Are you visiting northern Thailand? You will be wondering where to go in Chiang Mai? Chiang Mai city in Northern Thailand attracts Thai tourists as well as visitors from abroad. Many Thais come for the numerous temples. A pilgrimage to Wat Phra That on the Chiang Mai mountain of Doi Suteph is a must. In fact the locals say that if you came to Chiang Mai but did not visit Wat Phra That you never visited at all. Within the old city you can never walk more than a few hundred meters before encountering a temple. Outside the city there are even more temples to visit.
Chiang Mai citizens are happy, peaceful and waiting to welcome you to their city. Perhaps the abundance of temples and the strong Buddhist influence are the reason. However there is so much more to do in Chiang Mai than temple hopping.
The Old City
The old walled city of Chiang Mai dates back to 1296. It is built pretty much in a square. Each side measures around 1.5 kilometers. Inside the square numerous alleyways connect the 50 or so temples. Nowadays the old city has developed to service the tourists that visit every year. You will find plenty of cafes, restaurants and boutique hotels. At night it is fairly quiet partly because of the proximity to the temples. The perfect way to enjoy the old city is simply to wander aimlessly around.
Sunday Walking Street Market
On Sundays the main streets are closed to traffic and the Sunday Walking Street Market springs into life. It is almost miraculous how the market is set up within just a few hours on Sunday mornings. A couple of hours after midnight and you would never know the market had been there. And what a market it is. Well over a kilometer of stalls. They are set up on both sides and often down the centre of the road as well. The stalls offer a variety of products from arts and crafts to delicious local delicacies. If you are deciding where to go in Chiang Mai on a Sunday this is a must.
Downtown Chiang Mai
Between the old city and the river is the main downtown area. Among the large and modern hotels are more markets, smaller shops and an array of places to wine and dine. Along with the big international chains such as Starbucks, McDonalds, Burger king etc you will find street food stalls. They will entice you with their delicious and tempting aromas. Try the banana and honey roti. Freshly cooked pancakes while you wait.
Loi Kroh road is the main bar area. It is still very welcoming though and there are many great massage salons to choose from. Relax with a street-side foot massage and watch the world go by for an hour or so. Among the bars you will find some of the best international restaurants. Chez Marco serves a French based menu. Vegans will enjoy Vegan Heaven. For genuine Thai boxing visit the Loi Kroh Boxing stadium. This is certainly aimed at the tourists but the bouts are definitely live and the fighters mean business.
Lately there has been a growth of tattoo parlours on the road including Mana Bamboo Tattoo and Naga Tattoo.
Further on you will come to the night bazaar area. If you are wondering where to go in Chiang Mai in the evening you should give the night bazaar a go.
Changklan Road Night Bazaar
In fact the night bazaar sets up mid-afternoon. The stalls are crammed together selling mainly touristy items. It is very busy with just as many sightseers as shoppers.
Past the Dusit Princess hotel you will come across the Anusarn Market area. You will find more stalls selling arts and crafts. Amongst them are a series of excellent seafood restaurants, O’Malleys Irish bar and the glamorous Chiang Mai Cabaret. This is a completely over the top ladyboy show.
In this area you will also find Pantip Plaza for all your computer needs.
As you reach the end of the night bazaar area you will find yourself down by the river
The Mae Ping River
The river is probably the main reason the town was built here in the first place. The river is only navigable for a few kilometres but you can enjoy some great boat trips on it. There are dining options on the river in the evenings as well. Journey down to Wat Chai Mongkhon and take an hour or 2 cruise up the Mae Ping River. This is a great way to see the city from a different perspective.
It is also a great way to spot the many riverside restaurants that line the riverbanks. Make a note and visit them later in the evening. Many have wonderful views of the river and the city.
As you continue upstream keep an eye open for the Chinatown Area, The Flower market, Warorot market and the main municipal wholesale market.
Chinatown and the markets.
