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Your guide to Chiang Mai
All About Chiang Mai
On the banks of the Ping River in the north of Thailand, the village of Chiang Mai is set in a lush valley, surrounded by misty mountains and thick jungle. Once the capital of the ancient Lanna kingdom, the city is steeped in history and has more than 300 temples, including the Wat Phra That Doi Suthep temple, one of the most renowned in all of Thailand.
In the heart of Chiang Mai, you’ll find an ancient, formerly walled city surrounded on all sides by a moat. Today, this historic area is home to cobblestoned walkways, tree-lined avenues, and countless bars and restaurants. There are also several vibrant markets here, and the night bazaar on the east side of the old city is one of the biggest in the region, where you can check out traditional wood carvings while snacking on mango sticky rice.
Chiang Mai’s elevated, northern location gives it a cooler climate than many of the southern cities in Thailand, and its food is equally unique. You’ll find all kinds of dining experiences in this city, from modern fine dining to simple, hawker-style dishes like khao soi — egg noodles with coconut curry.
The best time to stay in a vacation rental in Chiang Mai
Due to its location and the fact it sits close to 300 metres above sea level, Chiang Mai is much cooler and less humid than other major cities like Bangkok. It does, however, have a tropical climate, meaning that the year is divided into two seasons: wet and dry.
The dry season is cooler and runs from around November until February. The lack of rainfall at this time of year makes it an ideal time to explore the city’s streets and surroundings, but you will most likely need a few layers in the evening. During November, the city also hosts vibrant festivals like the Yee Peng and Loy Krathong Festivals, where the streets are lit by candlelight, thousands of paper lanterns are released into the night sky, and flower-adorned boats are sent down the river to mark the end of the rainy season. Unsurprisingly, the wet season brings quite heavy rainfall and sometimes monsoons, although to a lesser degree than in southern parts of the country. If you’re visiting at this time of year, be sure to pack a raincoat.
Top things to do in Chiang Mai
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep Temple
Chiang Mai dates back to the 13th century and was once the capital of the Lanna kingdom, making it home to over 300 historic temples. The city’s most famous religious building is the Wat Phra That Doi Suthep temple, sitting atop Doi Suthep mountain 1,073 metres above sea level. This is a sacred site for many Thai people and offers impressive views over the city.
The Old City
In the heart of Chiang Mai, you’ll find the Old City, surrounded by crumbling walls and the remains of a six-kilometre moat. This historic centre was built when Chiang Mai was the capital of the Lanna kingdom. Today, it’s home to many of the city’s most impressive temples, as well as museums like the Chiang Mai Arts and Cultural Centre, galleries including Maispace, restaurants, and bars.
Thapae Walking Street
Every Sunday, from around 4 p.m. until midnight, Thapae Walking Street is shut off to cars and filled with market stalls selling everything from clothes and handmade wooden crafts to silk, lamps, and street food. The market stretches for close to a mile and also often features live music and dance performances.