The northern Thai province of Chiang Mai is a popular destination for tourists both from Thailand and overseas. The city is a contrast to many other towns and cities in the country sporting an ‘old city’ in the centre that is surrounded by a moat and the remnants of the city walls. The province enjoys a seasonal climate that has the heat of the hot season but experiences cooler temperatures during December and January with night time temperatures often dropping to single figures.
There is plenty to see and do in Chiang Mai so here are just a few suggestions.
Doi Suthep is a majestic, forest covered mountain range that overlooks Chiang Mai. Since 1981 the area has been a national park boasting a number of waterfalls as well as being home to a wide variety of wildlife including the rare Crocodile Salamander which is only known to exist in four places in Thailand. The highest point of the national park is Doi Pui, the eighth largest mountain in Thailand standing at a height of 1,685 metres.
The area is also the location of the prestigious temple Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, an extremely popular destination for Buddhists especially on the holy days of Makha Bucha and Visakha Bucha. The temple offers stunning views back across the city and beyond and due to its elevation offers cooler temperatures throughout the year.
2. Wat Chedi Luang
Chiang Mai is home to a number of temples but Chedi Luang is probably one of the best known. Although, the exact date of when it was constructed is unknown the general consensus is that it was somewhere between 1385 and 1402, during the reign of King Saen Muang Ma. The temple was previously home to the Emerald Buddha, Thailand’s most sacred relic. The temple is particularly popular on Buddhist holidays but is visited throughout the year by tourists and locals.
3. Chiang Mai Zoo
Chiang Mai Zoo is located in the foothills of Doi Suthep and is home to around 400 species of animal. Some of the standout attractions include the fresh water aquarium and the two pandas, Chuang Chuang and Lin Hui who were donated to the zoo in 2003 by China.
The main emphasis of the zoo is on conservation and creating a natural environment whilst at the same time acting as an educational environment with animals from all four corners of the globe. The zoo is open throughout the year and is certainly worth visiting when you are in the city.
4. Chiang Mai Night Safari
Chiang Mai Night Safari is based upon a similar concept in Singapore and is renowned for having three animal zones, Savanna Safari, Predator Prowl and Jaguar Trail. These can be viewed either on foot or from the open sided tram. There are a number of activities to enjoy such as hand feeding the animals, a laser show and the dancing fountain.
5. Chiang Mai Flower Festival
Every year in February the city hosts a three day festival dedicated to the wonderful flowers that are in bloom in the cooler season. The focus of the festival is centred around the Suan Buak Haad public garden that is located on the southwest corner of the city’s moat. During the festival the surrounding roads are closed and vendors sell an array of plants including flowers, orchids and a variety of garden decorations.
6. Wat Phra Singh
Wat Phra Singh is regarded as one of the finest examples of Lanna architecture and dates back to the 14th century. The temple has a number of well known and revered examples on Buddhist art and Buddha images. The temple is decorated in gold and ochre colours as well as having exquisite examples of teak furnishings. The Wat is located inside the old city and is a popular destination for locals and tourists especially on religious holidays.
7. Doi Inthanon
Doi Inthanon is the highest peak in Thailand standing at 2,565 metres above sea level. The park is regarded as something of a natural jewel with lots of forestation, rivers and waterfalls. The area is particularly popular with bird watchers with around 360 different varieties of birds calling the park home. There are also a number of hilltribes that live in the park as well as modern constructions such as the Bhumibol Dam that provides power to thousands of people.
8. Mae Sa Elephant Camp
Mae Sa Elephant Camp opened back in 1976 is and is perhaps best known for the number of domesticated elephants that have been acquired from around the country. The animals carry out their normal routines but also play football, dance and paint pictures. Many of the elephants were previously employed in the logging industry but found themselves redundant with the introduction of machinery.