Discover the top things to do in Chiang Mai, Thailand
Thailand is a country of juxtaposition – modernity and tradition, relaxation and adventure. No one place embodies these differences more than beautiful Chiang Mai, a bohemian city surrounded by majestic mountains and lush countryside in the north of the country. Orlagh recently had a whirlwind time exploring the city’s golden temples, healthy restaurants and nearby hills and villages. She gives us the lowdown on the top things to do in Chiang Mai to guarantee you have an amazing time.
Reasons to visit Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai – where do I even begin? My recent visit to this stunning city completely exceeded my expectations. Having travelled extensively throughout Thailand previously I thought I’d seen and done it all. Chiang Mai offers something more though. With its dazzling temples, amazing attractions, world-class eateries, proximity to so many spectacular natural areas and cute café culture, it’s easy to see why so many people find it hard to leave!
Incredible choice of food and drinks
Organic and vegan food is definitely on trend at the moment, a fact that is visibly reflected in Chiang Mai’s wide array of fantastic vegetarian restaurants and healthy fast food equivalents. From spicy tofu dishes to delicious fruit and veg smoothies, this is healthy Thai food at its best. Unlike many other countries in Asia, here vegetarians and vegans are really spoiled for choice.
The best way to learn about Thai cuisine, and pick up a few skills while you’re away, is to try a cookery class. There are a wide variety of schools to choose from, which are usually based in the gorgeous countryside and family-run. On my course, we ventured into the orchard to examine the produce that would make its way into our dishes. There was also the opportunity to sample the spices unique to the region. Plenty of water was required, trust me!
In Chiang Mai you can experience a real slice of Thai life without skimping on your comfort. Facilities across the city are just fantastic – think world-class hotels, super speedy wifi and English speaking staff. I stayed in the Ratilanna Riverside Spa Resort which I couldn’t recommend more! Set in a stunning natural setting, the resort offers the very best of everything, from food and fitness to spa treatments and service. To say I relaxed would be a complete understatement!
Famous night market
Chiang Mai’s night bazaar really is the best in Thailand. No hassling here – the locals step back and allow you to observe their goods in peace. I picked up some amazing souvenirs for friends and family (colourful scarfs, handmade jewellery, intricate ornaments and authentic spices) on Walking Street, which is closed off for pedestrians on Saturdays. You simply must give the various street food dishes a taste too. Pad Thai, red curry, spring rolls, barbequed meats – all for about 50 cents each. Yum yum!
Spa and adventure
I think my favourite thing about my time in Chiang Mai was how relaxed I felt even though I packed quite a lot into my days there. It’s hard not to soak up the chilled out vibes and de-stress. Just walking leisurely around the city you encounter majestic temples at every turn and have meaningful interactions with the friendly locals. There is plenty to please adventure seekers, from zip-lining through the rainforest and white water rafting to trekking with the long neck tribes of the north and visiting an elephant sanctuary. And if you fancy nothing more than sipping on a few cocktails and a spot of meditation, then that’s more than OK too!
If you get the chance to go anywhere in Thailand, make it Chiang Mai. Just recapping on my adventure there makes me want to return more than ever before. Sample the local cuisine, strike up a conversation with your masseuse and venture into the country for a truly unique experience – you won’t regret it!