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* '''River View Lodge''', 25 Charoenprathet Road Soi4 ''+66 53''-271109-10 [http://www.riverviewlodgch.com] - overlooking the Ping River. All rooms are twin, decorated in Northern Thai style with individually controlled air-conditioning. Private shower, telephone and personal safe. Has a beautiful tropical garden with several intimate pavilions, patios and riverside swimming pool. Less than 10 minutes Walking distance to the Night Bazaar. Rates from 1,450 baht for River Side room with balcony.
 
* '''River View Lodge''', 25 Charoenprathet Road Soi4 ''+66 53''-271109-10 [http://www.riverviewlodgch.com] - overlooking the Ping River. All rooms are twin, decorated in Northern Thai style with individually controlled air-conditioning. Private shower, telephone and personal safe. Has a beautiful tropical garden with several intimate pavilions, patios and riverside swimming pool. Less than 10 minutes Walking distance to the Night Bazaar. Rates from 1,450 baht for River Side room with balcony.
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 +
* '''Sri Pat Guesthouse''', 16 Soi 7 Moon Muang Rd '' ''+66 53''-218 716
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Nice guesthouse close to the city centre. Rooms start at 900 Bath, have air conditioning, TV, private shower, fridge and a little balcony. Basic breakfast is available for an extra 100 Bath.
 +
Try getting a room on the street side, since the other side has a water pump working in the night which can be annoying in some rooms.
  
 
* '''TaNiTa (Riverside) Resort''', 25/2 Moo 3, Chonpatan Road, A. Sarapee ''+66 81''-8846334 (fax: ''+66 53''-892110) [http://www.tanitaresort.com] - Northern Lanna Thai style from teak with beautiful garden a hotel mainly visited by foreign tourists because very quiet and private place, in a good location between the Ping River and Baan Tawai. Some rooms offer wonderful mountain and river views. It's a good mid-range option with prices starting at 1,200 baht for River Side room with balcony.
 
* '''TaNiTa (Riverside) Resort''', 25/2 Moo 3, Chonpatan Road, A. Sarapee ''+66 81''-8846334 (fax: ''+66 53''-892110) [http://www.tanitaresort.com] - Northern Lanna Thai style from teak with beautiful garden a hotel mainly visited by foreign tourists because very quiet and private place, in a good location between the Ping River and Baan Tawai. Some rooms offer wonderful mountain and river views. It's a good mid-range option with prices starting at 1,200 baht for River Side room with balcony.

Revision as of 11:21, 19 February 2008

Chiang Mai (เชียงใหม่) is the hub of Northern Thailand. With a population of over 170,000, it is Thailand's fifth-largest city. Located on a plain at an elevation of 316 m, surrounded by mountains and lush countryside, it is much greener and quieter than the capital, and has a cosmopolitan air and a significant expat population, factors which have led many from Bangkok to settle permanently in this "Rose of the North".

Ancient city wall and moat

Contents

Understand

Founded in 1296 AD, the culturally rich city of Chiang Mai is the longest continuously inhabited settlement from the ancient days of Siam. Located amidst the rolling foot hills of the Himalayan Mountains 700 km north of Bangkok, it could only be reached by an arduous river journey or an elephant back trip until the 1920s, isolation which has helped keep Chiang Mai's distinctive charm intact to this day.

Chiang Mai's historical centre is the walled city (chiang in Thai, hence Chiang Mai - "New Walled City"). Sections of the wall remain at the gates and corners, but of the rest only the moat remains.

Inside Chiang Mai's remaining city walls are more than 30 temples dating back to the founding of the principality, in a combination of Burmese, Sri Lankan and Lanna Thai styles, decorated with beautiful wood carvings, Naga staircases, leonine and angelic guardians, gilded umbrellas and pagodas laced with gold filigree. The most famous is Doi Suthep, which overlooks the city from a mountainside 13 km away.

Modern-day Chiang Mai has expanded in all directions, but particularly to the east towards the Ping River (Mae Nam Ping), where Thanon Chang Klan, the famous Night Bazaar and the bulk of Chiang Mai's hotels and guesthouses are located. The locals say you've not experienced Chiang Mai until you've seen the view from Doi Suthep, eaten a bowl of kao soi, and purchased an umbrella from Bo Sang.

Get in

By plane

Chiang Mai International Airport (CNX) handles both domestic and regional international flights. The route from Bangkok is one of the busiest in the country (Thai Airways flies daily almost every hour, with additional flights in the peak tourist season). Other airlines operating direct services from/to Chiang Mai include:

International departure hall at Chiang Mai Airport

The airport is some 3 km south-west of the city centre, only 10-15 minutes away by car. Legal airport taxis charge a flat 140 baht for up to 5 passengers anywhere in the city; if you take a metered taxi, the fee will start from 40 baht + a 50 baht service fee from the Meter Taxi counter. The taxis operate from the exit at the north end of the terminal - after baggage claim and/or customs, walk into the reception hall and turn left. Alternatively, take bus #4 to the city center for 15 baht, or charter a tuk-tuk or songthaew for 50-60 baht. Most hotels and guesthouses offer cheap or free pick-up/drop-off services.

By bus

Buses to Chiang Mai leave from Bangkok's Northern Bus Terminal (Moh Chit). The cheapest, non-aircon, stop-everywhere government buses take around 12 hours; non-stop VIP 24-seaters manage the trip in 9 hours on a good day. Chiang Mai also has good bus connections to practically everywhere in the North, and major destinations/hubs in the North-East (Isaan); there's even a direct service to Pattaya and Rayong in the East.

By train

Various rapid, express and sleeper services leave from Bangkok's Hualamphong Train Station, taking 12-15 hours depending on the service selected. Sprinter trains are entirely second class air-con, have no sleeper berths, and are the only ones which cannot transport bicycles. Daytime trains are entirely second and third class, with no sleeper berths; the first "overnight" train of the day departs Chiang Mai at 2:50PM and arrives in Bangkok at 5:30AM.

The overnight trains - especially second class sleeper berths - are very popular, safe, comfortable and fun, and good value too - sleeper fares start at 531 baht for an upper berth in a 2nd class fan carriage. 2nd class lower berths are slightly more expensive than, but also slightly wider than, upper berths; air-con is of course a little more expensive than non-aircon. Those who wish to avoid sharing the relatively basic second class "bathroom" facilities can book a private first class two-berth cabin (the attendant cleans the first class bathrooms frequently).

Tickets can be purchased up to 60 days in advance; advance booking is advisable year-round, but especially between November and March - see SRT timetables and prices.

SRT charges 90 baht to transport a bicycle between Bangkok and Chiang Mai.

Get around

Chiang Mai now has a new large air conditioned bus service. You can see these nice air conditioned white buses all over the major city routes. There are also pedicabs called samlor; the 3-wheeled tuk-tuk; and the most popular, the songthaew.

