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10 Unforgettable Things to do in Chiang Mai

Article by Petrina Darrah

Petrina Darrah

Posted: April 7, 2023

Chiang Mai, the vibrant city in northern Thailand, is a perfect blend of rich cultural heritage and modern amenities. From exploring ancient temples to volunteering with elephants, there are a plethora of experiences that make Chiang Mai a must-visit destination. In this article, we’ve compiled a list of ten things you can do in Chiang Mai that will make your visit unforgettable.

1) Marvel at the Magnificent Temples

Chiang Mai is home to over 300 temples, each with its own unique history and architecture. Visiting these temples is a must-do activity for anyone interested in Thai culture and history. The temples in Chiang Mai range from small and simple to grand and ornate, and they all offer a glimpse into the city’s rich cultural heritage.

One of the most popular temples in Chiang Mai is Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, which sits on a hill overlooking the city. To reach the temple, you must climb a staircase with over 300 steps, but the breathtaking views at the top are worth the effort. The temple’s golden chedi, adorned with intricate carvings and surrounded by smaller chedis, is a sight to behold. Inside the temple, you’ll find a statue of the Buddha and numerous other artefacts and decorations.

Another impressive temple is Wat Chedi Luang, which dates back to the 14th century. The temple’s main attraction is the massive chedi, which was once the tallest structure in Chiang Mai. The chedi was partially destroyed during an earthquake in the 16th century, but the remaining structure is still awe-inspiring. The temple grounds also contain a smaller chedi, a statue of the Emerald Buddha, and several smaller shrines.

Wat Phra Singh is another popular temple that is known for its beautiful architecture and intricate decorations. The temple’s main building features a gold-plated roof and colourful murals depicting scenes from the life of the Buddha. The temple is also home to the Phra Singh Buddha, which is considered one of the most important Buddha images in Thailand.

2) Get Lost in the Lively Night Markets

Chiang Mai’s bustling night markets are a shopper’s paradise, with an abundance of food, clothing, and handicrafts to choose from. The Chiang Mai Night Bazaar, Saturday Night Market, and Sunday Walking Street Market are just a few of the popular markets that come alive at night.

3) Embark on an Adventure

Chiang Mai is surrounded by lush forests and mountains, making it an ideal destination for adventure seekers. Hike in Doi Inthanon National Park, zip-line through the jungle, go white water rafting, or try rock climbing for a truly thrilling experience.

4) Volunteer with Elephants with GVI

Volunteering with elephants in Chiang Mai is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that will leave a lasting impression on you. GVI offers volunteering programs that allow you to work with elephants and learn about their conservation.

Volunteering with elephants is not just about the experience itself; it’s about making a positive impact on the animals and their environment. The program focuses on sustainable practices that help to improve the elephants’ quality of life and their habitat. GVI also collaborates with local organisations and communities to promote conservation efforts and create awareness about the importance of protecting elephants.

5) Immerse Yourself in the Local Culture

Chiang Mai’s rich cultural heritage is evident in its numerous museums and galleries. The Chiang Mai Historical Centre, Lanna Folklife Museum, and Chiang Mai City Arts and Cultural Centre are just a few of the places where you can learn about the city’s history and traditions.

6) Master the Art of Thai Cooking

Thai cuisine is renowned for its vibrant flavours and spices, and learning to cook Thai food is an excellent way to immerse yourself in the local culture. Chiang Mai is home to several cooking schools that offer classes for both beginners and experienced cooks.

Cooking classes typically start with a trip to the local market to buy ingredients. This is an opportunity to learn about the various herbs, spices, and vegetables used in Thai cooking and to see the local produce in action. Once you’ve gathered your ingredients, you’ll return to the cooking school and start preparing your dishes.

Classes typically include instruction on preparing several different dishes, such as stir-fries, curries, and soups. You’ll learn about the various ingredients and techniques used in Thai cooking, and you’ll have the chance to taste your creations throughout the class. Many cooking schools also provide recipe books to take home, so you can continue to practise your skills.

7) Relax and Rejuvenate with a Thai Massage

After a day of exploring, why not indulge in a traditional Thai massage? Chiang Mai has numerous spas and massage parlours where you can relax and rejuvenate.

8) Experience the City’s Festivals and Events

Chiang Mai is known for its colourful festivals and events that reflect the city’s vibrant culture. The Songkran Festival, Loy Krathong Festival, and Yi Peng Festival are just a few of the celebrations you can attend and immerse yourself in the local culture.

9) Venture on a Day Trip

Chiang Mai is surrounded by natural beauty, and there are plenty of day trip options to explore the region. Visit Chiang Rai, Pai, or Doi Suthep-Pui National Park for breathtaking views and unforgettable experiences.

10) Discover the City on Foot or Bicycle

One of the best ways to experience Chiang Mai is by exploring it on foot or bicycle. Rent a bike and discover hidden gems, or join a walking tour to learn more about the city’s history and culture.

In conclusion, Chiang Mai offers a plethora of experiences that cater to every taste and interest. Whether you’re a history buff, an adrenaline junkie, or a foodie, there’s something for everyone in this vibrant city.

By Petrina Darrah

Petrina Darrah is a freelance writer from New Zealand with a passion for outdoor adventure and sustainable travel. She has been writing about travel for more than five years and her work has appeared in print and digital publications including National Geographic Travel, Conde Nast Travel, Business Insider, Atlas Obscura and more. You can see more of her work at petrinadarrah.com.
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