Chiang Mai & The North
The rose of the North, Chiang Mai, is a wonderful small city with a history more than 700 years old. Sitting in a beautiful valley, surrounded by farm land, orchards and forested mountains, Chiang Mai inspires all that visit, with it’s natural charm.
Visitors to Chiang Mai are sure to find themselves busy exploring old temples, bustling markets, handicraft factories and mountain top temples, such as Wat Prathat Doi Suthep.
The streets and lanes are lined with shops selling a fantastic range of goods and of course the famous night bazaar is a great place to explore.
For the more active there is trekking, elephant riding, bike riding and many other outdoor pursuits.
Chiang Mai now boasts a number of International Class hotels as well as a broad range of other hotel accommodation. There are stylish restaurants overlooking the Ping River; bustling markets with fresh seafood and fish to be cooked on the spot to your taste; excellent shopping options; blissful Spa’s and so much more.
Chiang Mai also has a more temperate climate than other areas in Thailand. During the period from November to February, many visitors are drawn to Chiang Mai for the warm sunny days and cool nights.
Many visitors like to visit Chiang Mai to attend one of the many festivals such as the Flower Festival or the romantic Yi Peng Festival in November where people flock to the river to float their ‘Krathong’ or light paper lanterns to drift into the night sky and to make wishes for the coming year.
Where to stay in Chiang Mai?
Chiang Mai has plenty of accommodation choices, ranging from small, charming, boutique hotels to super luxury resorts.
The boutique offerings in Chiang Mai are numerous and although the designs and styles of these hotels are charming, great differences are found in the level and quality of service. For the perfect combination of style and service, we recommend Rachamankha, 137 Pillars House, Ping Nakara, Puripunn, Yaang Come Village, Rimping Village, and Tamarind Village. These properties are outstanding choices for lovers of boutique accommodation blended with a sense of home. They feature all of the comfort and luxury of a great little hotel.
At the top of the luxe list are the Oriental Dhara Dhevi and the Four Seasons Chiang Mai. Both are a little out of town and are high on luxury. The Oriental is top of the charts when it comes to facilities while the Four Seasons is considered by many a more authentic experience. If you are staying at these resorts you should balance your time in Chiang Mai so you can both get out and see the sites and spend some quality time enjoying the five-star services and facilities. The Chedi, with its compact design, is the in-town choice for the style-conscious, while the riverside Ratilanna Riverside Resort is another good deluxe option.
What to see in Chiang Mai?
If you are only spending a few days in Chiang Mai then a visit to Doi Suthep is a must. A morning with the monks is also a great way to discover the culture or why not take a biking trip, a balloon ride over Chiang Mai or even learns to become a mahout.
A visit to an elephant camp is an interesting day out, especially if you have kids with you. Chiang Dao Elephant Camp is our favorite as it is set in spectacular natural countryside and has fewer tourists than those close to town. There are also some smaller camps with just a few elephants such as Patara Elephant Farm on the foothills of Doi Suthep where the concept is really to act as if you were the tuskers' owner. The Elephant Nature Park is a unique project established with the aim to provide a sanctuary and rescue centre for elephants in Thailand. The park is a project rather than a camp - the owner has rescued over 30 distressed elephants throughout the country.
In the evening, you should enjoy dinner by the river and then take a tuk tuk ride to discover the famous night bazaar.
Trekking and Homestays
Spending a night in a home stay village is one way to really learn and understand how the people live. Working with locals on community-based projects, Global Travel & Tours has developed relationships with ethnic hill tribes to develop sustainable tourism projects with Thai and Shan villages in the mountainous areas of north Thailand. The facilities might be basic but the experience will be unforgettable and for just one night it should be possible to live without modern hotel facilities. A Shan Homestay at Tad Lod is one of our favorite places in Thailand. Spend a few days walking through the hills and learn how the Shan people live. Closer to Chiang Mai we highly recommend a night at Mae Kampong, a beautiful Thai village in the hills where you stay as guests of a local family in their teak house.