By songthaew or seelor

A songthaew

The most common way to get around Chiang Mai is by songthaew, also known more locally as rod-daeng or "seelor". These are covered pick-up trucks with two benches in the back, and indeed songthaew means "two benches" in Thai. Seen everywhere, to board one just put your arm out and look at the driver, who will stop. Then tell the driver which street you want to go to, and if he is going that way, he will nod his head "yes"; if not, he will say "no" and go on. Don't worry - there will be another one right behind him. When the driver turns down the street you want, start looking for where you want to get off and press the switch located on the roof of the cab. The driver will pull over, let you out, and then you pay him. The fare should be 15 baht for regular trips around town. If you specify a hotel or establishment, the driver will think you want to hire him for a private trip, and the price will be much higher. Negotiate any price beforehand if you want to go to a specific address. The best way to avoid this "charter" situation is to discuss your destination and not the price; asking for a price is interpreted as asking for a charter. Then, when you arrive, hand the driver the correct change. If the driver demands more, then it is up to you to work out a fair payment, but armed with this information, you should have a reasonable idea of the proper fare, and that will aid you in your bargaining.

The colour of the songthaew indicates its general route or usage. Most common by far are red songthaews (hence the alternative rod daeng, "red car" name), which roam the main streets in the city itself. Warorot Market (by the Ping River) is the most common terminus for songthaews that travel along fixed routes. From Warorot Market, white songthaews travel to the eastern suburban city of Sankampaeng, yellow songthaews travel to Mae Rim in the north, blue songthaews travel to Sarapee and Lamphun in the south, and green songthaews travel to Mae Jo in the north-east. The flat rate cost along these fixed routes is 10-20 baht.

From Pratu Chiang Mai market, songthaews also travel to Hang Dong (20 baht) and San Patong, south-west of Chiang Mai.

You may see songthaews out on the highways in the countryside, travelling to and from small towns and villages. It is probably not proper for them to do this (as such travel is supposed to be done by bus companies), but in Thailand people will find a way to make some extra money.

By tuk-tuk or samlor

Tuk-tuks serve as Chiang Mai's taxis, going point to point for 30 baht and up depending on your haggling skills. A few three-wheeled bicycles (samlor) still cruise the streets and will go your way for the same price, which is a great way to see the inner city temples. Try taking a samlor from Wat Prasing Temple to Wat Chedi Luang Temple in the early evening around sunset, or around the inner city at sunrise to see the monks walking around with their bowls collecting alms from the citizens.

By taxi

Chiang Mai has finally introduced Bangkok-style metered taxis. In early 2005 there were only 15 plying the streets (versus 2700 songthaews), but one year later there were over 45, with the number growing monthly. Rates are very reasonable at 30 baht for the first 2 km and 4 baht/km after that, however it's very hard to persuade the driver to use the meter. Dial +66 53-279291 for advance bookings, which are particularly useful when going to the airport (100 baht flat fare).

By bus

Chiang Mai's on-again, off-again local bus service began operation again in November 2005. There are currently 5 routes and fares are a flat 15 baht. Route 4, connecting to the airport, is probably the most useful. See Chiang Mai Bus for a route map.

By motorcycle

Chiang Mai has an abundance of motorcycle rental services, with choices aplenty. Typical Asian motorbikes can be rented, such as Honda and Yamaha 110cc and 125cc models (both step-through and automatic), but off-road bikes and larger street bikes can also be found quite easily. Renting a small bike starts at around 200 baht/day with insurance; larger machines can climb to 800 baht/day for a V-twin chopper or large sport-bike, also with insurance. Expect discounts when renting for several days. Passports are usually taken as a deposit, although some shops will accept a photocopy with a cash deposit of a few thousand baht. As with any other tourist town in Thailand (except possibly in Bangkok), a valid international permit (IDP) isn't required by the rental shop; however, if you find yourself stopped by the police for whatever reason, be prepared to discreetly pay a small "mai pen rai" fee of at least 200 baht.

By bicycle

Within the old city walls biking is still an easy option to get around. You can get everywhere in town within 10 minutes and it saves the hassle of negotiating with tuk-tuk drivers all the time. Bikes rentals are offered at every other street corner, and for a simple bike start from 30 baht/day. You can pick up quality bikes for a comforatble ride at "Crank Tavern" near Chiang Mai Gate. They run well-organised tours in the mountains around Chiang Mai as well. See [1] for a detailed map.

See

Museums

The Chiang Mai City Arts and Culture Center building
  • Chiang Mai City Arts & Cultural Center - This fully modernised multimedia history and cultural education centre is located in the very centre of the old city on Prapokklao Road between Rajdumnern Road and Rajwithee Road. If travelling by tuk-tuk or songthaew, it's easiest to ask for the "Three Kings Monument" (Saam Kasat); it's the large, elegant white building just behind the statue. Guides dressed in elegant traditional Thai clothing will usher you into an air-conditioned room to watch an English-subtitled orientation video about Chiang Mai and the north. Next, you will be pointed to a series of rooms documenting the region's history and culture in chronological order from the pre-Muang period (7,000-12,000 years ago) to the early river civilizations, to the early kings through the wars with the Burmese and the last dynasty, to the city today and its plans for the future. Other rooms are devoted to Buddhism and other regional beliefs, agricultural history, hill tribe peoples and other regional cultures, and a run-down of the royal dynasties. The exhibits consist of a smart visual mix of video, scale models, enlarged photos, wall murals and text in Thai and English. The museum is open 8:30AM-5PM except Mondays. Admission is 90 baht. +66 53-217793
The Lisu Hill Tribe display at the Hilltribe Research Institute Museum
  • Hilltribe Research Institute Museum - Founded in 1965 as a result of a proposal by the noted anthropologist Prof. W.R. Geddes, who was doing research with the hilltribe peoples at the time, the Institute Museum offers exhibits concerning the lives and cultures of nine hilltribe peoples in Thailand: the Akha, Lahu, Lisu, Yao, Hmong, Karen, Lua, Khamu, and H'tin. Also included are a non-hilltribe ethnic minority, the Mlabri, associated by some with the 'spirit of the yellow leaves'. The Mlabri population has dwindled to only approximately 180 individuals at present. The daily lives of the various hilltribe peoples are illustrated through exhibits of photographs, agricultural implements, household utensils, artefacts associated with the various traditional religions, musical instruments, and ethnic costumes. Some exhibits include models dressed in complete traditional costumes depicting daily activities, such as a Hmong family having a meal or a Lisu man serenading his sweetheart. The Institute has established a new museum in a three-story pavilion located on the attractively landscaped grounds of Ratchamangkala Park (Suan Lor Gao) on Chotana Road, just a fifteen minute drive from the city center. At present the museum is open weekdays 9AM-4PM, with a slide and video show available daily 10AM-2PM. Special group tours at weekends are possible with advance notice. For more information contact the Hilltribe Institute Museum, Chotana Road +66 53-210872 / +66 53-211933
  • Chiang Mai Numismatic Museum (Treasury Hall), 52 Ratchadamnoen Road, tel: 053-22 4237/8. M-Sa 9AM-3:30PM.
  • Chiang Mai University Art Museum, corner of Suthep and Nimmanhaemin Roads, tel: 053-944833. Tue-Sun 9AM-5PM (free).
  • Museum of World Insects and Narural Wonders, Srimankalajarn Road, Soi 13 (midway between Suithep and Huay Kaew roads near Suan Dok Hospital); tel: 053-211891. One of Asia's most unusual museums housing butterflies, beetles and beyond. Daily 9AM-5PM (200 baht).
  • Postal Museum, at Mae Ping Post Office, (1-2 km south of Wat Phra Singh). Tu-Sa 08:30-16:30 (free).
  • Art Galleries and Exhibitions [2] There are many art galleries and exhibitions in Chiang Mai, featuring contemporary artwork of both local Thai and Myanmar artists.
  • CMU Art Museum & Alliance Francaise

