About Chiang Mai
The meridian between an ancient culture and the modern world, Chiang Mai offers visitors an experience full of tradition, relaxation and community. The city holds a laid-back atmosphere, with points of vibrancy that sneak up on you as you notice more and more surprises around every little crooked street you walk.
With all roads leading to the main “square”, the city of Chiang Mai lives between mountains of greenery in Thailand’s far north. It’s the largest city within Northern Thailand, and also one of the most culturally rich areas in Thailand as a whole. Flying from Bangkok takes a little over an hour. Once you arrive in the tiny airport you will be greeted with a comfortable warmth (in January the temperature averages around 80′ Fahrenheit) and friendly tuk tuk drivers waiting to drive you to your hostel/hotel/airbnb/bungalow/wherever you’re staying.
The city itself is simplistic in design and incredibly easy to explore. All the best cafes, markets, health spas and accomodation are situated inside a moat-surrounded square that could take you less than an hour to walk from one corner to the other. Bicycles and motor-scooters are also cheap to hire and worth the thrill of winding through tiny streets and secret back alleys.
Renting a scooter isn’t the only way of getting around Chiang Mai though. Both tuk tuks and songthaews (the red pickup trucks renovated with passenger benches) are very cheap and always available if you need a ride. Even cheaper and perhaps a more easy and comfortable form of transport is using Uber, which is continuing to grow in popularity throughout the country.
Accomodation is also extremely easy to find, and very inexpensive. Both inside the Old City square and the outstretching roads there exists a multitude of different types of accomodation. Youthful hostels, home stays, quirky airbnbs and hotels for those who want a little more luxury. Most hostels average price for a share dorm is 150 THB ($4 USD) and a private room from Airbnb averaging 500 THB ($14 USD). With an abundance of options on every street, you will no doubt find a place that matches your style and budget.
The smell of Thai spices draw you into the large food markets, and the tiny hidden cafes. Chiang Mai is a paradise for food enthusiasts. The city offers a huge variety from traditional Northern Thai dishes cooked by locals to comforting western dishes from the bars and restaurants that line the streets. Whatever your dietary preferences are, Chiang Mai can accomodate. But even if you prefer to create your own meals, Muang Mai local market should be your grocery store, where a colourful array of fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices await you.
Although the name Chiang Mai means “new city”, the delicate traditions of the Buddhist culture remain present throughout the streets. There are many temples scattered throughout the city, and also the impressive monastery built at the summit of Doi Suthep, the highest mountain in Chiang Mai. The two hour hike up the mountain is one that will please avid adventurers and exercise enthusiasts. Ethically organised elephant sanctuaries are also a definite must-see if you wish to be surrounded by these gentle animals.
You could get drawn into the bustle of the Sunday night market, or perhaps enjoy a tradition Thai massage for only 180 TBH. And amongst all the puzzles of old buildings and brick walls there is Buak Hard Park – a garden full of fountains and acro-yogis.
Whatever your interests may include, the city of Chiang Mai breathes subtleties and adventure. The people are hospitable, the food is delicious and the January warmth invites you in with the smell of incense and green curry. It’s completely worth a visit.