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.
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.
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.
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.