Chiang Mai is the largest city in northern Thailand, and is the gateway to the Golden Triangle, trekking options among the local hill tribes, and the popular border crossing to northern Laos. Along with all of this, Chiang Mai is steeped in Thai tradition, with several museums, wats, and temples to visit. A city on the rise, Chiang Mai is well worth spending a few days to have a look around.

Getting There

Daily flights connect Chiang Mai with several other major cities in the region. Thai Airways and Air Asia are good bets for finding cheaper airfares. Buses and trains also connect Chiang Mai with the rest of the country, with overnight options available to save a bit on accommodation and travel time. You’ll quickly find that Thailand is designed for travelers, with countless options for getting from here to there. Check around, compare some prices, negotiate a little, and go with what best fits your budget.

Things to do in Chiang Mai

  • Hit up the Night Market- Chiang Mai is famous for its Night Market- a crazy collection of food stalls, knock-off vendors, street performers, and sidewalk bars. Hunt for a good bargain, or just go for a stroll and take it all in. It'ss quite the experience.
  • Visit a few wats and temples- Chiang Mai has countless shrines, wats, and temples to visit, with Wat Chiang Man and Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep being two of the more remarkable.

Visiting a temple in Chiang Mai

  • Learn how to cook Pad Thai- Chiang Mai is known for its Thai cooking schools. If you’ve ever wanted to know how to get the spice just right in your Pad See Ew, Chiang Mai is the place to learn.
  • Get out on the town- Chiang Mai is a city on the rise, and has the nightlife to show it. Bars, clubs, Thai dicotheques- there is always a good time to be found in Chiang Mai.
  • Visit one of the local hill tribes- though some can be way too touristy, trekking in the local hills to visit some of the native tribes can be an amazing experience. Beautiful scenery, local crafts, and memorable adventures- if you;ve got the time, well worth a few days.

Trekking in the hills outside of Chiang Mai

Insider Tips

  • If you’re taking the overnight bus/train into Chiang Mai, organize your accommodation prior to your arrival. Typically, you will arriver EARLY, and will want to head directly to your guesthouse/hostel to get some much needed rest. Having a specific place to head to will also help you in dealing with the rabid tuktuk drivers that are sure to be waiting upon your arrival (See below).
  • Also, if you are overnighting into Chiang Mai, be prepared to be assailed by tuktuk drivers upon your early arrival. They all have deals with local trekking companies to earn commissions off weary travelers that commit to overpriced treks at 5am- DON’T BITE! Go to your accommodation (pre-arranged- see above), get some rest, and then tackle the trekking options with a clear head.
  • As for the trekking options, many can be overly touristy- much less an authentic traditional experience than a well-oiled scheme to get you sequestered in the mountains without any option but to pay the ridiculous prices for food, accommodation,  and even water. Scout around, compare a few options, and go with your gut feeling.

Beautiful countryside in Chiang Mai

  • If you want to see a REAL Muay Thai boxing match, make sure you research what you’re going to see, and don’t get fooled on the lame, staged, ladyboy-infested show that they put on for the tourists in Chiang Mai. It is AWFUL, and a complete waste of time...

Sunset in the hills of Northern Thailand