My wife and I have been talking about going to Chiang Mai for quite some time and finally made it happen! Located 1,200 km from Krabi down south where my wife is from, Chiang Mai is completely different. With jungle-covered mountains, exotic hill tribes, impressive rivers and waterfalls, stunning temples, and its exciting history as the former capital of Lanna Kingdom (1296–1768) — Chiang Mai is one of the most incredible destinations in Thailand.
Below is a summary of our five-day stay in Chiang Mai and around; I will write more about each part later in separate posts.
Baan Mon Muan Resort up the mountain
We stayed at two different hotels; three nights at Le Naview in Chiang Mai’s old town, and one night at the lovely Baan Mon Muan (pictured above) built in traditional Lanna style situated next to a vegetable farm 1,250 meters up the mountain in Mae Rim just north of Chiang Mai.
The Old Town of Chiang Mai
The old town in Chiang Mai is a rectangular-shaped area with ancient ruins of a wall that once acted as a fortification, and just like my hometown Landskrona in Sweden, there is a moat surrounding the area as further protection from invaders. Tha Pae Gate, which is the main gate into the old town, is one of the most famous landmarks in Chiang Mai.
Going up Doi Inthanon – Thailand’s highest mountain
Doi Inthanon National Park two hours southwest of Chiang Mai’s old town is part of the Himalayan mountain range with Doi Inthanon as the highest mountain in Thailand peaking at 2,565 meters above sea level. We went to the top!
Doi Suthep and its temple at the top
Situated at the top of the mountain Doi Suthep, Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is one of the most sacred temples in northern Thailand. From the parking, visitors can reach the summit via either a funicular railway or a 306-step naga-lined staircase (we took the funicular up and walked the stairs down). Once up, it’s not only the temple that impresses; the city view of Chiang Mai is magnificent!
Visiting a Long-Neck tribe
Meeting a long-neck woman was one of the things I was looking forward to the most on our trip to Chiang Mai. This exotic tradition of wearing brass rings around the neck to stretch it out is pretty fascinating, and something I wanted to see in person.
International organizations such as UNHCR has urged tourists to boycott long-neck villages, describing them as victims trapped in “human zoos.” But it’s more complex than that. Ignoring these women will leave them in a worse situation as tourists are the only income source.
When visiting a lock-neck village, treat the people with respect and support them by buying their souvenirs. Please watch this short documentary film by Zin Video to get an insight into the life of these refugees from Burma (Myanmar) known as the Kayan (or Padaung) tribe.
Saturday night out with a colleague
Back home in Norway, I work with a girl from Chiang Mai, and since we happened to be here at the same time, she and her husband took us out for dinner at Khum Khantoke dinner show and a drink at “little Pattaya” as she jokingly calls it.
The Sunday Night Market
Something that is always mentioned as a must-do when reading about Chiang Mai is the Sunday Walking Street Market, and I can definitely see why. Pretty much the entire old town turns into a huge market full of clothes, souvenirs, arts, and street food. No Sunday scaries here!
Munching northern Thai food
Even for my wife, it was a culinary change of pace going from spicy southern curries to the milder, unique northern cuisine. Fewer palm trees up north mean less almost no coconut in cooking — but no less delicious! Some favorites were the famous Chiang Mai sausages and Kaeng Hang Le which is a pork curry originated from Burma.
Full and satisfied in every way we leave Chiang Mai. Even the weather has been fantastic; sunny and hot in the days and somewhat chilly in the early mornings (compared to down south where the temperature never goes below 20 degrees).
35 degrees Celsius equals 95 degrees Fahrenheit. Figures from AccuWeather.
Note: We rented a car which I highly recommend if you intend to explore more than just the city of Chiang Mai. If you decide to drive up a mountain, make sure how to use “engine braking” when driving down instead of pressing the brake pedal as it can burn out the brakes and cause brake failure.