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Info Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai sometimes written as "Chiengmai" or "Chiangmai", is the largest and most culturally significant city in Northern Thailand. It is the capital of Chiang Mai Province and was a former capital of the Kingdom of Lan Na (1296–1768), which became the Kingdom of Chiang Mai, atributary state of Siam from 1774 to 1899 and finally the seat of a merely ceremonial prince until 1939. It is 700 km (435 mi) north of Bangkok and is situated amongst the highest mountains in the country. The city sits astride the Ping River, a major tributary of the Chao Phraya River.
Chiang Mai means "new city" and was so named because it became the new capital of the Lan Na kingdom when it was founded in 1296, succeeding Chiang Rai, the former capital founded in 1262.
Chiang Mai gained prominence in the political sphere in May 2006, when the Chiang Mai Initiativewas concluded between the ASEAN nations and the "+3" countries (China,Japan, and South Korea). Chiang Mai was one of three Thai cities contending for Thailand's bid to host the World Expo 2020 (the others were Chonburi and Ayutthaya). Ayutthaya, however, was the city ultimately chosen by the Thai Parliament to register for the international competition.
Chiang Mai has positioned itself to become a Creative City and is considering applying for Creative City status with UNESCO.
Chiang Mai's historic importance is derived from its close proximity to the Ping River and major trading routes.
While officially the city (thesaban nakhon) of Chiang Mai only covers most parts of the Mueang Chiang Mai district with a population of 160,000, the city's sprawl extends into several neighboring districts. The Chiang Mai Metropolitan Area has a population of nearly one million people, more than half the total of Chiang Mai Province.
The city is subdivided into four wards (khwaeng): Nakhon Ping, Srivijaya, Mengrai, and Kawila. The first three are on the west bank of the Ping River, and Kawila is on the east bank. Nakhon Ping district comprises the north part of the city. Srivijaya, Mengrai, and Kawila consist of the west, south, and east parts, respectively. The city center—within the city walls—is mostly within Srivijaya ward.
|POPULATION :||• City Municipality 148,477|
• Metro 960,906
|TIME ZONE :||ICT (UTC+7)|
|LANGUAGE :||Thai, English (secondary language of the elite), ethnic and regional dialects|
|RELIGION :||Buddhist 94.6%, Muslim 4.6%, Christian 0.7%, other 0.1%|
|AREA :||• City Municipality 40.216 km2 (15.527 sq mi)|
• Metro 2,905 km2 (1,122 sq mi)
|ELEVATION :||310 m (1,020 ft)|
|COORDINATES :||18°47′43″N 98°59′55″E|
|SEX RATIO :||• Male: 49%|
• Female: 51%
|ETHNIC :||Thai 75%, Chinese 14%, other 11%|
|AREA CODE :||53|
|POSTAL CODE :|
|DIALING CODE :||+66 53|
|WEBSITE :||Official website|
According to Thailand's Tourist Authority, in 2013 Chiang Mai had 14.1 million visitors: 4.6 million foreigners and 9.5 million Thais. In 2016, tourist arrivals are expected to grow by approximately 10 percent to 9.1 million, with Chinese tourists increasing by seven percent to 750,000 and international arrivals by 10 percent to 2.6 million. Tourism in Chiang Mai has been growing annually by 15 percent per year since 2011, mostly due to Chinese tourists who account for 30 percent of international arrivals.
Chiang Mai is estimated to have 32,000-40,000 hotel rooms and Chiang Mai International Airport (CNX) is Thailand's fourth largest airport, after Suvarnabhumi (BKK) and Don Mueang (DMK) in Bangkok, and Phuket (HKT).
The Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau (TCEB) aims to market Chiang Mai as a global MICE city as part of a five-year plan. The TCEB forecasts revenue from MICE to rise by 10 percent to 4.24 billion baht in 2013 and the number of MICE travellers to rise by five percent to 72,424.
The influx of tourists has put a strain on the city's natural resources. Chiang Mai is faced with rampant unplanned development, air and water pollution, waste management problems, and traffic congestion. Local government is seemingly powerless to enforce zoning and construction.
Founded in 1296 CE, Chiang Mai is a culturally and historically interesting city, at one time the capital of the ancient Lanna kingdom. In the rolling foothills of the Himalayas 700 km north of Bangkok, until the 1920s it could only be reached by an arduous river journey or an elephant trek. This isolation helped preserve Chiang Mai's distinctive charm, which remains intact.
Chiang Mai's historical centre is the walled city ("city" is chiang in the northern Thai dialect while mai is "new", hence Chiang Mai translates as "new city"). Sections of the wall dating to their restoration a few decades ago remain at the gates and corners, but of the rest only the moat remains.
Inside Chiang Mai's remaining city walls are more than 30 temples dating back to the founding of the principality, in a combination of Burmese-, Sri Lankan-, and Lanna Thai-styles, decorated with beautiful wood carvings, Naga staircases, leonine and angelic guardians, gilded umbrellas and pagodas laced with gold filigree. The most famous is Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep, which overlooks the city from a mountainside 13 km away.
Modern-day Chiang Mai has expanded in all directions, but particularly to the east to the banks of the Ping River (Mae Nam Ping), where Changklan Rd, the famous Night Bazaar, and the bulk of Chiang Mai's hotels and guest houses are located. Loi Kroh Rd (ถนนลอยเคราะห์) is the centre of the city's (tourist) night life.
Locals say you've not experienced Chiang Mai until you've seen the view from Doi Suthep, eaten a bowl of kao soi and purchased an umbrella from Bo Sang. Of course this is touristic blather, but kao soi, Bo Sang umbrellas and Doi Suthep are important cultural icons for the locals.
Chiang Mai's most salient physical feature is the moat and the remains of the wall surrounding the old city. About 6.5 km in circumference, it is the reference point for navigating around the city.
The east and west halves of the old city each have their own character. The east side has the highest concentration of guesthouses, restaurants, motorbike rental shops, travel agencies, and other tourist-oriented services. In particular, the northeast corner is a warren of guesthouses, restaurants, massage parlours, and other businesses catering to visitors. The western half is more Thai, with a school for the blind, a coffin shop, the Chiang Mai branch of Thailand's National Library and five or six mostly table-top barbecue restaurants (หมูกระทะ mǔu grà~tá) almost always packed with Thai customers.
Clockwise from 12 o'clock (north), the main features of the moat and its environs areː
- Chang Phuak Gate (ประตูช้างเผือก) (Centre, N moat). Initially constructed by King Mangrai c.1296. Formerly known as Hua Wiang ("head of the city") Gate as it was considered the most important. King Saen Muang Ma (1365-1401) built an albino elephant (cháang-pʉ̀ʉak ช้างเผือก) monument outside the gate during his reign. The name of the gate then changed gradually to reflect its presence. Traditionally, kings-to-be entered the city through this gate on the way to their coronations. Taking the road north from here takes one to the intra-provincial bus station, also named Chang Phuak, then onward to Mae Rim, Pai, Chiang Rai and the Lao border.
- Si Phum Corner (แจ่งศรีภูมิ) (NE moat corner). Taking the left turn at this point takes one to the superhighway. Straight on leads to a bridge over the Ping River and beyond it, the rail and bus stations. Turning right (south) parallels the eastern boundary of the moat.
- Tha Phae Gate (ประตูท่าแพ) (Centre E moat). Built c.1296. Originally called Chiang Ruak Gate after a nearby village. "Tha Phae" means "raft landing". Originally there was an outer Tha Phae on the river and this gate, the inner Tha Phae. When the raft landing was supplanted by a bridge, this became the Tha Phae Gate. Rebuilt 1985-1986. The vicinity is by far the area most useful to visitors as it contains the greatest number of tourist services. The Night Bazaar lies due east, about a 15 min walk. There always seems be something going on in the plaza adjacent to the gate. Every Sunday a Walking Street Market originates here.
- Katam Corner (แจ่งก็ะตำ) (SE moat corner). A "katam" was a "fishtrap". Water flowing into the city from the Hua Lin corner (NW) of the city collected near this corner in a large pond full of fish. The corner took on the name of the tool used to catch the fish. Turning left here leads to the River Ping.
- Chiang Mai Gate (ประตูเชียงใหม่) (Centre, S moat). Built c.1296 at the founding of the city by King Mangrai. Traditionally the start of the road south to Lamphun. Reconstructed c.1800. Rebuilt 1966-1969. Nearby is the Chiang Mai (fresh) Market, selling foodstuffs. Adjacent are many food stalls, which are popular throughout the day and evening. Across the street to the south is a Walking Street Market every Saturday.
- Saen Pung Gate (ประตูแสนปุง) (SW moat). First mentioned in historical records about 1545. Traditionally used to transport the dead out of the city to crematoria outside the city proper.
- Ku Huang Corner (แจ่งกู่เฮีอง) (SW corner). Refers to a stupa "kuu" containing the ashes of a person named "Huang". Rebuilt c. 1800. Turning left here leads to the Airport Plaza Shopping Centre and the airport.
- Suan Dok Gate (ประตูสวนดอก) (W side of moat). On the sign, misspelled in English as "saun dok". Little in the vicinity of interest to visitors.
- Hua Lin Corner (แจ่งหัวลิน) (Moat NW corner). "Hua" means "head" and "lin" meant "aqueduct". At this corner the small brook, Hûuai Kaeo, was lifted over the city's rampart to provide fresh water to the settlement. Turning left here leads to the Nimmanhaemin District, Chiang Mai University, and onward to Doi Suthep.
King Mengrai founded the city of Chiang Mai ("new city") in 1296. on the site of an older city of the Lawa people called Wiang Nopburi. Gordon Young, in his 1962 book The Hill tribes of Northern Thailand, mentions how a Wa chieftain in Burma told him that the Wa, a people who are closely related to the Lawa, once lived in the Chiang Mai valley in "sizeable cities".
Chiang Mai succeeded Chiang Raias the capital of the Lan Na kingdom. Pha Yu enlarged and fortified the city, and built Wat Phra Singh in honor of his father Kham Fu.The ruler was known as the "chao". The city was surrounded by a moat and adefensive wall since nearby Burma was a constant threat, as were the armies of the Mongol Empire, which only decades earlier had conquered most of Yunnan, China, and in 1292 overran the bordering Thai Lü kingdom of Chiang Hung.
With the decline of the Lan Na Kingdom, the city lost importance and was occupied by the Burmese in 1556. Chiang Mai formally became part of Siam in 1775 by an agreement with Chao Kavila, after the Thai King Taksin helped drive out the Burmese. Because of Burmese counterattacks, Chiang Mai was abandoned between 1776 and 1791. Lampang then served as the capital of what remained of Lan Na. Chiang Mai then slowly grew in cultural, trading, and economic importance to its current status as the unofficial capital of Northern Thailand, second in importance only to Bangkok.
The modern municipality dates to a sanitary district (sukhaphiban) that was created in 1915. It was upgraded to a municipality (thesaban) on 29 March 1935, as published in the Royal Gazette, Book No. 52 section 80. First covering just 17.5 km2 (7 sq mi), the city was enlarged to 40.2 km2(16 sq mi) on 5 April 1983.
Chiang Mai's northern location and moderate elevation results in the city having a more temperate climate than that of the south.
As in the rest of Thailand there are three distinct seasons:
- A cool season from Nov-Feb.
- A hot season from Mar-Jun.
- A wet season from Jul-Oct.
|Daily highs (°C)||30||32||35||36||34||32||32||31||31||31||30||28|
|Nightly lows (°C)||14||15||18||22||23||24||24||23||23||22||19||15|
- DHL, Log 2-6, 1st floor, Montri Hotel, Ratchadamnoen Rd (Just north of the Tha Phae Gate inside moat), . World-wide express shipping. Packaging services.
The government of Thailand censors Internet access. 2010 estimates place the number of blocked websites at 110,000 and growing. Roughly 77% are blocked for reasons of lèse majesté, content (content that defames, insults, threatens, or is unflattering to the king, including national security and some political issues), 22% for pornography, which is illegal in Thailand. Some web pages from BBC One, BBC Two, CNN, Yahoo News, the Post-Intelligencer newspaper (Seattle, USA), The Age newspaper (Melbourne, Australia) dealing with Thai political content are blocked. The Daily Mail(UK) is blocked entirely.
Many guesthouses, hotels, cafes, bars, restaurants, and even swimming pools, offer Wi-Fi connections. These are usually free or available for a small charge. If you are travelling with your laptop you should be able to connect to the Internet within a 500 m radius of your Chiang Mai city-based accommodation at little or no cost.
In November 2012, the Ministry of Information announced the launch of 3,000 free Wi-Fi hotspots in Chiang Mai. The scheme, called ICT Free Wi-Fi for the Public by AIS, offers a download speed of 10 Mbit/s for up to five hours a month. Hotspots can be found near schools, shopping centres, hospitals and government offices. Those interested must sign up for the free service at ICT Free Wi-Fi, after which you will receive a user ID and password.
Internet cafes can be found everywhere within the city. Prices vary from 10 baht/hour (in "gaming" places filled with local children) to 60 baht/half-hour (2 baht/minute) and more. Most places charge per 15 or 30 minute block, others by the minute. The cheapest and most comfortable places with fast connections, webcam, microphone, and Skype, are along Huay Kaew Road near the main entrance to Chiang Mai University, where the cost is 10-20 baht.
- Buddy Internet, 12 Huay Kaew Rd (Northwest corner of the moat, opposite the Central Department Store), . 08:00-24:00.
As elsewhere in Thailand, GPRS/EDGE is a cheap and convenient option to access Internet if you have a laptop and local SIM card. TrueMove 850 MHz 3G covers most parts of the city.
- Directory inquiry service: 183/1133
- International and domestic operator-assisted service: 100
- Overseas dial-out code: 001
- AT&T International operator for collect calls: 001 999 11111
- Mobile phones in Thailand have 10 digits, including the leading zero. Land-line telephones have 11 digits, including the leading zero.
- Airport 24-hr Post Office, 60 Moo 3, Airport Rd, .
- Changklan Post Office, 186-186/1 Changklan Rd, .
- Chang Phuak Post Office, 195/8-9 Chang Phuak Rd, .
- Mae Ping Post Office, 24 Praisanee Rd, .
- Main Post Office, Charoen Muang Rd, . ,
- Phra Sing Post Office (Singharat Rd (3 min walk south of Wat Phra Singh)).
- Talat Kam Tieng Post Office (Assadathon Rd, near Tesco Lotus, just off the super highway). This is the post office where you ship/receive bulky objects like bicycles and motorbikes.
- Tha Phae Post Office (West side of Tha Phae Gate on Ratchadamnoen Rd, 25 paces down the street from Black Canyon Coffee). Daily, 08:00-20:00. This little PO is the most convenient one for most visitors due to its hours and central location. The offer packaging services, faxing, international telephoning, sell postcards, stamps, etc.
Prices in Chiang Mai
MARKET / SUPERMARKET
|Beer (domestic)||0.5 l||$1.40|
|Bottle of Wine||1 bottle||$11.50|
|Dinner (Low-range)||for 2||$11.00|
|Dinner (Mid-range)||for 2||$18.00|
|Dinner (High-range)||for 2||$|
|Mac Meal or similar||1 meal||$4.20|
|Beer (Imported)||0.33 l||$2.85|
|Beer (domestic)||0.5 l||$1.60|
|Coctail drink||1 drink||$5.00|
|Men’s Haircut||1 haircut||$5.00|
|Mobile (prepaid)||1 min.||$0.04|
|Pack of Marlboro||1 pack||$2.75|
|Toilet paper||4 rolls||$1.30|
CLOTHES / SHOES
|Jeans (Levis 501 or similar)||1||$60.00|
|Dress summer (Zara, H&M)||1||$30.00|
|Sport shoes (Nike, Adidas)||1||$82.00|
|Local Transport||1 ticket||$0.55|
31 $ per day
Estimated cost per 1 day including:
- meals in cheap restaurant
- public transport
- cheap hotel
77 $ per day
Estimated cost per 1 day including:
- mid-range meals and drinks
Transportation - Get In
Chiang Mai International Airport handles both domestic and regional international flights. The route from Bangkok is one of the busiest in the country (Thai Airways flies daily almost every hour, with additional flights in the peak tourist season). Other airlines operating direct services from/to Chiang Mai include:
- Air Asia. A well-known Asian low-cost airline, has domestic flights from/to Bangkok (Don Mueang airport), Phuket, Krabi, Hat Yai. Used to be the cheapest option if you booked at least a week before, but now it's true only during the best promotional offers (typically available months before the flight). Regular fare for tickets to Bangkok, including taxes, is from 1,400 baht (with fees for luggage, food, seat reservation easily adding almost half of that). Promotional fares can be much less. Prices can be significantly higher if you book just a few days before, or want a specific day/flight.
