Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai is a land of misty mountains and colourful hill tribes, a playground for seasoned travellers, a paradise for shoppers and a
delight for adventurers and Songkran revellers. Located 700km north of Bangkok in a verdant valley on the banks of the Ping River, Chiang Mai was founded in 1296 as the capital of the ancient Lanna Kingdom. Today it is a place where the past and present seamlessly merge with modern buildings standing side by side with temples.
Here the curious can expand their horizons with Thai massage and cooking courses; the aesthete will be bowled over by the variety of
handicrafts; the wild child will find plenty of lively nightlife; and the epicure  can indulge in wonderful cuisine.

Weather

With its higher elevation, Chiang Mai enjoys a cooler climate than thestifling central plains near Bangkok. However during the hot season (March­May), the temperature can soar as high as 40°C at midday, cooling off significantly at night to around 22°C. The cool season (December­February) is the most popular time to visit Chiang Mai, weather­wise. The rainy season (June­October) is a mixed blessing for visitors, as the temperature falls to an average of 23­32°C, but it rains almost every day. Best time to go: November to February. 

Getting arround
Chiang Mai is a fairly compact city, and walking around is a great way to appreciate its antique charm. Besides walking, the red song­taews (passenger­carrying trucks) are convenient, cheap and popular among locals and tourists alike. They usually follow standard routes but can take you to a specific destination. Flag the driver down, ask where they are going and hop in if your destination lies in the same direction. A lot faster, but more expensive, are the tuk­tuks (motorised three wheelers). These usually crowd in ranks near major hotels and tourist areas. Car and motorbike hire are also readily available, and having your own vehicle is a great way to explore some of the attractions just outside
of Chiang Mai. If you’re happy grabbing a map and finding your own way, many hotels have bicycles you can hire or use for free if you’re a guest.

CHIANG MAI AREA GUIDES
Chiang Mai is jam-packed with dazzling architecture, historic temples and shops with a distinct Lanna ambience. Those who’ve been to Chiang Mai would agree that this northern Thai city has its own personality and cultural heritage, among the best-preserved in the country. Although it’s a good idea to get familiar with its various areas, our best advice is to allow yourself to get lost and immersed in all the wonders that unfold around you.

1.Chiang Mai City and Old City
Chiang Mai’s historical heart lies within the walled area about one kilometre west of the River Ping, so called the Old City. Many of the ancient Lanna temples and cultural attractions lie within these walls, as well as the Sunday Walking Street, and the best way to explore them is on foot or bicycle. The central part of Chiang Mai City fringes the Night Bazaar and Old City. In this area, the dense warren of shop houses still carry an essence of old world meets new world, with a multitude of contemporary and traditional merchandise shops, cafés, spas and riverside restaurants. Further west from the Old City, Nimmanhaemin Road has emerged as Chiang Mai’s hippest area, full of one-off boutiques, galleries and great dining choices.

2.Night Bazaar
The main venue for shopping and nightlife in Chiang Mai, the Night Bazaar, is a must-see while in the city. It epicentre is located at the intersection of Chang Khlan and Loi Khroh, but the whole area spreads out for two blocks in either direction. Set up time is around sunset (usually about 18:00) and the festive energy continues unabated until about 22:30, with a few vendors remaining open even later. Night Bazaar is also home to a wide range of accommodation, from budget guesthouses to luxury five-star. If you want to be in the middle of Chiang Mai’s busiest commercial section, staying around the Night Bazaar won’t disappoint.

Chiang Mai is a land of misty mountains and colourful hill tribes, a playground for seasoned travellers, a paradise for shoppers and a
delight for adventurers and Songkran revellers. Located 700km north of Bangkok in a verdant valley on the banks of the Ping River, Chiang Mai was founded in 1296 as the capital of the ancient Lanna Kingdom. Today it is a place where the past and present seamlessly merge with modern buildings standing side by side with temples.
Here the curious can expand their horizons with Thai massage and cooking courses; the aesthete will be bowled over by the variety of
handicrafts; the wild child will find plenty of lively nightlife; and the epicure  can indulge in wonderful cuisine.