Temples

Buddhist temples in Chiang Mai show off a mixture of architectural styles that reflect the varied heritage of Northern Thailand. Elements from Lanna Thai, Burmese, Sri Lankan and Mon temples have all been used in one form or another. Intricate woodcarvings and protective Naga serpent staircases add a flamboyance that reflects an awesome reverence for the Buddhist religion. Gilded umbrellas, guardian figures from the tales of the Ramayana and stupas trimmed with gold filigree combine to heighten the overall effect.

To date, there have been some 300 temples constructed in Chiang Mai and its outskirts. Visitors should take the time to visit the most revered temples in the city, built during the noble Lanna Thai dynasty. The largest ones draw crowds, but it's well worth wandering off the beaten path and finding a temple not on the tour bus circuit.

The Thai patrons of Chiang Mai's temples are pleased to see that visitors take an interest in the images and traditions of Lord Buddha's teachings. All that they ask is that temple visitors show respect by wearing appropriate attire (long pants for men, modest tops and skirts for women, no bare shoulders and women must wear a brassier) so that monks and worshippers will not be offended within the sacred temple grounds.

Courtyard of Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep
  • Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep, [3]. Established in 1383, this magnificent temple overlooks the city from its 1,073m elevation on the slopes of Doi (Mount) Suthep, which peaks at 1,685m. It is famous for its large gold-plated chedi, visible from the city on a good clear day. Although Wat Doi Suthep is the most recently built of the temples dating from the Lanna Thai period, it is the symbol of Chiang Mai. The site was selected by sending an elephant to roam at will up the mountainside. When it reached this spot, it trumpeted, circled three times, and knelt down - which was interpreted as a sign indicating an auspicious site. Entrance to the temple is free for those who wish to climb the 300-plus steps; alternatively, there's a cable car with a 50 baht fare for foreigners. Clearly marked songthaews to Doi Suthep leave from Pratu Chang Phuak, passing Chiang Mai University and the zoo on the way. Prices are fixed at 40 baht up and 30 baht down; the drivers wait until they have sufficient (up to 8) passengers before they depart. The trip takes about 30 minutes one way. Alternatively, the 18km journey from town can be made by motorcycle or a bicycle with appropriate gearing. The final 12km from the zoo onwards is entirely uphill and will take 60-90 minutes if cycling.
  • Wat Phra Singh, in the centre of the city at the intersection of Singharaj and Rajdamnern Road (west end) and is probably Chiang Mai's best-known temple, housing the Phra Singh image, completed between 1385 and 1400. Of particular note historically is Wihaan Lai Kham in the back, featuring Lanna-style temple murals and intricate gold patterns on red lacquer behind the altar. The large chedi was built in 1345 by King Pha Yu to house the remains of his father King Kam Fu. A typical scripture repository is located at this temple as well. These repositories were designed to keep and protect the delicate sa or mulberry paper sheets used by monks and scribes to keep records and write down folklore. The high stucco-covered stone base of the repository protected the delicate scriptures from the rain, floods and pests. The walls of the chapel are covered with murals illustrating Lanna customs, dress, and scenes from daily life. The lovely Lai Kam chapel houses the revered Phra Singh Buddha image. Sadly, the head was stolen in 1922, and a reproduction is now seen.
  • Wat Chiang Mun, Rajpakinai Road. The oldest temple in the city. Presumed to date from the year Chiang Mai was founded (1296), it is famed for two Buddha images, which according to legend are 1800 and 2500 years old. King Mengrai allegedly lived here while the city of Chiang Mai was being constructed. Enshrined in Wat Chiang Mun is a tiny crystal Buddha called Pra Seh-Taang Kamaneeee, which is thought to have the power to bring rain. Another image, called Phra Sila Khoa, reflects the fine workmanship of Indian craftsmen from thousands of years ago.
  • Wat Chedi Luang, Prapokklao Road. Located directly in Chiang Mai centre, this is the site of a formerly massive pagoda that was unfortunately destroyed in the great earthquake of 1545. The temple was originally constructed in 1401 on the orders of King Saeng Muang Ma. In 1454, reigning King Tilo-Garaj enlarged the chedi (pronounced jedee) to a height of 86 meters. After the earthquake, the chedi lay in ruins until 1991-92, during which time it was reconstructed at a cost of several million baht. A magnificent testament to Lanna (northern Thai) architecture and art, it is now every bit as impressive as it was when it was first built, and one of Chiang Mai's top tourist attractions. Wat Chedi Luang is also home to the "Pillar of the City", a totem used in ancient Thai fertility rites.
  • Wat Phra Jao Mengrai, off Ratchamankha Road (near Heuan Phen). An atmospheric wooden temple away from the beaten track, quiet and gently crumbling in the absence of tourist hordes.
  • Wat Oo-Mong, off Suthep Road. An ancient temple in the forest just outside Chiang Mai. King Mengrai built this temple for a highly respected forest monk who liked to wander in the countryside, hence the isolated location where the monk could stay quietly and meditate. It is unusual in that it has tunnel-like chambers in the ground, some of the walls of which still have the original paintings of birds and animals visible.

Elephants

  • Elephant Nature Park, [4]. Approximately 60km north of Chiang Mai. This is a sanctuary for rescued and distressed elephants. They are not here to perform or do tricks but people visiting here will leave with a whole new understanding of these magnificent creatures.
  • Maesa Elephant Camp, 119/9 Tapae Road, Muang District, +66 53-206247 or +66 53-206248, [5]. An elephant camp in the hills about a half hour's drive north of the city center. It has an elephant show, which includes elephants playing football and painting. You can also take half hour or one hour elephant rides. Not exactly a place to bring a PETA activist, but many do enjoy the performances.