- Bangkok Airways. A full-service carrier positioning itself as an "Asia's boutique airline", flies to from/to Ko Samui, Bangkok(Suvarnabhumi), Krabi, Phuket and Udon Thani. Surprisingly, Bangkok Airways can be cheaper than the budget airlines, particularly if you book just a few days ahead. from 1,390 baht to Bangkok.
- Kan Air. Kan Air flies to and from Chiang Mai to Khon Kaen, Pai, Nan, Mae Hong Son, Hua Hin and Phitsanulok.
- Nok Air. Thai (semi-) low-cost carrier, flies from/to Bangkok's Don Mueang Airport more than ten times a day (typically from 1,500 baht. Promo fares can be as low as 800-900 baht). They also fly from/to Udon Thani once a day, the price is 1,000-2,000 baht (2014) and while it's still more expensive than a bus, it's much cheaper than the price of the Lao Airlines flight to Vientiane, which is easily accessible from Udon Thani.
- Thai Lion Air. A subsidiary of the leading Indonesian low-cost carrier, Lion Air, started operations in Thailand in December 2013, and offers attractive fares to Bangkok Don Mueang airport (starting from 820 baht, including snacks and 15 kg check-in baggage) with several flights a day and numerous onward destinations available from Bangkok.
- Thai Airways. Flies from/to Bangkok (Suvarnabhumi) (from 2,500 baht, but sometimes there are "Special offers" as low as 1,500 baht) and Phuket. In addition, flights to nearby destinations like Nan or Mae Hong Son, while currently not offered, were available seasonally in the past.
- Air Asia flies from/to Hangzhou, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur andMacau.
- Bangkok Airways flies from/to Mandalay, Siem Reap, Singapore and Yangon.
- Cathay Pacific - from/to Hong Kong.
- HK Express - from/to Hong Kong.
- China Airlines - from/to Taipei, Taiwan
- China Eastern Airlines from/to Kunming, Yunnan Province, China
- Korean Airlines - Four flights weekly from Seoul/Inchon
- Lao Airlines - from/to Luang Prabang in (Laos), from there the flight continues onward to Vientiane
- Silk Air - from/to Singapore
- Thai Airways - doesn't have direct international flights, but has many connections via Bangkok; if you arrive to/depart from Thailand on their flight, it's wise to check the through fare to/from Chiang Mai, as it often will cost just several hundred baht more (yet slightly more if stopping over in Bangkok for a few days or departing from another airport).
- V Air - from/to Taipei
The airport is three km southwest of the city centre, only 10–15 minutes away by car. Legal airport taxis charge a flat 120 baht for up to five passengers anywhere in the city. If you take a metered taxi, the fee will start from 40 baht plus a 50 baht service fee from the Meter Taxi counter. The taxis operate from the exit at the north end of the terminal, after baggage claim and/or customs, walk into the reception hall and turn left. As of July 2015, the airport finally has a shuttle minibus service available, offering drop-off to any hotel in the city for a flat fee of 40 baht - perfect if you're arriving alone and don't mind waiting 5-10 minutes for a few fellow passengers. Alternatively, take Bus 4 to the city centre for 15 baht, or charter a tuk-tuk or songthaew for 50-60 baht per person. Most hotels and some upmarket guest houses offer cheap or free pick-up/drop-off services.
If you're flying out from Chiang Mai, note that there are no ATM or money changing facilities at the international departure terminal of the airport.
Chiang Mai has two official bus stations, consisting of four bus terminals:
- Arcade Bus Station (Terminals 2 and 3 plus the Nakhonchai Air Terminal) (สถานีขนส่งอาเขตเชียงใหม่) (At the far end of Kaeo Nawarat Rd just before it meets the superhighway), . Buses from and to destinations outside Chiang Mai Province use this station. It has two official terminals, separated by a tuk-tuk stand and a road and tank trap-like obstacles. The private bus company,Nakhonchai Air, has a separate terminal behind Terminal 2.
- The Arcade Bus "Station" is a mess, with no obvious order to the layout. There are ticket offices in both terminals. Further complicating the confusion, behind Terminal 2, Nakhonchai Air has a separate terminal. If walk from the front to the rear of the Terminal 2 building, you will see a big "Nakhonchai Air" sign. Keep walking, and cross the parking lot to the rear, you will come upon it. The terminal itself is normally hidden from view by out-of-service buses.
- Terminal 2 has a tourist police office, ATMs, food vendors, and many ticket sellers, including the booking office for BKS government buses. Buses depart from here for Bangkok, Phitsanulok, Udon. There seems to be no logic as to what buses go to which destination from which terminal and there is a good deal of overlap.
- Terminal 3 is the larger and newer of the two. It has an air conditioned waiting room with Internet cafe upstairs, small food vendors, ATMs, the booking window for Green Bus (Window 20), and numerous other ticket sellers. Buses for Bangkok, Phitsanulok, Ubon, Korat, Nan, Hua Hin, Luang Prabang, Mae Sot depart from here.
- Chang Phuak Bus Station (Terminal 1) (Off Chang Phuak Rd, on the north side of the moat, about 1 km north of Chang Phuak Gate), . This station handles buses within Chiang Mai Province including Mae Rim, Chiang Dao, Fang, Tha Ton, Phrao, Hot, Chom Thong, Doi Tao, and Samoeng.
In effect, there is a fifth bus terminal if you count songthaews as buses. From the Warorot Market, songthaews depart for a variety of locations within a radius of about 50 km, such as Samoeng. The colour of the songthaew indicates its general route or usage. Most common are red songthaews (hence the alternative name of rot daeng, or "red car", which roam the main streets in the city. Warorot Market (west bank of the Ping River) is the most common terminus for songthaews that travel along fixed routes. From Warorot Market, white songthaews travel to the eastern suburban town of San Kampaeng, yellow songthaews travel to Mae Rim and Samoeng in the north, blue songthaews travel to Sarapee and Lamphun in the south, and green songthaews travel to Mae Jo to the northeast. The songthaews line up along the road that is parallel the Ping River, between it and the market. Destinations are posted on round, yellow signs but are only in Thai.
A variety of daily buses leave frequently from Bangkok's Northern Bus Terminal (Mo Chit), offering varying choices of price, comfort and speed.
- Rattling government buses make frequent stops at every minor township. The journey takes around 12 hr and costs 200 baht.
- Non-stop 24/32-seaters and 1st class buses such as Nakhonchai Air provide larger seats and snacks; making the long trip more comfortable. They manage the trip in around 9 hours and it costs around 550 baht. Be cautious about the so-called "VIP" buses touted on Khao San Rd. They may be cheaper, but you may end up crammed into a 2nd class bus or worse.
At Arcade Bus Station, where you'll arrive, public songthaews wait nearer Terminal 3, adjacent to the road that bisects the two terminals. Look for local people getting into them, and ask the driver if he goes to your destination (if the songthaew is empty, don't forget to confirm the price). A shared trip to Tha Phae Gate (south edge of the old town) should cost 20 baht each, though you may have to wait for a driver who agrees. Virtually all songthaews will pass Warorot Market (city centre, just after crossing the river), from where it's just 1 km walk to Tha Phae Gate, or numerous (see "Get around" section) songthaews to other areas.
Alternatively, you can charter a songthaew or take a tuk-tuk. The drivers will approach you once you've arrived and will ask as much as 100-200 baht to the city centre/Tha Phae Gate, showing you a bogus price list with "fixed" prices. Bargain, it's just 5–6 km, so the fair price for tuk-tuk there is 50-60 baht, and is not more than 100-120 baht even to the opposite side of the city. It may be difficult to bargain with these drivers, however. A good idea is to ignore them from the start, walk out to the nearby street, and catch a passing tuk-tuk/songthaew there. If your luggage is light, you can walk to the centre, but it's quite a long walk, as the Arcade bus station is located in the city's northeast outskirts.
Songthaew touts may ask foreign tourists for 150 baht per person for a shared ride into the city, but this is excessive and they should drop to 100 baht if challenged. Similar prices are demanded by tuk-tuk drivers.
The best policy is to walk to the main street and catch a tuk-tuk for perhaps 60-70 baht (total), or a songthaew for 20-30 baht per person. You will have to haggle for either.
From Hua Hin
Buses depart the Hua Hin BKS Station at 08:00, 17:00, and 18:00 for Chiang Mai, 12.5 hr, 851 baht (Oct 2013).
Buses depart the Nakhonchai Air Terminal in Pattaya (Sukhumvit Rd, ~60 baht motorbike taxi fare from Beach Rd) for Chiang Mai several times during the day. Last bus about 21:00. Fare is 785 baht (Nov 2013). Travel time is about 11 hr, with no stops longer than 5 min. Buses to Pattaya from Chiang Mai leave the Nakhonchai Air Terminal at Arcade Station daily on roughly the same schedule.
There is at least one daily direct Green Bus service from Phuket Terminal 2 to Chiang Mai's Arcade Terminal 3. This VIP-only service departs Phuket at 15:00 arriving in Chiang Mai the next day at 13:00. Cost is 1,912 baht (Dec 2013). This trip is a killer: 22 hours on the bus! The first break en route is at 20:20. The second is at 06:38, some 10+ hr after the first break. Although the bus is a state-of-the-art Sunlong vehicle and the seats great, this is simply a long time to be on a bus. Probably better to break up your trip by stopping in a city en route.
To/From Udon Thani
From Udon to Chiang Mai: Phetprasert Bus Company has three buses a day depart from in front of the Central Festival Shopping Mall. Depart Udon/arrive Chiang Mai times are: 17:45-05:25; 18:45-06:25; and 20:45-06:40. Fare is about 636 baht (Apr 2015). Buy your ticket at the Phetprasert ticket counter in the downtown bus station, a 5 min walk from Central Festival. There is an inconvenient out-of-town bus terminal that may have more buses to Chiang Mai. From Chiang Mai to Udon: Phetprasert Buses leave Chiang Mai/arrive Udon at: 14:30-02:15; 17:30-05:15; and 19:30-05:30. Buses arrive at the Central Festival Shopping Mall, a convenient location 5 minutes from the downtown bus station. Fare is about 636 baht (Apr 2015). Buy your ticket at the Phetprasert ticket counter in Arcade Terminal 2. Buses depart from Arcade Terminal 3.
Services from Bangkok leave on a regular daily schedule and take 12–15 hours to reach Chiang Mai. If you go by night train (recommended), try to choose one which arrives late to get an opportunity to see the landscapes. They are impressive, with bridges and forests and villages and fields.
Daytime services leave at 08:30, and 14:30 with second-class (281 baht) and third-class (121 baht) carriages. The seats in each class differ in softness and width, and can become uncomfortable after 10+ hours.
Overnight sleepers provide comfortable bunks with clean sheets and pillows in first- and second-class. First-class beds (~1,400 baht) are in private two-bed compartments. In second-class (~900 baht), the carriages are open but each bunk has a curtain for privacy. First-class is always air-con, second class is sometimes air-con. There are usually four trains per day with sleeper accommodation, though only two of these will have first-class compartments. Station staff will be able to help you.
Carriages are kept clean; the toilet and floors are regularly mopped during the journey. Vendors make regular rounds selling snacks, drinks, and lacklustre meals. Vendors will try to inflate the prices for tourists so be prepared to get ripped off, haggle, hop off quickly at stations to make a purchase (or order through the window), or bring your own.
In second-class, the bunks are folded away leaving pairs of facing seats. At some point in the evening, or on request, they are flipped down into bunks and made up into beds. In first-class, the bottom bunk is used as a bench seat before having a futon mattress deployed onto it in the evening.
If you're not in the mood for bed when your carriage mates are bedding down, you can head off to the dining car, which provides fairly good food and drink at not too great a premium. Later in the night, the dining car can be converted into a disco, complete with loud music and flashing lights.
Tickets can be bought up to 60 days in advance at any station in Thailand. Booking in advance is advised, especially for the popular 2nd-class overnight sleepers. Larger stations accept payment with Visa/MasterCard. This is fairly safe, as SRT is a state-owned company. Alternatively, if you are not yet in Thailand, the e-ticketing SRT website will let you buy and print out an e-ticket. Note, The State Railway of Thailand discontinued the Internet Ticketing service from 14 Jan 2013. Some find it tricky to register. You have to avoid any special characters while filling the registration form. You must book at least three days in advance, and you can only purchase 1st and 2nd class air-con sleeper tickets which are 150-200 baht more expensive than fan-only car tickets. The price on-line is thr same as at the ticket office. Various travel agencies, some available to contact from outside Thailand, can also procure tickets for delivery or pick up, with fees typically starting at 100 baht.
SRT charges 90 baht to transport a bicycle between Bangkok and Chiang Mai.
Chiang Mai train station is about 3 km east of the city centre. Many songthaews and tuk-tuks await each train's arrival. If you want to walk, exit the station, cross the open square in front and turn left on the first major road you come to (Charoen Muang Rd); this road goes directly to city centre.
Transportation - Get Around
In lieu of a local bus service, locals get around the city on songthaew(สองแถว). These covered pick-up trucks have two long bench seats in the back (songthaew means "two rows" in Thai, and travel fixed routes picking up passengers en route who are going the same way.
The colour of the songthaew indicates its general route or usage. Most common by far are redsongthaews (called rot daeng, red truck), which don't follow a specific route and roam the main streets around markets, temples, or the bus/train stations. These are the most convenient to take if you are going somewhere specific. Prices must be negotiated, but expect 20 baht anywhere within the city walls and 40-60 outside. During peak season these prices can double to 40 baht within the city walls and up to 200 baht outside. Because of the city's somewhat irrational road design, especially inside the old walls, the driver may be forced to take a circuitous route to get to a nearby destination, but it will make no difference to the fare.
Fixed route songthaews congregate around Warorot Market. From Warorot Market, white songthaews travel to the eastern suburban city of Sankampaeng, yellow songthaews travel to Mae Rim and beyond in the north, blue songthaews travel to Sarapee and Lamphun in the south, and green songthaews travel to Mae Jo in the north-east. Fare is dependent on distance: a yellow songthaew to Samoeng (~50 km) is 60 baht.
From the Chiang Mai Gate Market (south edge of moat), songthaews also travel to Hang Dong (20 baht) and San Patong, southwest of Chiang Mai.
To catch a songthaew approach a waiting driver or flag one down on the street, state your destination and if the driver is going that direction he will nod in agreement and give you a price. Negotiate a lower fare if you wish. The price agreed to should be per person. It's a good idea to confirm this with the driver before you leave. On reaching your destination, ring the buzzer on the roof to tell the driver to stop. The driver will pull over, wait for you to get out and pay.
Songthaews not orbiting on a fixed-route can be hired outright, just as if they were a meter-taxi. Negotiate a price before departure.
By tuk-tuk or samlor
Tuk-tuks are a quick, though noisy way to get around. Fares are usually 30-40 baht for a short hop (as of July 2012 it seems that the minimum has gone up to 40 baht for pre-arranged locations) and 50-100 baht for longer distances, depending on the proficiency of your bargaining. As a guide, expect to pay 40 baht from the old city to the riverside and Night Bazaar, 40-50 baht to the railway station, and 80-150 baht to the bus station or airport. Tuk-tuks parked near the bus and train stations will ask you for something like 120-150 baht. Just haggle or walk away to the nearest road and stop a passing tuk-tuk or songthaew there. A good rule of thumb is that unfair drivers will seek you out, but you have seek out the drivers who will give you a fair price.