Weather

With its higher elevation, Chiang Mai enjoys a cooler climate than thestifling central plains near Bangkok. However during the hot season (March­May), the temperature can soar as high as 40°C at midday, cooling off significantly at night to around 22°C. The cool season (December­February) is the most popular time to visit Chiang Mai, weather­wise. The rainy season (June­October) is a mixed blessing for visitors, as the temperature falls to an average of 23­32°C, but it rains almost every day. Best time to go: November to February. 

Getting arround
Chiang Mai is a fairly compact city, and walking around is a great way to appreciate its antique charm. Besides walking, the red song­taews (passenger­carrying trucks) are convenient, cheap and popular among locals and tourists alike. They usually follow standard routes but can take you to a specific destination. Flag the driver down, ask where they are going and hop in if your destination lies in the same direction. A lot faster, but more expensive, are the tuk­tuks (motorised three wheelers). These usually crowd in ranks near major hotels and tourist areas. Car and motorbike hire are also readily available, and having your own vehicle is a great way to explore some of the attractions just outside
of Chiang Mai. If you’re happy grabbing a map and finding your own way, many hotels have bicycles you can hire or use for free if you’re a guest.

CHIANG MAI AREA GUIDES
Chiang Mai is jam-packed with dazzling architecture, historic temples and shops with a distinct Lanna ambience. Those who’ve been to Chiang Mai would agree that this northern Thai city has its own personality and cultural heritage, among the best-preserved in the country. Although it’s a good idea to get familiar with its various areas, our best advice is to allow yourself to get lost and immersed in all the wonders that unfold around you.

1.Chiang Mai City and Old City
Chiang Mai’s historical heart lies within the walled area about one kilometre west of the River Ping, so called the Old City. Many of the ancient Lanna temples and cultural attractions lie within these walls, as well as the Sunday Walking Street, and the best way to explore them is on foot or bicycle. The central part of Chiang Mai City fringes the Night Bazaar and Old City. In this area, the dense warren of shop houses still carry an essence of old world meets new world, with a multitude of contemporary and traditional merchandise shops, cafés, spas and riverside restaurants. Further west from the Old City, Nimmanhaemin Road has emerged as Chiang Mai’s hippest area, full of one-off boutiques, galleries and great dining choices.

2.Night Bazaar
The main venue for shopping and nightlife in Chiang Mai, the Night Bazaar, is a must-see while in the city. It epicentre is located at the intersection of Chang Khlan and Loi Khroh, but the whole area spreads out for two blocks in either direction. Set up time is around sunset (usually about 18:00) and the festive energy continues unabated until about 22:30, with a few vendors remaining open even later. Night Bazaar is also home to a wide range of accommodation, from budget guesthouses to luxury five-star. If you want to be in the middle of Chiang Mai’s busiest commercial section, staying around the Night Bazaar won’t disappoint.

3.Riverside-Wat Ket
The Riverside possesses all of the old-world charm Chiang Mai is so renowned for. The understated elegance of Thailand’s second city shuns the development of five-star hotels along its riverbanks in favour of affordable eateries, boutique craft shops and live music venues. Granted, there is an element of luxury to the river, but unlike Bangkok’s Chao Phraya, you are more likely to see locals and tourists dining out together as it is slightly less elitist, and the first port of call for those looking for a good time. With an endearingly relaxed vibe, the riverside is a great reflection of the laid-back attitude held in the north of Thailand.

4.Nimmanhaemin Road
Nimmanhaemin Road has emerged as Chiang Mai’s hippest area, laden with boutiques, galleries and great dining choices. If you have a special interest in picking up unique handicrafts, ‘antiques’, clothes or accessories, it’s a good idea to spend an afternoon rummaging along the Nimmanhaemin, particularly Soi 1. This area is all about quality. The nearby Huay Kaew Road has a night market that is often packed full of students and teenagers shopping for the latest fashions at reduced prices. This road also has a high concentration of cafés, restaurants and cool bars with live music and a friendly atmosphere.

5.Hang Dong
Well-known as one of Chiang Mai’s long-established craft centre, Hang Dong is home to Baan Tawai woodcarving village and lesser-known Muang Kung Pottery Village. Baan Tawai, about 18km south of the city centre, tempts you with all kinds of hand-carved wooden furniture, home accessories and custom-made crafts made to order. Although it has become commercialised over the years, Baan Tawai remains a good source of local-style wood crafts and home décor pieces. Also in Hang Dong are the two family attractions, Chiang Mai Night Safari and the seasonal Royal Flora Ratchaphruek. While it’s not necessary to stay overnight in Hang Dong, most accommodation here is resort-style and exudes a delightful, tranquil vibe.

