well as for the variety of tourist attractions and performances that are put on in the area. Visitors can ride elephants at the highly popular Mae Sa Elephant Camp, and the star performers even stage a football match for spectators. There's a monkey show, a snake farm and a dog show here as well. Taxis and tuk-tuks can be chartered for the 30-minute drive. Follow any tourist maps of Chiang Mai northwards out of the city. Your hotels concierge can arrange the trip.

The Old City
A walking or biking tour of the Old City allows more intimate connections with the living remnants of Chiang Mai's rich history. Wat Chedi Luang is the most important temple in the city and it contains the great chedi that was once brought down by an earthquake in the 16th century; Wat Phrasingh is made in a classic, Northern Thai style; and Wat Chiang Mai is made completely of teak wood. Portions of the Old City wall have been restored, specifically at the gates and corners, and the entire moat remains since its creation 700 years ago. It’s certainly more pleasant than strolling in Bangkok.

Most visitors to Chiang Mai will embark on some sort of trekking adventure. Countless tour guide operators can organise a package for you and trips last anywhere from a full day to several nights, with accommodation provided by intermittent hill tribe villages. These journeys are pieced together with segments of shuttling, hiking, rafting and riding (usually on elephants). It's one of the best ways to get out into the countryside for a new perspective. Certainly a change to get of the Chiang Mai tourist map.

Courses and training
Whether you're a seasoned professional or only a beginner, Chiang Mai offers a wealth of classes and training in a variety of fields. The most popular courses are in Thai cooking, Muay Thai (Thai kick boxing) and Thai massage. The social climate in Chiang Mai is conducive to staying for a while, and many visitors choose to take a class while they get to know the city better. These are popular when visiting Thailand.

Adventure sports
After the chaos of Bangkok Cravers of adventures sports will not be disappointed in Chiang Mai. Rock climbers can hone their skills on the outdoor wall next to the Night Bazaar before heading out to Crazy Horse Buttress. There's also the opportunity for white -rafting and mountain biking up Doi Suthep. Some lower-key action can be found at the go-kart tracks.

Chiang Mai Zoo
The Chiang Mai Zoo is a great place to spend some time, not only in light of its 6,000 plus animals, but also because of its position on Doi Suthep Mountain where you'll catch some great views of the city. Some of the animals include gibbons, elephants and two pandas on loan from China. The latter have participated in several city festivals and are often featured in newspaper articles and other media.

Don’t forget to book you Chiang Mai hotels well in advance in the busy season.


Richard said...

Interesting fact silver made in Thailand is only made in villages outside of the main cities by Hilltribe families. Most patterns have been in there family for many years and can only be made by large order. There are no stores or one central place to purchase Hilltribe silver in variety other than from the large wholesale shops in the city. Mondays and Fridays are the days families will bring their goods to the main shops for sale and to pick up new orders. A trip to a silver village is a real eye opener to see how families work together to make beautiful silver pieces of art. All Handmade.

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ECE mini projects said...

Thailand is a wonderful land of beauty and nature, it is well known for it's night bazaar. Thanks for sharing.