14 Amazing Things To Do In Chiang Mai, Thailand

My first trip to Chiang Mai was during teenage years, I might’ve been 15 or 16 years old.

It was one of those summer family trips, my mother reserved a bungalow hotel that no longer exists today. The staff brought sumptuous breakfast to our bungalows every morning by gently rowing boats over tranquil waters at dawn. I spent most of the afternoons lazily reading under luscious banana trees, Like Water For Chocolate was my adolescent obsession at the time. Chiang Mai was yet to be discovered by the mass, just as I was yet to be acquainted with the verity of adulthood.

More than two decades later, I returned to Chiang Mai and boy, had the city transformed into a full-fledged popular destination. Its rural streets were packed with digital nomads, English widely and unabashedly spoken. Market signs now inked with Chinese characters while coffee shops brimmed with open laptops. Thankfully, the city’s palpable charm remains. The heart of Chiang Mai is still delineated by its sweet locals: wide smiles, sincere friendliness. Gentle innocence evaporates from their genuine pores.

In Thailand, convenience stores stops selling alcohol from  2 p.m. to 5 p.m.

I’ve always loved visiting Thailand, maybe because without speaking, they begin chatting in Thai as I smile back to tell them that I’m, in fact, Taiwanese. Though I’ve always felt a bit Thaiwanese. Same skin tone, same continent. Same but different.

I hope you enjoy your stay in Chiang Mai, who knows, if I’m back there again soon enough, we may run into each other at a golden wat and hold our palms together in front of our chests to say: sawadee!

SEE

Wat Phra Singh Woramahawihan

2 Samlarn Rd, Phra Sing, Mueang Chiang Mai District, Chiang Mai 50280, Thailand

We begin our Chiang Mai journey at Wat Phra Singh, which is also known as “The Monastery of the Lion Buddha.” In Thailand, wat means “temple.” Clearly indicated by symbolic singh, or lions, bravely guarding the temple’s entrance. It currently houses hundreds of monks and novices, along with ancient and prized images of Buddha.

In 1345, King Phayu, who was the fifth king of the Mangrai dynasty constructed Wat Phra Singh to house his father’s ashes. Later, during the temple’s restoration in 1925, three urns were found inside that were assumed to be royal ashes. Since then, the urns have yet to be rediscovered.

Wat Phra Singh

Wat Phra Singh

Wat Phra Singh

Wat Phra Singh

Wat Phra Singh

Wat Phra Singh

Wat Phra Singh

Wat Chedi Luang

2 Samlarn Rd, Phra Sing, Mueang Chiang Mai District, Chiang Mai 50280, Thailand

Wat Chedi Luang
Reclining Buddha at Wat Chedi Luang. PHOTO WENDY HUNG

Wat Chedi Luang, or Temple of the Royal Stupa, is the combination of three temples that were constructed during the 14th century by King Saen Muang Ma also as a place to bury his father’s ashes. The king passed away ten years after but the temple remained incomplete, it was his widow who finished the construction of the temple. At the time, it was the largest chedi, or pagoda, in Lanna Kingdom. In 1545, however, a massive earthquake destroyed 60 meters of the chedi, which was partially restored in 1990s. What made Wat Chedi Luang incredibly significant is also the Emerald Buddha, which was placed here then later moved to present-day Laos, then to Bangkok’s Wat Phra Kaew. 

Wat Chedi Luang

Wat Chedi Luang

Wat Pha Khao

36 Ratchamanka Rd, Tambon Si Phum, Mueang Chiang Mai District, Chiang Mai 50200, Thailand

Wat Pha Khao
Wat Pha Khao. PHOTO WENDY HUNG

A much smaller wat in the middle of the city is the beautiful Wat Pha Khao, or “Temple of White Clothes,” which is a personal favorite due to vibrant and colorful umbrellas displayed throughout the temple originally built by King Thaomekuthi Suthiwong of the Mangrai Dynasty that oversaw the Lanna Kingdom from 1292 to 1558. The name of the temple refers to the king who changed into white clothing before attending any ceremony at this particular wat. 

Wat Pha Khao

Wat Pha Khao

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep Ratchaworawihan

9 หมู่ที่ 9 Mueang Chiang Mai District, Chiang Mai 50200, Thailand

15 kilometers outside of the city is the extraordinary Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, named after the mountain of its graceful location. The first stupa of the temple was built in 1383, since then, numerous holy shrines have expanded the temple grounds into the prosperity that it is today.

Its White Elephant legend undoubtedly makes Doi Suthep utterly mythical, which depicts Monk Sumanathera’s dream of a quest to look for a relic. When the monk discovered a bone, many believed it was Gautama Buddha’s shoulder bone, and that it emanated magical powers of glowing, disappearing, moving and replicating itself. But when the King saw it, the relic displayed abnormality so the relic was returned back to the hands of the monk. When King Nu Naone of the Lanna Kingdom heard about the relic and wanted to see it, it mystically broke into two pieces. The king placed one of the pieces on the back of a white elephant which climbed up Doi Suthep and trumpeted three times before dying. Since this was considered ominous, the king ordered for the temple to be built.

Doi Suthep

Doi Suthep

Doi Suthep

Doi Suthep

Doi Suthep

Doi Suthep

Doi Suthep

Doi Suthep

Namtok Bua Thong-Nam Phu Chet Si National Park

Mae Ho Phra, Mae Taeng District, Chiang Mai 50150, Thailand

Chiang Mai Thailand
Photo: Facebook/Chiang Mai Tour Center

Situated inside Si Lanna National Park, Bua Tong Sticky Waterfalls is a must-do that’ll require a driver / bus / Grab app. The spring’s richness in calcium flows down over boulders of the waterfall, which in turn creates a sticky sensation so that visitors can grip on with bare hands and feet without slipping. There are three levels of waterfalls, and various climbing trails to offer gorgeous views of the natural landscape.

Hill Tribe Villages 

Chiang Mai & North Thailand Tours | Thailand Hilltribe Holidays - Nong Kwai, Mueang Chiang Mai District, Chiang Mai 50230, Thailand

Chiang Mai Thailand
Photo: Thailand Hilltribe Holidays

While many tours offer a visit to the Hill Tribe Villages in Chiang Mai, they tend to stop for a few hours of photo session and that’s it. Traveling ethically means that you should opt for a tour which offers homestay, so you can spend more time with the villagers. Learn about their history, speak to the elders, and purchase their handmade textiles or other handicrafts. Don’t treat them like a good opportunity for a photo op, but talk to them to understand that tribes like the long neck Karen traditionally came from Myanmar. Many are refugees in Thailand due to the political climate in their homeland. Learn about their farming, language, traditions, garments, cuisine…their way of life that needs to be preserved.

EAT

Oxygen Dining Room

369/1 Charoenraj Road, Wat Ket, Mueang Chiang Mai District, Chiang Mai 50000, Thailand

Oxygen Dining Room

Oxygen Dining Room

Oxygen Dining Room

Oxygen Dining Room