Other

  • Bhuping Palace is located on the same road beyond Doi Suthep (22 km from town). This royal winter palace has lavishly landscaped gardens and is open to the public daily 08:30-11:30 & 13:00-15:00 when the Thai royal family is not in residence. 50 baht for foreigners, 20 baht for locals, 10 baht for children.
  • Chiangmai Zoo, at the foot of Doi Suthep, [6]. Home to over 7,000 animals in a wooded natural environment. Its popularity was boosted recently when it received a pair of Giant Pandas from Sichuan, China.
  • Simon Cabaret (closed as of July 2007)
  • caves
  • hot springs
  • night safari
  • orchid and butterfly farms
  • puppet shows
  • waterfalls

Do

In town

As usual in Thai cities, massage establishments abound, both for treatments and for learning the art yourself. Cooking schools are also popular - see the Learn section.

Cinema:

  • Chiang Mai Vista Cinema (Kad Suan Kaew) [7]


  • Major Cineplex (Airport Plaza) [8]

Massage:

  • Let's Relax, 2F Chiang Mai Pavilion and B1F Chiang Inn Plaza, Chang Khlan Road. Does professional massage in very clean if not downright sterile surroundings complete with air-con, the sound of running water and gentle scents. A 45-minute foot reflexology session costs 350 baht, nearly twice the price of the competition, but is worth every satang after a long trek.
  • Nantana Massage Shop, (near Sompet Market on Soi 6). Has very knowledgeable and friendly staff, and air-con. Thai massage 150 baht/hour; oil, foot, and neck/shoulder massage also available.

Muay Thai (Thai boxing, the national sport of Thailand):

  • Kawila Boxing Stadium not far from Narawat Bridge, has real Muay Thai fights every Friday at 20:00 with 10 bouts ranging from young debutant fighters, local champions, and locals vs foreigners. Entry is 400 baht (as of March 2006).
  • Lanna Muay Thai on Soi Chiang Khian, off Huay Kaew Road [9]. Muay Thai coaching.

Outdoors

A very popular pastime is walking and/or cycling around the city walls and exploring the old city, and Chiang Mai is a very popular place for arranging hill trekking too. There are also opportunities to try your hand at elephant riding, horse riding, and even ballooning and flying. Other possibilities include:

  • Bicycle tours or exploration either on your own, renting a bike, or joining a well organized bicycle / mountain-biking tour is a great way to see the North and the country side. Crank Adventures [10] has fantastic off the beaten track single day and multi-day mountain bike adventures. Northern-Trails [11] is a reputable tour operator offering many programs, from day trips to multi-day circuits.
  • Motorcycle touring is a great way to explore Northern Thailand - the GT-Rider[12] website has a wealth of information, including routes and maps for both short and long rides. One route out of Chiang Mai not mentioned is a day trip up and over Doi Suthep, which will take riders up to Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep, and beyond the mountain to the reservoir.
  • Scooter touring is another great way to explore the region going out as far as Mae Hong Son and suitable for the less experienced motorcyclist. Motorbike Thailand[13] offers great tours using Honda 125cc scooters riding into some of the more remote regions and also offer rider training on route.
  • Game Fishing, [14].
  • Karting, bungy jumping, off road buggies, and paintball, [15].
  • Rafting down the Maetang river is offered by several companies and can often be combined with elephant riding or mountain biking (The Peak [16] is one of the better companies, and also offers many other interesting trips). During the dry season (Jan-Feb) water levels are relatively low with only grade 2-3 rapids, but during the rainy season (Jun-Oct) higher water levels make for a more exciting grade 4-5 trip.
  • Cricket - The North of Thailand may seem an odd place to find an international cricket tournament. Every year since 1988 more than 200 cricketers from around the world gather at Chiang Mai for the tournament. The week long tournament for amateur players, with a sprinkling of Test stars, it is held at the historic Chiang Mai Gymkhana Club, generally at the start of April. For more details check out [17]

Festivals & exhibitions

Flower festival float
  • Chiang Mai Flower Festival is staged every year during the first weekend in February. The city is awash with vibrant colors ranging from the electric orange and lilac colors of the bougainvillea to the velvety blossoms of petunias in all shades of pink, white and purple. The strident red of the poinsettias, bought by many at Christmas and New Year, is echoed by beds of scarlet salvias. Homes and shop owners alike line the city streets with colourful flower boxes. The sheer profusion of colour that the flower festival and carnival brings to Chiang Mai aptly gives the city its name "Rose of the North". On all three days of the festival, prize blooms are on display at Suan Buak Haad near the city centre. Every type of flower, miniature tree and orchid is put on display for the judges to choose the best of the species. Landscape specialists put on an elaborate display, which includes patios and waterfalls with exotic decorative plants and flowers. The best part of the flower festival is on Saturday. The parade lines up from the train station to Narawatt bridge so the police close most of Jarenmuang Road around 8AM. The VIP viewing stand is right next to the bridge in front of the Chiang Mai Governor's home. The parade route goes down Thapae Road to the Gate and turns left and follows the moat to Suan Buak Haad City Park. The parade moves at a slow pace and stops several times so there is plenty of time to take pictures of the colourful floats, pretty girls and hilltribe people in costume. The people in the parade hand out roses to spectators lining the road. When the parade finishes everyone heads to Suan Buak Haad where all the floats, award winning flower growers and landscape projects are all on display. There are plenty of food stalls in the park, and in the late afternoon the Miss Chiang Mai Flower festival starts. The party goes well into the evening until the new Flower Festival Queen has been chosen. This is a great time to visit Chiang Mai, as the air is cool and the evenings fresh and clear. If you want to see the festival make sure you book your hotels and flights well in advance.
Khom Loy hot air balloons launch
  • Loi Krathong Festival If you like candles placed in colourful paper lanterns, fireworks, beautiful girls in traditional dress, parade floats, lots of food, and parties, don't miss the Loi Krathong festival, which in Chiang Mai lasts for 3 full days, the last night being that of the 12th full moon of the year (which is usually in November). In the small town of Mae Jo, north of Chiang Mai, they start the festival on Saturday night by simultaneously launching thousands upon thousands of hot air balloons called "Khom Loy".
  • Bo Sang Umbrella & Sankampang Handicrafts Festival Takes place 20th-22nd January at Ban Bo Sang, Sankampang. The festival is in the form of a "street fair" in which the central road of the village is used, with stores on both sides. Stores are decorated in Lanna style, most with the well-known umbrellas, as well as with traditional lanterns. In addition there are contests, exhibitions, cultural performances, local entertainment, and assorted shows day and night. There is a grand procession decorated with umbrellas and local products, a variety of handicrafts for sale, northern-style kantoke meals, and the Miss Bo Sang pageant.
  • The 2nd Orchid Fair (January) is the biggest orchid fair of the year, with an orchid market, activities and more.
  • Royal Flora Exposition, [18]. A magnificent showcase of 50,000 orchid plants representing nearly 10,000 orchid species, plus much more.

