Where places like Phuket, Pattaya and Koh Samui heavily depend on beaches and standard Thailand holiday requirements, a living in Chiang Mai is a completely different beast.
If you want to make the most out of your time in this majestic city in Northern Thailand, here are some fun things to do.
#1. Visit the Summit of Doi Inthanon Mountain
Chiang Mai is home to some of the tallest mountain ranges in Thailand and has a very different topography when compared to other regions and terrains across the Kingdom.
One of the most stunning experiences when exploring Chiang Mai will be visiting the summit of the tallest mountain in Thailand, Doi Inthanon. Inside Doi Inthanon National Park itself, you can explore lots of waterfalls such as Mae Ya and Mae klang and even the stunning flowers at the Royal Agricultural Station.
However, the main point of coming here is to visit the 2,565 summit, which offers amazing views in the summer months. Do take a coat or a sweater along because it can get a bit cold at the peak.
#2. Check out the Chiang Mai Hilltribe Villages
You can’t live in Chiang Mai without visiting the famous hilltribe villages. These hilltribe people have been living at one with the jungle and their natural surroundings for hundreds of years.
There are 7 ethnic hilltribe groups in the Chiang Mai region that settled here over the course of the past few hundred years named Karen, Hmong, Lahu, Lisu, Mien, Akha and Padaung.
Come and see them living their daily lives and going through the motions or purchase one of their cool handicrafts as a souvenir at one of the several hilltribe village locations such as the Hmong Hilltribe Lodge in Mae Rim or the Karen Hilltribe Lodge in Chamluang.
#3. Exploring Chiang Mai Zoo
Not only is Chiang Mai Zoo one of the most impressive wildlife parks in the region, but is widely considered as the best zoo in Thailand. Located on Huay Kaew Road in the heart of the city, the zoo is set over 200 acres and was first established way back in 1977.
Although there are over 400 species of animals on show from the four corners of the globe such as lots of wild cats that include Bengal Tigers, alongside elephants, ostriches, snakes, monkeys and everything you can conceivably imagine, the main reason why the zoo is so internationally famous is because of their Giant Pandas.
Lin Hui and Chuang Chuang first arrived at Chiang Mai Zoo in 2003 and were on loan for a 10-year period from China. In 2009, they had a baby Panda called Lin Bing, which hit the news right across the world. Come and see the best zoo in Thailand get close to the pandas.
#4. Art in Chiang Mai
This section could well have its own article. It is debatable whether Bangkok or Chiang Mai is the epicenter of art in Thailand, but one thing is for sure… if you are an art-lover, Chiang Mai is the ultimate place to explore.
Come and visit some of the biggest art exhibition centers and galleries such as the Chiang Mai City Arts & Cultural Center, Sangdee Gallery, Art in Paradise Chiang Mai, or the Matoom Art Space or other art gallery-type cafes such as The Meeting Room Art café are where you will find the city’s art community hanging out.
If you are looking to purchase art pieces, there are lots of factory shops on the outskirts of the city that make ceramics, carvings, pottery, local silk products and more, or you can check out the Chiang Mai Nigth Bazaar or Chiang Mai Walking Street at the weekends to find some bargains.
#5. Taking in a Chiang Mai Temple Tour
Did you know that Chiang Mai has some of the oldest temples in Thailand? Some of the oldest temples in Chiang Mai are over 500 years old, some in dilapidated states, but nonetheless are pretty impressive. The city has over 300 temples, but if you want to find out more, we would suggest that you get a taxi driver who speaks English and get him to take you on a Chiang Mai temple tour.
The most popular temples in the city that you simply must visit are Wat Phra That Doi Suthep with its 600-year old Stupor, Wat Chedi Luang, Wat Phra Singh, Wat Suan Dok, the ancient and 700-year old Wat Umong and Wat Phra That Doi Kham, although there are obviously hundreds more to choose from. If you can acquire a guide for your temple tour who knows the history of the temples and region, that will take the experience to the next level.
#6. Shopping and Eating @ Chiang Mai Night Bazaar
As you already know, Thailand is one of the best places in Asia for shopping, and if you are looking to explore the local markets in Chiang Mai, the Night Bazaar is all you will ever need.
Whether you are looking to buy a local handicraft or art pieces, local Thai silk products, clothes, fashion products or just want to get some food and drink, the Chiang Mai Nigh Bazaar has almost everything. Located on the eastside of the old walled city, on a 1km stretch of Thonon Chang Khlan, the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar is open every evening of the week from dusk until midnight.
Although the streets are filled with shops in the daytime, at night the area transforms into one of the coolest markets in Thailand. When you need to buy a souvenir or clothing for friends back home, nowhere in Chiang Mai can match the Night Bazaar for bargains, so make sure you don’t miss out!
#7. Traditional Khantoke Dinner
Immerse yourself in the ultimate Chiang Mai cultural experience by enjoying an evening at a traditional Khantoke Dinner in the Old City. Merging the traditional culture of the Lanna empire, with lots of traditional dances and shows, alongside some amazing Lanna style food dishes, this evening is something really special and will enhance your retirement days in Chiang Mai to a state or Eternal Nirvana.
Taking place mainly at the Old Chiangmai Cultural Center, you first get to enjoy a stunning Lanna Thai buffet with lots of top quality local food with some Western food as well, and then you will sit down to experience a stage show that is over 150 years old.
The costumes, live music and dance performances really are spectacular. If you want to come away from your holiday in Chiang Mai with a deeper and more meaningful appreciation of the City and the old Lanna ways, this Khantoke Dinner is a must!