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Chiang Mai Hotels
Chiang Mai: An Ancient Cultural City with a Vibrant Future
Nestled in the jungle-clad hills of northern Thailand, Chiang Mai is a charming walled city with hundreds of years of history. Founded in 1296, it was the capital of the ancient Lanna Kingdom and a highly important center for trade and commerce. Today, many vestiges of this rich history remain, including the city’s walls, moats, gates and many exquisite temples. Chiang Mai is not stuck in the past however; as the one of the largest cities in Thailand and a popular tourist destination, the city has a vibrant, international outlook. The area around Nimmanhaemin Road and Chiang Mai University has become a hipster haven with boutiques, galleries and cafés, and the new “smart bikes” are a great way to explore the sights. Outside the city, the verdant mountains are home to an abundance of cultural treasures, including mountain-top temples, lush jungles and traditional hilltribe communities. With its rich heritage, Chiang Mai has many distinctive cultural traits that set the city apart from the rest of Thailand and make it a richly rewarding destination for all types of traveller.
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Doi Suthep is a mountain near Chiang Mai, but this 1,676-meter-high peak is much more than just a geographical landmark; it is an integral part of life, worship and culture in Chiang Mai. Located just 15km from the city, Doi Suthep is home to the ancient Wat Phra That Doi Suthep temple, which dates back to the 14th Century and remains a highly spiritual site to this day. Worshippers and visitors can climb the 309 steps to the pagoda, and the effort is worth it; this breath-taking temple is crowned by a 24-meter-high golden stupa. A tram is also available to transport guests up the hill, and the views over Chiang Mai and the surrounding countryside are simply stunning.
Chiang Mai Night Safari
The rolling hills around Chiang Mai are natural havens for wildlife, but there is only one place where visitors can see the world’s most iconic species roaming across the landscape – Chiang Mai Night Safari. This popular attraction covers more than 130 hectares of land on the outskirts of the city, housing approximately 1,400 animals from over 130 species in three zones. The Savannah Safari is a 2.4km trail featuring African animals including giraffes, rhinos and zebras, while the Predator Prowl houses many different types of big cat, including tigers, lions and pumas, plus bears, hyenas and other meat-eaters. Finally, the Jaguar Trail is a lakeside walking trail featuring jaguars and other species.
Elephant Jungle Sanctuary Chiang Mai
Elephants have lived in the hills around Chiang Mai for centuries and they remain an iconic symbol of the region today. For guests who want to meet these majestic creatures in an ethical manner, Elephant Jungle Sanctuary Chiang Mai is a great option. Located 60km from the city, this responsible camp houses and cares for approximately 30 elephants. As a joint initiative between local people and members of the Karen hilltribes, this facility really does have the welfare of the elephants at its heart, with no shows, rides or circus tricks. Instead, guests are invited to take care of the pachyderms, including feeding them and giving them a bath. Full- and half-day options are available.
Doi Inthanon National Park
Stand on the roof of Thailand at Doi Inthanon – the country’s highest mountain. Rising 2,565 meters above sea-level, this peak forms part of Doi Inthanon National Park, a spectacular and verdant landscape of jungle-clad hills, rivers, waterfalls and remote villages which is home to a breath-taking array of wildlife, including more than 350 species of bird. There are many walking trails to choose from, taking visitors to a series of local attractions and landmarks, including two famous hilltop stupas. The top of Doi Inthanon is accessible by car followed by a short hike to the actual summit, which offers spectacular views especially at sunrise or sunset.
Chiang Dao Caves and Karen “Long Neck” Tribe
Located approximately 70km north of Chiang Mai city, the Chiang Dao Caves are one of Thailand’s most spectacular subterranean wonders. Adventurous guests can discover a world of stunning stalactites and stalagmites, with more than 12km of underground passages and chambers. Five main interconnected caves are open to the public, including Tham Phra Nawn (360 meters long) and Tham Seua Dao (540m), which are lit and house a series of Buddhist statues. Not far from the Chiang Dao Caves, guests can visit Padung Village, which is home to the famous “long neck” Karen hilltribe. Here, guests can meet the women who place brass rings around their necks and buy handcrafted souvenirs.
Bo Sang Handicraft Village
Chiang Mai is a wonderful place for visitors to pick up authentic cultural souvenirs, and one of the best places to find them is Bo Sang, a traditional handicraft village located 9km from the city center. Here, the locals specialize in making the famous “sa” paper umbrellas and parasols, and visitors can see the entire process, from creating the bamboo frame to painting the paper cover with intricate designs. Other paper-based handicrafts are also available, including lamps and fans. Guests can choose their own souvenirs to buy and take home, or simply stroll along the village’s vibrant main street, which is lined with shops selling a vast array of colorful umbrellas.
Sunday Walking Street Market
Chiang Mai is famous for its markets and none are bigger or better than the Sunday Walking Street Market. Every Sunday from 4pm until midnight, the city’s main Ratchadamnoen Road is closed to traffic and transforms into a huge market. This provides a wonderful opportunity for guests to stroll through the ancient walled city and shop for local produce and handicrafts. Friends and relatives back home will be delighted by the authentic souvenirs purchased here, which tend to be of much higher quality than the tourist titbits found at other markets. Guests also have plenty of options to sample Chiang Mai’s famous cuisine from sizzling street food stalls, and a series of shows and performances create a lively ambience.
Things to do in Chiang Mai
Top Things to Do In Chiang Mai
- Visit Chiang Mai’s ancient temples
- See the animals at Chiang Mai Night Safari
- Stand on Thailand’s highest peak at Doi Inthanon
- Visit Doi Suthep, one of the country’s most important temples
- Shop for souvenirs at Bo Sang or the Sunday Market
- Go cliff-jumping at Chiang Mai’s “grand canyon”
- Head out and explore the jungle-clad countryside
Neighborhoods to Explore
- Chiang Mai walled city
- Nimmanhaemin Road
- Tha Pae Gate
- Doi Suthep
- Doi Inthanon
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