You have to admit that the first thing most people dream about when they think about traveling to Thailand is the white sand beaches and exotic places such as Phuket or the Phi Phi Islands. But you may want to consider Chiang Mai, an urban hub of approximately 150,000 people, located in the northern region of Thailand. The perks of visiting are that it’s fairly small, easy to get around and it’s also popular among shoppers because everything here is less expensive. And if that’s not enough to convince you to visit, here are six unique experiences that will make you want to add Chiang Mai to your Thailand trip itinerary.
6. Mingle with Out-of-Towners at a Popular Bar
Part of a complex of open-air bars on the corner of Th Ratchaophakhinai and Th Ratiwthi, Zoe in Yellow is a well-known Chiang Mai bar where visitors mingle to swap stories and get the scoop on what to do and where to go. Patrons can sip on bucket cocktails, and dance into the wee hours of the morning.
More Chiang Mai Tips for Travelers:
- Take Uber because it’s much cheaper than hopping in a tuk tuk or taxis.
- You’re in luck if you’re vegan! Vegan restaurants are everywhere here.
- Street vendors sell fresh fruit smoothies for under a $1 USD. They’re delicious, so try them!
- Have a Vacation agent book your tours to ensure you get the best experience for your budget.
5. Give an Elephant a Bath at the Dumbo Elephant Sanctuary
If you take one thing away from this article, it should be to add an elephant sanctuary to your must-do list. Several elephant tours are available, which offer visitors with the rare opportunity to feed them from their hands and kiss or hug an elephant trunk. We recommend spending a full-day at the Dumbo Elephant Sanctuary, located an hour drive outside of the city and home to five grown elephants and the baby, Dumbo. Start the day by feeding and playing with the elephants, and then after an hour, you’re served an authentic Thai meal. While you’re here, you can also help the trainers give the elephants a bath in a mud pit. It’s an incredible, once in a lifetime experience near Chiang Mai.
Vacation Expert Tip: Find a legit sanctuary. Avoid places where you can ride elephants. These are not sanctuaries, and they unfortunately have a reputation for unethical training practices.
4. Explore the Iconic Sunday Markets
Looking for another uniquely Chiang Mai experience? Take a stroll through the city’s Sunday Markets. Local musicians, performers and artists take over the city to sell their handmade crafts and artifacts, and to entertain the crowd. This is the ideal place to pick up authentic Thai souvenirs for family and friends. Don’t miss hitting the food stalls near the center of the markets at the Tha Pae Gate and Wat Sum Pow Temple. Be adventurous! Try durian fruit, sushi, banana pancakes and other Thai cuisine specialties – the options are endless.
Vacation Expert Tip: Sunday Markets has the most unique and authentic souvenirs. Some of my best finds were coconut bowls, wood-carved elephant figurines, Thai-style pants and other pieces of clothing.
3. Attend a Thai Cooking School
Spend a half day at the Asia Scenic Thai Cooking School Chiang Mai, located near Tha Pae Gate in Chiang Mai’s old city district. At this unique cooking school, students get the opportunity to taste fresh herbs from a garden and visit a local market to learn about the diverse ingredients commonly used in Thai cuisine. And if you love cooking and Thai food, you’re in luck! In just a half day, you’ll learn how to make five Thai dishes. Each person can choose a curry and stir fry they’d like to make, but you decide as a group, what appetizer, salad and dessert you’d like to prepare.
Vacation Expert Tip: This unique cooking school experience costs 200 Thai Baht which is under $7 USD. And there are several cooking school options located on a farm or in town. Put your skills to the test and let a Vacation travel agent help you find a Thai cooking school that suits your travel style.
2. Visit the Night Bazaar to Experience a Unique Cabaret Show
Chiang Mai’s Night Bazaar is the main venue for shopping and the one experience you should add on your to-do list before you leave the city. Locals and visitors converge along the intersection of Chang Klan Road and Tha Phae Road, but the action extends in a two-block radius in both directions. There are tons of restaurants and bars to explore in this area, making this the go-to spot to experience Chiang Mai’s fun nightlife. Don’t miss out on seeing the popular Chiang Mai Ladyboy Cabaret Show at the Anusan Market. This is where Chiang Mai’s prettiest and liveliest ladyboys (or kathoeys) performers sing, dance and put on a good show for the locals and out-of-towners while dressed up in outrageous dresses, full make up and wigs. Tickets are around $9 USD, including a drink, and there are two shows each night at 9:30 p.m. and 11 p.m. It’s a casual bar setting and it’s an amazing show!
Vacation Expert Tip: The Chiang Mai Ladyboy Cabaret Show is funny and suitable for couples as well as families. Sit in the front row at your own risk, as you may be pulled on stage to join in on the fun.
1. Go Temple Hopping in Chiang Mai
History buffs will enjoy visiting the three oldest temples in Chiang Mai: Wat Chedi Luang, Wat Phra Singh and Wat Chiang Man. Our favorite is Wat Phra That Doi Suthep temple, located at the top of a the Doi Suthep Mountain. Drive to the temple to get an amazing view of Chiang Mai’s skyline lighting up the night sky. If you’re considering a night tour of temples, you not only get to see bright gold Wat Phra That, but also you can see Wat Umong Temple, where visitors can stroll through the temple’s original tunnels. A Vacation travel agent can help arrange a night tour which includes transport pick-up at your hotel and an English-speaking tour guide, who can explain the history of each temple and the religion of Buddhism.
Vacation Expert Tip: We also recommend a trip to Wat Rong Khun also known as the White Temple. It’s in Chiang Rai, which is about three hours north of Chiang Mai. Get out and take a stroll around this incredible temple. Its amazing architecture will leave you in awe. Several tour operators in the area offer day tours.
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