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Chiang Mai Travel Guide

Thanks and welcome to the Thailand Travel Hub, here you can discover the historical city of Chiang Mai, located in the beautiful, mountainous northern region of Thailand. Here on the hub you can explore some of the top places to go, things to do and some of the top accommodation options that this truly amazing city has to offer.

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Chiang Mai Travel Tips

If Bangkok is the capital of modern Thailand then Chiang Mai is the capital of old Thailand – the Thailand of temples and orange-robed monks, of ritual and cultural tradition, serene countryside and laid-back people. Of course Chiang Mai has its modern side too, with some fantastic contemporary art galleries, great cafés and chic restaurants, but its modernity co-exists and blends seamlessly into its serene antique surrounds, rather than becoming the focus, as is the way in Bangkok. Chiang Mai is tranquil and full of character, a city for aesthetes, walkers and foodies.

Chiang Mai was founded in 1296 as the capital of the Lanna Kingdom, and despite falling to the Burmese for a while, has remained Northern Thailand’s most important settlement ever since. It’s located on a plain in the foothills of the Himalayas at an elevation of 316 metres and is surrounded by some of Thailand’s most beautiful countryside – from jagged mountain ranges to lush jungle. It’s this somewhat isolated position in the very north of Thailand that has helped maintain the city’s charm and appeal.

How To Get To Chiang Mai

There are many different methods of transport to help you get to Chiang Mai, from taking a local bus, overnight VIP bus, minivan, train and by plane.

If you are traveling from bangkok to chiang mai, traveling by plane is by far the quickest and comfortable way to get there. Flights depart from both Don Mueng and Suvarnabhumi Airports everyday, from many different airlines including Air Asia, Nok Air, Thai Vietjet Air, Thai Smile, Bangkok Air, Lion Air and Thai Airways. The cost of flights vary, depending on which time and day you travel, it's possible to get a flight for as little as 800 baht. Flight time from Bangkok to Chiang Mai is around 1 hour and 10 minutes.

Traveling by train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai is a pretty awesome experience, you'll get the chance to experience Thailand's more rural areas and see some beautiful landscapes and scenery. There are a range of different tickets available, we recommend the 2nd Class AC seats only, 2nd Class Sleeper AC and 1st class sleeper. The train journey departs from Bangkok's Hua Lamphong Train Station and takes between 11-14 hours, depending on which train you take, the number 7 is the quickest leaving at 08.30 and arrives at 19.30 with a journey time of 11 hours.

Taking the overnight VIP bus to Chiang Mai from Bangkok is also a good option, if your not keen on flying or want to save a little money. The seats on the bus recline quite far back, so it is relatively comfortable and fairly easy to catch some sleep. VIP buses leave the Northern Bus Terminal in Bangkok (Mochit) everyday, tickets are around 600 baht. The journey takes around 10 hours and 45 minutes.

Best Things to See & What to Do in Chiang Mai

Trekking & Hill Tribes

Go Trekking & visit the Hill Tribe Villages

Many first time visitors find themselves in Chiang Mai to take part in a trek – and it’s this that Chiang Mai has down to a tee. You’ll find literally hundreds of agencies offering all kinds of itineraries, from 1-day treks to 5-day treks – with visits and nights spent sleeping in hill tribe villages, walks along riverbanks and rice fields, and views over the jungle that are perfect for some post-hike relaxation. Many treks include a visit to an elephant sanctuary and bamboo-rafting.

Trekking in Chiang Mai is now pretty touristy, the hill tribe villages are very used to seeing foreign tourists and are very welcoming. Keep a lookout for charitable and higher end agents, who often donate to local hill-tribes and conservation projects.

Trekking around Chiang Mai is a wonderful way to get out of the city and explore the jungle, rivers and wildlife as well as experience the culture and rural way of life in northern Thailand.

Temples in Chiang Mai

Visit the beautiful Temples of Chiang Mai

Temples are the jewels that adorn the crown in Chiang Mai. There are literally hundreds of gilded stupas and thousands more monks to go with them. Wat Phra Doi Suthep, the bird’s nest on top of the Doi Suthep Mountain to the west of the city is the main event for the views alone.

But there’s much more to it than that – including numerous shrines, the stunning golden spire and a number of murals. The moated old town in Chiang Mai proper is where you’ll find the rest such as Wat Chedi Luang and Wat Chiang Man, and the best time to visit is probably in the early mornings, when the local monks are collecting alms.

For something slightly different – head outside of the old part of town to Wualai Road where you’ll find the odd, but beautiful Wat Sri Suphan – the silver temple. In the evenings the temple is bathed in neon lights, lending an otherworldly, almost futuristic edge to the structure.

Loy Krathong

Explore Chiang Mai's History, Culture & Heritage

Since being founded in 1296 by King Mangrai, the city of Chiang Mai (meaning ‘new city’) has had a very unsettled and troubled history. The city began as a political, economic and cultural center of the King’s newly expanded kingdom of the Tai people called the ‘Lana Kingdom’ (kingdom of a million rice fields). Following this, the kingdom was invaded by the Burmese in 1558 and remained under the Burmese rule for 200 years before being merged into the Kingdom of Siam. To learn more about the history of Chiang Mai during your stay, visit the Chiang Mai City Arts & Cultural Center, Chiang Mai Historical Centre and the Lanna Folklife Museum.

Chiang Mai has some fantastic festivals throughout the year, which attract clusters of people from all over Thailand and the world – from Songkhran – the new year celebrations in mid-April, to the awe-inspiring Loy Krathong festival which takes place during the full moon in November, when thousands of candles are floated down the Ping River in lotus-leaf boats.

Incidentally, Loy Krathong coincides with the Yi Peng festival in Chiang Mai, when hundreds of thousands of lanterns or khom loy are released into the sky, creating a light show that resembles a gigantic constellation of lightly burning orange embers.

Khao Soi Northern Curry

Experience the best Northern Thai Food & Learn to Cook

As Chiang Mai continues to grow, so does its excellent food scene, which of course is focused on the delicious cuisine of northern Thailand. There’s something a bit more Burmese about the cooking in this part of the country – something which again is thanks to its relative isolation.

Forget about coconut milk and fish sauce, which comes from the south of Thailand and get ready for roots, plants and herbs plucked from the jungles and thrown into dishes like nam prik ong, a spicy tomato pork dip made with bunches of dried chillies, and Kôw soy – a fragrant curry-based dish with sides of vegetables and lime, topped with fried noodles and synonymous with Chiang Mai.

There are plenty of food markets to choose from in Chiang Mai but we love the Warorot evening market – where amongst the ambience and fragrance of the stalls you’ll find dishes such as sai ua (a local lemongrass infused sausage) and kaeng khanun (jackfruit curry) amongst Thai favourites such as mu ping (pork skewers) and Tom yum.

A visit to Chiang Mai wouldn't be complete without learning how to cook some of these amazing dishes from northern Thailand. There are plenty of highly recommended cooking schools in Chiang Mai, they are great fun and fantastic way to meet new people too.

Keep reading to explore some of the top places to go, things to do and some of the top accommodation options that Chiang Rai has to offer.

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