According to expats, the highest fee for a tuk-tuk at any time of day or night should be 150 baht for any location in the city.
The fee seems to be based on multiples of 20 baht which is the smallest note. It is a good idea to stock up on notes and coins as whenever you offer a note higher than the agreed fee the driver has no change.
A few samlors (three-wheeled bicycles) still cruise the streets and will happily take you to a temple for the same price as a tuk-tuk, though at a considerably quieter and slower pace.
Chiang Mai has metered taxis, although not as many as tuk-tuks and songthaews. The "flag fall" is 50 baht for the first 2 km. Then 10 baht per kilometre after that. Journeys longer than 12 km can be negotiated. This fare structure applies to all metered taxis in Chiang Mai Province.
You cannot generally hail taxis in the street. To book a taxi, call +66 53-279291, state your destination and the call centre will give you a quote. Or contact individual drivers via the mobile phone numbers displayed on their vehicles.
By motorbike or motorcycle
A motorbike is a convenient and cheap way to get around the city or reach the outlying sights. There is an abundance of near indistinguishable rental companies in the city, though most guesthouses can arrange rentals as well. 100 cc and 125 cc machines with automatic transmissions capable of carrying two people are the easiest to jump on and ride away if you don't have driving experience. A scooter or moped, such as the Honda Click, is the most convenient as it can carry bags on the floorboard. Off-road bikes and larger street bikes are also an option. An international driver's licence is not required, and generally no licence of any type is required although this means you will not be insured.
Motorbikes cost about 150 baht/day for a 100 cc motorbike and 150+ baht/day for a Honda Click 125 supplied with helmets and an anti-theft chain. Larger machines cost 700 baht/day for a V-twin or larger sport-bike. Expect discounts when renting for a week, month or longer.
Renting will require a deposit, and while many companies ask for a passport, you should under no circumstances leave your passport with anyone as collateral. However, most shops will accept a photocopy with a cash deposit of around 3,000-5,000 baht. While the petrol/gas tank may be full on pickup, it is not uncommon for shops to deliver a bike with just enough fuel to go make it to a service station. They may siphon the remainder off when you return it so the next person is forced to do the same. In any case, return the bike with as much or more fuel than received to avoid any penalties. Also check the mechanical condition of the bike offered. Focus especially on the brakes: the degree of "pull" needed for the brake levers and the travel required by the foot brake. Check that turn indicators and headlights work properly, and that the tyres are reasonably OK.
Some rental agreements claim to insure you, but generally only cover the bike for theft or damage. Don't expect much compensation in the event of an accident. And irrespective of who is at fault, assume that you will be the one blamed.
Chiang Mai traffic police are fond of setting up checkpoints to stop motorcyclists. These invariably happen during business hours, Monday-Friday. They occur at two places, on the moat circular roads, usually just after a turn, and at the foot of Tha Phae Rd near west side of the Nawarat Bridge. If you or your passenger are without a helmet, you will be stopped. If you do have a helmet, you may be stopped anyway, to check licence and registration. If fined, you have to go to the police station near Warorot Market to collect your confiscated licence plus pay a fine of several hundred baht.
Traffic inside the old city walls is subdued enough to make biking a safe and quick way to get around. Bike rentals are plentiful; rental costs 30-250 baht/day depending on the bike quality.
Car hire services are available at the airport and throughout the city. Cars typically offered include the Toyota Vios, Altis, and Yaris, and the Honda City and Jazz. Typical rates for newer models are 1,200-2,000 baht per day. Expect a slight discount when renting weekly. Utility pickups such as the Ford Ranger are available for about 1,400 baht per day. Many places offer minivans such as 10-seat Toyota Commuters with a driver from about 2,000 baht per day plus fuel. Older Suzuki Caribbean 4WDs are a cheaper option at around 600-800 baht per day, but they are relatively difficult to drive and less mechanically reliable than a standard passenger car.
All the multi-national rental companies are present in Chiang Mai. Two local car rental companies:
- Thai Rent-a-Car, 60 Airport Rd. 1st Floor Domestic Arrival Hall (Exit 1) (Chiang Mai Airport), .
Hiring a car or minivan with driver is a great option for travelling to places outside the city, and the price is often similar to hiring a car and driving yourself. You'll also be able to relax and enjoy the scenery in air-conditioned comfort. The cost for a private car with driver is generally from 1,500 baht per day plus fuel depending on the type of vehicle and where you are going. The driver will typically pick you up with a full tank of fuel and you pay at the end. Large Toyota Hi-Ace, Nissan Urvan and newer Toyota Commuter minivans go for around 2,000 baht per day plus fuel. Most hotels and some guesthouses can arrange it for you, in addition to vehicle rental outlets, and the many travel agencies in the city.
The old city moat is only about 1.6 km on a side, and as such is easy to walk around. The airport is also quite close to the old part of the city, about 2.5 km, so if you have the energy and an hour to spare, you can even walk to and from the airport. Note that this is not necessarily a pleasant experience as the sidewalks are uneven (or non-existent) and Chiang Mai gets hot during the day, especially during the hot season, and rainy during the rainy season. The cost of a taxi or songthaew from the moat area to the airport is around 150 baht.
- BEST RATED -
- BEST VALUE -
Chiang Mai is a great place to shop. Sprawling markets during the day and night carry items from cheap trinkets to skilfully made local crafts.
- Back Street Books, 2/8 Chang Moi Kao Rd (Main branch outside the moat in the vicinity of the Tha Phae Gate. On the road right behind the Starbucks. Almost next door to Gecko Books.). Large collection of used books. Fiction and Non Fiction.
- DK Book Centre (Duangkamol), 79/1 Kotchasan Rd (Just past the turn to Loi Kroh Rd in a shopping centre on the left), . M-F, 10:30-20:00; Sa-Su, 09:00-20:00. Not the best selection of Western language titles, but particularly strong in educational books and learning resources of every description.
- Gecko Books, 2/6 Chang Moi Kao Rd (Main branch outside the moat in the vicinity of the Tha Phae Gate. On the road right behind the Starbucks.), . 3 locations. Large collection of used books. On-line ordering.
- The Lost Book Shop.
- Suriwong Book Centre (สุริวงค์บุคเชนเตอว์), Sridonchai Rd (Two blocks west of Chang Khlan Rd (Night Bazaar)), e-mail: [email protected].Essentially two shops: a magazine shop open from 08:00-20:00 and the main, large book/stationery shop open from 10:00-19:00. Good selection of Western language titles, and wide variety of Thai titles, as well as office supplies. Pleasant ambience.
- Nok 'Em Ded Designs, 162/5 Prapokklao Rd, Prasingh (From Tha Phae Gate, go straight on Rachadamnoen Rd, turn left at 2nd intersection. Shop is on left, opposite Wat Puntao & Wat Chedi Luang.), , e-mail: , [email protected]. M 12:00-20:00, Tu-Sa 10:00-20:00, Su 10:00-23:00. Unique styles from simple to extravagant. English-speaking owners & staff. Jewellery is handmade by the artist owners. Great quality T-shirt collection. from 50 baht.
- Rimping Supermarkets (ริมปิงซุปเปอร์มาร์เก็ต), 129 Chiang Mai-Lamphun Rd(Chang Moi Rd E to Kad Luang, take a right, S to the Nawarat Bridge (Thapae Rd). Cross the bridge and take a right. Drive 1 block S past the Iron bridge, Rimping on the left.), . Daily, 08:00-21:00. If you want Western foodstuffs like good bread, pickles, charcuterie, etc., pickings are slim in the vicinity of the Old City. 9 locations in the Chiang Mai area, map on the website. Expensive, but when you want olives there are few other choices.
- Tops Supermarket (Kad Suan Kaew Shopping Centre), 21 Huay Kaew Rd(From the NW corner of the moat, go about 500 m W towards the mountains. Shopping centre on your left.), . Daily, 09:00-21:00. At the lowest level of the Kad Suan Kaew Shopping Centre. Good selection of Western foods, including good bread, cheese, wine and beer.
Housewares and workshops
Along Rte 1006 (Charoen Muang Rd) just past the superhighway (Rte 11) are various factories offering factory tours. Silverware, silk, furniture and brass items generally priced with the cashed-up tourist in mind, but the tours might be worth a look to see how things are made. They are generally open during typical daytime hours.
- CentralFestival, 99/3 Moo 4, Tambon Fah Ham (NE of the city centre, Juvenile Court intersection, Super Hwy 11 and Chiang Mai-Doi Saket Rd (Rte 118). Take Kaewnawarat east, past the bus station, cross the ring road and turn into the entrance on the left. Coming from the N, take the first ring road and turn into the entrance before crossing Rte 118 (Doi Saket Rd/Kaewnawarat).), . M-Th, 11:00-21:30; F, 11:00-22:00; Sa-Su, 10:00-22:00. Measuring 250,000 m², with 250 shops, it rivals the Central Plaza Chiang Mai in size. Central Festival opened in late 2013 and includes an ice rink, IMAX and 4DX cinemas, dozens of restaurants and shops on five floors. A food court on the fifth floor as well as at the ground floor level (with better prices). All banks and mobile phone companies are represented.
- Central Plaza Chiang Mai Airport (เซ็นทรัล แอร์พอร์ต พลาซ่า), 2 Mahidol Rd, Haiya, (Corner Thipanet Rd and Mahidon Rd, about a kilometre from the airport), . On five floors, with a food court, banks/ATMs, and multi-screen cinema. It also has a Cultural Centre attached selling many crafts, a large food market, and an extensive selection of Thai ready-to-eat stalls in the basement.
- Kad Suan Keaw (กาดสวนแก้ว), 21 Huay Kaew Rd (Near corner Huay Kaew Rd and Bunreuangrit Rd), . Daily, 10:00-21:00. Great location, just off the moat's NW corner. Decent shops, very good Tops Supermarket, restaurants and banks/ATMs.
- MAYA Lifestyle Shopping Center (เมญ่า), 55 Moo 5, Huay Kaew Rd. Chang Phuak (Corner Huay Kaew Rd and Superhighway), . The Rimping Supermarket on the lowest floor is open from 06:00-24:00. The cinemas on the top floor are open late. Restaurants and bars on the open roof afford good views of Chiang Mai.
- Promenada Resort Mall (พรอมเมนาดา), 192-193 Tasala (Corner Rte 1141 and Rte 3029 (1st ringroad)), . M-F, 11:00-21:00; Sa-Su-holidays 10:00-21:00. Spacious, two floor, sprawling mall opened in 2013. This mall is significant distance from the city centre, though there are free shuttles; otherwise a phone call is required to get a taxi back to the city since there is no taxi stand.
- Anusarn Market (Near the bottom end of the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar on Changklan Rd). 18:00-24:00. During the day time the Anusarn Market area is devoid of any vendor stalls. All the permanent shops, bars, and eateries around the inside walls of the market area are open for business. Every afternoon the Anusarn Market vendors move in, erect their large tent type stalls and open. Good shopping, good restaurants, and in a back corner there is a ladyboy cabaret that puts on a one-hour show at 21:30 at a reasonable price.
- Chiang Mai Gate Market (S side of the moat inside, roughly at the mid-point). A major shopping venue for fruit, vegetables, meat, and fish for locals. Between the ring roads and in the vicinity are numerous food stalls.
- Kalare Market (Down from the top end of the Night Bazaar on Changklan Rd, E side). 18:00-24:00. A large covered arcade full of shops with an open food court and entertainment area. The food court operates on a coupon system: you buy coupons from the cashiers, then redeem them at the many small adjacent food stalls. Cheap dining. The market has bars, many shops, massage shops.
- Malin Plaza Night Market (Across from the main entrance to Chiang Mai University), , e-mail: [email protected]. About 18ː00-. If the Night Bazaar is the place tourists go at night, Malin Plaza is where young Thais go. It's proximity to มช ("maw chaw", the local nickname for CMU) means that in the evening this place is crawling with teens and twenty-somethings. Clothing is young, trendy and cheap. Cheap restaurants abound, including a number of all-you-can-eat table-top barbecues, usually priced about 175 baht per person.
- Night Bazaar (ไนท์บาร์ซ่า) (Changklan Rd, between Tha Phae Rd and Sri Donchai Rd. To get there, walk from Tha Phae Gate down Tha Phae Rd for 3/4 km to Changklan Rd, then turn right). 18:00-24:00. A huge indoor/outdoor commercial maelstrom centred on the Night Bazaar Building on the west side of Changklan Rd. The Night Bazaar can be considered an entire region of the city as it incorporates the Anusarn and Kalare Markets as well, with the borders being ambiguous (and unimportant). It can take a concerted effort to find something different among the near identical stalls selling tourist-oriented sunglasses, T-shirts, textiles, watches, luggage, caps, and anything else small enough to sell from a market stall. You rarely see Thai people shopping here. On the east side of the street you will find the Anusarn and Kalare Markets with wider offerings.
- Sompet Market (Moon Muang Rd, Soi 6, just inside the moat). Just south of the moat's northeast corner. Mostly a fruit and veg market for locals, but close at hand to the many guesthouses in the area so a good place for visitors to stock up on grub. Lots of prepared meat and meals as well.
- Tha Phae Walking Street (Sunday Walking Street Market), Ratchadamnoen Rd (From the Tha Phae Gate W along Ratchadamnoen to Singharat Rd at Wat Prah Sing.). Su 17:00-23:00. This market is enormous and takes up several blocks on either side of Ratchadamnoen including from Ratchawithi to Ratchamanka on Prapoklao (from the 3 Kings Monument to past Wat Chedi Luang). The street is blocked off to traffic for local craft vendors to layout their handmade wares. There are food vendors strewn throughout. It starts at 16:00, but not everyone is set up until around 18:00. Runs late, but most vendors start to pack up around 22:00 or so.
- Warorot Market (กาดหลวง / Kad Luang), Tha Phae Rd and Chang Moi Rd.07:00-17:00. This sprawling indoor/outdoor market is where the locals shop and is worth a visit to look over the plethora of fabrics, spices, tea, and dried fruit piled up along the aisles. Across the road is a flower and fruit market and an out-of-this-world fireworks stand. At night the street is packed with snack stalls.
- Wualai Walking Street (Saturday Walking Street Market), Wualai Rd (Outside the moat on the city's S side, starting roughly across from Chiang Mai Gate). Sa 17:00-23:00. In the old silver-working district, it's a smaller version of the Sunday market with many of the same vendors.
Chiang Mai's restaurants offer a wide range of food, second only to Bangkok. Naturally it's a good place to sample northern Thai food: in particular, hunt down some khao soi, yellow wheat noodles in curry broth, traditionally served with chicken (gai) or beef (neua), but available some places as vegetarian or with seafood. Another local specialty is hang ley, Lanna-style pork curry. For those tired of eating rice or noodles there's also a wide range of excellent international food restaurants, from cheap hamburger stands to elaborate Italian restaurants.
When you come to Chiang Mai you should try a khantoke dinner and show. Although these are just for tourists it is still a nice way to spend an evening. The first khantoke dinner was held in 1953 by Professor Kraisi Nimanhemin who wanted to host a special event for 2 friends leaving Chiang Mai. Two more such dinners were held, both in 1953, thus "khantoke" dinners are not "historic", but rather a relatively recent invention. Khantoke literally means small bowl, low table (khan = small bowl. tok = low table) There are also many garden restaurants where you can enjoy an excellent Thai meal in a beautiful setting.
The range and value of Western food in Chiang Mai is unsurpassed in Northern Thailand and there is a full range of restaurants from Australian/British/Irish, through French and German to Italian, Spanish, American and Mexican. Considering how remote Chiang Mai is from the major centres of population in Asia, there are a remarkable number of Western restaurants.