6.Mae Rim-Mae Taeng
A haven for nature lovers, the verdant Mae Rim-Mae Taeng area boasts scenic mountain ranges, waterfalls, caves, flower gardens, elephant camps and numerous ethnic hill-tribe villages. The Mae Rim loop makes for an excellent day trip, as it offers a fascinating range of attractions that qualify as some of the best highlights of Chiang Mai. Slightly further north of Mae Rim, Mae Taeng is more remote and considered off-the-beatenpath; however the beauty of its forested mountains and serene countryside more than makes up for its tucked away location. Taking advantage of the surrounding scenery, many resorts in Mae Rim-Mae Taeng area are the luxury boutique type, with excellent landscape design and wellness facilities.

WHAT TO SEE IN CHIANG MAI
Chiang Mai has both natural and cultural draw­cards. The city centre retains a ‘small­town’ intimate feel and houses numerous historic temples and attractions within walking distance of each other. Less than a half hour drive away, Chiang
Mai’s countryside and mountains offer limitless possibilities for nature exploration, as well as visits to many fascinating ethnic hill­tribe villages.

1. Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, Doi Suthep
Gleaming like a northern star from the heights of Doi Suthep, Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is a significant part of Chiang Mai’s cityscape. On a clear day, the peak of its golden pagoda is visible from the opposite corner of the city, across the Ping River. The temple itself is an impressive embodiment of the Lanna culture and a spiritual centre that has attracted both worshippers and visitors from all over the world.
Open: 6:00­20:00 Location: 15km from city centre, on Highway 1004
How to get there: Take a songtaew from Chiang Mai University’s Huay Kaew Road entrance

2. Chiang Mai Night Safari, Hang Dong
There’s more to the night safari than exploring the three animal zones: the Savannah Safari, Predator Prowl and Jaguar Trail. You can hand­feed the animals, take photographs with the tiger cubs, shop for cute souvenirs, test your physical coordination at the dancing fountain (Fun Plaza), or enjoy the laser light show (highly recommended) after dark. The park is set on 1.2km2 of natural land, about 12km from the city.
Open: 18:00­midnight Location: Ratchapruek Rd., Hang Dong District
How to get there: Hire a song­taew from the city centre

3. Wat Chedi Luang, Old City
Built sometime between 1385 and 1402, Wat Chedi Luang's massive pagoda is a distinctive feature of the Chiang Mai skyline. The temple’s vast ground houses several structures of great cultural significance, including the city pillar
(Intakin), main chapel (wiharn) housing the principal Buddha image and a giant gum tree guarding the temple’s entrance. On major Buddhist holidays, Wat Chedi Luang is where you can witness the beautiful evening candle procession.
Open: 6:00­17:00 Location: Phrapokklao Rd.
How to get there: About 10 mins walk from Tha Pae Gate

4. Wiang Kum Kam the Underground Ancient City
Located on a scenic Ping riverbank south of the city centre, Wiang Kum Kam was once submerged under the River Ping. This ancient city is dated back to the 8th­Century Haripunchai Kingdom and served shortly as the capital of the
Lanna Kingdom. The centrepiece at Wiang Kum Kam is Wat Chedi Liam, with its Burmese­style pavilion and exquisite five­tiered chedi set on a square base – the signature Lanna style.
Open: 8:00­17:00 Location: about 5km southeast of the Old City, on Chiang Mai–Lamphun Highway
How to get there: Hire a song­taew from the city centre

5. Mae Sa Elephant Camp
Having secured their names in the Guinness World Record, the elephants at the Mae Sa Elephant Camp are no ordinary beasts. Apart from going about their daily routine of bathing, eating, sleeping and just being domesticated
elephants, these extremely intelligent animals have been trained to paint, play football, dance and perform a string of talent shows that will change the way you think about Thai elephants.
Open: 8:00­16:00 Location: Mae Rim­Samoeng Road (18km)
How to get there: Hire a song­taew from the city centre