Learn

Academic institutions

A large area of land in the northwest is home to Chiang Mai University [19], one of Thailand's most prestigious institutions of higher education with around 25,000 undergraduate and graduate students. Its main campus is situated at the base of Doi Suthep, and CMU buildings can be seen all the way up to Suandok Gate at the west end of the city's center. Other institutions of higher education, include:

  • Chiang Mai College of Dramatic Arts
  • Chiang Mai Commercial College
  • Chiang Mai Rajabhat University
  • Chiang Mai Technical College
  • Mae Jo University
  • Payap University
  • The Far East University

Chiang Mai is also unusual in its high concentration of international schools that cater to both local and foreign students living in the city looking for kindergarten, elementary, and secondary education. Many schools are American-run and several are funded by Christian missionary organisations. Some of the more prominent schools include:

Buddhism

  • Wat Chom Tong, Tambon Ban Luang, Amphoe Chom Tong (about 60km south-west of the city) +66 53-826869 / +66 53-826180. the home temple of the meditation master Achan Tong, and offers residential courses in Vipassana Meditation on an on-going basis.
  • Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep [20] (under See). offers short and long courses in Buddhist meditation.
  • Wat Ram Poeng, Tambon Suthep, Amphoe Muang (4 miles south-west of the city) +66 53-278620, [21]. Offers facilities for retreats and meditation instruction.
  • Wat Suan Dok Th Suthep, Chiang Mai (1/2 a mile west of the Old City Moat), +66 53-278967. Has a meet and greet for tourists and monks, every Monday, Wednesday and Friday afternoon between 15:00 and 17:00 hrs. Also, you can sign up for a 24-hrs introduction meditation retreat.
  • Wat Umong, Tambon Suthep, Amphoe Muang (3 and a half miles out of town) +66 53-277248 (08:30-16:00), [22]. Offers meditation courses and Dharma instruction in English every Sunday 15:00-18:00.

Shamanism

  • LifeEvents.org Center for Shamanic Studies, +66 53-809082 / +66 86-1966264, [23] the center of Russian clairvoyant healer and Mongolian initiated shaman, Diana Manilova, offers shamanic initiations, karma cleaning workshops and spiritual consultations for groups and individuals at least 25 years old.

Thai cooking

  • A Lot Of Thai Cooking School, +66 53-800724, [24]. A family run home cooking class. Teach by the owner for every class. Welcome for vegetarian and any kind of food restriction. Courses included Market tour and provides a recipe book from which you can cook by yourself at a later date.
  • Baan Thai Cookery School, 11 Ratchadamnoen Road, Soi 5, near Thapae Gate, +66 53-357339 / +66-16714120, [25]. Courses include a cook book and market tour. Have full day or evening classes
  • Chiang Mai Kitchen Cooking School +66-97002099, [26]. Just 20 minutes from downtown Chiang Mai, and offers a fresh approach to Thai cooking instruction. The organic herb and vegetable garden supplements ingredients are purchased at the morning market. Before and/or after your day in the kitchen, stay overnight in their charming, traditional Thai bamboo house.
  • Chiang Mai Thai Cookery School, at 1-3 Moon Muang Road, +66 53-206388 (fax: +66 53-206387), [27]. Offers 1/2/3/4/5-day courses. Recommended by Lonely Planet, Let's Go, Rough Guide, Frommer's and Stefan Loose guide books.
  • Gap's School Of Thai Culinary Art Has its office at Gap's House, 3 Rajadamnern Soi 4 +66 53-270143, [28]. High standards, proper organisation, your own stove, 1 teacher per 5 students.
  • Kao Hom Cooking School, +66 53-862967 [29]
  • Siam Rice Thai Cookery School, +66 53-329091, [30] Friendly and knowledgeable staff provides an extensive course on local and traditional recipes. The course includes a market tour and provides you with the recipes that the dishes that you create.
  • Smart Cook Thai Cookery School, 21 Moonmuang Road, Soi 5, +66 53-418309. Market tour, cook book. Accommodates vegetarian cooking. Small classes and fun staff. Highly recommended.
  • Sompet Cookery School, 56 Patan Road, +66 53-214897. Learn to cook the way Thai people do - at home. Visit their riverside home and learn to cook traditional Thai food. They have courses every day, morning and afternoon. A recipe book with colour photographs will be provided of each dish to suggest the many ways to prepare and serve Thai food.
  • Carving lessons, +66 53-285056. Learn how to carve on fruit and vegetable, with pictures and notes to take away and refer to later at home.

Thai language

  • Easy Study Thai [32]
  • Language Institute CMU [33]
  • Payap University [34]

Buy

Jade Fountains, Central Airport Plaza Shopping Mall

Chiang Mai has great shopping and an internationally renowned night bazaar. There are two very large shopping malls at Airport Plaza and Central Kad Suan Keaw, both with the shops found in large cities in most countries. There are also streets with vendor booths that line the streets after dark, selling all types of merchandise including antiques, silks, silver, art, electronics, and knock-off and copycat merchandise, such as watches, handbags, and designer label clothing, all at very negotiable prices.

  • Night Bazaar is a huge market covering a long outdoor stretch of Chang Khlan Road between Tha Phae Road and Si Donchai Road, with the centre of the maelstrom in the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar Building, three stories of shopping under a Thai temple-style roof. It's not just a place to shop, but possibly Chiang Mai's largest tourist attraction, with products from Northern Thailand and neighboring countries, especially those associated with Thailand's hill tribes - but take all claims with a grain of salt and bargain hard for good prices.
  • Sunday Market starts around 14:00 and lasts until 22:00, (during the rainy season it doesn't start until 17:00 hrs) with local craftpersons operating stalls along Rajdumnern Road on the inner-east side of the moat near Tapae Gate. The street is blocked off from traffic so there is plenty of room to walk. Unlike the sellers on Chang Khlan Road, who peddle many fake designer goods, excellent hand made items are displayed and sold. At the 5 temples on this road you can enjoy real Northern Thai food and snacks.
  • Saturday Market on Wualai Road (the street that shoots off at an angle just outside the Chiang Mai gate on the south side of the old city) officially starts at 17:00, although the road will be closed to cars from about 14:00 onwards; it's pretty much over by 23:00. It's the old silver working district, and some shops stay open late on this day. Like the better-known Sunday Market, there's lots of food and local crafts.
  • Warorot Market (กาดหลวง Kad Luang) - north of Nawarat Bridge and west of the Ping River between Thapae Roads and Chang Moi Road. This sprawling outdoor market is where the locals shop, and is well worth a visit for those who enjoy shopping for fabrics, clothes, herbs and spices and hard to find items. It also includes a beautiful flower market and fruit, and out-of-this-world fireworks stands.
  • Neramit Tailor - small shop at the corner of Ratchawong Rd. and Nakornping Bridge , makes excellent suites to fair prices. The owner is very nice and understands his job very well. If you want tailor made cloth skip all the shark shops in Bangkok and come here.He even organzies the transport by mail back home to you. Check http://neramit-custom-tailoring.com

Eat

A bowl of Chiang Mai's signature dish, khao soi, with condiments

Chiang Mai's restaurants offer a wide range of food, second only to Bangkok. Naturally it's a good place to sample northern Thai food: in particular, hunt down some khao soi, yellow wheat noodles in curry broth traditionally with chicken or beef, but available some places as vegetarian or with seafood. For those tired of eating rice or noodles there's also a wide range of excellent western food restaurant in Chiang Mai, from cheap hamburger stands to elaborate Italian eateries.