Markets & roadside stalls
- Anusarn Market (ตลาดอนุสาร), Changklan Rd (Side of road opposite Night Bazaar Building, further down the street). A busy outdoor night market with lots of little Thai, Indian and Western restaurants and food vendors. Great atmosphere.
- Kalare Food Centre, Changklan Rd (Opposite the Night Bazaar Building).17:00-22:00. Has a large open-air food court, featuring free Thai classical dance performances nightly. All food is paid for with pre-purchased coupons. mains 20-50 baht.
- Suthep Road Moveable Feast (Past Canal Rd, by the university). Daily, 17:00-22:00. Dozens of food carts set up every evening around from around 17:00 until about 22:00, with a huge variety of very inexpensive food, and tables set up along the pavement.
- Funkydog Cafe, Moon Muang Rd, Soi 6 (Inside moat). Local handmade coffee from a local hill tribe. Fantastic Thai family cooking. All fresh and made by hand, great atmosphere and music, low-cost food. Genuine owner who will keep you informed of all the natural products you should eat. The yellow curry is recommended.
- Guaytiaw Reua Koliang, Moon Muang Rd (Near Ratchamanka Rd (inside moat); English sign on sidewalk). Serves authentic kuaytiow reua (literally "boat noodles", rice noodles in dark broth with beef). It's good stuff. 25 baht.
- Kanjana Restaurant, Ratchadamnoen Rd Soi 5. Delicious food at really low prices. Friendly staff.
- Lucky Pub and Restaurant (Steps from Kotchasarn Soi 3, just north of the turn onto Loi Kroh from the moat), . Daily, 18:00-08:00. Lucky Pub is on the ground floor. The restaurant is above and to the rear. The bar opens and 16:00 and closes at 02:00. The restaurant opens at 18:00 and closes at 08:00 the next morning. This is its appeal. When everything else is closed at 03:00 and you're hungry, this is one of the only places to go. Thai food only. Free Wi-Fi in the bar. Small Chang beer, 80 baht; fried rice, 60 baht.
- Muan Baan, Moon Muang, Soi 7. A variety of Thai meals, for breakfast and lunch. The food is excellent and the owners and staff are very pleasant and helpful.
- Ratana’s Kitchen, Tha Phae Rd. Popular for its wide range of Thai dishes and a huge vegetarian selection. Both smoking (inside, air-conditioned) and non-smoking areas. Visa/MasterCard accepted. 30-60 baht.
- Re-Feel Café, 48/4-5 Rachawithi Rd (Inside moat). Great Thai food, good atmosphere, friendly staff and free billiards.
- Sailomjoy Restaurant, 7 Rachadamnoen Rd (Near Tha Phae Gate (inside moat)). Daily, 07:30-16:00. Delicious food (Thai, Western and vegetarian), friendly service and simple and relaxed atmosphere.
- Ghekko Garden Bar and Restaurant, Sridonchai Rd (Opposite the Imperial Mae Ping Hotel (outside moat)). Highlights are lemon grass beef, sun-dried beef and chili crab. See the bar blackboard for daily specials.
- Huen Muan Jai, Ratchaphruek Rd, . 10:00-22:00. Wooden Lanna style buildings in a very nice garden. They have Northern Thai-style food only.
- Huen Phen (เฮือนเพ็ญ), 112 Ratchamanka Rd (Inside moat). Daily, 08:00-15:00 & 17:00-22:00. Specialises in Northern Thai food, and is popular with both Thais and foreigners. Lunch in the air-conditioned hall is decent enough, but dinner in the profusely decorated old house in the back is little short of magical. Best of all is the price: a bowl of khanom jiin naam ngiaw (Shan-style pork rib noodles), a plate of som tum (green papaya salad) and some sticky rice will cost less than 100 baht. Portions are small however. This place is featured in Chinese guidebooks, thus in high-season it will be thronged with Chinese making it difficult to get seated without a lengthy wait.
- Mho-O-Cha Seafood Restaurant (Anusarn Market at Night Bazaar), . Daily, 11:00-24:00. Terrific restaurant on a prominent corner of the Anusarn Market. It is very popular with Chinese visitors who are quick to spot a good deal. There are some excellent vegetarian choices. Great staff, huge menu.
- Sila Aat (On the south edge of the Kalare Market, Night Bazaar). Daily, 15:00-24:00. Fresh seafood and a wide selection of Thai and northern/Lanna specialties. Operated by two sisters.
- Galae Garden Restaurant (at the end of Suthep Rd), .Thai food and grilled specialties, some of them regional, in a delightful outdoor setting.
- Khum Khantoke, 139 Moo 4, Nong Pakrung (In Chiang Mai Business Park behind Big C Extra Hypermarket, Chiang Mai-Lampang super highway), . Daily, 19:00-21:00. Traditional northern Thai cuisine. To get a good seat reservations are recommended. All you can eat, 590 baht.
- Mike's Hamburger Stand (Corner Chaiyapoom Rd and Changmoi Rd.). Till 03:00. Brightly-lit with just stools and a counter in an open shop.
- Tiny House Homemade Fried Chicken, Sridonchai Rd (In front of Suriwong Book Centre), . A small and new western-style food stand selling Southern-US style fried chicken and chicken burgers. Tasty and cheap. 30-100 baht.
- Amazing Sandwich, 20/2 Huay Kaew Rd. M-Sa, 08:00-22:00; Su, 08:00-16:00. Choose any of the ingredients on their list and they'll make a sandwich for you how you like it. They also serve breakfasts and have bagels.
- Archers Bar and Restaurant, 133/134 Ratchapakanai Rd (Inside moat, opposite Wat Pan Ping), . Closed M. Tu-Su, 10:00-late; kitchen closes at 22:00. Some say the baguettes are better than in France, which is nonsense, but they may well be the best in Thailand. Very well-run establishment, with outstanding food, great staff and ambience. Owners, Mark and Sa. Large Leo, 85 baht; fried rice, 60 baht; Massaman curry, 75 baht; pad Thai, 60 baht; cappuccino, 45 baht; brie/bacon baguette, 100 baht.
- Cafe de Siam (Outside moat, corner of Loi Kroh and Kamphaeng Rd), . 06:30-22:00. It's hard to find an early-morning breakfast in Chiang Mai due to the number of tourists on hotel package deals, but this place does. Free Wi-Fi. Three coin-operated Internet computers, 10 baht for 15 minutes.Continental breakfast, 100 baht; American breakfast, 160 baht.
- Chiangmai Saloon, 30 Ratchawithi Rd (2 locations, one inside & one outside the moat), . American-style burger and steakhouse. Friendly staff, nice atmosphere, music videos and sports on three 10 foot screens, pool tables and free Internet, free popcorn and peanuts, over 50 kinds of margaritas, Chang beer on tap. Is open everyday from breakfast until late. Another outlet at 80/1 Loi Kroh Rd. Leo beer, 55 baht.
- Dash! Restaurant & Bar, 38 Moon Muang Soi 2 (Moon Muang is the inside road on the W side of the old city. Take Soi 1 or 2 off Moon Muang and follow it around. You won't miss the place.), , e-mail: , [email protected]. 10:00-24:00. Possibly the best value in Chiang Mai. Wonderful ambiance, with indoor or outdoor seating. Great food, cocktails and desserts at more than reasonable prices. Cooking classes offered on-site. Also has a 3 bedroom, 2 bath house for rent at 3,000 baht per day.Chicken fried rice, 85 baht; Chicken pat Thai, 85 baht; hamburger, 155 baht, American breakfast, 165 baht.
- Duke's Steak House & Pizzeria (Duke's Night Bazaar), Chiang Mai Pavilion, 1st and 2nd Floor, Changklan Rd (Outside moat, opposite Royal Princess Hotel), . 10:30-24:00. Excellent American-style dishes and desserts: ribs, burgers, pizza, cheesecake, etc. Full bar with local and imported beers and wines. Great family atmosphere, children's menu, no loud music or entertainment, just good food. Eat in, take away & call for delivery. The flagship restaurant is at 49/4-5 Chiang Mai-Lamphun Rd, south of the Nawarat Bridge, 50 m N of TAT. A third is in the Promenada Shopping Centre.
- La Fourchette, 162/2 Phrapoklao Rd (Inside moat, across from Wat Chedi Luang), . M-Sa, 17:00-23:00. Authentic French restaurant in the centre of the old city. Large selection of imported meats and wines at affordable prices. Romantic open-air seating area with upstairs art gallery.
- Mong Pearl Cafe, Huay Kaew Rd (From the old city: 100 m after Canal Rd (Hwy 121), on your right), e-mail: [email protected]. 08:00-20:00. A favourite with Westerners because of the great service, good English, nice aesthetics and delicious food and drinks.
- O'Malley's Irish Pub, 149-14/15 Changklan Rd (SW corner of Anusarn Market), . 09:00-02:00. Delicious cocktails and excellent Western and Thai food. Has inside (air conditioned) and outside (smoking) seating. The interior closely resembles an authentic pub. This place does all the small things well: Tabasco, Lea & Perrins on the tables, soap and towels in the toilets, spotlessly clean. Not cheap, but the food is superb and the portions generous. Free Wi-Fi.
- Peppermint Cafe, Rachadamnoen Rd, Soi 5 (Inside moat, very near AUA and Wat Pan On), . 07:00-late. Spotlessly clean and excellent Western/Thai food at great prices. Terrific pizza at 69 baht a huge slice. Friendly, accommodating staff. Free Wi-Fi. English breakfast, 145 baht; burger, 99 baht.
- Pern's Restaurant (Formerly SoupaSteak), 26/5-6 Huay Keaw Rd(Opposite Shell gas station on the way to Doi Suthep),. 17:00-23:00. closed Mon. Serves great Mediterranean-style food. Greece, Turkey, Italy are all represented. Tapas, budget pork and chicken steaks. Bacon cheese steak burger, 229 baht.
- The Red Lion English Pub, 123 Loi Kroh Rd (Night Bazaar, just past McDonald's and Burger King.), . 10:00-01:00. Draught Guinness and Heineken, imported Blackthorn Cider and Fuller's London Pride, and Belgian and German beers. Pub favourites including bangers 'n mash, fish 'n chips, steak & kidney pie as well as steaks, pasta and Thai food. Live sports on a HD big screen including Premier League Football, Aussie Rules, Rugby and Formula 1.
- The Salad Concept, Nimmanhaemin Rd Soi 13 (Flagship restaurant at the corner of Nimmanhaemin Rd),, e-mail:[email protected]. 11:00-22:00. Order by completing a form which is then handed to the staff. Fast and efficient, and the food is very good. Second location on 5F of Central Festival Mall. Third location on Chaiyapoom Rd, just E of the moat. ~150 baht per person.
- Alois Bavarian Restaurant, Phrapoklao Rd, Soi 8 (Opposite Golden Fern Guest House), . Tu-Su, 11:30-23:00, closed M. Authentic Bavarian specialities.
- Arcobaleno Italian Restaurant, 60 Keaw Nawarat Rd, Soi 1 (Across from Wat Ket Karam; first soi off of Keaw Nawarat Rd), . Daily, 11:00-14:00, 17:30-22:00. Open for lunch and dinner with a range of traditional Italian soup, pasta, antipasti, meat and vegetarian dishes. Homemade ice cream, 35 baht per serving. Vegetarian pastas, 130-160 baht.
- The House (GINGER & Kafe), 199 Moon Muang Rd, .10:00-23:00. Old 1930s colonial style house in the city centre. Western and Thai food, Pacific Rim and fusion. Free Wi-Fi. Shop with unusual houseware items on the premises. Grilled fillet steak, 495 baht; hamburger, 250 baht.
- Piccola Roma Palace Italian Restaurant, 144 Charoen Prathet Rd(Opposite Chedi Hotel, corner of Charoen Prathet Rd & Sri Donchai Rd), . Open lunch & dinner amid beautiful surroundings. Serving residents for over 15 years. Menu and recipes on website. Reservations recommended. Call for free transportation.
- The Swan, 48 Chaiyapoom Rd (Just outside the moat on the east side, two doors down from Mike's Hamburgers), , e-mail:[email protected]. 12:00-23:00. Free Wi-Fi. Smoking and non-smoking areas. Charming restaurant with a tiny front but a cavernous interior. Good food at good prices. Those unfamiliar with Burmese food are in for a treat. Tea leaf salad for 69 baht; beef curry for 120 baht.
- Rote-Lert (รสเลิศ), 25/3 Sripoom Rd (From the NE corner of the moat, go west about 250 m), , e-mail: [email protected]. M-F, 15:30-22:00. The name means "amazing taste", and it's true of this place. Spotless, delicious and inexpensive, the only downside is that it has strange hours and is not open on weekends. Informative website with complete menu in Thai and English. Egg noodles with won ton and red pork plus a bottle of water, 50 baht.
- Fuji, Central Airport Plaza. While perhaps not a special restaurant in that it is not unique to Chiang Mai (it's actually a large chain), for those seeking reasonably-priced Japanese food, Fuji is a must. Expect to pay 120 baht and up for each dish (for instance, a single sushi roll), however there are several spectacular set meals that offer superb value, e.g., the Fuji Sashimi Set which can easily fill up a sushi lover for 190 baht. 120+ baht.
- Gigantea, 300 Chang Moi Rd, . Daily, 11:00-14:00, 17:00-22:00. Owned and managed by a cute Japanese-Thai husband and wife team, this restaurant is known as the best Japanese restaurant among Japanese residents in Chiang Mai. Although the menu is limited, ingredients are always fresh, cooking and presentation are excellent. Lunch is best value, with set meals around 140-200 baht.
- Kanson Sushi Bar, Kotchasan Rd, Soi 1. A little hidden in a side street, but visible from the main road near Tha Phae Gate. Delicious and very good value (250 baht will fill you).
- Sushi Box Chiang Mai, 16/1 Moo 2, Huay Kaew Rd (Between the first ring road/Nimman and the Canal Road, at The Harbour, an open air mall), , e-mail: [email protected]. Reasonably priced sushi, sashimi, and standard sushi bar Japanese meals. This is the first Sushi Box in Chiang Mai, there are five in Phuket. Mainly Thai crowd, moderately priced, lounge upstairs, great for people watching. Open 11:00-23:00. Can get busy at night.
- Gogi Jib Stone Grill Barbecue (Korean BBQ), 29/3 Kotchasarn Rd (Just outside Tha Phae Gate), . 12:00-23:00. Modern and friendly Korean barbecue spot offering high quality beef and pork as well as other Korean traditional dishes. Great artwork on the colourful walls and groovy tunes floating over the conversations. The staff are very attentive and the owners can give a quick Korean lesson. 295 baht and up includes unlimited side dishes.
It can be hard to find strictly vegetarian food in Chiang Mai, as fish and oyster sauce are used frequently, and the local Buddhist monks themselves often eat fish. Thus, asking for your dish to be prepared "like the monks", which works in other places, does not get the same results in Chiang Mai. There are a few completely vegetarian options.
- Anchan, Nimmanhaemin Rd, Soi Hillside 3 (Opposite Soi 13, about 50 m off of Nimmanhaemin), . Excellent vegetarian food, perhaps the best in Chiang Mai.
- Blue Diamond, Moon Muang Rd, Soi 9. M-Sa 08:00-21:00. Thai and Western, huge selection of items for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Great salads, fruits, fruit juices, noodle dishes, bakery, good breads.
- Gulf Restaurant, Anusarn Market (In a corner inside Anusarn Mkt, next to the pharmacy). open late. Lebanese owner/chef caters to middle eastern food lovers. Large portions of delicious tabbouleh, tahini salads and humus alongside fresh falafel and flat bread. Shisha/nargila/water pipes are available as well as mint tea.
- ImmAim/Pun Pun (the other Pun Pun), Santhitam Rd (Near the YMCA, at the south end of Santhitam Rd, follow signs to). A mix of Thai and other styles, run by laconic locals linked to a local farm. The falafel is lovely, but different, and the salsa it comes with is delicious. Pasta can be quite sweet, and the biscuits are good.