6. Doi Inthanon National Park
At 2,565 metres above sea level, Doi Inthanon is the highest peak in Thailand. The park, covering 482km2, is a true jewel of natural beauty. It consists of rugged mountainous terrain blanketed by lush tropical forests and dotted with
mighty rivers and majestic waterfalls. The park's protected status makes it a sanctuary for a wide range of animal species and it is perhaps the best place in Thailand for bird watching.
Location: About 106km southwest of Chiang Mai
How to get there: Organised tours or treks are the best and safest option 

7. Doi Pui Tribal Village and National Park
Doi Pui is 1,685m above sea level, and the highest peak in the Doi Suthep­Pui National Park. It features a number of waterfalls — many accessible from the Mae Rim­Samoeng Highway north of the Old City — and is home to a Hmong
ethnic hill­tribe village as well as Phu Ping Palace – the current king’s royal residence. Many travellers to Doi Pui National Park make a stop en­route at Wat Phra That Doi Suthep.
Location: 15km from city centre, on Highway 1004 (the drive up to Doi Pui takes 40­50 minutes)
How to get there: Take a song­taew from Chiang Mai University’s Huay Kaew Road entrance

8. Bo Sang Handicraft Village
The handcrafting of umbrellas and parasols in Bo Sang Village is known throughout the country and even abroad – so much so that the umbrella has become one of the symbols of Chiang Mai. Here, you'll find plenty of hand­painted
umbrellas, tiny cocktail umbrellas, large parasols for gardens or patios and other handmade products – all made from sapaper (produced from the bark of the mulberry tree) in various designs and at reasonable prices.
Location: About 10km east of the city, on Route 1006
How to get there: Hire a song­taew from the city centre

WHAT TO DO IN CHIANG MAI
The vast expanse of Chiang Mai’s lush, forested mountains offers a refreshing escape for those in search for tranquility or adventure. Many sites and activities are located outside the city centre, and one of the easiest ways to go about exploring them is through packaged tours, whether elephant trekking, white­water rafting, visiting hill­tribe villages, or touring ancient temples dotting the Old City area.

1. Trekking in Mae Wang Sanpathong
Mae Wang - Sanpathong – Duration: 8 hours
This one­day trekking experience has been designed to give you a taste of Chiang Mai’s richly diverse natural landscape. A short ride from the city centre, you will arrive in Mae Wang, home to virgin forests, picturesque waterfalls
and scenic trekking routes. Here, visit the Hmong and Karen hill­tribe villages, then explore the verdant jungles on foot, an elephant back and a bamboo raft. 

2. Elephant Riding and Bamboo Rafting
Mae Taeng – Duration: 8 hours
Elephant lovers don't want to miss out on this one. Thai elephants are playful and loveable. They are big. They are smart and gentle. And did you know that they are artists too? Get to know them and you’ll see for yourself. On this oneday tour, journey into the heart of Chiang Mai’s highlands and learn the elephant’s way of living, eating, playing, working and even painting. A relaxing bamboo rafting experience along the rustic Mae Taeng River completes this memorable day. 

3. Chiang Rai and The Golden Triangle
Chiang Rai – Duration: 12 hours
This full­day tour invites you to trace the history and natural beauty along the Golden Triangle’s trail, then delve into the riches along the banks of the Mekong at Chiang Saen – the birthplace of the ancient Lanna civilisation. Once a land
filled with endless poppy fields, the Golden Triangle has put its past behind it and been reincarnated as a tourist hotspot, with a scenic backdrop overlooking the meeting of the Mekong and Ruak rivers, and the rolling hills of Burma
and Laos. 

4. Doi Suthep Temple with City & Temples
Doi Suthep and Chiang Mai city – Duration: 8 hours
In Chiang Mai, the past is not merely the stuff of stories and musty old history books – it is a very real part of everyday life. Every corner you turn, history unfolds, through hand­carved wooden door panels, chipped paint on a mural,
creaking floors, or resonance of an ancient bell. Explore the charming lanes of the old city and go behind the façade of modernity to experience the true wonders of this ancient Lanna capital. 

5. One­day Mahout Training
Hang Dong – Duration: 8 hours
You’ve watched elephants play football, bath in the stream, paint a beautiful flower and do all kinds of amazing things, but in the back of your mind, you still feel like you haven’t seen enough. If you’re wondering what a day at the camp
feels like for these gentle giants, or itch to go behind the scenes and find out for yourself, this tour will tell you everything you ever want to know about Thai elephants.

