Amy, our in-house graphic designer is spending a year traveling the world. She just finished up a month in Thailand and today, she’s sharing her top 5 things to do in Chiang Mai. To read more about Amy’s travels, click here.
Chiang Mai is the quieter side of Thailand, great for people looking for fresh air and outdoor activities. With lush mountains just a short Songthaew (the cheapest way to get around the city) ride away, within a few miles you can escape to the serenity of nature while stumbling upon ancient Buddhist temples and extraordinary city views. The Old City is alive with night markets, exceptional restaurants and late night entertainment for those who enjoy high energy and culture. Here are some must do’s while in Chiang Mai.
1. Yi Peng Floating Lantern Festival – Coordinating your vacation around this festival can be tricky as it occurs on the first full moon of the second month of the Lanna traditional calendar – this is usually in November. The exact dates of the festivities aren’t released until later in the year, which can make planning ahead difficult. But if you are planning to spend some time in Thailand, and can arrange to be in Chiang Mai the first week in November, there’s a good chance you will catch this magical event. It is worth the effort and a bit of chaos to be a part of. The three-day festivities include a massive parade through the Old City, performances, and the releasing of sky lanterns into the night sky. This symbolizes releasing negativity and misfortunes from the previous year while simultaneously making a wish for the year ahead. Following good merits, Buddhists believe your wish will come true. Outside the festival, homes are decorated with colorful lit lanterns making it an exceptionally gorgeous time to be in the city.
2. Sunrise at Wat Phra That Doi Suthep – Doi Suthep is a well-known temple in Chiang Mai high up in the mountains, but if you can get up before the sun, you’ll enjoy a tourist-free experience while also witnessing a memorable sunrise over the city. Exploring the lush and peaceful grounds is spiritual and profound. Hearing monks chanting their morning prayers, bells softly ringing in the background and birds happily singing, the serenity of this temple is enlightening and not to be missed.
3. Hiking with elephants at the Elephant Nature Park – There is great controversy around elephant interaction in Thailand. Riding elephants or watching elephant shows is a cruel activity to participate in. The Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai is a true elephant sanctuary that buys ill or hurt animals from circuses and riding parks and allows them to live on a nature reserve in the mountains of Chiang Mai. There is an option that doesn’t include visiting the actual park, but allows people to hike and spend the day with three lucky elephants that live freely in the highlands. Feeding, bathing and walking alongside these beautiful creatures is a day well spent. Be sure to book in advance as the organization only allows limited tourist visits to allow the elephants time to themselves.
4. Sip coffee at The Giant – Head to a quaint village in the jungle for an extraordinary cup of coffee. Hidden far up the mountain is The Giant coffee and restaurant which sits on a huge tree allowing for peaceful views of the quiet mountainside. Guest can also spend the night for an extended stay.
5. Hiking to Wat Pha Lat – There are several incredible hikes and waterfalls to discover in Chiang Mai. One of the least well known and most hidden temples is Wat Pha Lat. The trail is called Monk’s trail as it is the trail that the monks use to get to this temple and then continues up to Doi Suthep. The hike is about 45 minutes up, you’ll hear the faint sound of the waterfall most of the way up. Once you reach the top, this magical temple lays before your eyes above a flowing waterfall. Peaceful and beautiful, take a moment to sit and meditate or enjoy the view of Chiang Mai from high above.