- Ming Kwan Vegetarian Buffet, Ratchadamnoen Rd (Opposite the police station). days only. A different range of Thai vegan dishes from the norm. A focus on faux-meats, the veggie sausage is great, and the faux-fish in curry sauce is good. Of course, bamboo shoot stir fry, noodle soups, etc., means there's lots to try. They cook during the day, so other dishes often appear from the kitchen.
- No Name Buddhist Buffet, Phrapokkloa Rd (Yellow fronted shop, 80 m N of Chiang Mai Gate (south side) on the right next to the Kodak shop). Daily, 06:00-16:00. Delicious vegan buffet at low prices. There are a few great dishes: the tofu, mushroom, and lemon grass wrapped in banana leaves is addictive; the het-hom (shitake) and other protein/gluten goodies are lovely; the steaming noodle soup is a great addition to a meal if you've arrived late and want to warm up the buffet dishes. The earlier the better as when dishes run out, they aren't remade. Also, you can buy some vegan supplies.
- Pun Pun Vegetarian Restaurant, Wat Suan Dok Temple, Suthep Rd (Inside the temple compound behind the monk chat building in an outdoor courtyard with a large bodhi tree and tables with umbrellas.), . 09:00-15:00, closed W. Thai vegetarian with organic ingredients from local farmers and many vegan-friendly options. Run by a local self-reliance and seed-saving centre outside the city.
- Taste from Heaven, . Daily, 08:30-22:00. Thai vegetarian with vegan options. Owned by a friendly English expat, this restaurant offers curries and noodle dishes in a comfortable and clean setting, with both indoor and garden seating.
- V T Namneung (วีที แหนมเนือง), 49/9 Lamphun Rd (On the east bank of the Ping River, just north of the Iron Bridge, just south of the Nawarat Bridge), , e-mail: [email protected]. Handsome 2 storey restaurant with air-con upstairs. Serves what amounts to Vietnamese tapas: spring rolls, salted pork ribs, nem; all with lots of leafy greens. Serve beer, but the fresh fruit juices are better. Do very little to cater to visitors as most everything is in Thai including signs and menus. At the entry have a shop that offers many of their products packaged for take-away. The website lists their catering offerings.
Coffe & Drink
Between 2009 and 2011 the coffee scene changed in Chiang Mai. The coffee chains were saving money by using inferior coffee and untrained staff. A new coffee place called Akha Ama started with high precision coffee brewing. This example was soon followed by others.
- Akha Ama, 9/1 Mata Apartment, Hussadhisewee Rd, Soi 3 (Santitham area). 08:00-20:00, closed W.
- Bitter Sweet, Huay Kaew Rd (At the Shell Service Station). The noisy location is made up for by the excellent espresso. Internet is free, and the "fishbowl" inside is both air conditioned and soundproofed against the rush of traffic.
- La Fattoria (Akha Ama 2), 175/1 Ratchadamnoen Rd (Inside moat, near Wat Phra Sing). 08:00-20:00. At this location they roast the coffee for their outlets.
- Happy Espresso, 15 Bumrung Buri Rd (At the south moat, Chinese Consulate is across the water). They roast their own beans.
- J. Ju Coffee, 52 Ratchamanka Rd. Run by "Oil", this little place has excellent espresso-based drinks, free Wi-Fi, or ten minutes on the computer with your coffee. Very modern design; seating in the front is open-air while the back is air conditioned. Oil herself speaks excellent English and is happy to give you the low-down.
- 9th Street Cafe, 12/4 Nimmanhaemin Rd Soi 9 (Nimmanhaemin area), . 08:30-23:00.
- Pacamara, Ratchadamnoen Rd (Inside moat, near Wat Chedi Luang). 07:00-19:00.
- Ponganes, 133/5 Ratchapakinai Rd, . , Th-Tu 08:30-16:30, closed W.
- Ristr8to, 15/3 Nimmanhaemin Rd (Between Soi 3 and Soi 5). 08:00-23:00.A trendy art cafe featuring an award-winning barista, choices of single-origin beans and a varied drink menu. Very friendly atmosphere at much higher standard than is normally seen in Thailand.
- Somkiat Style Cafe, Sirimankalajan Road (Next to Hotel Victoria), .
- Starbucks (The well-known chain with 6 more branches in Chiang Mai) (East of Tha Phae Gate, outside moat). Wi-Fi, 150 baht per hour. Drink prices much higher than the other coffee places.
- Wawee Coffee (Local chain with 5 outlets in Chiang Mai), Ratchadamnoen Rd (At Kad Klang Wiang). Looks much like a Starbucks. Nice mugs if you drink it there. Several other locations in and around Chiang Mai. Inside is well air-conditioned, outside is under a canopy (they mist water in the heat of the afternoon). The staff pride themselves on their decorative drinks (look for the panda-topped latte). Internet available for small fee.
Sights & Landmarks
Numerous reports have been released on the ethics of using elephants for entertainment, citing the dangers and hidden abuse behind the industry, and the use of phajaan on baby elephants. According to a National Geographic report, this technique involves isolating the baby from her mother and: "[I]n addition to beatings, handlers use sleep-deprivation, hunger, and thirst to 'break' the elephants' spirit and make them submissive to their owners[...]Elephants are typically covered in bloody wounds and rope burns when released from the crush after three to six days."
Elephant riding has long-term negative physical effects as well, as elephants' bodies are designed to carry weight on their strong legs, not their comparatively weak backs.
If you care about these issues, research the parks thoroughly to decide where you want your tourist dollars to go.
- Baanchang Elephant Park, 147/1 Rachadamnoen Rd, . , Although they offer an "Elephant's Day Care" program with no riding, be warned that they also offer elephant rides through their "Elephant Training Courses." 4500 baht a day (can be split between two people who share a ride one elephant).
- Eddy Elephant Care Chiang Mai, 87 Sripoom Rd, , e-mail:[email protected]. Although their brochures states, "We try the best to take a good care of the elephants," they offer elephant rides. 2,300 baht a day including lunch and transportation.
- Elephant Jungle Sanctuary (EJS), 119/10 Tha Phae Rd Chang Klan(Approximately 60 km S of Chiang Mai), , e-mail:[email protected]. 08:00-22:00. EJS is an ethical and sustainable eco-tourism project located approximately 60km from the city of Chiang Mai, Northern Thailand. Founded in July 2014, it is a joint initiative between members of the Karen hilltribes and Chiang Mai locals who were concerned about the welfare of elephants in Thailand. The Elephant Jungle Sanctuary project also provides many Karen people with employment, education, and financial support. Half-day, full-day, and overnight visits to the sanctuary are available. Weekly volunteering opportunities can also be arranged. Half day, 1,500 baht; 1 day, 2,400 baht; overnight, 4,900 baht; week, 11,500 baht.
- Elephant Nature Park, 1 Ratmakka Rd (Approximately 60 km N of Chiang Mai), . 07:30-21:30. A renowned sanctuary for rescued and abused elephants, established in 1996 by Lek Chailert, a native Thai woman who has become an internationally-recognized elephant advocate. During a day visit you will feed and bathe the elephants, walk with them around the scenic 50 acre park, and be treated to a vegetarian buffet lunch. Cats and dogs rescued after the tsunami also live at the park, dozing on benches and getting lots of love from visitors. Day and overnight visits as well as one week volunteering opportunities can be booked via the website. Pick up and drop off at your hotel in Chiang Mai.Day, 2,500 baht; week, 12,000 baht.
- Elephant Retirement Park, 5 Kotchasarn Rd, , e-mail:[email protected]. Established to create a haven for retired elephants formerly working in building yards, a sustainable habitat for the elephants to live in a safe and natural environment free from profiteering and neglect. Family units are never separated and herbal medicines are used to keep the animals healthy and enjoy a better quality of life. There is no riding or beating of any kind. The main focus of the park is to promote the well-being of retired elephants. Visitors and volunteers can expect to work with the local mahouts to care, feed, and bathe the elephants. 2,600 baht / person.
- Friends for Asia Elephant Camp Volunteer Project, 63/3 Old Chang Moi Rd, Chang Moi, , e-mail: [email protected]. After a two-day orientation in Chiang Mai, coordinating staff sends volunteers to the elephant camp, roughly a one hour drive from the city. Volunteers stay from Monday to Friday bathing, feeding, caring for and learning about elephants. Lodging is in a tree house on the premises. Two week minimum. 36,671 baht for two weeks; 7,466 baht for each additional week.
- Mae Sa Elephant Camp, 119/9 Tha Phae Rd, . , An elephant camp in the hills about an hour's drive north of the city centre. It has an elephant show, which includes elephants playing football and painting, not natural activities for these creatures. "Like elephants used in the elephant trekking industry, young elephants used for painting must be broken and experience the pain of the phajaan process. Over this time baby elephants are starved, shackled, and beaten, until their spirit is completely broken and will submit to the will of their captors. Once young elephants have undergone this process they can being learning to paint." You can also take half-hour or one hour elephant rides.
Gardens and nature
- Chiang Mai Foreign Cemetery, Chiang Mai-Lamphun Rd (About 800 m north of the Holiday Inn, east side of the Ping River). A place of history and remembrance.
- Chiang Mai Zoo & Aquarium, 100 Huay Kaew Rd (At the foot of Doi Suthep), . Daily, 09:00-17:30. Extremely popular with Thai tourists, and so expect long queues. A large park with over 400 species of animals. While better than some zoos, the animals are nevertheless kept in small enclosures. Operates a dual pricing system wherein non-Thais are charged approximately double the price of Thai nationals. Additional charges also apply for both the panda exhibition and the aquarium. Many of the animals can be fed for a charge of 10 or 20 baht. The park is pretty large and expect plenty of hills if you want to walk the complete route. It's possible to drive through with your car, but not very practical if you want to see the animals up close. If you have a rental scooter or bike, definitely bring it though. The car park facilities are best described as chaotic. 150 baht.
- Mae Sa Waterfall (Go 17 km N to Mae Rim on Rte 107. Turn onto Rte 1096 to Samoeng. Travel ~7 km to waterfall on left), . 08:30-16:30. Set in the Doi Suthep-Pui National Park on the Samoeng Loop. The path winds up for almost 2 km to the 8 tiers of cascades. There are many secluded areas off the trail for picnics. Crowded on weekends and holidays. Foreigners, 100 baht; Thais, 20 baht.
- Phu Ping Palace (Royal Winter Palace), Suthep (On Rte 1004, beyond Doi Suthep). Daily, 08:30-11:30 & 13:00-15:00 when the Thai royal family is not in residence. This royal winter palace has lavishly landscaped gardens and is open to the public. Dress code strictly applied: dress modestly or pay 15 baht for fisherman's pants to cover your lack of it. This includes ANY leg above the ankle for either gender). The palace itself (built in 1961) is not particularly exciting, but the extensive gardens are picturesque with some amazing plant life, including carefully tended tropical flowers, as well as centuries-old trees and giant bamboo. A sign at the bottom of the hill near the zoo indicates when it's closed. It is close to Wat Prathat Doi Suthep, so travel directions are similar. 50 baht, children 10 baht.
- Queen Sirikit Botanical Garden, 100 Moo 9, Mae Ram (Go 17 km N to Mae Rim on Rte 107. Turn onto Rte 1096 to Samoeng. Travel 12 km to garden on left), . Daily, 08:30-16:30. Thailand's oldest and foremost botanical garden. Dedicated to the conservation of Thai flora, it holds collections of, and carries out research on rare and endangered species. Lovely gardens in a mountain foothills setting. Run by the Botanical Garden Association of Thailand.Adult, 40 baht; child, 20 baht; car, 100 baht.
- Nature Trail to Doi Pui peak (beyond Phu Ping Palace). A loop trail (2.4 km) leads from the Doi Pui Campsite to Doi Pui peak (uphill!) and back. From the peak you can continue to a View Point (680 m). The whole trail is in the forest and you're above 1500 m, so it's much cooler than in the city during the hot season. Bring insect repellent. To get there, rent a motorbike (or find a songthaew that takes you there) and drive all the way to Phu Ping Palace, continue on the main road, turn right after about 1 km (turning left will bring you to a mountain village) and continue on a narrow windy road for almost 4 km until you reach the Pui Campsite. Alternatively, walk all the way from Phu Ping Palace, there's not much traffic. A sign marks the start of the trail.
After football, Thai boxing is the national sport of Thailand. It can be seen in three different "stadia", in reality more like boxing rings in warehouses.
- Kalare Boxing Stadium (Not far from Nawarat Bridge, a short block S of Tha Phae Rd in the Night Bazaar). Real muay Thai fights (almost) every Monday and Friday at 20:30 with 10 bouts ranging from young novices to local champions to locals v. foreigners. Spoiler alert: The locals usually win. The smallest of the three stadia it is nearly open-air, but with a new tent covering and good lighting. This is much more authentic than the frenzied beer bar atmosphere of the other two locations. 400-600 baht.
- Loi Kroh Boxing Stadium (Loi Kroh Rd in the Chiang Mai Entertainment Complex). Fights are usually held 3-4 nights per week. Look for flyers posted up all over the old city. They usually have about 8 fights and feature Thai fighters as well as a few matches with foreign fighters. This is not the best location to see muay Thai with a family, as it is surrounded by girlie bars and during a break between the fights a group of ladyboys sometimes will dance and occasionally strip. After about 23:00 the complex is opened up for free, letting all the vendors (flower sellers and others) in. If you are on a tight budget you may be able to see a few of the remaining fights for free this way. 400 baht for normal seating or 600 baht for VIP.
- Tha Phae Boxing Stadium (Moon Muang Rd near Tha Phae Gate). It hosts around 8 fights per show, including a few matches with foreign fighters. This is the largest of the three stadiums and has food as well as beverages served. Gambling is prominently featured.
Inside the old city walls
- Wat Chedi Luang (วัดเจดีย์หลวงวรวิหาร), Prapokklao Rd (Foreigners have to use a separate entrance, 20m left of the main entrance). Almost in the centre of Chiang Mai are the remains of a massive chedi that toppled in the great earthquake of 1545. The temple was originally constructed in 1401 on the orders of King Saeng Muang Ma. In 1454, reigning King Tilo-Garaj enlarged the chedi (pronounced jedee) to a height of 86 m. After the earthquake, the chedi lay in ruins until 1991-92, when it was reconstructed at a cost of several million baht. A magnificent testament to Lanna (northern Thai) architecture and art, restored sections hint at its former glory. Wat Chedi Luang is also home to the "Pillar of the City", a totem used in ancient Thai fertility rites. Thais free; foreigners 40 Baht.
- Wat Chiang Man (วัดเชียงมัน), Ratchaphakhinai Rd. The oldest royal temple in the city. Presumed to date from the year Chiang Mai was founded (1296), it is famed for two Buddha statues, which are about 1,800 and 1,000 years old, respectively. King Mengrai allegedly lived here while the city of Chiang Mai was being constructed. Enshrined in Wat Chiang Man is a tiny crystal Buddha called Pra Seh-Taang Kamaneeee, which is thought to have the power to bring rain. Another image, called Phra Sila Khoa, reflects the fine workmanship of Indian craftsmen from thousands of years ago.
- Wat Phra Chao Mengrai (วัดพระเจ้าเม็งราย. Sometimes called Wat Phra Jao Mengrai), Ratchamanka Soi 6, Phra Sing (Near Huen Phen Restaurant), . An atmospheric temple with two wihan buildings, off the beaten track, quiet and gently crumbling. One of the wihan buildings houses an important Buddha image: Phra Buddha Rupa Phra Chao Mengrai.
