Chiang Mai, which is also called “The rose of the North” is the fifth largest city in Thailand. Its atmosphere is cosmopolitan, lively and bubbly and it is often used as a base from which tourists venture to explore the north. The city is located on a plain, some 300 meters above the sea level, surrounded by mountains. Chiang Mae functions as the gate to northern Thailand with an international airport, and millions of incoming tourists every year.
Chiang Mae means ‘the new city’. It was built in 1296 and previously known as the capital of the ancient Lanna kingdom. The original city was crowned by a wall and a canal (moat), whose relics can still be seen today. Up until the early 19th century, it took a long, tedious river cruise (on Ping river) or elephant ride to get to the city.
A lot has changed since then and the city has evolved and grown towards all directions. It became cosmopolitan, lively and colorful, and now features multiple markets, several shopping centers and lively, bubbly nightlife. The recent years also saw a significant – and sometimes wild – building wave, and the enhanced development also brought various implications – traffic jams, air pollution etc.
Inside and around Chiang Mae city there’s much to see and do, and I don’t presume to cover all the options. Rather, I’d like to briefly review a few famous attractions in the city and its surroundings – and more material will be added here in the future.
Its full name is Nimmanhemin, but almost everyone refers to it as Nimman Rd. The street and alleys branching out of it have rapidly evolved over recent years, and the entire area is now modern, trendy and stylish. Many universities are located here which also contributed significantly to the area’s development.
An extended review of Nimman Rd. will be posted soon.
My Opinion: Nimman area provides a different view of the city, which I personally like. It’s different than the sight of multiple hotels next to each other, all near the night bazaar and in the old town area. Another bonus point for Nimman, is that the area is close to Chiang Mae’s international airport.
Chiang Mae Markets
Chiang Mae night bazaar has gained much fame, and I’ve already heard some stories about families that just landed in the city after a long flight, immediately checked in the hotel and left their luggage there, and ran to the night bazaar right away. Well, personally I think this is one of the disappointing night bazaars you can find in Thailand so don’t get your hopes up.
An extended review of Chiang Mae night bazaar will be posted soon.
My Opinion: a tacky, disappointing market with nothing special to offer; the commodity is low quality, redundant and common and the atmosphere is hardly unique or even pleasant. Across Thailand – and in Chiang Mae – you’ll find much better markets elsewhere!!
Sunday Market is in the old city area, and it stretches from Tha Pae Gate to Wat Phra Singh, along Ratchadamnoen Road and the nearby streets (a very large area). On Sunday, the entire area is closed for vehicles, so this is a real walking street.
An extended review of the Sunday Market will be posted soon.
My Opinion: a lovely, bubbly, entertaining market but sometimes overcrowded and too large for visitors. Still, if you happen to be in Chiang Mae on Sunday – don’t miss it!!
Saturday Market is also known as Wui Lai market or Saturday Walking Street. This is the ‘little brother’ of Sunday market; it resembles the larger market in its atmosphere and ‘character’ but it is much smaller and less crowded. Here too, you’ll find souvenirs of mountain tribes etc., but also local designer clothes, handicrafts and arts, and of course, many food and drink stalls alongside coffee shops. The Saturday market is located south west of the old town (Chiang Mai Gate) and on Wui Lai Rd.
An extended review of the Saturday Market will be posted soon.
My Opinion: both the Sunday and Saturday markets are great, pleasant and fun, so it’s hard to pick between the two. If you prefer a smaller, less crowded market – you should visit the Saturday market.
Warorot Market is the place for you if you’d like to get a real sense of Chiang Mae as a city, not just a tourist destination. The market is famous and well known to locals, and set at the heart of the Chinese quarter, a short walk away from the night bazaar and next to the river. The market is also called Kad Luang, which means “the big market” in the Lanna language.
An extended review of Warorot Market will be posted soon.
My Opinion: Unique, interesting and worth your time, if you’d like to experience the authentic, un-toured Thailand.
Evening Shows and Attractions for Tourists
Kanthoke Dinner Show is a local folklore experience for travelers, which includes a dance show of the northern tribes followed by a nice dinner.
There are several companies that offer a similar experience and the price usually includes transportation from and to your hotel. When it comes to the site I visited, the dinner was reasonable, and so was the show. It was nothing special or spectacular, but it was nice – certainly if your expectations aren’t too high.
An extended review of Kanthoke Dinner Show will be posted soon.
My Opinion: a nice, heavily toured experience, which you will enjoy – certainly if you have nothing special to do during the evening.
Around Chiang Mae City
Doi Suthep temple is a very impressive site, overlooking the city of Chiang Mai, and one of the most sacred temples in northern Thailand. The temple is very close to the Suthep mountain top, some 15 km west of Chiang Mai. A winding road will bring you to the foot of the temple; from there, it’s possible to climb up 300 stairs (if you insist) – but fear not – we will use an elevator/cable car which will take you up to the highest level where the temple is located.
An extended review of the temple will be posted soon.
My Opinion: The place is recommended to temple lovers AND those who aren’t temple enthusiasts. The visit in this beautiful, colorful site will take you about an hour– including an overview of the city Chiang Mai- will appeal to kids and adults alike.
Paper Umbrellas and Handicrafts Villages – some 13 km east of Chiang Mai city, you’ll find Bo Sang & Sankampaeng Villages – the center for the famous, local handicrafts of the area. In these villages, you can visit a wide variety of handicraft factories and shops – paper umbrellas/parasols, hand-held fans, carved wood, silk, gems, ceramics, bronze etc. The area is rather commercialized, yet offers a nice experience – especially for kids.
An extended review of the site is available here => click the link
My opinion: the place is commercialized and packed full of tourists, but it’s still a lovely attraction, so you should stop there for a short visit, especially for the kids.
Sankampaeng Hot Springs
A short ride past the Paper Umbrellas and Handicrafts Villages, you’ll find Sankampaeng hot springs. There’s not too much to say about this place: it’s just a display of water jet streams bursting out of some tubes; a few canals to dip your feet in, and a mediocre swimming pool – you’ll find nicer pools in average, 3-star hotels.
My Opinion: boring and redundant, don’t waste your time!!