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Chiang Mai Guide
Need to know
- Picturesque and calm, Chiang Mai is a sprawling modern city nestled around a beautifully preserved ancient centre. The city is surrounded by rainforest, with highways stretching out in every direction, making Thailand’s northern capital a major hub.
- Chiang Mai offers a startling mix of old and new, with 1,000 year old temples juxtaposed with ritzy modern hotels and traditional street food vendors side by side with top-notch restaurants. The old city boasts more than 30 ancient temples and pagodas, all easily reached on foot. Be sure to visit the pyramid-like Wat Chedi Luang, constructed between 1385 and 1402, the intricate wooden Wat Phan Tao and the lavish, mosaic-inlaid Wat Phra Singh, one of the city’s most revered temples. Doi Suthep-Pui National Park in another must visit; overlooking Chiang Mai, it’s a preserve of pristine rainforests, stunning views, and ethereal waterfalls.
- There are plenty of opportunities to relax in Chiang Mai. Spend some time strolling through the Bo Sang Umbrella Village and peruse the beautiful, handcrafted umbrellas and parasols Chiang Mai is famous for. For stunning views of the city in serene surrounds, take a trip to the tranquil gardens of Doi Inthanon National Park. Standing at 2,565 metres tall, Doi Inthanon is the highest peak in Thailand.
- Chiang Mai is also renowned for its street food, especially Northern Thai or Lanna cuisine, notable for the absence of coconut milk, palm sugar, fish sauce, and with much more reliance on fresh herbs, chilli, and native roots. Head to the Night Bazaar and try the local succulent mu ping pork skewers, sai ua, while you browse the famous flea market.
It is possible to see Chiang Mai by foot, particularly if you are staying within the Old City area. Renting a motorcycle or scooter is the most popular option for travellers, as you get the freedom to see the city at your own pace. The main public transport options in Chiang Mai are tuk tuks and songthaews. Tuk tuks are the more expensive option and aren’t likely to take you very far. Songthaews are shared taxis and pick up travellers going in same direction they are travelling. They are cheap but they don’t travel on fixed routes, so be sure you know where you are headed before you start your journey.
Best Time to Visit
The best time to visit Chiang Mai is during the cool season from November to February. Chiang Mai has a tropical climate made up of a cool season, a hot season and a rainy season. The hot season runs from March to June and temperatures can reach up to 40 degrees. The dry heat is constant and the temperature generally won’t drop below 25 degrees. The rainy season begins in July and continues through to October, bringing humidity and close to 3 or 4 days of consistent rain per week.
Airports in Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai International Airport
Located around a 15 minute drive from the city centre, Chiang Mai International Airport is the main airport serving the Chiang Mai Province. It is a major hub to Northern Thailand. Flights travel to Airport from a number of destinations, including Kuala Lumpur, Beijing, Hong Kong and Singapore. There are no direct flights available from Australia.