6. 3 Days 2 Nights Trek in Mae Teang
Mae Taeng – Duration: 3 days 2 nights
This three­day trek takes you off the beaten path and into the depth of Mae Taeng’s wilderness, where you will have an opportunity to stay at different hill­tribe villages and learn about the tribe’s traditional culture and way of life. You will trek through the jungles on foot, as well as on the back of an elephant, then float down the river on a bamboo raft. Beginners may find this tour a little rough at times, while advanced trekkers will feel right at home. 

7. 3 Days 2 Nights Trek in Chiang Rai Golden Triangle
Chiang Rai – Duration: 3 days 2 nights
This three­day trekking expedition takes you from the southernmost tip of Chiang Rai to the northernmost border, where Thailand, Laos and Burma meet at the infamous Golden Triangle. Along the way, you will visit a natural hot spring,
embark on a long­tail speed boat ride up the idyllic Mae Kok River, ride on elephant back through the forests and trek on foot to hidden waterfalls and a number of hill­tribe villages. A visit to the historic town of Chiang Saen completes the
journey.

8. Whitewater Rafting on Mae Taeng River
Mae Taeng – Duration: 9 hours
Adrenalin­starved thrill seekers, be prepared to show off your paddle power. This wild whitewater rafting adventure delivers double doses of fun. Push your way through endless grade 3 and 4 rapids, as the river winds its way through
the picturesque valleys and canyons of verdant Mae Taeng forests. Immerse yourself in the spectacular scenery and just go with the flow. Those who’ve tried it say they had an amazing time. But we say one way to find out is to try it out yourself

WHAT TO EAT

Like its art, language and cultural heritage, Chiang Mai food is distinct from its cousins to the south and east. A much more pronounced influence from Burma and China is evident in northern cuisine, resulting in milder curries and the heavier use of ginger and turmeric. Khao Niao (sticky rice), instead of steamed rice, is the main staple at every meal and goes very well with a range of nam prik (chilli dips) unique to northern cuisine.

1.Khao Soi (Egg Noodle Curry)
Rich and savoury yellow curry noodle soup, served with spring onions, pickled cabbage and slices of lime. The egg noodles are of the flat variety, with a small handful of deep-fried portion added on top and also crushed into the broth
for a toothsome texture. Choose from chicken, pork, or beef Khao Soi. Usually the portion is quite small, so you might end up ordering another bowl to fill up your stomach.

2.Khan Toke
Not a single dish but a signature Lanna dining experience. Served in a low teak tray that doubles as a table, the khan toke comprises a range of northern-style side dishes and a basket of sticky rice. Diners sit on the floor, and dig in with
one hand. The modern version of khan toke is accompanied by a series of cultural performances such as folk music, finger-nail dance and tribal dances.

3.Sai Oua (Grilled Herb Sausage)
A fiery starter dish, sai oua is northern-style sausage made from ground pork, dried chilies, garlic, shallots and a range of pungent herbs and spices. It looks very similar to northeastern-style sausage when seen on a charcoal grill but tastes drastically different – sai oua is more meaty and rich with herbal aromas as well as chilies.

4.Nam Prik Ong/Nam Prik Nume (Red/Green Chilli Dip)
This green and red chilli dip duo is the most well-known among all the northern-style chilli dips. Made with roasted chilli spur peppers, the green chilli dip, or nam prik nume, is fiery and will leave your tongue burning after only the first bite. The red chilli dip, or nam prik ong, tastes slightly milder, with a tomato-based paste mixed with ground pork, chopped coriander, spring onion and dried bird’s eye chilies. Both are usually eaten with crispy pork skin, steamed vegetables, or sticky rice.

5.Gaeng Hang Lay (Burmese-style Sweet Curry)
A yellow curry with a tamarind-based soup, pork chunks, shallots and shrimp paste. Its origins are in Burma, but the adapted northern Thai version uses less oil. With no coconut cream as the ingredient, the texture is less thick than green curry and rich with spices. Some might find gaeng hang lay an acquired taste.

6.Kanom Jeen Nam Ngeow (Rice Vermicelli with Soybean Curry)
Perhaps the most exotic looking among all the kanom jeen (spaghetti-like noodles), this popular northern dish consists of the kanom jeen in a pork-soybean curry (nam ngeow), served with fresh vegetables, kaeb moo (crispy pork skin),
dried bird’s eye chilies and a range of local condiments. The soup tastes rather light and refreshing, unlike other rich, coconut cream versions found in other regional kanom jeen dishes.

