What to do in and around Chiang Mai
About Chiang Mai,
Since its founding more than 700 years ago, the bustling city on the Ping River has been the capital of the northern region. For centuries, Chiang Mai has been the heart of the prosperous Lan Na kingdom, and its unique architecture still reflects an independent history and strong Burmese influences, as best preserved in the more than 300 beautiful Buddhist temples. If there is one place for which a temple trip should be recommended, then it is for Chiang Mai. You can easily do it alone, because many of the most beautiful temples, such as Wat Phra Sing and Wat Chedi Luang, are located in the ancient city.
Chiang Mai is often referred to as the Rose of the North and is located in the large and fertile Ping Valley, which is surrounded by densely forested mountains that reach an altitude of 2565 meters. In the 19th century, the rich teak forests attracted the largest timber companies in Europe, which almost led to the colonization of the country, but ultimately led to the successful integration of the region into Siam – now Thailand.
Meanwhile, after many wars in South China, tens of thousands of mountain farmers from dozens of different tribes moved to Thailand. The successive migrant flows transformed the region into a living ethnographic museum. Some of them were notorious poppy growers, and together with Burma and Laos, Northern Thailand became the world’s largest producer of opium. Later the term Golden Triangle was coined for the area. In the 1970s, when heroin addiction increased enormously in the cities of the United States, the US insisted on eradicating opium cultivation. Due to large American aid programs and dozens of royal projects and the leadership of Thailand’s beloved King Bhumibol, former poppy growers were forced to give up opium cultivation and encouraged to grow cabbage, tomatoes, flowers and coffee as a replacement for the opium.
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Crafts & culture
The colorful tribal crafts and textiles became highly desirable items in the steadily growing tourism industry. Now, Chiang Mai and the neighboring region are considered to be the world’s largest handicraft center, where in addition to the products of hill tribes, traditional Lan Na crafts are produced such as silk fabrics, silverware, furniture, the famous sa-paper umbrellas, carvings and neillo work .
Sample this abundance of local arts and crafts in the cozy city center between the eastern Tha Phae gate and the west bank of the Ping River. Hundreds of stores offer these crafts, the famous “night bazaar” area of Chiang Mai is the center of this shopping paradise. In Bo Sang, just a few kilometers east of the city, you will find the most important workplaces where you are invited to see how these products are made. However, most of the furniture and wood carving factories are located in Ban Tawan, near Hang Dong, twenty kilometers south of the city.
The people of Chiang Mai are proud of their traditions and celebrate their age-old festivities with great zeal. Nowhere in the country are the celebrations of the traditional New Year (mid-April) and Loi Krathong, the Light Festival (usually in November) more lively than in Chiang Mai.
Chiang Mai has a surprising number of excellent restaurants, many in the shopping area, on the banks of the Ping River and around Nimmanhaemin Road near the University of Chiang Mai. They offer highly acclaimed Thai cuisine, as well as a choice of Northern Thai dishes such as Khao Soi and Kaeng Hangle. Moreover, there is a large number of international restaurants. These neighborhoods are also known for their vibrant nightlife, including pubs, karaoke and go-go bars and various forms of entertainment such as Muai Thai (Thai kickboxing).
Outside the city
There are more attractions outside the city. First there is the Doi Suthep mountain, which is more than 1600 meters high, just west of Chiang Mai. The Wat Phra Dat is one of the most revered temples in the country. Along with the fantastic location makes it a must for every visitor.
Less well known are the beautiful, well-preserved forests of the mountain, one of the richest habitats of tree species in the world. Spectacular lianas and fascinating plants abound, such as rafflesias with beautiful red flowers the size of cannonballs. It is also the home of a rare salamander that looks like a miniature dinosaur.
Liam’s Suan Dok Mai can arrange a day trip to Doi Suthep.
Other highlights around Chiang Mai are elephant camps that offer shows and demonstrations and rides on a pachyderm. Also worth a visit are the snake farms, orchid and butterfly farms, picturesque waterfalls and the beautiful Sirikit botanical garden. For the adrenaline junkies there is a choice of zip lines and air bridges where you can ‘fly’ through the jungle. Many of these attractions can be visited during organized one-day tours, but you can also go there by taxi only. Most are located in the Mae Sa Valley, about twenty kilometers north of Chiang Mai.
Another option for a day trip is Doi Inthanon, the highest mountain in Thailand (2565 m), about eighty kilometers southwest of the city. Impressive cloud forests and waterfalls, and colorful mountain villages are the main attractions.