- Wat Phra Singh (วัดพระสิงห์วรมาวิหาร) (Corner of Singharaj Rd and Ratchadamnoen Rd). Probably Chiang Mai's best-known temple, housing the Phra Singh image, completed between 1385 and 1400. Of most historical interest is the Wihan Lai Kham in the back, featuring Lanna-style temple murals and intricate gold patterns on red lacquer behind the altar. The large chedi was built in 1345 by King Pha Yu to house the remains of his father King Kam Fu. A typical scripture repository is located at this temple as well. These repositories were designed to keep and protect the delicate sa or mulberry paper sheets used by monks and scribes to keep records and write down folklore. The high stucco-covered stone base of the repository protected the delicate scriptures from rain, floods, and pests. The walls of the chapel are covered with murals illustrating Lanna customs, dress and scenes from daily life. The lovely Lai Kam chapel houses the revered Phra Singh Buddha image. Sadly, the head was stolen in 1922, and a reproduction is now seen. Your admission ticket is in a leaflet form containing useful information and map of Wat Phra Singh complex. The temple is most attractive during Songkran, the Thai New Year, in mid-April. Thais free; foreigners 20 baht, Sarong for rent 10 baht.
Outside the old city walls
- Wat Chet Yot (วัดเจ็ดยอด. Also called Wat Jet Yot or Wat Jed Yod) (About 1 km N of the Huay Kaew Rd/superhighway intersection). The history and unusual architecture scattered under the yawning canopy of ancient trees is an pleasant antidote to the flash and bustle encountered at popular temples. Established in 1455 to host the eighth World Buddhist Council, many features of the grounds imitate significant places of the Buddha's enlightenment. Originally calledBotharam Maha Vihata in honour of the venerated Bodhi tree, it came to be known as Wat Jet Yod by locals, after the seven spires (Jet Yod) protruding from the roof of the Vihara. The square-sided design of the Virhra is a replica of Mahabodhi temple in Bodh Gaya, India, though the translation has distorted proportions somewhat. Remnants of the graceful stucco relief murals that adorned the walls depict angels with a distinctly Indian flavour. The grounds also hold some more recently built, but abandoned looking, eroded chedis and buckling bases of vanished halls, overshadowed by a fully intact, though more diminutive, replica of Chedi Luang that was built around 1487 to house the ashes of King Tilokarat.
- Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep (วัดพระธาตุดอยสุเทพ) (18 km from the city, at a 1,073 m elevation on the slopes of Doi (Mount) Suthep). 07:00-17:00. The quintessential image of Chiang Mai with its large gilded chedi, visible from the city on a clear day. Built in 1383 during the Lanna Thai period, legend has it that the temples site was selected by an elephant sent to roam the mountain side, where upon reaching a suitable spot, it trumpeted, circled three times, knelt down and promptly died, which was interpreted as a sign indicating an auspicious site. The temple offers grand views over the city, but no reward is without effort as you must accent the 200-plus steep steps of the Naga-lined stairs. The climb may be a strain in the high altitude's thin air for the less fit, so you may opt to take the cable car for 20 baht. For the Visaka Bucha holiday around May each year, it is traditional for people to walk from the zoo to the temple and vast numbers make the pilgrimage to the top, which takes around 4–5 hours.
- In the vicinity there are several other attractions you may want to consider visiting. The Bhuping Royal Palace Gardens are 4 km further along the road from Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep, with a reasonably easy walk along the meter-wide road shoulder. Or you can get a shared songthaew from Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep for 30 baht, but you may have to wait until it fills up. Further along the road is a hill tribe village, and although tourist-oriented, is really worth the trip. There are many shops for local handicrafts, etc. These are the people from the far north of the country, many originally from Myanmar. There are two areas in the village that require entrance fee: 10 baht to enter a flower garden (where women can take pictures using traditional clothes) and a hill tribe opium museum (the museum is in a very poor condition); and 10 baht to enter the hill tribe waterfall (man-made).
- Getting there is a source of much consternation to many travellers. Clearly marked songthaews leave from Pratu Chang Phuak, next to the 7-Eleven. Prices are listed as 50 baht up and 50 baht down, though once on top the price back down suddenly changes to 60 baht. The drivers wait until they have sufficient (up to 8) passengers before they depart, potentially making for a lengthy wait. Most guidebooks advise taking a songthaew from Mani Nopharat Rd, resulting in the drivers milking the tourist cash-cow and raising their price from a reasonable 40 baht to a ludicrous 500 baht.
- Another option is to take a songthaew from your hotel to the northern gate of Chiang Mai University for 20 baht (if you are close to the city walls), where there will be several songthaews waiting on Huai Kaew Rd to get a full load of passengers for a trip up the mountain. They seem to congregate around the Chiang Mai Zoo, so if you just say "zoo" to the driver he will know what you're talking about. Prices range from 40 baht for a one-way trip to Wat Prathat to 180 baht for a full round-trip tour, including the temple, Bhuping Palace Gardens, and the hill tribe village, with an hour at each location, but you may have to wait until there are sufficient people who want the same tour or be prepared to pay more. You can also get between many of these by buying point-to-point tickets at the time you want them, or walking some segment. Any songthaew up the mountain road may be a trial for those prone to motion-sickness, so take appropriate precautions. Also, there may be several little annoying additional costs foreigners. To enter the Doi Suthep itself is free for Thais, and 30 baht for foreigners. Tour operators will ask 700 baht for a tour.
- The journey from the city can be made by motorcycle or a bicycle (with appropriate gearing). The final 12 km from the zoo onwards is entirely uphill and will take 60-90 minutes if bicycling.
- Wat Suan Dok (Suthep Rd). A large open-sided hall with a jumble of roughly hewn Buddhas with a huge dazzlingly whitewashed chedi behind.
- Wat Umong (วัดอุโมงค์), Off Suthep Rd (At the end of a long narrow road, off Suthep Rd. Turn at the Italian restaurant), , e-mail: (call only from 08:30-16:00)[email protected]. 08:30-16:00. The name means "tunnel temple". An ancient temple in the forest just outside Chiang Mai. King Mengrai built this temple for a highly respected forest monk who liked to wander in the countryside, hence the isolated location where the monk could stay quietly and meditate. It is unusual in that it has tunnel-like chambers in the ground, some of the walls of which still have the original paintings of birds and animals visible. The large stupa is magnificent, and there is an eerie statue of a fasting, emaciated Buddha next to it. You can also take a break by the ponds, where you can feed the fish and turtles. Has a meditation centre open to foreigners. Some monks and the abbot speak a little English.
Museums & Galleries
- Chiang Mai City Arts & Cultural Centre (In the centre of the old city on Prapokklao Rd, between Ratchadamnoen Rd and Ratchawithi Rd), . Tu-Su 08:30–17:00. This modern multimedia history and cultural education centre has guides dressed in elegant traditional Thai clothing who will usher you into an air-conditioned room to watch an English-subtitled orientation video about Chiang Mai and the north. Next, you will be pointed to a series of rooms documenting the region's history and culture in chronological order from the pre-Muang period (7,000-12,000 years ago) to the early river civilizations, to the early kings through the wars with the Burmese and the last dynasty, to the city today and its plans for the future. Other rooms are devoted to Buddhism and other regional beliefs, agricultural history, hill tribe peoples and other regional cultures, and a run-down of the royal dynasties. The exhibits consist of a smart visual mix of video, scale models, enlarged photos, wall murals and text in Thai and English. 90 baht.
- Chiang Mai National Museum, on the superhighway (Within walking distance of Wat Chet Yot), . W-Su 09:00–16:00. The history of Chiang Mai. 100 baht.
- Chiang Mai Numismatic Museum (Treasury Hall), 52 Ratchadamnoen Rd, +66 53-224237/8. M-Sa 09:00–15:30.
- Chiang Mai University Art Museum, corner Suthep and Nimmanhaemin Rd, . Tu-Su 09:00–17:00. There are exhibitions by undergraduates from the Fine Arts Department at Chiang Mai University. These change often and the work on display is of high quality. Each month there is usually at least one art exhibition featuring the works of artists from Southeast Asia. The museum also hosts musical concerts, often free, in the adjoining theatre. Free.
- Museum of World Insects and Natural Wonders, Soi 13, Nimmanhaemin Rd, . Daily, 09:00–17:00. One of Asia's most unusual museums housing butterflies, beetles and more. Also has a large selection of minerals. Some explanations in English, some in Thai. 200 baht.
- Postal Museum, Mae Ping Post Office. Tu-Sa, 08:30–16:30. Free.
- Tribal Museum.
Things to do
Cultural local experiences
- Backstreet Academy, Various locations (Book Online), , e-mail: [email protected]. Offers many alternative experiences with locals, including things like glass blowing workshop, scrap metal welding workshop, silversmithing class, fishing with locals and many more. An award-winning social enterprise based throughout Southeast Asia connecting you with highly skilled artisans and locals who will show you something different. Great for those looking for something different and fans of community tourism.
- Alliance Francaise, 138 Charoen Prathet Rd, . W nights, 19:30. Screens French films, but frequently sub-titled in English. See the website for calendar of showings. The alliance also has an extensive library as well as exhibitions.
- Chiang Mai Vista Cinema (Kad Suan Kaew)) (On Huay Kaew Rd). Ticket prices vary depending on the duration of the film. The place is not very popular among the locals since it is a bit old and worn. Most showings are in Thai, only a few a day in English. 80-120 baht.
- Major Cineplex, Airport Plaza. Ticket prices depend on the duration of the film and seat type. Honeymoon seats generally cost 40 baht more than standard seats. If you would like to avoid the crowd, avoid going on Thursday, Friday or Saturday nights. Make sure to check the language of the film prior to booking. Some children's movies are dubbed into Thai. 120-260 baht.
- SF Cinema (In the Promenada shopping mall outside Chiang Mai (about 6.5 km from Tha Phae Gate) at the corner of Rte 1141/1317 and Rte 3029).
- SFX Cinema (Corner Huay Kaew Rd and Superhighway).
- Fah Lanna Massage, 186/3 Loi Kroh Rd (Near the Night Bazaar, down the street from McDonald's, past Royal Lanna Hotel), , e-mail:[email protected]. A small and very cosy massage shop close to the Iron Bridge. Clean, friendly and professional, Fah Lanna gets consistently high ratings in customer reviews. First, customers get a gentle foot-bath with scrub and comfortable clothes to change into and after the massage they are offered ginger tea and a cold towel. The decor and the background music are beautiful and add to the experience. After collecting 10 stamps (1 stamp per 1 hour treatment) they give a free massage. Massages are excellent, the prices seem to have increased due to its success. 600+ baht.
- Green Bamboo Massage, 1 Moon Muang Rd, Soi 1, . A small, charming studio in a typical wooden Thai house located inside the moat. The staff are trained in Thai massage therapy. Also offers individual daily or weekly courses in traditional Thai massage, Thai yoga massage, Tok Sen massage and Thai oil massage. Seminars are run by Ms Mesa, a certified and experienced masseuse. 200+ baht/hour.
- Kiyora Spa, Chang Moi Road Soi 2 (From Tha Pae Road, turn into Chang Moi Rd Soi 2.), , e-mail: [email protected]. 10:00-22:00. Kiyora is a provider of Thai-Lanna massage modalities incorporated with Western massage techniques. Price of a massage includes transport service within the city. 800+ baht.
- Le'Lux Massage (Near Sompet Market on Soi 6, Moon Muang Rd). Excellent staff and ambience. Services include Thai massage (150 baht/hr), oil massage (200 baht/hr), scrubs, manicure (150 baht), pedicure (150 baht) and more. Tea and water are included.
- Let's Relax (2F Chiang Mai Pavilion and B1F Chiang Inn Plaza, Changkhlan Rd).Does professional massage in a very clean surroundings complete with air-con, the sound of running water and gentle scents. A 45-minute foot reflexology session costs 350 baht, nearly twice the price of the competition, but is worth every satang after a long trek.
- Nantana Massage (Near Sompet Market on Soi 6). Very knowledgeable and friendly staff. Air-con. Oil, foot and neck/shoulder massage available. Thai massage, 150 baht/hour.
- Sun Massage, Loi Kroh Rd, opposite 7-11. Very clean and pleasant modern decor. The masseuses are very friendly, and provide decent, skilled massages. There is a table in front of the shop where the masseuses often hang out when idle. Traditional Thai massage, 199 baht/hour.
- Thai Massage Conservation Club (Blind masseurs), 99 Ratchamanka Rd, . , Daily, 08:00 - 21:00. Massage is performed by blind masseurs, who speak (some) English. They offer traditional Thai as well as oil massage. Oil massage 300 baht/hour.
- Viang Ping Massage and Spa, 2/4 Tha Phae Rd, Soi 2 (Opposite Wat Bupparam), . Very clean and well-run business, professionally run by Fern, manager-proprietor. All massages based on the Lanna, northern Thai-style, using pressure points and energy lines. Homemade coconut oil and natural facial, body scrub, and wrap products. Fern also teaches massage and spa services to individuals or occasionally to small groups. Loyalty cards for regular customers, free massage after 10 visits. Thai and oil massage courses, also spa courses. Prices average 200 baht for Thai, foot, or head and shoulder massages. 250 baht for oil massages.
- Wat Sam Pao (วัดสำเภา) (Just W of AUA school, corner of Ratchadamnoen & Ratchawithi Rd. Entrance on Ratchadamnoen). Just inside the south gate to the compound on your left. 1 hr: Thai massage, 130 baht; foot massage, 130 baht; oil massage, 300 baht.
- Motorcycle touring is a great way to explore northern Thailand. One good day trip out of Chiang Mai is up and over Doi Suthep, which will take you up to Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep, and beyond the mountain to the reservoir. A perennial favourite among bicyclists and motorcyclists is the Samoeng Loop, a 100 km circuit into the mountains and back to Chiang Mai.
- Motor-scooter touring as far as Mae Hong Son and suitable for the less experienced motorcyclist.
Raft trips down the Mae Tang River are offered by several companies and can often be combined with elephant riding or mountain biking. During the dry season (Jan-Feb) water levels are relatively low with only grade 2-3 rapids, but during the rainy season (Jun-Oct) higher water levels make for a more exciting grade 4-5 trip.
8Adventures, 21/22 Moo 2 Soi 2 Thorakamanakom, Chang Puak, Muang Chiang Mai, , e-mail: [email protected]. Created by a group of adventurers that includes two-time world champion kayaker Eric Southwic, they offer world class rafting and kayaking tours, ATV, SuP and trekking. Pick-ups daily from Chiang Mai.
- Peak Adventure Tour, 302/4 Chiang Mai-Lamphun Rd, . Offers 10 km rafting trips that can be combined with elephant riding or ATV driving.
- Mae Ping River Cruise, 133 Charoen Pratet Rd (Wat Chaimongkol boat landing, between Hotel Chedi and Ping Nakara), , fax: , e-mail: [email protected]. 08:30-17:00. Two hour cruise with a refreshment stop at a Thai farmer's house. Hotel pick-up. Be aware that the Mae Ping is a grotty, slow-flowing stream the colour of greenish khaki with nondescript banks. 450 baht.
- Aerobics. Aerobics sessions are held in the car park of Tesco Lotus on the superhighway every weekday from 17:30. The sessions are very popular and tourists or visitors to Chiang Mai are welcomed. Regular water aerobics classes, incorporating Tai Chi and yoga exercises, are held at the Centre of the Universe Swimming Pool.
- Cricket. Northern Thailand may seem an odd place to find an international cricket tournament. Every year since 1988 more than 200 cricketers from around the world gather at Chiang Mai for the tournament. The week-long tournament for amateur players, with a sprinkling of test stars, it is held at the historic Chiang Mai Gymkhana Club, generally at the start of April.
- Extreme Sports Centre (X-Centre), 816 Moo 1, Rim Thai, Mae Rim (Go 17 km N to Mae Rim on Rte 107. Turn onto Rte 1096, direction Samoeng. Travel 3 km. X-Centre on the left), . Daily, 09:00-18:00. Kiwi-run business, totally buttoned-down and professional. Bungy jumping; off-road buggies; dirt bikes; paintball; indoor drift carts; Xorb ball; sports bar and restaurant. Transport available from Chiang Mai at 09:30, 13:00, 15:00.
- Football (soccer). Go watch the local football team, Chiang Mai FC, play at 700 Year Stadium. Fixtures and info in English or visit the Red Lion English Pub in the Night Bazaar two hours before the game to get a free ride (nearly always available).