Dress Code: You are in a tropical country so daytime wear of shorts, T-shirt, etc. is quite OK; however you'll earn bonus points if you look clean and tidy. Thai people (even the poorest) take pride in personal cleanliness and appearance (look at school kids and college students) so the "unkempt" style of some visitors is not appreciated. In the evenings long trousers (dress or skirt for ladies) with a neat shirt/blouse, shoes with socks for men and nice shoes for women (no flip-flops) are a must if you wish to enter a nice restaurant and get a good seat. The nicer you dress the better the table and service. If not you might get a table next to the bathroom, in a corner away from the view or in front of a loud music speaker.

Chanchao's Chiang Mai Food Review [36] is a good source of information on the fast-changing culinary scene, though it has not been updated for some time.

Budget

Thai:

  • Anusarn Market, Chang Khlan Road (same side of road as "Galare Food Centre" but much further up beyond Loi Kroh crossroad towards Sri Dornchai) is a busy outdoor night market with lots of little Thai restaurants and food vendors. Great atmosphere.
  • Brick Road Cafe, Ratchadamneon Road (about 200 metres after the 2nd crossroads on the main walking street from Thapae Gate to Wat Phra Singh). English-Thai run cafe with a relaxed atmosphere and extensive Thai menu, produced by experienced Thai chefs, plus a host of excellent low-priced Western options.
  • Galare Food Centre, Chang Khlan Road (opposite the Night Bazaar Building), has a large open-air food court, featuring free Thai classical dance performances nightly. All food is paid for with coupons; most mains 20-50 baht.
  • Kuaytiaw Reua Koliang, Moon Muang Road (near Ratchamankha Road; no English sign) serves authentic kuaytiow reua (literally "boat noodles", rice noodles in dark broth with beef). It's good stuff anyway at 25 baht a pop.
  • Ratana’s Kitchen, Tha Pae Road (near Tha Pae Gate), has a wide range of Thai dishes at low prices (30-60 baht for many) and a huge vegetarian selection.
  • Re-Feel Café, 48/4-5 Rachavithi Road offers great (cheap) Thai food, good atmosphere, friendly staff and free billiards.

Western:

  • Fish'N'chips Shop, Ratchawitee Road +66 53-418210. Fresh, crispy. The name says it all.
  • Mike's Hamburger Stand, on the corner of Chaiyapoom Road and Chang Moi Road (along the east side of the moat) and on Nimmanhaemin Road (across from Soi 1) are brightly-lit, "old-school" joints - just stools and a counter in an open shop. OK hamburgers for 60 baht, excellent onion rings. If you're tired of rice and noodles this is nice place to stop for lunch while walking around town, and an even better place to fill your stomach on the way home from the bars. Bacon, or ham and egg sandwiches on the breakfast menu. Open 09:00-15:00. The franchise now includes a shop in the Anusarn Market (see above) with others opening in Bangkok soon.
  • Woody's Fine Fast Food, 56 Chaiyapoom Road. Half-way between Thapae Gate and Spicy Pub, next to the 7/11. Serves Kebabs (Gyros), Hamburgers, Hot Dogs, Falafel, Chips (Fries), Beer, Whisky, Wine and Soft Drinks. Tasty food, quality ingredients, cheap prices. Hygenic, friendly and attractive small diner and bar. Stays open after most other bars and restaurant have closed. Open 5pm to late.

Mid-range

On the east bank of the Ping River north of Nawarat Bridge is a cluster of restaurants that double up as nightlife spots - see the listings under Drink

Thai:

  • Huen Phen, 112 Ratchamankha Road, specialises in Northern Thai food, and is popular with Thais and foreigners alike. Lunch in the air-conditioned hall is decent enough, but dinner in the profusely decorated old house in the back is little short of magical. Best of all is the price: a bowl of khanom jiin naam ngiaw (Shan-style pork rib noodles), a plate of som tum (green papaya salad) and some sticky rice will still leave you change from 50 baht! Open daily 08:00-15:00 & 17:00-22:00.
  • Just Kao Soy - a reasonably priced restaurant with excellent kao soy and vegetarian curry broth.

Western:

  • Amazing Sandwich, 20/2 Huay Kaew Road (north-west corner of the moat, opposite the Chiang Mai Orchid Hotel; plus two other locations) [37] - choose from a million and one items on their list and they'll build a sandwich for you your way. The also serve breakfasts and have bagels. Open daily 08:00-20:00 (Sunday close 16:00).
  • Chiang Mai Kebab, 69/4 Kotchasarn Road +66-71881832 - chicken, beef kebab, salad, Pita bread, falafel, samosa, vegetarian. 17:00-midnight.
  • El Toro Restaurant & Pub, 5/2 Loi Kroh Road. New Mexico style Mexican food at its finest prepared by experienced cook. Free food 17:00-19:00 every Friday.
  • O'Malley's Irish Restaurant, Anusarn Market, 149-14/15 Changklan Road +66 53-271921 - international cuisine and Guinness on tap.
  • The Dukes +66 53-249231 is located 50 meters north of the Tourism Authority of Thailand office at 49/4-5 Chiang Mai - Lumpoon Road, south of the Narawat bridge on the east side of the Ping River. Excellent American style dishes and desserts - ribs, burgers, pizza, cheesecake, etc. Full bar with local and imported beers and wines. Great family atmosphere, no loud music or entertainment, just good food.
  • The Meeting Restaurant & Café, 6/1 Soi 1, Kotchasarn Road. Have a talk with the friendly managers. Closed Sundays.

Kosher:

  • Kosher Restaurant, 89/15 Changklan Road (100 m from Empress hotel).

Vegetarian:

  • Khun Churn, 120/2 Nimmanhemin Road, Soi 7 +66 53-224124 - Thai vegetarian. Open 09:30-14:30 & 17:30-22:00, closed the 16th of every month.

