A Visitor’s Guide to Chiang Mai, Thailand


Chiang Mai is Northern Thailand’s capital and although it is Thailand’s second largest city, it is much quieter and more relaxed than Bangkok. Chiang Mai has temples and culture, bustling street markets and opportunities for trekking and adventure sports in nearby national parks It is also a centre for learning traditional Thai massage and a good place to get an authentic Thai massage treatment. Chiang Mai is surrounded by mountains and forests, and there are good day trip destinations around the city including tribal villages, waterfalls and elephant camps.

Old and New Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai’s history covers 700 years and the city is famous for its historical attractions, Buddhist temples and culture. If you’re interested in local history and culture, visit the Arts and Cultural Centre in the old town, the National Museum or the Tribal Museum’s exhibitions of the hill tribe culture in North Thailand’s mountain villages.
The old town is surrounded by stonewalls and a moat, and its narrow lanes are lined with traditional wooden houses, many of which operate as guest houses. The modem part of Chiang Mai has shopping centres, trendy boutiques, restaurants and  cafes. But everywhere you go in Chiang Mai you’ll find Buddhist temples with their gilded pagodas: there are more than 300 temples in the area and many of them are located in Chiang Mai’s old city.

Buddhist Temples in Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai’s most famous temple is Wat Phra That Doi Suthep on the Doi Suthep mountain. The 1676-metre-high mountain is located to the west of the city and to get to the t em pie you’ll h ave to climb u p 300 steps (or take a lift). The construction of Doi Suthep dates back to the 14th century and it is one of the most important Buddhist temples in Thailand.
Most organized  sightseeing tours take in Doi Suthep. You can also get a songtaew (shared taxi) or rent a motorbike or a moped and  drive up the hill. The views from the temple over the city and the surrounding areas are stunning. Nearby, the Phuping Palace is the Royal family’s winter residence but is open to visitors in the summer.
In Chiang Mai itself, Wat Chedi Luang, Wat Phra Sing and Wat Chiang Mai are all located close to each other in the old town, and you can spend a fascinating few hours touring these ancient temples

Traditional Thai Massage

Chiang Mai is also a centre for learning traditional Thai massage. Massage treatments and  short massage courses are offered in most guest houses and hotels, but if you really want to learn this ancient art, you’ll need more than the five-day tourist-oriented courses.

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