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Chiang Mai

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At Asia Senses Travel we’re adventurers at heart. Our journeys are all about discovering new places and cultures while creating unforgettable memories through physical activity and breathtaking scenery.

Visit chiang mai

Founded by the ancient Lanna Kingdom in 1296, Chiang Mai was originally a heavily fortified citadel that stood as a bulwark against Burmese kingdoms and the Mongol Yuan Empire, which had conquered much of China and parts of Southeast Asia. While the Lanna kingdom would rule parts of Thailand for 500 years until the late 1700s, Chiang Mai was later abandoned and fell into a slow decline - which was reversed only in the twentieth century.

Today, Chiang Mai is the cultural center of northern Thailand, and a thriving city that hosts a number of outstanding temples, which are complemented by some of the best outdoors activities in all of Thailand - due to its proximity to nearby lush rainforests and the mighty Mae Taeng River.

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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.

Tom Jittipon
Thailand Travel Specialist

Things to See and Do in Chiang Mai

wat-phra-that-doi-suthep

Wat Prathat Doi Suthep

Doi Suthep is a constant part of life in Chiang Mai. A Thai saying goes, "If you haven't tasted Khao Soi or seen the view from Doi Suthep, you haven't been to Chiang Mai." This regal mountain overlooks the city from the northwest, providing commanding views from its summit. Aside from its dominating presence on the horizon, Doi Suthep is the home of some of the most deeply loved symbols in the Kingdom.

In 1981 Doi Suthep, Doi Pui and Doi Buakha, along with the 161 square kilometres (62 square miles) of forest in which they are located, became Thailand's 24th national park. A year later a 100 square kilometre (38 square mile) annex was added, bringing the park's total area up to 261 square kilometres (100 square miles). Dense forests hang from the mountain's shoulders like a cloak; deciduous at lower elevations and evergreen near the peaks of the mountains.

Wat-Chedi-Luang (2)

Wat Chedi Luang

Wat Chedi Luang's massive chedi (pagoda) was built sometime between 1385 and 1402, during the reign of King Saen Muang Ma, 7th ruler of the Mengrai dynasty and is a distinctive feature of the Chiang Mai skyline. At its peak, the chedi measured 60 metres across at the square base and 80 metres tall and was once the home of the Emerald Buddha, Thailand's most sacred religious relic.

Damaged during an earthquake in 1545, the chedi’s height is reduced to nearly half of its original size yet it is still an impressive structure. In 1992, the Fine Arts Department finished restoration work around the chedi, bringing back the naga (water serpent) staircase on each of its faces and wonderful statues of elephants adorning the base. The actual work on the chedi itself, however, was never quite complete, leaving it in its present state.

Wat-Phra-Singh

Wat Phra Singh

Wat Phra Singh is perhaps the second most venerated temple in Chiang Mai after Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. It houses three main structures, the main attraction being the elegantly decorated Lai Kam assembly hall and its restored murals depicting the lives of locals hundreds of years ago. Located inside the old city wall, at the western end of Ratchadamnoen Road, the temple’s signature Lanna-style roofs and glittering viharn (assembly hall) invite visitors. The walled-in temple compound is busy with visitors and worshippers all year round and is usually packed during the Thai New Year festival (Songkran) in mid-April.
wat-umong

Wat Umong

Explore Wat Umong, or the “Temple of Tunnels,” located in a forested, rural area a few miles outside Chiang Mai. Learn about the fascinating and mysterious history of this temple, which is believed to date from the late 14th century and was used by the Japanese as a base during World War II. The temple complex also has a monastery so there are always monks walking around, often circling the stupa in prayer.

The tunnels are rarely used for meditation anymore due to the amount of visitors that come each day. When entering you should take your shoes off and remain silent as this is a place of worship. There are a few enclaves with Buddha statues and if you look on the ceiling of the tunnels you may be able to see some old drawings of elephants and temples, thought to date back to the 13th or 14th Century.

Cycle-the-ruins-of-Wiang-Kum-Kam

Cycle the ruins of Wiang Kum Kam

Far more peaceful than the well-preserved ancient capitals of Ayutthaya or Sukhothai, the ruins of Wiang Kum Kam remained hidden underground until recent excavations. The 13th-century capital of Lanna was abandoned due to flooding. Located 5 km (3 miles) south of Chiang Mai, the ruins lie in a sleepy rural setting along the banks of the Mae Ping River.

The lanes that meander through the ruins are ideal for cycling along — and you’re unlikely to see anyone else. The full history of the site is still uncertain, but the huge plinths and stupas that remain give an idea of its importance. More than 1,300 artefacts were found during its unearthing, some of which are on show in a small visitor centre nearby.