Splurge

Thai:

When you come to Chiang Mai you should try a traditional Khantoke dinner and show. This is not just for tourists as the Northern Thai people have been enjoying the Khantoke dinner for centuries. There are also many garden restaurants where you can enjoy an excellent Thai meal in a beautiful setting.

  • Baan Rom Mai Garden Restaurant, Changklan Plaza, 191/12 Changklan Road +66 53-820031 /2. Open daily 10:00-midnight.
  • Galae Garden Restaurant, at the end of Suthep Road +66 53-278655 / +66 53-811041 - Doi Suthep foothill location at edge of a sparkling reservoir. Thai & Northern Thai food and grilled specialties in delightful outdoors.
  • Khum Khantoke, in Chiang Mai Business Park +66 53-304121 - be entertained while you dine on traditional North Thailand Cuisine. Reservations are a good idea to get a good seat. Family style all you can eat 350 baht. Nightly 19:00-22:00.
  • Le Grand Lanna Garden Restaurant, 51/3 Sankampaeng Road +66 53-262569 is a must see for its architectural teak splendor. Open daily.
  • Old Chiang Mai Culture Center 185/3 Wualai Road +66 53-275097 - the first commercial Khantoke Dinner in Chiang Mai more than 30 years ago. They have the best Northern Thai food of any of the Kantoke establishments however the seating, show and music are not as good as at Khum Khantoke. Nightly 19:00-21:30.
  • Palaad Tawanron Garden Restaurant, on a reservoir. Thai and English food. Wat Fai Hin behind CHiang Mai University, Suthep Road +66 53-216576 / +66 53-216039.
  • Saenkham Terrace Garden Restaurant, Clubhouse Ban Naifan 2, 199/163 T. Maehea +66 53-838990 - open daily 11:00-22:00.

Western:

  • Alois Bavarian Restaurant, Soi 8, Phrapoklao Road +66 53-278515 - authentic Bavarian specialties - open Tue-Sun, 11:30-23:00.
  • Arcobaleno Italian Restaurant, (in front of Watket Temple), ''+66 53''-306254, [38]. Open lunch & dinner.
  • Fillmore East Bar & Grill, Charernrasd Road +66 53-262416 - seating on two dining terraces facing Mae Ping river. Delicious USDA Beef, lamb, veal, chops, burgers. Excellent homemade deserts such as pecan, pumpkin and apple pie with large choice of toppings. The bar is separate from the riverside dining area so you can enjoy a romantic dinner in peace.
  • Piccola Roma Palace Italian Restaurant, at corner of Charoenprathet Road & Sri Donchai Road near Chiang Mai Plaza Hotel +66 53-820297 / +66 53-271256 - open lunch & dinner. An unforgettable dining experience amid beautiful surroundings. Serving residents over 15 years.
  • The House, 199 Moonmuang Road +66 53-419011 - old 1930's colonial style house in town center. Pacific rim & fusion food. Open 18:00.
  • The Mango Tree Café, 8/2-3 Loi Kroh Road +66 53-208292 - open 07:00-22:30. Top quality Thai & Western cuisine. Sunday Roast Lamb.

Vegetarian:

  • Whole Earth, 88 Sridonchai Road +66 53-282463 - open 11:00-21:00.

Drink

Chiang Mai's nightlife scene is the most happening in the North, although still a far cry from Bangkok's. There are discos, karaoke bars, and live music everywhere. The busiest nightlife zones are near Tapae Gate, Loi Kroh Road and along Charoenrat Road on the eastern bank of the Ping River.

Bars and pubs

Most of Chiang Mai's bars and pubs are located along Loi Kroh Road and Moon Muang Road. Here you can find small expat hangouts, go-go bars and sports bars. Most have pool tables and hostesses, along with music videos or various TV sports programs. A few of those similar bars are:

  • Crank Tavern, Bottom of Ratchapakinai Road (Near Chiang Mai Gate) +66 899 654722 is a beautifully recycled wood furnished bar with free Internet, great tunes and friendly staff. Now with what are becoming known as the best pub meals in Chiang Mai its a great place to have a meal and spend a relaxing evening. Also home of Crank Adventures (see above) for excellent mountain bike tours and bike hire.
  • Elephant Café, Kotchasarn Road (near Thapae Gate) +66 857 233440 - nice clean friendly bar with pool room, large TV & friendly hostesses.
  • Half Moon Pub, Soi 2 Moonmuang (around the corner from Topnorth Guesthouse), +66 853 205023, [39]. Open 10am till late, late. Sports bar with many regulars and tourists. Darts & pool area, big TV, really nice international cuisine, especially the burgers but also good Thai & Indian dishes. Excellent (can be loud) music, friendly atmosphere and beautiful women.
  • Number One, Loi Kroh Road Soi 1 - friendly bar with free Internet and pool table. Plenty of talkative expats and pretty hostesses.
  • Tuskers, Chaiyaphum Soi 1, +66 871 804 665, [40] - bar and restaurant with a touch of Thai style and international standards of service, free pool table and live sports.

There are also some bars with a different atmosphere:

  • Café Souvannaphoum, 20/1 Ratchamankha Road, (near Moon Muang) +66 53 903-781. A decent wine bar with comfortable seating and relaxing music, great escape from the busy street life, open M-Sa: 17:00 - 01:00.
  • The Pub 189 Huay Kaew Road (near Amiri Rincome Hotel) +66 53-211550, [41]. long established olde worlde English pub in the true tradition, has had a makeover and extended the bar and the restaurant but kept its charm. Great selection of food and drinks, including roast dinners on Sundays. Has an outside area where you can sit and enjoy the tranquility of a tropical garden, and has recently added bungalows for those wishing to linger longer.

West of the city center, the area around Nimmanhaemin Road is a popular hangout for younger Thais, perhaps due to its proximity to Chiang Mai University. The pubs, as they are called here, tend to straddle a fine line between bar, restaurant and nightclub, and feature loud music interspersed with live bands fronted by musicians who are most likely hitting the books in the daytime. Tourists looking for something racier are better off staying in the east side of town.

  • BangRak, Nimmanhaemin Road Soi 6 - hangout spot for a primarily student crowd. Weekend nights are standing-room only and the clubbing atmosphere is complete; weekday nights are a little slower. Well air-conditioned, and no cover charge, but you'll be expected to purchase some drinks. Open 18:00-01:00.
  • Mo'C Mo'L, Huay Kaew Road - pub and restaurant near Chiang Mai University, there are many zone in the restaurant: coffee shop, dining outdoor near the small pond, dining indoor with live music.
  • Monkey Club, Nimminheimin Road Soi 9 +66 53-226997 -8 - another hot spot for the students, with a variety of live music. Open 17:00-01:00.
  • Warm Up Bar This chain bar / restuarnt / club has several venues in Thailand. The venue in Chang Mai is a lot less touristy and the dancehall packed to the brim of Thai students.

