Chiang Mai Accommodation

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Where to stay in Chiang Mai

Exploring Chiang Mai

The northern Thai city of Chiang Mai was the capital of the Lanna Kingdom for over 700 years until it was incorporated into Thailand in the 1930s. Still true to its Lanna heritage, it’s unique amongst the kingdom’s favourite visitor destinations for its combination of ethnic cultures, walled old city, compelling charm and huge number of ancient temples. Comparatively small and as yet resisting the temptation to become an in-your-face tourist hub, its laid-back ambience attracts ecotourists, nature lovers and those looking for a more traditional Thai experience.

The heart of Chiang Mai is its Old City, surrounded by its moat and authentically restored terracotta brick walls and gates. The area surrounding the main Thapae city gate down to the river banks holds mid-range and budget-level hotels and guest houses as well as upscale hotels such as the Meridian and the Anatara Chiang Mai. The Ping River meanders gently through the city, with restaurants and a few traditional wooden homes set along its banks. Doi Suthep Mountain looms over the university district, and the golden chedi of ancient Wat Phra Tat with its holy Buddha relic gleams halfway up its slopes.

Sights nearby

Chiang Mai’s fascinating history and its lush, green surroundings give sightseeing and activities for visitors over and above the usual night markets and endless wats. The charming small town of Doi Saket with its hilltop temple and giant, gilded Buddha is half an hour’s drive away, and the 12th century Haripunchai kingdom at nearby Lamphun is visible in its even more ancient temples and interesting museum.

- Wat Chedi Luang

Set in the heart of the old city since the start of the 15th century, the temple’s massive chedi was brought low by the 1545 earthquake until its restoration during the 2Oth century. It’s a magnificent testament to pure Lanna architecture and the protective Pillar of the City is held here.

- Wat U Mong

This mysterious temple lies in a forest at the foot of Doi Suthep, and was traditionally a refuge for northern Thailand’s iconic forest monks. Its underground passageways with altars holding Buddha images are eerily beautiful, and the stupa holds a masterpiece bronze image of the fasting Buddha. A lovely lake contains turtles and huge fish, and the trees bear plaques painted with Buddhist sayings.

- Walking Street Markets

Over the last few years, two walking street markets have taken over from the night bazaar as favourites for an evening out. The Sunday market on Rachadamnoen Road and another, smaller Saturday night market on Wualai Road offer an amazing selection of local and hill tribe crafts, jewellery, fashions, foodstuffs, shoes, bags, CDs, home décor items and more. Bargaining over the already cheap prices adds to the fun.

Eating and drinking and shopping nearby

Chiang Mai has a plethora of eating options, even if you’re on a minimal holiday budget. Street food is everywhere, safe to eat and delicious, and little local eateries in the old city serve a mix of Western-style and Thai dishes. A number of more upscale restaurants are run by expats and serve everything from Western and Thai cuisine to fusion foods. In the popular tourist areas, fast food joints are found, and Japanese restaurants are popular; the hotspot for nightlife and bars nowadays is Nimmanhaeminda Road and its backstreets. Chiang Mai is shopaholics’ heaven, especially in the markets, although the latest two huge malls, Central Festival and Promenada, set along the Superhighway, offer a great choice of fashions at reasonable prices.

Public transport

Getting around by public transport involves just two options – tuk-tuks and the red, converted truck songthaews serving as the city’s buses. Both can be hired on the street, but tuk-tuks are the preferred, if more pricey option as drivers take visitors directly to their destination. To make sure you get where you need to via a songthaew, it’s useful to speak basic Thai.

Chiang Mai travel guides

Chiang Mai travel guides