The Capital of Northern Thailand – Chiang Mai is the second largest Thai city after Bangkok. Surrounded by beautiful hills and mountains you can choose from visiting multiple temples, learning Thai or just relaxing with a nice cup of coffee within the walls of the old city. At the same time, you’re never far away from experiencing rural Thailand that is only a short drive away from the city and many local customs and traditions originate from the area. Chiang Mai is the place to go if experiencing real Thailand is what you are after on your travels.
Adventure Travel and Sightseeing
Whether you’d like to become a ‘Mahout’ – the Elephant Carer or experience the thrill of your life swinging in the trees or maybe spend a few days trekking through Thai mountains and visiting tribal villages, Chiang Mai is the place to go.
Culture Study and Travel
From some of the best in the country Thai cookery and massage schools to Muay Thai training, wou can pick and chose but remember fellow travellers recommendations are always best.
Chiang Mai University is the only Thai university that offers TEFL accreditation for those wanting to teach English as a foreign language, it is also a place to go if you’d like to study Thai language.
The capital of Thai North offers some of the best volunteering opportunities in the country. Not only can you blend in with the local culture, you are also away from the hustle and bustle of Bangkok. If it sounds like what you’re looking for, Chiang Mai offers anything from placements and the many elephant camps in the area, to medical internships that include working in HIV orphanages.
Photo Credits: Qsimple, Memories For The Future Photography.
Planning Your Trip
Cost of Living in Chiang Mai
- Chiang Mai has a lot to offer in terms of accommodation. From backpacker style guest houses for those on a budget to mid range Thai style boutique hotels and finally big names like Mandarin Oriental for a bit of luxury.
- Depending on your plans and budget, make sure you check location of your guest house or hotel as prices may vary for places within the Old City walls and those outside.
- Backpacker style accommodations cost anything between 350-600THB ($11.5-20). Mid range hotels and guest houses set you back 1500-2000THB ($49-65) per night (double room) and if you’re after a bit of luxury, prices can sky rocket to as much as 7000-8000THB ($228-260) per night.
- Street food meals can be as cheap as 50THB ($1.6) per dish, breakfast or lunch in a café in the Old Town will cost anything between 250 – 400THB ($8-13) for two. Western style meals will be considerably more.
- Drinks vary depending on where you purchase them from; a bottle of beer is usually anything between 50-70THB ($1.6-2.3), a cup of tea 20-30THB ($0.65-0.9) and water 10-20THB ($0.3-0.65).
- You can rent a motorbike for a day at around 150-200THB ($4.9-6.5) and fill it up for 35-50THB ($1.1-1.6). You may need to leave a deposit.
- Bus tickets to Chiang Rai are around 130THB ($4.2) per seat and an overnight journey to Bangkok will cost you around 550THB ($18).
Health and Safety in Chiang Mai
Like most of Thailand, Chiang Mai is a relatively safe place. There are a lot of small, dark side streets and alleyways that may look a bit intimidating at night, however visitors should not worry as the crime rate is relatively low. It is advisable to dress moderately and avoid showing off any valuables like cash or jewelry. The usual precautions should be taken as to keeping your belongings safe especially in busy night markets and main tourist areas.
Chiang Mai is not as intense as Bangkok in terms of tourist related scams, however similar precautions should be taken. Politely decline any bargain trip and excursion offers especially by your taxi or tuk tuk driver.
As anywhere in SE Asia it is a local custom to bargain while buying at local stalls and markets so don’t be offended by the initial inflated price offers.
Due to the hot Thai climate, be wary of raw foods, especially meats and egg, and dairy based sauces. Bottled water is widely available and you can check with your waiter if the ice you are being served has been made of filtered water.
In case of any minor medical emergencies, help is available in Chiang Mai’s local medical clinics. Any severe illnesses and emergencies however are better off to be attended to in Bangkok. With many international medical clinics and hospitals with English speaking staff you are sure to find the right place to be looked after. Make sure you have sufficient travel insurance that covers any potential procedures.
Must See Attractions in Chiang Mai
- Elephant sanctuaries: Whether you’re there just for a day or signed up to do a “Mahout” – elephant rider and carer course, you’re sure to have an experience of a lifetime.
- Thai cookery school: They say there isn’t a better place to learn Thai cookery than Chiang Mai, chose from plenty cooking schools but make sure you do your research first.
- Flight of the Gibbon: 5km of ziplines through 1500 years old rain forest say it all, an ultimate adventure for the thrill seekers.
- Wat Phra That Doi Suthep: This temple is located approximately 30min away from the main city of Chiang Mai, it’s definitely worth a visit for the beautiful views from the top, prepare yourself to climb some 300 stairs or take a ride up in a cable car.