Five Activities You Can Only Do in Chiang Mai, Thailand
Chiang Mai is Thailand’s largest northern city and home to some of the country’s finest Buddhist temples. Around 300 temples are scattered around the capital of Northern Thailand, which is quite a few when you discover that the city is relatively small. The city was founded in the late 13th century and was the capital of the Lanna Kingdom until the mid 16th century. Later, the Burmese captured the city and ruled over it for two centuries, leaving behind their culture and cuisine.
Visitors shouldn’t confine themselves to the urban sprawl of Chiang Mai. Nab yourself a car rental Chiang Mai and head off along the less travelled roads to discover lush, mountainous forests. Here’s our pick of five activities you shouldn’t miss in Chiang Mai.
Chat with a Monk
It doesn’t matter where you are in Thailand, you’ll always spot these holy men wrapped in saffron-colored robes. Rarely do you get the opportunity to interact with them, however, in Chiang Mai you’ll find several temples that open up their doors and welcome visitors who want to speak with the monks to learn about their life, and religion. One of the most famous temples, Wat Suan Dok, has sessions every week on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Just be courteous by wearing appropriate modest clothing.
Go Bamboo Rafting along the Waterways
Jump in your car rental in Chiang Mai and head out of the city into the surrounding hillsides. Here, you can hop aboard traditional bamboo rafts and gently paddle downstream, passing jungle scenery, exotic wildlife, and charming little mountain villages. You can either do the trip on your own or hire a knowledgeable guide who will most likely prove to be a better navigator of the raft which can be tricky to steer at times. As you float down the Mae Wang, keep an eye out for elephants and remember to take back with you any trash you may have from a picnic you bring along for the day.
Be Massaged by a Prison Inmate
This one isn’t as crazy as it may sound. At the Chiang Mai Women’s Correctional Institution, women ex-convicts are rehabilitated and trained in massage. Don’t worry, you won’t actually be locked up with an inmate in a prison. The masseuses are well-trained, and you can pick up an hour-long Thai massage for a very low rate even by Thailand standards. You can leave feeling refreshed and content that you’re helping a great cause. If it’s not in high season, you can turn up and they should have a spot available. If you’re travelling in December and January, try to book in advance.
Watch Thousands of Lanterns Float into the Sky
If you’re travelling to Chiang Mai in November, don’t miss the annual Yee Peng Festival. Here, thousands of brightly-lit lanterns are released into the sky as part of the Loy Krathong celebrations. Be sure to bring your camera because you’re not going to want to miss catching incredible images of the spectacle. One of the best places to visit is Mae Jo University where you can join in the celebrations with the students. Be warned though that if you plan to visit during November, hotel rooms sell out quickly so be sure to book yours well in advance.
Sample Northern Thai Cuisine such as Khao Soi
One of Chiang Mai’s most famous dishes is khao soi, a creamy coconut chicken curry cooked in a paste of turmeric and spices. It’s served with both blanched and crispy egg noodles, quarters of lime, roasted chilli paste, and coriander. Chiang Mai is also known for having one of the best street food scenes in the country. Here, you can experience Northern Thai dishes like sai oua sausage and nam ngiaw noodles. Your best bet for immersing yourself in the cuisine is by joining one of the daily street food tours.