The city of Chiang Mai is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Thailand! It has everything: Temples, Adventure Parks , Trekks, a Grand Canyon, Markets, Cooking schools and more!
I arrived on February 21st at 5:30am via night bus from Bangkok (400baht/ $12 USD) and took a red car for 60 baht (pickup taxi) to Mapping Hostel. My highlights in Chiang Mai include the Sunday Walking Street Market, the Wats (temples) of the Old Quarter, and the Grand Canyon 15kms outside of town.
Old Quarter of Chiang Mai
On my first day I took stroll through time in the antique streets of old Chiang Mai. Once beyond the famous Thapae Gate on the east side of the city, the streets are quaint and filled with wonderful Thai architecture. Its hard to walk more than a block without coming across one of the many Wats located within the ancient walled city.
Wat Pha Khao
A quiet little Wat tucked away off the busy main Street, it has market stalls in the courtyard on Sundays and a massage stand daily. Inside the Chedi is a lit up colour changing Buddha. Strangely, this Wat has free Wi-Fi, thanks Buddha! Great place to sit down among the beautiful real (and fake) flowers to read and relax.
Wat Chedi Luang
The old centre of Lanna, built in the mid 14th century, this massive Chedi is a relic of the ancient Lanna civilisation and the largest in Northern Thailand. In the mid 16th century the top and side of the Chedi collapsed due to an earthquake.
This Chedi is famous as the original location of the Emerald Buddha currently on display in Wat Phra Kaew in Bangkok. For the 600th anniversary of the Chedi, a replica Buddha statue of black jade was placed in the Eastern section.
Wat Chiang Man
The first Buddhist temple grounds built in the ancient town of the Lawa People in 1297. Among the numerous buildings in the grounds, Chedi Chang Lom, ‘The Elephant Chedi’, stands out as the oldest and most interesting of the structures. With 15 Elephants carved into the base, they appear to be supporting the second level on their backs.
Located 15kms south west of Chiang Mai is an old quarry that has been given new life as a miniature grand canyon swimming adventure park. The walls of the canyon are almost 15m high in sections! I split a motorbike rental (1/2 250 baht) with my hostel mate Liam, together we rode double out of town and through the countryside. It’s a nice drive.
For an entry ticket of 50 baht $1.50 USD, I enjoyed the beautiful scenery, refreshing water and exhilarating heights! I jumped from roughly 10m, it was very exciting!! I may have it on video!
Walking Street Sunday Market & Food
Once a week, the locals close off the streets in the old quarter to set up stalls of locally made crafts. Try some of the local recipes; Khao Soi, Kam Pai or regular Thai treats for as low as 5 baht. I picked up a nice bar of ginger soap for 25 baht
The hostel is a 25 minute walk south east of the Old Quarter set on the banks of the river. At 118 baht/night, it’s a great hostel in terms of value. They have a self serve snack bar, hammocks and huts to relax in, however beware of the mosquitoes after dark. My one criticism is the lack of mosquito nets in the dorms. They have coffee or tea and a full breakfast with toast, eggs and fruit for 70 baht.
Overall I really liked Chiang Mai, two to three days was enough time to enjoy it before moving on north to Pai.