- Mountain Biking. Just west of Chiang Mai lies the beautiful Doi Suthep National Park, its summit at 1,650 m, 1,300 m above the valley floor. Chiang Mai Mountain Biking runs daily downhill trips and nature cross country rides.
- Rock Climbing. Approximately 55 km east of Chiang Mai is Crazy Horse Buttress, a 60 m, orange- and black-streaked monolith jutting out of the green Mae On Valley. Crazy Horse boasts more than 130 bolted routes between (French system) grades 5 and 8a, which makes it an ideal destination for beginners and experienced climbers alike. Spend several days exploring every part of the crag, or just spend a day or an afternoon above ground as a break from exploring the magnificent caves of the region. Climbing guides and information are available from Chiang Mai Rock Climbing Adventures.
- Tennis. There are many places to play tennis in Chiang Mai: Gymkhana Club(Chiang Mai-Lamphun Rd); Chiang Mai Land Village (Chiang Mai Land Rd);Imperial Chiang Mai Resort & Sports Club (284 Moo 3, Don Kaew, Mae Rim);Lanna Sports Club (Chotana Rd); Palm Springs (120 Moo 5, Mahidol Rd); andChiang Mai Sports Complex (700 Year Stadium, Irrigation Canal Rd, Rte 121 to Mae Rim), which has 12 courts. All courts are bookable in advance and at most flood lighting makes it possible to play in the evening when it is cooler. There is an additional charge to cover the cost of electricity.
- Yoga. The diversity of yoga studios in Chiang Mai rounds out the image of Chiang Mai as a centre for massage training, healing, and spas. Yoga studios such as Freedom Yoga, Wild Rose Yoga, Sattva Yoga, Mahasidda Yoga, Kaomai Lanna, and the Spa Resort for residential yoga retreats all are worthy of your patronage.
- Chiang Mai Kayaking, 1 Samlan Road (Inside the old City square, 50m south of Wat Prasing Temple). Offers guided kayaking tours in the surrounding area for both beginners and experienced.
Chiang Mai swimming pools open to the public vary in quality, cleanliness, and accessibility. On balance, those pools which are operated to internationally recognised standards of water quality are those which are privately owned by foreign investors.
- Centre of the Universe Swimming Pool and Resort (Take Huay Kaew Rd (Rte 1004) from the city towards Doi Suthep. At the intersection of Rte 1004 and Rte 121, follow the signs to Mae Rim. From the intersection, travel 1.2 km towards Mae Rim and turn left at the 5th bridge over the canal. Go straight for 600 m to the end of the road following signs). Open to tourists and other visitors. There are 3 swimming pools and decks. A detailed map and directions in Thai and English can be printed from their website. The pool is sanitised using salt water.
- Chiang Mai Land Swimming Pool. Open to the public. It has a pool deck and also has a restaurant and pool-side service. The pool is sanitised using chlorine.Adults, 50 baht; children, 30 baht.
- Hotel Pools. Some up-market hotels such as The Orchid on Huay Kaew Rd allow non-guests to use their pools for a fee. Travelling time from the city centre is around 10 min. These are sanitised using chlorine.
- The Lake at Huay Tung Tao (further along the Irrigation Canal Rd than the Centre of the Universe and after the 700-Year Sports Stadium, as you head towards Mae Rim (Rte 121), about 12 km from the city centre. Takes 15-20 minutes by tuk-tuk/taxi.). A reservoir in surrounding woodlands. Admission, 20 baht.
- Seven Hundred Year Stadium (Rujirawong Swimming Pool) (On the outer ring road, Irrigation Canal Rd—Route 121, towards Mae Rim. It is about 8 km from city centre; about fifteen min by tuk-tuk/taxi). Wed-Sun 10:00-12:00 and 13:30-17:45.A huge sports complex built for the SE Asia Games, held in Chiang Mai in the early 1990s, and now a public sports and recreation centre. The pool is sanitised using chlorine. Membership is required but it's open to anyone. It costs 300 baht/year and you have to provide two passport-size pictures. Single entry is 30 baht after that.
- Waterfalls and Natural Pools (At the foot of Doi Suthep on Huay Kaew Rd. Look for a large Buddhist shrine on your left after travelling past the entrance to Chiang Mai Zoo. Turn left into the market at the back of the shrine, and keep walking up the hill. You will come to the waterfalls after about 5 minutes. About 7 km from the city centre; takes 10-15 min by tuk-tuk/taxi). The pools at the bottom of the waterfalls are not really big enough for swimming, but are a great place to cool off at the height of summer. During the dry season some of the waterfalls dry up. Head for the high ground and you will still find pools full of fresh water. There are usually quite a few students hanging out there from the nearby university, who will happily practice their English conversational skills with you. Free.
- The Playhouse Complex (On Changpueak Rd). Start your evening with a unique dining experience in Kinnaree Park. Set in an eco-friendly environment, surrounded by mountains and waterfalls offering a real Lanna experience with traditional dance and a delicious northern Thai buffet before entering the theatre adjacent to the restaurant. The 350-seat capacity theatre hosts two shows per day at 20:00 and 22:00. Presenting Sequins & Dance, a fun and happy performance of wholesome entertainment that's full of sparkle, movement, and emotion. Performed by 30 Thai performers, it is exciting. Family, individual or group bookings welcome. Adult, 1,000 baht; child, 500 baht. Including Thai buffet (Saturdays): adult, 1,300 baht; child, 650 baht.
Festivals and events
- Bo Sang Umbrella & Sankampang Handicrafts Festival (8 km SE of Chiang Mai). Takes place around the third weekend of Jan at Ban Bo Sang, Sankampang. The festival is in the form of a "street fair" in which the central road of the village is used, with shops on both sides. Shops are decorated in Lanna-style, most with the well-known umbrellas, as well as with traditional lanterns. In addition there are contests, exhibitions, cultural performances, local entertainment, and assorted shows day and night. There is a grand procession decorated with umbrellas and local products, a variety of handicrafts for sale, northern-style khantoke meals and the Miss Bo Sang pageant.
- Chiang Mai Flower Festival. Staged every year during the first weekend in February (in 2014 it was held Friday-Sunday, 7–9 February). The city is awash with vibrant colours ranging from the electric orange and lilac colours of the bougainvillea to the velvety blossoms of petunias in all shades of pink, white, and purple. The strident red of the poinsettias, bought by many at Christmas and New Year, is echoed by beds of scarlet salvias. Homes and shop owners alike line the city streets with colourful flower boxes. The sheer profusion of colour that the flower festival and carnival brings to Chiang Mai aptly gives the city its name "Rose of the North". On all three days of the festival, prize blooms are on display at Nong Buak Had Park near the city centre. Many types of flower, miniature trees and orchida are put on display for the judges to choose the best of the species. Landscape specialists put on an elaborate display, which includes patios and waterfalls with exotic decorative plants and flowers. The best part of the flower festival is on Saturday. The parade lines up from the train station to Nawarat Bridge so the police close most of Charoen Muang Rd around 08:00. The VIP viewing stand is right next to the bridge in front of the Chiang Mai Governor's home. The parade route goes up Tha Phae Rd to the gate and turns left and follows the moat to Nong Buak Had Park. The parade moves at a slow pace and stops several times so there is plenty of time to take pictures of the colourful floats, pretty girls and hill tribe people in native costume. The paraders hand out roses to spectators lining the road. When the parade finishes everyone heads to Nong Buak Had where all the floats, award-winning flower growers and landscape projects are all on display. There are plenty of food stalls in the park, and in the late afternoon the Miss Chiang Mai Flower Festival starts. The party goes well into the evening until the new Flower Festival Queen has been chosen. This is a great time to visit Chiang Mai, as the air is cool and the evenings fresh and clear. If you want to see the festival make sure you book your hotels and flights well in advance.
- Inthakin or Tham Boon Khan Dok. City Pillar Festival in Chiang Mai. This is a six-day festival where the city pillar spirits are propitiated to ensure the continuity of the city. Occurs in May or Jun as part of the Northern Thailand lunar calendar. Very large event focused around Wat Chedi Luang.
- Loi Krathong and Yi Peng Festivals(ลอยกระทง). If you like candles placed in colourful paper lanterns, fireworks, beautiful girls in traditional dress, parade floats, lots of food and parties. Don't miss the Loi Krathong festival, which in Chiang Mai lasts for 3 full days, the last night being that of the 12th full moon of the year (which is usually in Nov). In the small town of Mae Jo, north of Chiang Mai, they start the festival on Saturday night by simultaneously launching thousands upon thousands of hot air balloons calledkhom loi. Loi Krathong coincides with the northern Thai (Lanna) festival known as "Yi Peng" (ยี่เป็ง). Due to a difference between the old Lanna calendar and the Thai calendar, Yi Peng is held on a full moon of the 2nd month of the Lanna calendar ("Yi" meaning "2nd" and "Peng" meaning "month" in the Lanna language). A multitude of Lanna-style sky lanterns (khom loi (โคมลอย), literally: "floating lanterns") are launched into the air where they drift with the winds. The festival is meant as a time for "tam-bun" (ทำบุญ), to make merit. People decorate their houses, gardens, and temples with khom fai (โคมไฟ): intricately shaped paper lanterns which take on different forms. Khom thue (โคมถือ) are lanterns which are carried around hanging from a stick, khom khwaen (โคมแขวน) are the hanging lanterns, and khom pariwat (โคมปริวรรต) which are placed at temples and which revolve due to the heat of the candle inside. Chiang Mai has the most elaborate Yi Peng celebrations, where both Loi Krathong and Yi Peng are celebrated at the same time resulting in lights floating on the waters, lights hanging from trees/buildings or standing on walls, and lights floating by in the sky.
- Mae Jo Lantern Release. A huge lantern release (It is often referred to as the 10,000 lantern release, but there are not as many as that) happens near Mae Jo University on the Saturday before Loi Krathong, in 2013: 16 Nov. The DMC Buddhist Sect puts this on and though it is billed as "for local people" this event has no connection with Chiang Mai or Lanna events, and is not promoted by local government officials nor included in their program. The lantern release takes place at the end of a ceremony that begins at 18:30, with the release at 20:00. The event is free of charge, but respectful attire is required and alcohol is forbidden. A tourist-targeted event (which costs about 3,000 baht) occurs in the same location on the following weekend.
- Songkran Festival (สงกรานต์). The Thai Water Festival is celebrated as the Thai new year from 13-15 Apr (though it may begin a day or two early). The most obvious sign that you're in the middle of the festival is when you get soaked by someone pouring a bucket of water over you, or squirting you with a water gun. This tradition evolved from people tossing water that had been poured over holy statues, since this water was expected to be good luck. Now, it takes the form of a free-for-all water fight, and you will undoubtedly be drenched. It's also a way of staying cool during the very hot and humid month of April. Put your mobile phone in a plastic bag.
Chiang Mai's nightlife is the most happening in the north, although still a far cry from Bangkok's hot spots. The busiest night life zones are near Tha Phae Gate, Loi Kroh Rd and along Charoen Rat Rd on the east bank of the Ping River.
Bars and pubs
Bars close at midnight in Chiang Mai. The police are strict about this.
Many, but by no means all, of Chiang Mai's tourist-oriented bars and pubs are located along Loi Kroh Rd (ถนนลอยเคระห์), outside the southeast quadrant of the old city. In addition to the street bars, the Chiang Mai Entertainment Complex (CMEC) (the CMEC sign is not prominent. Much more so is a lighted sign in front, Loikroh Boxing Stadium) can be found at the Night Bazaar-end of Loi Kroh. Here you will find around 30 bars ranging from sports bars that feature big screens to watch sports and play pool, to Pattaya-style girlie "beer bars", to even bars staffed exclusively by kathoeys (ladyboys). The complex also features a muay Thai boxing ring that has exhibition bouts for free or a voluntary donation, and on some nights (varies) real competitive boxing that requires an entrance fee unless your bar has provided you with complimentary viewing. And for extra fun, the occasional Westerner climbs into the ring, usually with hilarious results.
Also take a stroll along Moon Muang Road and its side Sois 1 and 2. Here you can find small expat hangouts and sports bars. Most have pool tables and hostesses, along with music videos or various TV sport programmes. Be aware that despite their charm and friendliness, the pressure to purchase lady drinks can result in a very surprising tab at the end of the night.
Loi Kroh Rd (Night Bazaar area)
- Ben Cocktail Bar, 71/1-2 Loi Kroh Rd (Across from Chiang Mai Saloon; cater-corner across the street northwest from the Chiang Mai Entertainment Complex. Small sign. Look for it and you will be rewarded),. 17:00-last man standing. A tiny, hole-in-the-wall (~15 seat) cocktail bar that just may serve the best cocktails in Chiang Mai. Certainly the best price/performance. Run by Ben, an irrepressible, animal-loving, lovely female and her partner, Keng. She is especially proud of her mojitos, but all the 270 cocktails on offer are delicious. The conversation is good too as she speaks excellent English. Free Wi-Fi. Chang beer, 60 baht; cocktails, 120 baht.
- Blue Bat (Porn Ping Tower Hotel), 46,48 Charoenprathet Rd (Between the Night Bazaar and the river). On the 21st floor of the hotel, this is as high as you can go in Chiang Mai to have a drink. Good views all round. Serves full range of cocktails, also Thai and Western food. Take the lift to the 20th floor, then hike up a not-very-inviting staircase to the open rooftop. It can't compare with the fabulous rooftop bars of Bangkok, but it's the best Chiang Mai has to offer.
- Chiang Mai Cabaret Show (SE corner of Anusarn Market). Daily show, 21ː30-22ː30. A nightly revue, dancing to Western tunes by ladyboys in lavish costumes. The one hour show is tame and family-friendly, with children frequently in the audience. Lots of dancing to ABBA tunes and extravagant costumes, with no nudity. The show's length is perfect and the price is surprising affordable. Good fun. Happy Hour precedes the show, 19:30-20:30, and also follows the show. 200 baht cover, includes one drink.
- Dragonfly Bar, 8/1 Loi Kroh Rd. One of the smaller bars at the top of Loi Kroh but also one of the most cosy. What really make this place stand out is the friendly staff and that this bar has two floors so you can get away from the bustle of street level and enjoy the relaxed atmosphere from the balcony.
- Number 1 Bistro/Cafe, 2 Loi Kroh, Soi 1 (As you go down Loi Kroh, take Soi 1 to the right), . 15:00-24:00. Great expat bar. Free Wi-Fi with electrical outlets spaced at one metre intervals under the bar. They specialise in Belgian beer as well as having eight draught beers on tap, including domestic and Guinness. Excellent kitchen serving Thai and farang food, although the latter can be pricy: pad Thai is 80 baht, while the cheeseburger is expensive at 250 baht (July 2015). Number 1 is a refuge in Chiang Mai's red light district as it has no bar girls hassling you for a drink. And it's one of the few places on Loi Kroh where you can comfortably take a date. Two excellent pool tables, 20 baht per game (July 2015). Small Leo beer, 80 baht.
Northwest of the city centre, the area around Nimmanhaemin Rd is a popular hangout for younger Thais, perhaps due to its proximity to Chiang Mai University ("maw chaw"). The pubs tend to straddle a fine line between bar, restaurant and nightclub, and feature loud music interspersed with live bands fronted by musicians who are most likely hitting the books in the daytime. Tourists looking for something racier are better off staying in the east side of the city. Little English is spoken in this part of the city. Little doesn't mean none, however, and the staff of many bars, being students, still can understand what do you want, or even sometimes can speak English reasonably well.
- Mo'C Mo'L, Huay Kaew Rd. Pub and restaurant near Chiang Mai University, there are many zones in the restaurant: coffee shop, dining outdoors near the small pond, dining indoors with live music.
- The Pub, 189 Huay Kaew Rd (Near Amari Rincome Hotel), . 07:00-23:00. Long-established English-style pub, has had a makeover and extended the bar and the restaurant, but kept its charm. Great selection of food and drinks, including roast dinners on Sundays. Has an outside area where you can sit and enjoy the tranquillity of a tropical garden, and has recently added bungalows for those wishing to linger longer. Bungalows, 800+ baht.
