The sighting of several good omens convinced King Mengrai to establish the seat of his great Lanna Kingdom in Chiang Mai in 1926. Since then it has become the second largest city in Thailand and the second most trafficked. Those that do make the journey North are rewarded with much cooler temperatures than Bangkok and a lot more greenery. The ancient city not only attracts backpackers and adventure seekers but it’s upscale hotels are now attracting the upscale traveler as well.
1) SUTHEP AT SUNSET
Join the locals making the sacred pilgrimage to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep built in 1383. The sunset view you will be rewarded with after your 297 stair climb is worth every step. Admission is 30 Baht and the wat is open until 9 pm.
1) THAI BAZAAR FOOD
The Galare food court in Chiang Mai’s night bazaar is a delicious place to try several Northern Thai specialties for a small sum. I recommend the Northern Noodles, which are a thick rice noodle in a robust tomato based broth with slow cooked meat. Enjoy your dinner with live entertainment and once you have finished eating you can do some shopping in the vendor stalls surrounding the food court.
2) WALKING TOUR OF ANCIENT CITY
Start your walking tour with the large Wat Phra Sing located at the end of Ratchadamnoen Road. Next head to Wat Chiang Man the oldest wat in the city. With it’s low sloping roofs and intricate golden façade the temple is an excellent example of Northern Thai design. The next stop is Wat Chedi Luang, which holds the remains of Chiang Mai’s largest Chedi that was destroyed by an earthquake in 1545. If you need a rest from your tour pull up a seat for Monk Chat, which is a unique opportunity to talk with monks and learn about Buddhism first hand. The last stop on your walking tour is Wat Jed Yot where the Eighth World Buddhist Council met to revise the Tripitaka scriptures of Theravada Buddhism.
3) PUMMELED BY INMATES
After your long walk take advantage of the opportunity to get a Thai massage from a female inmate at the local prison. Thai massage is similar to having a personal trainer that does all the work for you, stretching you out and pulling you back into shape.
4) BOXING FOR THE BOLD
Make your way to the Muay Thai Boxing Arena just a few blocks outside Tha Pae Gate. You want to be there early to get front row seats for the knee jabbing, punch throwing anything goes matches. The event offers more than just fighting and caters mainly to tourists, but is still worth a visit.
5) A DAY ON THE FARM
Spend the day out of the city and on an organic farm where the smell of exhaust is replaced by a clean breeze through patches of organic veggies. You will learn to make six dishes at the Thai Farm Cooking School and you’ll get a cookbook with 21 Thai recipes to cook at home.
6) NIGHT MARKET
After you have cooked all day enjoy a meal made for you at the Sunday night market on Ratchadamnoen Road. Stroll the street vendors stalls selling everything from paintings to wood carvings and clothes. When you’ve had enough put your feet up and get a foot massage while you people watch. Pampering is the perfect way to end a weekend in Chiang Mai.