09 Nov Sightseeing in Chiang Mai
When Andrew and I first visited Chiang Mai in 2009 we were charmed by the surrounding forests and lush countryside, the bustling ancient city, the markets and book shops, the vegetarian restaurants, glittering temples and orange-robed monks. Even though I love big cities, especially my beloved London, I find Bangkok overwhelming and struggle with the dirt, heat and hassle. By contrast, Chiang Mai is much more appealing to me; it’s smaller and easier to get around, the climate is cooler and you can escape into the mountains on day trips whenever you like.
Things to Do in Chiang Mai
Considering all this we were looking forward to returning to Chiang Mai, this time with our friends and family, to explore the city in more depth. By this point in our trip, Andrew and I were also suffering from a severe case of travel exhaustion after our hectic first six-months on the road and wanted to find somewhere to settle down for a few weeks after our visitors went back to England; could Chiang Mai be the place? We spent plenty of time sightseeing in Chiang Mai with our friends and family – here’s what we got up to.
A trip to the Elephant Nature Park
We visited the Elephant Nature Park with my parents and had an amazing time. Not only did we get up close to the rescued animals when feeding and bathing them, we also learnt about the disturbing issues facing Thailand’s domestic elephant population. I’ll be writing a more in-depth post about this soon, but suffice to say that I’m glad we visited elephants here rather than at one of the many elephant camps or training centers around Chiang Mai, especially the ones that offer elephant rides.
Sunday Walking Market
You can’t visit Chiang Mai without taking a trip to the Sunday walking market. Every week the streets are taken over with stalls selling souvenirs and clothing and the temple complexes are transformed into food markets which sell everything from samosas, pad thai, curries, fruit shakes and of course, banana pancakes – and all for just a few pounds. We took our guests to the market and they had a brilliant time sampling everything on offer and doing some shopping.
Trekking and Ziplining
As I mentioned in a previous post, keeping our costs under control was one of the challenges we faced when travelling with friends and family. While we wanted to spend as much time as possible with everyone and make sure our guests had a great time, this meant spending more than we would normally on day trips, food and accommodation. For the most part though, I’m glad we stretched our budget because we had a great time; there was however, one day trip I would have happily gone without – ziplining. Not only did it rain for pretty much the whole day but I also felt really unsafe and for good reason, there were a few injuries due to lax (or non-existent) safety standards.
Visiting What Prah That, Doi Suthep
Doi Suthep is one of the top Chiang Mai attractions; this huge mountain just outside of Chiang Mai provides a great view of the city below and has a lavish temple at the top to explore. My parents, Andrew and I hired a songathew to drive us up the winding mountain road for just a few pounds; the air was cooler and fresher up on Doi Suthep and we all enjoyed the tranquil surroundings and the beauty of the temple. As my mum remarked: “It must be nice being a monk up here, it’s so peaceful.”
City Temple Tour
There are so many Wats (temples) to discover in Chiang Mai; all you need to do is take a stroll around the streets to find them. My favourite was Chedi Luang which has an ancient, crumbling temple as well as newer ones. There’s also a monk school in the temple complex so you can sit in the shady courtyard and watch all the monks going about their daily business.
After spending a week or so exploring Chiang Mai with our friends and family, Andrew and I decided that it would definitely be the perfect place to settle down for a few weeks, rent an apartment and work after our guests left Thailand.