Chiang Mai Travel Tips is a website created to help people get to know Chiang Mai from the comfort of their computer. There's so much that's fascinating about this northern capital of Thailand, and Chiang Mai Travel Tips hopes to take you on an online journey to visit and explore all its marvelous attractions, as if you are going there yourself. And you can do it all right here, at your desk!
This website is not a travelogue. Although I have visited Chiang Mai a number of times, this website is not based on my travels. It reflects my desire to know everything about Chiang Mai, and to share my discovery with like-minded enthusiasts.
About Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai, also written as Chiengmai and Chiangmai, is the largest city in northern Thailand. It is located by the banks of the Ping River, one of the major tributaries of the Chao Phraya River. The city has a population of 150,000 people and a metropolitan population approaching a million.
Long regarded as the cultural capital of Thailand, Chiang Mai is today a major travel destinations. Set among the highest mountains in Thailand, it is the place to go to escape from the hustle and bustle of Bangkok.
Being a provincial city, Chiang Mai is extremely affordable by Western standard. I hope that when you get there, you will have the chance to explore all the places that I describe on this website, many of which you can do on foot. There is certainly a lot to see and do here. I also hope you will get to know Chiang Mai's history, handicrafts, culture, dances, food, and more, and I'll try my best to explain all of them to you right here.
A Brief History
Chiang Mai is the gateway to tourist sights all across the northern part of Thailand. In its own right, Chiang Mai is an ancient city with a history that is longer than that of Bangkok. It was founded by King Mengrai in 1296 to replace his older capital, Chiang Rai. The name Chiang Mai means "new capital". The city served as the ancient capital of the Lanna Kingdom. The medieval walls protecting the city is still visible today. They encircle the older part of the city with a moat on its outer part.
Due to constant attacks from neighbouring Burma, Chiang Mai was eventually abandoned in 1776, only to be given a new breath of life in 1791, during which time it was annexed as part of the Kingdom of Siam.
The locals of Chiang Mai speak a dialect of Thai known as Kham Muang, which is closer related to the Laotian language than it is to Thai itself. Since the Lanna Kingdom became part of Siam, writing of Kham Muang has adopted the standard Thai alphabet. The Kham Muang alphabet itself is no longer known to the locals, and is only a matter of interest to scholars.
Chiang Mai experiences a climate with a dry season and a wet one. The dry season is in the winter months from January to March while the wet season is from July to September. The best time to visit Chiang Mai is between November and February, as the temperature is lowest. It can get quite cold at night during those months, so you should consider bring along a sweater or jacket for the evening.
Chiang Mai has numerous Buddhist temples. Many of these are well preserved and maintained, and are the city's primary tourist attraction. The temples of Chiang Mai are built according to the Lanna architectural style which is different from those you see in Bangkok. Pay good attention to the temples and slowly you will be able to differentiate the style of temples in Chiang Mai from those in Bangkok.
Visitors to Chiang Mai often use it as the gateway to visit other sights in northern Thailand. Doi Inthanon, the tallest mountain in Thailand, is a day trip from Chiang Mai. It is one of the most accessible mountains in the country, as vehicles can go right to the top.
The rural areas surrounding Chiang Mai is home to many hill tribes such as the Akha people and the Padaung, better known as the long-neck people. Their villages now welcome tourists to supplement their otherwise limited income. You can also visit hot springs, caves, gushing waterfalls, or go bamboo rafting, or ride the elephants.
Within a day's journey from Chiang Mai is the highland town of Mae Hong Son, another popular tourist destination. As with all major towns in Thailand, it has a good collection of temples, many of which are quite rustic compared to those in Chiang Mai. The towns of Chiang Rai and Mae Sai, on the border with Myanmar, are also popular with visitors to Chiang Mai, as is the Golden Triangle, the spot where the border of Thailand converges with Myanmar and Laos.
When evening comes, you should attend a northern Thai cultural show. There are performances held at a number of venues in Chiang Mai, where you enjoy dinner while watching the show. Ask for the khantoke dinner, where you sit on the floor with your dinner presented to you on a tray. The meal comprises traditional northern Thai fare this is both tasty as well as interesting.
After dinner, you can explore the popular Chiang Mai Night Bazaar. This is the place to look for souvenirs and handicrafts - those on sale at the Night Bazaar are usually cheaper than you can get from specialty shops.
Chiang Mai is truly an invigorating vacation destination. Through this website, I will showcase all that it has to offer. I hope that you will be delighted by the sights and the information will help you as you prepare for your visit there.