7.Miang Kham (Bite-sized Wrapped Snacks)
A traditional finger food, miang kham is a fun, do-it-yourself starter dish. One serving consists of fresh betal leaves (for wrapping), sweet syrup and a variety of fillings, usually sliced shallots, fresh red or green chilies, diced ginger, diced
garlic, diced lime, dried small shrimp and roasted grated coconut. One bite can have all or some of the fillings – it’s totally up to you.

8.Tam Khanun (Young Jackfruit Salad)
Refreshingly spicy, nutty and flavoursome, this healthy northern dish will wake you up from any slumber. The young, green jackfruit is boiled until tender, then shredded and stir-fried with a garlic-dried chilli-shrimp paste base and a handful of herbs. Take one bite and the rich sweet, sour, salty and nutty tastes will explode in your mouth.

WHERE TO GO FOR NIGHTLIFE
Chiang Mai nightlife can be whatever you want it to be, the city offers a broad scope of drinking and dancing options, but for the most part live music venues have the monopoly. Chilling out at a riverside bar while the live band entertain with classic blues, jazz and rock tunes is a popular pastime. A hip, brash clubbing zone is found among the alleys of Nimmanhaemin Road, while a host of strip clubs, go-go bars and massage parlours are concentrated along Loy Kroh Road, just southeast of Tha Pae Gate.

1. Night Bazaar
The Chiang Mai Night Bazaar has a legendary reputation – it’s the place to shop, eat, drink and just people watch after sunset. Countless stalls pack along the sidewalks and spilling out into the street, selling almost everything you can think of. Like the goods on sale, the nightlife here is varied. A handful of side-walk bars and western-style pubs are perfect for stopping and having a mid-shopping drink or resting while someone else wants to shop. Location: Intersection of Chang Klan and Loy Kroh roads Best time to go: After 20:00

2. Walking Streets
First it was the Sunday Walking Street, then the Saturday Wualai Walking Street. Closed to car traffic after midday, the Walking Streets are the best places to see and experience Chiang Mai in its own skin. All kinds of vendors – aspiring street entrepreneurs, hill-tribe peddlers, established shop-houses – and crafts fill the entire stretch. Street food, drinks and cultural entertainment are all part of the experience – it's one of the best ways to spend an evening in Chiang Mai. Location: Ratchadamneon Rd, Tha Pae Gate (Sunday), Wualai Road (Saturday) Best time to go: After 18:00

3. Live Jazz by the Riverside
Across the River Ping from the Night Bazaar, Charoenrat Road runs parallel to the riverside and is home to a line-up of atmospheric resto-bars with the city’s best live music, with jazz, soul, reggae, and classic rock and roll tunes. Team this great atmosphere with the magnificent views and tasty food, and you can see why the Riverside is home to Chiang Mai’s most sought-after nightlife spots. Location: Charoenrat Rd (between Charoen Muang and Kaew Nawarat).

4. Clubbing in Nimmanhaemin
Popularly known as Chiang Mai’s hip street, Nimmanhaemin Road is filled with stylish galleries, art cafés, boutique shops and hotels with distinct personality. After sunset, it comes to life with a colourful range of chilled out bars, clubs and restaurants. For live music, dancing and a lot of local party vibe, the city’s trendy types head to Monkey Club on Soi 9 (open 22:00-1:00) or the more youthful Warm Up, opposite Soi 17 (open 18:00-2:00).

5. Cabaret Show
Like Phuket, Bangkok and the rest of Thailand, in fact, Chiang Mai has its fair share of pretty ladyboys, and cabaret shows are the best places to spot the prettiest and most talent ed of them all. Themes range from the glamorous to the
hilarious, but the shows are always entertaining. The two most famous Chiang Mai cabarets are Blue Moon Cabaret at 5/3 Moon Muang Road and the well-known Simon Cabaret, located at 177 G Building, 1st Floor, Chang Peuak Rd.