You will come across the Chinese Pung Tao Gong Ancestral Temple. Well worth a quick visit. Just next door is the flower market. Enjoy a fantastic array of colors and scents as you stroll through it. Behind it and sprawling over a large area is the Warorot market. Chinatown is at its heart and so you will find plenty of Chinese jewellery shops, some apothecaries and shops selling just about anything you can imagine. This is a great area to wander around taking in the sights and sounds.
Make your way further upstream past the American Embassy and you will enter the Muang Mai market.
Muang Mai Market
This vast market is the main wholesale market. You will witness mountains of pineapples, melons, bananas and many other types of fruit. This is a great place to check out all the local vegetables as well. Many meats and fish are also sold here. If you want to mix with the locals a bit this is a good place to visit. It is a hive of activity virtually 24 hours a day.
If you venture out the other side of the old city towards Chiang Mai Mountain you will come to the university area of Nimmanhaemin. This is one of the trendiest parts of the city. Check out the Chiang Mai Art Center. Relax in the hip cafes and restaurants that you find here. In the evening there is plenty going on here with beer gardens, cocktail bars and nightclubs. Check out Warm Up for live music and dance the night away. If you were wondering where to go in Chiang Mai for nightlife you won’t be disappointed by the Nimmanhaemin area.
Chiang Mai University and Chiang Mai Zoo
One of the reasons for the hip Nimmanhaemin atmosphere is its proximity to the vast Chiang Mai University. The Suan Sak campus spreads out over nearly 3 sq km. It is a leading centre of learning specializing in agriculture, medicine science and engineering. It was the first university to be built outside Bangkok. The grounds also house a number of residential student blocks.
One side of the university lies the Chiang Mai Zoo. The zoo also has a large aquarium and is spread out among the forests of the Doi Suteph Mountain. The zoo was established in 1977 and was the first commercial zoo in northern Thailand.
Doi Suteph Mountain
Doi Suteph Mountain is often referred to as Chiang Mai Mountain. It is actually a national park. It is a wonderful playground and so close to the city that it is a favourite of both the locals and visitors to the city. There are numerous hiking trails that lead up to Wat Phra That and beyond. Numerous off-road cycle tracks wind their way down the hill as well. You will find plenty of cycle tour operators that take you up to the top. Enjoy zooming back down through the jungle and forests.
Further up the Doi Suteph Mountain you will find the Royal Summer Palace called Bhubing Palace. The palace was built in 1961. It is a favourite refuge from the heat of Bangkok. The cooling mountain breezes and the scented rose gardens are a welcome change from the sweltering heat of Bangkok some 700 kilometres to the south. You can visit the palace except when the Royals are in residence.
Where to go in Chiang Mai to see hill tribe people?
Doi Suteph Mountain rises to 1676 meters and is part of the Shan Hills. A short drive past the Summer Palace you will find the Doi Pui Hmong Village. You are welcome to wander through the village. The villagers weave cloth and so there are many stalls selling a variety of materials. You can also witness the local handmade cross bows and have a go yourself. Watch out, they are incredibly powerful.
At one end of the Nimmanhaemin road is the Maya shopping mall. This is one of several vast shopping malls in Chiang Mai. If you are a shopaholic and need to know where to go in Chiang Mai to satisfy your shopping urges then look no further. Near to the city centre Maya is certainly a very popular choice. Central Kad Suan Kaew and Pantip Plaza are also quite central. A short ride out brings you to others including Central Airport Plaza near the airport, Promenada and the latest addition, Central Festival. These are vast malls on several floors. Most of them include cinemas, eating halls and other attractions.
Where to go in Chiang Mai – Conclusion
There are too many great places to visit in and around Chiang Mai city. The wonderful Ratchaphruek gardens. The Royal Flora Ratchaphruek was an international horticultural exposition held here in 2006 – 2007. Next to them is the night safari. However these are a little distance from the city centre and should be in a blog about places to visit outside Chiang Mai.
It is hoped that this introduction will help you to decide where to go in Chiang Mai. Don’t forget that if you did not climb up Doi Suteph Mountain, the Chiang Mai Mountain, then you never really visited Chiang Mai.
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