The trekking we are able to offer around Chiang Mai and across the north has also taken on a new dimension and is no longer an activity suitable for backpackers only. A trekking tour of two days/one night organized by Global Travel & Tours includes a trekking guide, porters, all meals, and sleeping materials in a local village (basic but clean accommodation) and guaranteed an unforgettable experience. The trekking is not very difficult and can be done by anybody with a normal physical health and a bit of adventurous spirit. More comfortable but still rewarding home stay experiences can be found at Lisu Lodge or Khum Lanna, countryside resorts where the emphasis is on seeing, learning and experiencing. Hmong Lodge is also a nice out-of-town experience and recommended for families. We have a number of packages including these properties or you can simply ask us to include them into your tailor made itinerary.
Chiang Mai – Attractions
Wat Chedi Luang
Wat Chedi Luang houses the largest chedi in Chiang Mai. The temple is located right in the middle of the city and was built in the reign of King Saen Mueang Mak, the seventh king of Mengrai Dynasty. The 98-metre tall and 54-metre wide chedi was built in the reign of King Tilokkarat. The construction was completed in 1481. In 1545 the chedi was collapsed due to an earthquake during the reign of King Jiraprapa. The chapel in the front was built by Chao Khun Uba Lee Poramacharn (Sirichantathera) and Chao Kaeo Navarat in 1928. The magnificent methodological serpents ramble from the entrance of the chapel to its door on both sides. It is believed that they are the most beautiful man-made serpents in the northern Thailand.
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is the most important and visible landmark, and overlooks the city from its forested mountain backdrop. This temple is 15 kilometres from town, 3,520 feet above sea level, and dates from 1383. The temple is approached on foot by climbing a steep Naga staircase comprising 290 steps. The less energetic may ascend by railcars. The temple’s pagoda contains holy Buddha relics, and attracts Buddhist pilgrims from all over the world throughout the year. The temple compound offers an exhilarating view of Chiang Mai city and surrounding countryside.
Wat Phra Sing
Wat Phra Sing, located on Sam Lan Road, houses the revered Phra Phutthasihing Buddha image cast in Subduing Mara. The Buddha image is now enshrined in Viharn Lai Kham. During the Songkran festival, each April 13-15, people process the most sacred Buddha image around Chiang Mai town for traditional bathing. Formerly, this area was a Wat Li Chiang Market until 1345, King Pa Yu, the fifth king of Mengrai Dynasty commanded to build this temple and a 24-feet chedi containing his father’s ashes. The temple compound includes the lovely Viharn Lai Kham featuring exquisite woodcarvings and northern-style murals paintings, a magnificent scriptural repository with striking bas relief, and a circular stupa (in Lankan bell shape).
Wat U-Mong, located on Suthep Road in the town. The spacious temple was found in the reign in King Mengrai around 1296. The renovation was done in the reign of King Kue Na. The large wall like building with a connected tunnel inside is a remarkable piece of art located in the temple compound. A large stupa is located near the temple’s wall. Wat U-Mong is teemed with various kinds of trees, thus making it an ideal meditation place.
Mae Sa Elephant Camp
In the lush tropical jungle of Chiang Mai's Maesa Valley, a big family of elephants lives side by side with their mahout caretakers. "Maesa Elephant Camp" is home to one of the largest assembly of elephants in the north of Thailand. Our philosophy is to create a natural and healthy environment for the elephants while working to conserve and breed them, due to the dwindling number of Asian elephants left in the wild.
Chiang Dao Elephant Training Center
At Chiang-Dao Chiang Mai Elephant Training Center we make sure that every one of our 32 elephants are happy. Each elephant has his or her own mahout to care for on a one-on-one basis. Elephants are only worked during the mornings, with their afternoons and nights free to roam the surrounding natural forest. With such a vast area filled with hills and the Ping River, elephants can wander through the forests as well as take baths in the river. We believe that if our visitors see that our elephants are happy, they in turn are happy with their experience.
