Chiang Mai is one of two tourist destinations in Thailand on TripAdvisor's list of “25 Best Destinations in the World.” The city is the largest metropolitan in the northern region, yet it is still bursting with historic Lanna charm (at one time the capital of the ancient Lanna kingdom), gorgeous temples seen on every corner, and none of the high rises you would expect to see in a big city. Compared to Bangkok, life is slower, people are friendlier, and the food is nothing short of mouth-watering.
Chiang Mai has the hippest restaurants and urban cafes that are second to none, yet the surrounding natural ecosystem is still very much intact. The city has a vast array of national parks, each with its own appeal to satisfy any nature lover or adventurous trekker. Chiang Mai is also one of the most popular places to be during the Songkran Festival, the largest water fight which takes place during the hottest time of the year.
The people and culture in Chiang Mai vary from one valley to another. This is mainly due to the age-old problem of overland communication, because of the fact that the city it is a mountainous and densely-forested regions.
The Burmese came to Chiang Mai in 16th century and brought in their culture and traditions. Later came the Europeans. In the latter half of 19th century, a number of Chinese and Muslims also migrated to this city. Thus, people of Chiang Mai are a mélange of various world cultures.
The ethnic language spoken here is kham muang. Theravada Buddhism is the main religion followed by the people of Chiang Mai.
Chiang Mai International Airport (CNX) is one of the seven international airports under the responsibility of the Airports of Thailand Public Company Limited (AOT), and is conveniently located just a few kilometers from the city. Chiang Mai is also the terminal station on Thailand’s northern railway route. Air-conditioned buses and overnight trains are also popular methods of getting here.
Songthaews (trucks with seating in the back), or as the locals call it Rod Dang, are a common mode of transport in both rural and urban areas. Tuk-Tuks (motorized rickshaws), are more intended for tourists, and can get pricey. Another option to get around the city is renting motorcycles.
Doi Inthanon National Park
The National Park includes the mountain Doi Inthanon, with 2565 meters the highest mountain in Thailand. At the summit, the temperature in the cooler months can reach during the night below 0 ° C. Waterfalls such as the Mae Klang, Vachiratharn and Mae Ya are at various points in the park. The Mae Pan path takes less than two hours hiking and is worth the effort.
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep
This is the most important and sacred temple in Chiang Mai and mostly referred to as “Doi Suthep”. Although Doi Suthep is the name of the mountain it is built on. The temple was built in 1383 and treasures a holy relic of the Lord Buddha. There is a beautiful gilded pagoda in the center of the compound.
From the parking lot 300 steps lead to the temple but there is also a tram. From the terrace visitors have a magnificent view of Chiang Mai and the surrounding countryside. It is located 15 km from the city.
Temples and historic places
Various temple sites like Wat Phra Singh, Wat Suan Dok and Wat Jet Yodare are situated in the old center of Chiang Mai. If your quest to know more about Buddhism is not fulfilled then you can also visit other temples like the Wiang Kum Kam.
People who are interested in history of Chiang Mai can visit places like the Bo Sang Umbrella Village and Meo Tribal Village. They can also have a glimpse of Hilltribe Villages and Mae Sa Valley Craft Village.
Around Chiang Mai are a few Elephant training camps such as Pang Chang Mae Taeng, Chiang Dao Elephant Training Centre and Pang Chang Mae Sa. There are shows, explaining some of forestry work done by the pachyderms. In addition some fun is included such as elephant football, bathing and elephants performing as painting artists.
Elephant treks through the mountain jungle and rafting are the most popular activities. This cams are sure worthwhile a visit.
Mae Sa Waterfall
The famous 8-tiered waterfall in Amphoe Mae Rim occupies a natural setting among towering trees, covered with a lovely breeze all year round.
Situated 13 kilometers north of the city. Most of the varieties of orchids that survive the climatic conditions of the city are available for viewing at Mae Sa Orchid Farm, Chiang Mai. The farm is one of the most popular parks in the region.
Safari & Trekking
If you are the adventurous type then you should opt for Chiang Mai Night Safari or Chiang Mai Trekking at caves like Chiang Dao Cave.
Mountain lovers can go for Sightseeing in Chiang Mai at Doi Ang Khang and Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai. While visiting Doi Suthep you should definitely visit the famous temple Wat Phra Borommathat at Doi Suthep.
The night market of Chiang Mai offers an incredible array of items which are produced by small craft enterprises in and around the city. Especially in the field of art and crafts, the range is very versatile. It is the nation's largest and most fascinating night market.
Ob Luang National Park
The Ob Luang National Park lies south of Doi Inthanon National Park and is only known to a few Thailand visitors. The impressive landscapes consist of limestone mountain ranges and a wild river. The real highlight of the park is the narrow steep Ob-Canyon. The bridge, which crosses the Ob-gorge, is the best place to admire the terrific scenery. The river is popular for adventurous rafting.
The best time to visit Chiang Mai is from late October to February during the cool season, when the province experiences pleasantly mild, sunny weather. At higher elevations, temperatures can sometimes dip down to freezing at night. It is very hot and dry from March to June, with temperatures between 35 – 40 ºC, followed by the rainy season which lasts until October.