Chiang Mai, fondly known as ‘the Rose of the North’ is Thailand’s second largest city after Bangkok. 700km from the capital, this picturesque city rises 300m above sea level in a valley divided by the Mae Ping River. Offering travellers a cool and pleasant welcome, Chiang Mai is culturally diverse, brought about by the different hill tribes that live nearby. Famous for its scenic verdant mountains and shrines, come November, Chiang Mai erupts in a sea of sunflowers. Yellow hues spill out of the city, especially in the drive further east to Mae Hong Son.
A home to hundreds of temples, the city offers a wealth of cultural heritage. Shaded by large trees and guarded by striking dragon-headed naga statues the temple of Mahawan stands out as an experience not to be missed. Visits also to the Phra Singh and Wat Jet Yot are highly recommended.
Outside of Chiang Mai, is the Doi Suthep peak, soaring 1,668m above sea level. Drop by the shimmering gold spires of the splendid wat and, on the way, visit the Hmong village of Doi Pui, 15 miles from Chiang Mai. The Tribal Market here sells anything from gems to handicrafts.
Back in the city, an abundance of colourful activities and sights await. Shops full of authentic artifacts and the latest Thai design are only a street turn away. Exploratory walks or bicycle hires around the old moat and market area can be found in the centre of town. Around the moat enjoy glimpses of old timber homes dotting the area. Silversmiths can also be found all along Wulai Road southwest from the moat.
Come the evening, the Chiang Mai Night Market offers anything the heart desires. Travellers can sample northern Thailand’s authentic spicy curries and even learn to make their own.
CHIANG MAI HIGHLIGHTS
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is the holiest shrine in northern Thailand that offers some spectacular views over Chiang Mail from up high.
Witness the authentic Thai kickboxing (Muay Thai) at the Kawila Boxing Stadium across the river from the night market where competitions take place most nights.
Sample the delicious local food and learn how to cook some of Thailand’s most popular dishes such as Tom Kha Gai (Chicken Soup with Coconut Milk), Tom Yum Kung (Sour and Spicy Soup) and Green Papaya Salad by attending culinary classes available around the city.