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Chiang Mai Travel Guide
Chiang Mai is Thailand's second largest city, and an excellent starting point for excursions into the northern territories. Its name means 'new city', even though Chiang Mai is much older than Bangkok, having been built in 1296 under the rule of King Mengrai. The city straddles the gap between urban and rural Thailand, and offers the best of both worlds in terms of attractions and activities for Thailand tourists.
While Chiang Mai has more than 300 ancient temples, including the one at Doi Suthep, which offer breathtaking views over the area, its popularity is largely due to the elephant treks in the surrounding countryside. Travellers can also use Chiang Mai as a launching pad for excursions to the Lisu Hill-Tribe, Bhubing Palace, Isaan province, and Chiang Rai. Thai cookery classes are also a popular tradition, and the city also has an extensive night market, with dozens of street vendors selling a variety of traditional Thai wares that can be obtained at very low prices if you have the patience to bargain for them.
Chiang Mai is small enough to get around on a bicycle, has several attractions, and offers excellent accommodation, although tourists are advised that it can be difficult to find a room in peak season, between December and March.
Chiang Mai is tourist-oriented, and it is therefore relatively easy to get around, with several transport options. Three-wheeled tuk tuks, also known as , are usually the quickest means of transport, and fares should be negotiated before travelling. are another novel (if slightly hair-raising) way to travel. are small, usually red, pickup trucks with benches fitted along the side; they have no fixed route but pick up and drop off passengers like buses and need to be flagged down. Be sure to check the destination with the driver. The Chiang Mai bus service is very limited; catching a metered taxi can be difficult at times as well. Renting a motorbike is a popular option, and car rental agencies are also available, though traffic can be heavy, and it is advised to rather hire a car with a driver. Bicycles are another good way to explore Chiang Mai and can be hired in the old city, though one does have to watch out for drivers.