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Chiang Mai Travel Guide

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Welcome to Chiang Mai, Thailand

Introduction

Chiang Mai is the historic second city of Thailand 700km or a one hour flight north of Bangkok. Founded in the late 13th century, Chiang Mais original perimeter is still marked by a moat, historic city walls and fortified city gates. The city is home to more than 300 temples and many interesting museums and monuments, including Wat Prathat Doi Suthep, a temple perched high on a mountain peak overlooking the city.

Famous for its night market set up each evening in the city centre, the city is also the gateway to a region known for adventure, including jungle trekking to visit colourful hill tribes and elephant riding in the lush rainforest.


Travel to Chiang Mai

Thailand Map

Chiang Mai International Airport (CNX) is the gateway to the scenic beauty and rich culture of Northern Thailand and is only 4 kms southwest of downtown Chiang Mai. The domestic and international terminals are in a single building.

Taxi to the city centre takes about 10 minutes costing 120 baht.

Transfers - Many hotels will arrange free transfer to and from the airport for clients as the airport is very close to the city.

Train services depart Bangkok daily to Chiang Mai, taking around 11 hours.

Coaches depart from the Bangkok Northern Bus Terminal to Chiang Mai. The journey is about 700 km and takes about nine hours.

Local Transport

Taxis are inexpensive and around the same price as a tuk-tuk but safer and air-conditioned. Taxis must use the meter so ensure the driver has turned it on before you move off or you will pay more.

Songtaews are small pickups truck taxis with two plank seats in the back. Signal the driver to stop and negotiate the fare to your destination. Press the buzzer when you want to stop. Generally good for short trips, more convenient than a bus and cheaper than a taxi as you will be sharing with others.

Motor bike taxis are inexpensive and an exciting ride through the traffic. Negotiate the fare as there is no meter. Passengers must wear a helmet which the driver will supply. ChiangMai travel guide

Chiang Mai Weather

Chiang Mai can be visited any time of the year as the climate is tropical but cooler and less humid than other regions of Thailand. November to early May is the cool, dry season. December and January can be cold especially if going on a mountain trek. The warm, rainy season is from May to November with the most rainfall generally in September, although, generally mornings are clear with rain in the afternoon or at night.

Language

English is spoken by people in the tourism business. Many staff at hotels, shops, restaurants and museums will speak English.

Chiang Mai Attractions

Queens Sirikit Botanic Garden is a very popular attraction with its Glasshouse Complex, comprised of exhibition conservatories and display glasshouses. Other areas include the Arboreta, Natural Science Museum, Climber Collection, Thai Orchid Nursery and Rock Garden. [Open daily 8.30am -5pm]

Temples - The city of Chiang Mai has a wealth of beautiful and historic Buddhist Wats (temples), 36 Wats within the old city walls and many more in the surrounding countryside. Near the summit of Doi Suthep, a 5300 feet peak named after the hermit Sudeva who lived on the mountain's slopes for many years, is the 600 year old temple of Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep. After a drive up the mountain's winding road, the final climb to the site is via an enormous mythological Nagas (Dragon-headed serpent) staircase of 306 steps. On a clear day, there are incomparable views over the city of Chiang Mai from the temple grounds.

Wat Chedi Luang consists of an impressive chedi, originally built in 1411. It reached a height of over 278 feet before it was partially destroyed by an earthquake in 1545. It now reaches a height of 196 feet. The temple also contains the city pillar. Statue in small shelters surrounding this building are the home of guardian spirits. Chiang Mai hotels

Mae Sa Valley is about 30 minutes drive from Chiang Mai, where visitors will see the Mae Sa waterfall, orchid farm, monkey and snake farms and botanical gardens. There is also elephant rides at the Mae Sa Elephant Camp.

Elephant Jungle trek is a great experience for everyone. North of Chiang Mai, situated on the banks of the Ping River, is Chiang Dao Elephant Camp. In an unspoiled setting, marvel at the worlds largest land animal performing amazing feats of strength and skill, at the command of their 'mahouts'. In present day Thailand, elephants are only used as tremendously powerful beasts of burden. But in earlier times, they were a vital part of the King's army and played a very important role in Thai History. Witness the traditional techniques still used in the elephant training process. Wonder at the delicacy and preciseness of such gigantic creatures in action. Then follow an exhilarating elephant trek through the jungle, upwards toward a remote Lisu hilltribe village. The Lisu hilltribe people originated in Tibet and their villages are usually located in the mountains around 3280 feet.

Chiang Mai ZooChiang Mai pandas is located on Huay Kaew Road on a hilltop overlooking Chiang Mai. The zoo has a large collection of animals with the pandas being the main attraction [Open daily 8am 6pm]

Chiang Mai Night Safari is a Safari style zoo designed for night time but is open during the day. The park has the Jaguar trail where you walk, Savanna Safari and Predator Prowl where you travel on a tram. [Open during the day until midnight]

Chiang Mai National Museum is located beside Wat Chet Yot and chronicles Chiang Mai's past with interesting displays. There is a collection of artefacts, including Buddhist icons, pottery, weapons and household or agricultural items from the Lanna period. [Open Wed - Sun 9.00am - 4pm]

River Rafting on the Ping River is a thrilling adventure for any visitor. Chiang Mai Night Market

Chiang Mai Shopping

Night Market is held every night in the centre of town on Chang Klan road (between Tapee and Loh Kroh roads) and is very popular with shop stalls selling general goods and local handicrafts.

Chiang Mai Dining

Traditional Khantoke Dinner and Show - Enjoy an evening out by having a Khantoke Dinner, the customary northern Thai style of eating with food being served in large platters at low tables while you sit on mats on the floor. As you enjoy your meal, you will be entertained by a selection of northern cultural performances including the charming Fon Lep (Thai Finger Dance), Ram Dab (Thai Sword Dance), Fon Thiean (Thai Candle Dance), and Ram Wong (Group Dance).