- Warm Up Bar. This chain bar/restaurant/club has several venues in Thailand. The venue in Chiang Mai is a lot less touristy and the dance hall packed to the brim with Thai students.
Inside the moat
- Café Souvannaphoum, 20/1 Ratchamanka Rd (Near Moon Muang, next to Dada Kafe), . M-Sa 17:00-01:00. A decent wine bar with comfortable seating and relaxing music, a great escape from the busy street scene.
- Half Moon Pub, Soi 2 Moon Muang (50 m into Soi 2 from the moat), . 10:00-late. Sports bar with many regulars and tourists. Darts and pool area, big TV, really nice international cuisine, especially the burgers, but also good Thai and Indian dishes. Excellent (can be loud) music, friendly atmosphere and beautiful women.
- The Writers Club, 141/3 Ratchadamnoen Rd (about 600 m into the old city from Tha Phae Gate.), . , An old fashioned bar and restaurant purportedly for SE Asia's community of authors, journalists and screenwriters, though everyone's welcome. A good, informal source of information about SE Asia. This is where the some of those writing guidebooks gather.
- Zoe in Yellow, 40/12 Ratchawithi Rd (Inside the moat). Very large indoor/outdoor bar and club with a dance floor, live music or DJ, including lots of outdoor seating and multiple bars. If you're looking to party with foreigners in Chiang Mai, this is the place to be. Closes exactly at midnight except on special occasions, such as New Year or Songkran.
- Garden Bar & Restaurant (Lotus Hotel), 2/25 Soi Viangbua, Chotana Rd(Across the street from Adams Apple), . Outdoor garden bar and restaurant serving Lebanese, Western and Thai food. Popular meeting place for gay expats and tourists.
- Sabaidee Santitham, 65 Santitham Rd, Chang Phuak (Corner of Tewan Rd and Santitham Rd), +66 81-8851329 (Mr. Don) +66 89 9514554 (Mr. Louis), e-mail: [email protected]. Northern Thai-style outdoor gay bar and restaurant. Packed with very friendly staff and fun atmosphere. 45 baht for a large Chang beer.
The area along the east bank of the Mae Ping River on Charoen Rat Rd is famous for jazz, rock, pop, Thai, and country and Western live music, along with restaurants serving Thai, Western and Chinese food. Coming from the centre of the city, just walk from the Night Bazaar across the Nawarat Bridge, from where all the restaurants can be seen along the river on the left.
Most bands in Chiang Mai play for about an hour, and then move on to do the same at another restaurant or pub, so don't be surprised to see the same band if you move venues.
- Boy Blues Bar (In the Kalare Centre (near the food hall) in the Night Bazaar on the mezzanine floor opposite the dancing stage). 19:00-01:00. The owner, "Boy", plays great blues guitar and is a nephew of Chiang Mai legend "Took", of the now defunct Brasserie. Monday night is jamming night and some great visiting musicians have made this often memorable. Bangkok blues legend, Chai (of Chai's Blues Bar fame), often joins in. Well worth a visit.
- The Bridge Bar, Nimmanhaemin Rd, Soi 11, . Till 01:00.Live music every night, except Monday: Brit pop, rock, Thai. Mostly Thais go to this bar but you will as well see some expats, ages: 22-32. Service is excellent and if you happen to go there by yourself, for sure someone will come up to talk to you. The menu includes delicious cocktails: "Mango Kiss", "Velvet"! Cheap beer & Sangsom (Thai rum) as well as snacks. The outside sitting area is perfect if you want to talk.
- The Good View, 13 Charoen Rat Rd (Next to The Riverside Restaurant), , e-mail: [email protected]. 10:00-01:00.Thai and Western varieties of rock, jazz, pop and country music in the evening. Their extensive menu offers more than 150 Thai, Chinese, and Western dishes, including curries, noodles, rice and pizza. Full-service bar serving wine, beer and spirits. If you want to get in, get there early and there's a queue every night.
- The North Gate Jazz Collective (Inside the moat, east of Chang Phuak Gate). Nightly jazz performances starting around 21:30 with different performers and occasional guests from the audience. Mixed bag in terms of quality: sometimes great, sometimes mediocre. Serves a variety of drinks not normally found in Chiang Mai, notably red and white wine, mojitos and other mixed drinks. The staff are quick and efficient, and the prices are reasonable.
- Riverside Restaurant, 9-11 Charoen Rat Rd, . The live music starts around 19:00 with dinner music from the Eagles, Beatles or soft jazz. Starting at 21:00, the music changes to more rock and pop. The restaurant gets very crowded, so arrive early to get a table. The Riverside also offers a nightly dinner cruise departing at 20:00 for 110 baht/person extra.
- Tha Chang Jazz Club, 25 Charoen Rat Rd (Next to Gallery Restaurant), . Live jazz on Saturdays.
- Discovery (Opposite Kad Suan Kaew shopping centre and Lotus Pang Suan Kaew Hotel). A small club with live band, DJ, and huge screens showing music videos. Good for drinking nights and letting loose. Bring ID/passport as they can be strict about entry, especially on weekends.
- Hot Shots (At Pornping Tower Hotel). A Thai place with live music most nights, reasonable drink prices and no cover charge for foreigners or locals.
- Spicy (Spice Club), 82 Chaiyaphum Rd (Outside moat, across the moat from the Sompet Market), . 02:00-. A hectic after-hours place with good drinks, dancing and lots of girls looking to party. Be forewarned, many are bar girls (the place doesn't get rocking until they get off at 02:00) so do not be surprised if they ask for money to go home with you.
Things to know
The inhabitants speak Kham Muang (also known as Northern Thai or Lanna) among themselves, though central Thai is used in education and is understood by almost everyone. English is used in hotels and travel-related businesses. The Kham Muang alphabet is studied only by scholars, and Northern Thai is commonly written with the standard Thai alphabet.
- Wat Chom Tong, Ban Luang, Chom Tong (About 60 km southwest of the city), . , The home temple of the meditation master, Achan Tong. Offers residential courses in Vipassana meditation.
- Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep. The International Buddhist Centre offers short and long residential courses in Vipassana meditation in English. A brand new centre, including accommodation and a vitara (chanting hall), is now open.
- Wat Ram Poeng, Suthep Rd (4 km SW of the city), . Facilities for retreats and meditation instruction. Ten-day minimum stay required for introduction to Vipassana meditation techniques. English-speaking monks are available to assist foreigners. For non-native English speakers, long-term students from your home country may be available to offer translation services.
- Wat Suan Dok, Suthep Rd (1 km W of the Old City Moat), . Has a meet-and-greet for tourists and monks, every M W F afternoon between 17:00 and 19:00. Offers a 24-hr introductory meditation retreat on Tuesdays.
- Wat Umong, Suthep Rd (~3.5 km W of Chiang Mai. Easiest way is by tuk-tuk or bicycle. Or take a songthaew W 2.5 km on Suthep Rd (not the same road to Doi Suthep Temple) to Wang Nam Kan, then follow signs S 1 km to the wat), . 08:30-16:00. Offers meditation courses and dharma instruction in English by Phra Charles every Sunday at 15:00. Please call only from 08:30-16:00.
- Life Events Shamanic Studies (Behind Kad Suan Kaew Shopping Center), . Provides spiritual consultations, shamanistic initiation workshops and meditation retreats in English and Russian. An initial one-on-one consultation is held before attending events.
Tai Chi and Qi Gong
- Green Dragon Tai Chi Center and Personal Training, 459/4 Nong Hoi (Behind the Nong Hoi Market, 2 min from the Holiday Inn Riverside), , e-mail: [email protected]. Offers customized weekend courses for health and relaxation, especially for beginners, in Tai Chi, Qi Gong, the 18 Movements, the 8 brocates/Shaolin style, 24 Yang Form, 108 Yang Form old frame, Inner Qi Gong after grandmaster Zhi-Chang-Li and standing meditation after Grand Master Frankie Dow (Chan Kwaan Chung).
TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language)
- SEE TEFL 4 week TEFL certification course, 86/2 Kaew Nawarat Rd (About three blocks east of the Ping River), , e-mail:[email protected]. SEE TEFL offers a standard 4 week, 120 hour TEFL Certification course. TEFL certification is required for many English teaching positions in Thailand and throughout the world. USD1,295 with USD200 Early Bird discount (prices in USD, can be paid in THB).
Thai boxing (muay Thai)
- Team Quest Thailand, 114/3 Moo.1, Phadeed (ป่าแดด) Rd (A 5 min walk from Central Airport Plaza or a short drive from the airport), , e-mail:[email protected]. A gym for muay Thai and mixed martial arts. Train with top trainers and the current Thailand champion, Hong Thong Lek. 500 baht/day, 9,000 baht/month.
- Air's Thai Culinary Kitchen, 9/1 Nongprateep Rd, . , On 1.6 acres of the tranquil, landscaped grounds of a private house. The kitchen's unique design draws from professional experience and is purpose-built and surrounded by herb and spice gardens. Offers Course A and Course B. Each is 3 days in length, 08:30-15:00. Free transport to/from hotel. 2,700 baht.
- Baan Thai Cookery School, 11 Ratchadamnoen Rd, Soi 5 (Near Tha Phae Gate), . , Courses include a cookbook and market tour. Day or evening classes. 700-900 baht.
- Chiang Mai Thai Cookery School, 1-3 Moon Muang Rd, , fax: . Offers 1-2-3-4-5-day courses. 990 baht for 1 day course.
- Classic Home Cooking, . Choose any dish from more than 50 dishes on their menu. 6 dishes per day for morning class and 4 dishes for evening class. The cooking class runs every day.
- Gap's School Of Thai Culinary Art, 3 Ratchadamnoen Rd, Soi 4, . High standards, well organised, your own stove, 1 teacher per 5 students.
- Grandma's Thai Recipes, 48 Chaiyapoom Rd (15 min out of the city, transportation provided), . Traditional Thai cooking instruction. Vegetarian-friendly. Restaurant and booking office located near Tha Phae Gate.
- A Lot Of Thai Cooking School, . A family-run home cooking class, taught by the owner. Vegetarians and people with any kind of food restrictions welcome. Courses includes a market tour and a recipe book is provided for later use.
- Siam Rice Thai Cookery School, . Friendly and knowledgeable staff provide a course on local and traditional recipes. The course includes a market tour and provides you with the recipes for the dishes that you create.
- Smart Cook Thai Cookery School, 21 Moon Muang Rd, Soi 5, . Market tour, cook book. Accommodates vegetarian cooking. Small classes and fun staff.
- Sompet Cookery School, 56 Patan Rd,, . Learn to cook traditional Thai food at a riverside home. Daily courses, morning and afternoon. A recipe book with colour photographs provided for each dish, suggesting many ways to prepare and serve Thai food.
- Thai Cottage Cookery School, 25/2 Ratchadamnoen Rd, Soi 1, . Participants learn 5 dishes in a full day, including making curry paste from scratch, 800 baht. 3-course half-day courses are available, 600 baht. Market tour and cook book included. Modifications for vegetarians are easily made. Tu and Kat are excellent teachers and a lot of fun. 600-800 baht.
- AUA (American University Alumni), 73 Ratchadamnoen Rd (c. 100 m inside Tha Phae Gate), , , fax: , e-mail: [email protected]. M-F 08:30-18:00; Sa 09:00-11:30, 12:30-16:00; Su 08:30-12:00. AUA offers seven different 6- and 8-week courses M-F. Group courses start monthly with a minimum of 5 students. Individual instruction any time. Great library for student use, 100 baht per term. Caveats: they use the Haas transliteration system, not everyone's cup of tea. And they also have some petty rules, such as no shorts in class although no one observes the rule. No Wi-Fi.4,800 baht per course.
- Centre for Thai Studies, Chiang Mai University Language Institute, 239 Huay Kaew Rd, . 1-year courses and short conversational programs. Website has on-line application form and FAQ.
- Effective Thai, 86/2 Kaewnawarat Rd, +66 53-266295/6, e-mail:[email protected]. 1-to-1 and small group classes. ED visa available. 500 baht/hr for 1-to-1 classes, 250 baht/hr for small group (2-4 students) classes.
- Payap University (Superhighway Chiang Mai-Lampang Rd), . Run by the Southeast Asian Institute of Global Studies, the Thai and Southeast Asian Studies Program at Payap University is a one- or two-semester academic program for students primarily interested in becoming proficient in the Thai language and knowledgeable about Thai culture.
- YMCA, 11 Mengrairasmi, Sermsuk Rd, . , 1,800+ baht for 30 hrs instruction.
- Thai Massage School of Chiang Mai (TMC). A government-registered school of Thai massage. 1 week short course, 7,500 baht.
Safety in Chiang Mai
- Fire: 053-241777
- Police - emergencies: 191
- Rescue Team: 053-218888
- Tourist police: 1155, 053-278559
Chiang Mai, like most of Thailand, is quite safe, even at night. The dark streets can look forbidding but crime is rare and visitors shouldn't worry unduly. As always, travellers should take extra care in all poorly lit or more remote areas. Don't carry valuables in a bag after dark as the most common tourist related crime here is bag-snatching by youths on motorbikes. Mind your bag especially if you are walking on a dark street at night.
The safest approach is to act like your Thai hosts and wear reasonable clothing (shoulders and chest covered) medium-length skirts, long shorts or long pants, speak in a moderate tone of voice, and avoid flashing money or jewellery. Not only will respectable Thais appreciate your behaviour, you are much less likely to become a target of any criminal activity.
Unfortunately some scams from Bangkok have started to rear their ugly heads in Chiang Mai as well. Two in particular are worth watching out for: the gem scam, where you are talked into buying near-worthless gems at far above their real value; and the tuk-tuk scam, where a smooth-talking tuk tuk driver tells you that the attraction you want to see is closed, and instead offers you a sightseeing tour for 20 baht (or some similarly unrealistic amount) - needless to say, the tour will either consist of nothing but overpriced gift shops, or will smoothly segue into the gem scam. See the "Stay Safe" section of the Bangkok article for more details.
Chiang Mai's smoke levels can be discomfiting, and sometimes dangerous, during burning season which starts around Makha Bucha Day (end-Feb to early Mar) and lasts about a month. Although there is a ban on burning, the whole of northern Thailand often falls under a thick haze during this period, with tens of thousands treated for smoke inhalation. Rice farmers burning off fields are commonly blamed for the smoke, but according to the Department of Air Quality there is an extensive range of burning activities during this season. In addition to slash and burn farmers clearing fields, a smaller proportion of farmers may burn land in order to clear forests and expand fields, to flush out game, or to trigger the growth of specific mushroom varieties. As a result, there are typically dozens of deaths, and for example in 2007 58 people died of smoke-related heart attacks. You are well advised to avoid Chiang Mai during this period. If you intend to visit at this time, you are advised to check on smoke levels in advance. Thousands of residents, both foreign and Thai, leave Chiang Mai at this time to escape the smoke. The government is apparently uninterested in fixing the problem: in 2015 they blamed it on outdoor cooking. Presently, the solution is to spray the streets with water to "moisten the air". There is no political will to tackle the burning of rice fields and forests, which is the cause of the smoke. On 10 March 2015, dangerous PM10 particles measured over 255 mcg per cubic metre of air in Chiang Mai, well above the unsafe level of 120 mcg (Note: this is the Thai government standard which is more than twice the maximum level set by the World Health Organization [WHO] at 50 mcg). Neighbouring areas can be as bad or worse, Chiang Rai for example, was at 306 mcgs, so moving on to a neighbouring province will generally not help: the pall of smoke stretches from northern Laos, across Thailand to eastern Burma.
Tap water should be regarded as non-potable. Liquids from sealed bottles nearly always are, and should be used wherever possible. Nearly all restaurants use ice that is made by professional ice-making companies and is generally safe. There are street side water vending machines (1 baht per litre) throughout the city. Using one saves money and a lot of plastic refuse.