6. Loi Kroh’s Go Go Strip
Just south of Tha Pae Gate, the short strip leading towards Night Bazaar is a jungle of girlie bars, massage parlours andgo-go pubs with their prettiest staff members outside beckoning patrons like sirens. While some have labelled the strip brash, loud, with an in-your-face attitude, it’s the place to go if you’d like some easy ‘company’. Spotlight, on Chaiyapun Road, near Loi Kroh, has a large stage and a deliciously seedy vibe. For something with a little more style, head to Foxy Lady A Go Go behind Dusit D2 Hotel.

7. Old City Bars and Pubs
Nightlife inside the Old City wall has a more subdued vibe to it than the Riverside or the Night Bazaar, but still has potential for meeting people, enjoying a few drinks and the promise of live music. The U.N. Irish Pub on Ratvithi Rd (open 9:00-1:00) is laid-back, has good pub food, occasional open-mic nights and a friendly crowd of local expats. THC Rooftop Bar (opposite Tha Pae Gate, open 18:00-late) has a rooftop bar where you can kick your shoes off, lie down on some comfy cushions, get caned and listen to electronic music.

8. C.M. Entertainment Complex
An entire warehouse dedicated to adult nightlife, definitely not a place to bring your family. Easily spotted by the glowing red neon sign that says “Free Show”, the complex houses some 30 girlie bars with pool tables and loud, throbbing
music. There’s also a cabaret show and a Muay Thai (Thai kick boxing) stadium in the middle where free shows are staged on most nights. Location: Loi Kroh Road, near Chiang Mai Night Bazaar

WHERE TO SHOP
Being Thailand’s main handicraft centre, Chiang Mai is one of the few places where you can visit a factory or artisan’s workshop, watch crafts people at work before buying, or even try your hand at craft making yourself. That said, rather than trendy shopping malls, Chiang Mai’s shopping scene is more about openair crafts markets, stand-alone boutique shops and gallery-style stores offering unique handmade goods.

1. Riverside Boutique Shops
Across the River Ping, a short section of Charoenrat Road makes for a pleasant stroll. A collection of renovated wooden shop-houses that line its short stretch specialise in Lanna art and crafts, mostly from high-end local brands. The shops themselves are architectural treasures, built more than a century ago. Even if you don’t plan to buy anything, this area is well worth a visit just for its historical value and scenic riverside panoramas. Location: Charoenrat Rd. (between Charoen Muang and Kaew Nawarat)

2. Chiang Mai Night Bazaar
The Night Bazaar consists of street-side stalls selling mostly counterfeit goods, T-shirts and handicrafts, and a host of shopping plazas where you can find more unique crafts and jewellery. A good way to check out the whole area is to start at Tha Phae Road and work your way south towards Loi Khro. Once you reach the end of the market, cross the street and work your way back along the other side. Don't forget to peek down the little sois (alleyways) and arcades along the way. Location: Intersection of Tha Pae and Chang Klang Roads Best time to go: After 19:00

3. Nimmanhemin Promenade
This hip artist street is more than just trendy – Nimmanhaemin sets trends for Chiang Mai’s contemporary art and crafts scene. Soi 1, in particular, is the centre of boutique shopping. Explore its short but lively stretch for all kinds of crafts, from period-style wooden furniture to candle sculptures, bohemian clothing to abstract paintings, hand-woven textiles to creative sa paper products. The best time to come is in December, during the one-week annual Nimmanhaemin Art & Design Promenade, when a colourful, festive vibe sweeps over the entire alley.

4. Tha Pae Road
The old wooden shop-houses along Tha Pae Road, from Tha Pae Gate to Chang Klan, are home to an eclectic collection of crafts, including ethnic art, tribal fashion, silver jewellery, ceramics, home accessories and wooden crafts. Try Dan Collections (open 10:00-20:00) if you are looking for Buddha images and high-quality home furnishing. Lost Heavens (open 10:00-20:00) has a fascinating range of tribal art from around the region, from Tibetan textile to Yao embroidered silks.