We therefore invite visitors who are interested in the natural environment of the north of Thailand and who love and are interested in elephants to come to visit us. Here, at Chiang-Dao Chiang Mai Elephant Training Center, you will be able to get a real feel for the enchanting elephants in their natural habitat. Get away from the hustle and bustle of life and experience a unique and memorable time with our eco tourism as well as homestay programs, both of which showcase the simple, raw and traditional ways of life of Thailand’s elephants and their human companions throughout the centuries. You will learn all about elephants – their nature, their individual traits, their lifestyles, their talents and their charms. You will also get a glimpse at the unique and very real relationships between elephants and their mahouts, often each other’s best friends for life. Come and experience the joys of the Asian elephants at Chiang-Dao Chiang Mai Elephant Training Center.
Chiang Dao Cave
Tham Chiang Dao is a charming cave located in Amphoe Chiang Dao. It is situated 72 kilometres from Chiang Mai town, turn left at the entrance route and proceeds for 5 kilometres on an asphalt road. Convenient parking is available. Climb a staircase with a zinc roof to reach the cave. The lovely cave greets visitors with various kinds of fish swimming in a stream in front of the cave.
Patara Elephant Farm
Experience the Heart of Giving for the Heart of Living at the Patara Elephant Farm. Patara Elephant Farm is a Thai own and manage farm focusing on health-care and breeding management for friendly, beautiful and special elephants to produce healthy elephants to live on Earth. The farm invites you to hands-on experience on participating, sharing responsibilities and taking care of an elephant. "Elephant Owner for a Day" is a special program created for everyone to learn and interact with elephants as what an owner would do daily, during which time you are trained to approach your elephant correctly, know the elephant's temperament, feed and check its health, learn about and take care of your own elephant, bathe and brush it in the river, learn how to ride on its neck, and communicate through different spoken commands. You will get a chance to bare-back riding to visit forests, waterfalls or local temples. The program is specialized and meaningful activity to create trust and relationship between you and your elephant. With conservation philosophy "Extinction is Forever", Patara Elephant Farm honored to encourage people to try, at least once in their lives, to experience this very special and sacred animal that should be treasured. Give yourself an opportunity to share once-in-a-lifetime experience with the elephants; you will be touched by their beautiful hearts and will be brought closer to their special world.
Siam Rice Thai Cooking School
Siam Rice offers its customers the opportunity to learn how to cook real Thai food in a traditional style with skilled and friendly teacher. Your are cooking experience with the master is assured to be educational, entertaining, memorable, plus our instructors will give you the confidence to recreate the dishes that you make with us back home: NAN, she is your cooking instructor she had a hugeness smile all the time when she spent with you. We will share the secrets of how to cook delicious Thai dishes. In order for you to get the most out of your experience we also strive to keep the classes small: the average class size ranges1 to 9 peoples, ensuring that our instructor has plenty of time spent with you.
Doi Inthanon National Park
Doi Inthanon National Park is Thailand’s highest mountain, 2,599 metres above sea level. Doi Inthanon is a part of the Himalayas, which ranges across Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar, and ends at Northern Thailand. Complex mountain ranges and a mild climate characterise an area with a moist and dense summit forest. Doi Inthanon is very interesting for ornithologists. Summit forest is the source of important tributaries of the Mae Ping River. Meo and Karen hilltribes inhabit the park. Visiting Doi Inthanon is possible throughout the year. The best period for viewing waterfalls is May through November. The best period for viewing wild flowers is December through February. The best period for ornithologists is November through March.
San Kamphaeng, located 13 kilometres east of Chiang Mai town, is famous for silk and a cotton-weaving village. Most of the visitors to Chiang Mai visit San Kamphaeng for souvenirs that are high quality but inexpensive. The village showcases a weaving factory as well as a weaving process. On the way from Chiang Mai to San Kamphaeng, there are factories and souvenir shops that sell woodcarving, silverware, earthenware, lacquerware, and cotton fabrics.
The Night Bazaar is a shopping haven where one can find handmade products and souvenirs from many Chiang Mai villages and hill tribes. Local cloths and fabrics are reasonably priced for purchasing.