Haggle-for-a-bargain-in-Chiang-Mai’s-Night-Bazaar

Chiang Mai’s Night Bazaar

Chiang Mai began as a market town, a convenient stopping point on the original trade route from China to Burma. Markets are still an important part of the community, with bazaars scattered across the city. The Chiang Mai night bazaar is the focal point — open seven nights a week until the small hours. Explore the night bazaar, a modern day version of a caravanserai, where you can choose from a vast array of handicrafts and other locally made items – many of which make fine gifts.

Located to the east of the city walls, it’s difficult to miss the bazaar’s bright lights, music and wafts of tod mun (fried fish cakes). Stalls around the outskirts of the market sell plastic sunglasses and questionable designer goods, but stroll further in and you’ll find antiques and swathes of screen-printed fabrics. Hill tribe traders bring traditional goods to sell, including organic coffee and hand-woven baskets.

Learn-Thai-cookery-with-a-local-family

Learn Thai cookery with a local family

Spending a day cooking with a local family in a residential area of Chiang Mai, surrounded by their well-tended garden, you’ll start to appreciate the subtle nuances of Thai food. Helped by one of the family, you’ll begin your lesson by picking fresh chillies and basil leaves, and foraging for cilantro root. Meanwhile, the rest of the family — all four generations — begin to prepare the rest of the ingredients.

You’ll then be patiently coached through preparing a number of dishes, pounding the fragrant curry pastes and balancing the delicate salty and sweet tastes. Dishes are eaten around the family dining table, accompanied by fresh watermelon juice or coconut water.


Best Time to Visit Chiang Mai

The ideal time to visit Chiang Mai is between October and April. Weather during this period is mostly cool and pleasant with light breeze, which is also why it’s peak tourist season. Another good time to visit Chiang Mai is during the festivals when the city is at its vibrant best.

November to February: This is the ideal time to visit Chiang Mai because the weather is perfect for all kinds of outdoor activities. While it does not get too cold, you should carry a jacket and some light woolens. January is usually considered the best month and sees a high influx of tourists. If you plan a trip in November you will catch the Loi Krathong festivities and in February you will see the Chiang Mai flower festival.

March to May: While summers start setting in from the end of March, tourists still visit Chiang Mai and it's a good time to look for deals on hotels and flights. Even if the temperature during the day is high you can spend the afternoon in the pool and head out after sunset. Temperatures rise up to 40°C between April and May. Carry light cottons, sunglasses and hats to beat the heat.

June to October: The temperature during the rainy season cools down although the humidity rises. While it rains less than southern Thailand, monsoons are still heavy in Chiang Mai as well. So you will have to be prepared with umbrellas, raincoats and study shoes. Not many tourists visit Chiang Mai during the monsoon so if you are looking for a quieter holiday in this ancient town, then this is the time for you.

Max Temperature(ºC)
Jan
20
Feb
23
Mar
26
Apr
28
May
28
Jun
27
Jul
27
Aug
26
Sep
26
Oct
25
Nov
24
Dec
21
Rainfall (mm)
Jan
8
Feb
6
Mar
16
Apr
52
May
152
Jun
136
Jul
168
Aug
230
Sep
241
Oct
124
Nov
36
Dec
15
Month
Daily Max Temperature
Monthly Rainfall

JAN
20ºC
8mm

FEB
23ºC
6mm

MAR
26ºC
16mm

APR
28ºC
52mm

MAY
28ºC
152mm

JUN
27ºC
136mm

JUL
27ºC
168mm

AUG
26ºC
230mm

SEP
26ºC
241mm

OCT
25ºC
124mm

NOV
24ºC
36mm

DEC
21ºC
15mm

Festivals, Events and Seasonal Reasons to Visit

  • 01

    The Chiang Mai Flower Festival is celebrated over the first weekend of February. Intricate chrysanthemum-covered floats are paraded down the streets, accompanied by traditional dancing and music.

  • 02

    In November, Chiang Mai celebrates Yi Peng, the festival of light, as the city’s own version of the nationwide Loy Krathong Festival. Thousands of khom loy (floating lanterns) are released into the night sky, said to carry misfortune away.

Suggested Itineraries

Our itineraries will give you suggestions for what is possible when you travel to Chiang Mai, and they showcase routes we know work particularly well. Treat them as inspiration, because your trip will be created uniquely by one of our specialists. Alternatively, if you would like to include a visit to Chiang Mai on a bespoke touring itinerary to Thailand, do not hesitate to contact us.