5. Baan Tawai Wood Crafts
Baan Tawai, home to Chiang Mai’s woodcarving workshops and villages, is simply the best place to buy antique reproductions, home furnishing and decorative art made from wood. Many of the fantastic items sold in Bangkok, Phuket and Samui are produced right here and by going straight to the source you can get some truly fantastic deals. Even if you're not interested in giving your home décor a makeover, a trip to Ban Tawai just to watch the artisans and craftsmen at work is well worth it. Location: 20km south of the city centre

6. Sankampaeng Craft Street
While Ban Tawai is the destination for woodcarving and furniture, San Kamphaeng is the place to go for Thai silk, considered to be the best in the world. Rounding out the selection of products are lacquerware, ceramics (including fine Thai celadon) and the distinct, brightly coloured umbrellas that are a northern specialty. Shops and mini factories line both sides of the Chiang Mai-San Kamphaeng Road, where local artists practice their craft with a skill born of centuriesold tradition. Location: 13km east of the city centre

7. Wualai Silver Craf
Hand-crafted silver is one of Chiang Mai’s rare ancient crafts, and Wualai Road is where to go for all types of silver crafts, whether framed as wall sculptures, silverware, utensils, or elaborate jewellery pieces. The craft’s origins can be traced to Shan state in Burma hundreds of years ago, when families of silversmiths migrated south and settle down along the Wualai strip. Today, only a handful of them still practice silversmith, and you can watch them hammering away the metal at Wualai Road.

8. JJ Market Chiang Mai
Located slightly off the city centre, this vast open-air market is Chiang Mai’s answer to modern shopping plazas and traditional craft centres. Shops are spread across the three zones, all housed inside a concrete structure. The atmosphere feels more relaxed than Night Bazaar and more modern than old-school crafts market. You will find similar range of creative crafts to those found along Nimmanhaemin Road, as well as traditional arts of Baan Tawai and San
Kampaeng. Location: Assadathon Rd (three blocks north of Old City)

TIPS AND GOOD TO KNOW
Song-taew Tips
The hop-on and hop-off red song-taews are the best way to get around Chiang Mai. However, as a newcomer to town, with a clueless look on your face, you will often be overcharged for the service. So, it’s a good idea to ask your hotel’s reception or a trusted person how much it should cost from point A to point B. Then, ask the driver before getting on how much, compare the price. If the quoted price is way too high, then just flag down another. For longdistant
trips out of town, it’s a good idea to negotiate for a half- or full-day price.

Carry small change
Thailand is relatively inexpensive, unless you plan to enjoy all your shopping, dining and nightlife inside a hotel or upscale shopping malls. Taxi drivers, food  vendors  and  shop  keepers  usually  don’t  carry  change  for  big  bills.  So,  make  sure  that you break the 1,000 baht notes into a few 100s and small coins upon arrival at the airport. The 5 and 10 baht coins usually come in handy when taking a taxi or public transportation.

Barter, but nicely
The first rule of shopping in Thailand: if there’s no barcode or set price, get haggling. It’s expected. However, instead of adopting a confrontational “give me it for this price, now!” attitude, try the gracious, smiley “what’s your best price, my friend?” approach. Why? Because a smile here goes further than a sneer.  Aim  to  chip  anything  from  10-40%  off  the  quoted  price.  And  by  all  means,  walk away if the price is disagreeable – more often than not you’ll be
called back for last-ditch negotiations!

Beware scammers
It  begins  with  a  well-dressed  stranger  who  approaches  you  with  a  story.  A  merchant  from Bangkok and this being his last day in Chiang Mai before he heads for the capital city with all his merchandise. Offering you the last chance to buy bargain crafts at factory price, he is convincing enough that you think it might be a good idea to take a look at his collection. Then, before you know it, you’re gripping the sides of a tuk-tuk as it whizzes to one overpriced
outlet factory after another, and you know the rest of the story. Never fall for this type of story, or any, from a stranger – you have been warned.

Carry a photocopy of your passport
Whether  it  be  an  impromptu  demand  from  a  local  policeman  or  a  request  from  security  at  one  of  the city’s swanky nightspots, carrying ID is a must in Thailand. The fact that you are 25 but look like you’re pushing 40 doesn’t matter – proving who you are is a day-to-day formality, something the Thais are finicky about. Instead of dragging your passport around with you, and with it the constant fear of losing it, take a photocopy.

Carry a hotel card with Thai directions
It’s simple. It isn’t rocket science. But this ingenious device, little more than a piece of card with your hotel’s address written on it in Thai, will save endless how-do-we-get-home headaches. Flash it beneath the eyes of your chosen driver and watch how his shrugs of utter incomprehension instantly change to reassuring nods.

 


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