Live music

The area along the east bank of the Mae Ping River on Charoenrat Road is famous for jazz, rock, pop, Thai and country and western live music, along with restaurants serving Thai, western, and Chinese food. Coming from the center of the city, just walk from the night bazaar across the Narawatt Bridge, from where all the restaurants can be seen along the river on the left.

Most bands in Chiang Mai play for about an hour, and then move on to do the same at another restaurant or pub, so don't be surprised to see the same band twice if you switch venues.

  • La Brasserie, 37 Charoenrat Road +66 53-241665 - this riverside venue is not famous for its food, but the music is great, and there's a good selection of cocktails and spirits. Sit outside in the lush garden setting where acoustic guitar is played (19:00-midnight) or inside at the bar and catch the famous Took and Friends (23:00-02:00) who play old Hendrix, Dylan, Marley, Stevie Ray Vaughn, and other favorites.
  • Tha Chang Jazz Club, 25 Charoenrat Road (next to Gallery Restaurant) +66 53-248601 - good for a drink any day, but best visited on Saturdays for live jazz.
  • The Chiang Mai Riverside Restaurant, 9-11 Charoenrat Road +66 53-243239 [42]. Everyone who has been to Chiang Mai eats at least once here. There is a large menu of Thai and western food. If you want a good homemade hamburger, this is a good place to get one. The live music starts around 19:00 with dinner music from the Eagles, Beatles, or soft jazz. Starting at 21:00, the music changes to more rock and pop songs. Full bar service serving wine, beer, and spirits are available. The Chiang Mai Riverside restaurant gets very crowded, so get here early to get a table. The Riverside also offers a nightly dinner cruise departing at 20:00 for 70 baht/person extra.
  • The Garden Chiang Mai, 139, Ratchadamnoen Road, [43]. Well stocked bar, great food and a beautiful garden. The Chiang Mai Blues Club meets here to play at 20:30 on Wednesdays, and there's also live music on Sundays during the walking street market which is right outside the gates.
  • The Good View, 13 Charoenrat Road +66 53-241886, [44]. Thai and western varieties of rock, jazz, pop and country music entertain in the evening. Their extensive menu offers more than 150 Thai, Chinese, and western dishes, including curries, noodles, rice, and pizza. Soft drinks and a full bar serving wine, beer, and spirits are available. Again, if you want a good, riverside-view table get there early.
  • The North Gate, inside the city moat and east of Chang Puak Gate, [45]. The North Gate has easily become one of the most popular, regular destinations for Chiang Mai's young ex pat community. With nightly jazz performances starting around 9:30 PM with different performers and occasional guests from the audience, the North Gate offers something unique to the often repetitious Chiang Mai live music scene. In addition to nightly music performed by true lovers and technicians of jazz, the North Gate offers a variety of drinks not normally found within Chiang Mai- notably red and white wine, mojitos, and other mixed drinks. The staff is quick and efficient and prices are damn cheap!

Nightclubs

  • Bubbles - B1, Porn Ping Tower, 46 Charoen Prathet Road. Would be just another cheesy hotel disco if not for some good DJs and enthusiastic crowds; now it's a cheesy, packed and fun hotel disco on weekend nights. Cover charge 100 baht including one drink; open until 02:00.
  • Discovery - opposite Kad Suan Kaew shopping centre and Lotus Pang Suan Kaew Hotel. Is a small club with live band, DJ and huge screens showing music videos, good for drinking nights and letting loose. Bring ID/passport as they can be strict with entry especially on weekend nights.
  • Spicy is a hectic after hours place with good drinks, dancing and lots of local good looking girls looking to party - be warned, they almost always ask for money.

Gay Bars

Chiang Mai is a popular destination for gay tourists and many Gay people have retired here. It has a vibrant Gay scene, highlights include:

  • Friendship Bar, Thapae Road Soi 1 (between the Peak Climbing wall and D2 Hotel). Small oudoor bar popular with Thai gays, ex pats and tourists alike. 50 baht up for small beer.
  • Glass Onion, Room 1 project, 61, Nimmanhaemin Rd., Telephone: 66(0)53218479. Sophisticated wine bar popular with gays, opposite "Warm Up"
  • Golden Ball (Bon Tong in Thai), Santitham Road (At Junction with Tewan Road), Chang Phuak Tel: 66(0)53406043, [46]. Northern Thai style outdoor bar and restaurant. Local prices: Drinks start from 45 baht for a large Chang beer. Packed with very friendly staff and fun atmosphere.

Sleep

Accommodation in Chiang Mai is generally cheap even by Thai standards. All types of lodging are available from inexpensive guest-houses with little or no service to the typical high rise hotels and elaborate garden resorts. The latest boom is Thai-style boutique resorts located near the old city center - several have been built since mid-2005, and offer excellent service in quiet garden settings; most are fairly small with as few as 8 rooms and a pool, and are decorated with Thai crafts and antiques.

Some of the cheapest accommodation may refuse guests who are not also booking a trekking package. Evenings in Chiang Mai are cooler than Bangkok and the south during the dry season, so air conditioning may be less of a priority

Budget

  • Backpacker House, +66 53-811700 or +66 81-9939911, [47]. Simple lodging near the airport and university. 6-bed dorms (en-suite and hot water) 170 baht/person; standard rooms from 560-720 baht including breakfast.
  • Baan Kwanta, Soi 8, Jedyord-Uyen Road, Changpheuk (1.2 km. from Chiang Mai University), +66 869-713-054 (), [48]. A brand new apartment (en-suite with hot water) opened in Jan 2008. This place is suitable for quiet and non-smoking residents. From 500 baht per day or 2,600 - 3,200 baht per month.
  • Banilah Guesthouse, 11 Sotesueksa Road, Changpheuk (near Kad Suan Kaew Shopping Center), +66 5322 3683 (, fax: +66 5321 5200), [49]. A very nice family run boutique guesthouse, which opened 2006. From 300 baht.
  • Ben Guesthouse, 4/4, 4/11 Chiangmai-Lamphun Rd, Soi 2 Muang , CHIANGMAI 50000, [50]. Very friendly staf 200 baht a room.



  • Eagle House, 16 Changmoi Gao Road, Soi 3, +66 53-874126 (fax: +66 53''-874366), [51].
  • Golden Fern Guest House, 20 Soi 8 Thanon Phra Pokklao (southeast inner moat), +66 53-277665, [52].
  • Green Tulip Guest House, 18 Samlan Road (near Wat Phrasing), +66 53-278367, [53]. Brand new guest house with a restaurant, roof top garden, Internet café and large screen TV in the lobby. Beautifully decorated and designed with elegant wood floors throughout the building. Choice of fan and air-con rooms with shared or private bathrooms. 250-650 baht.
  • Hollanda Montri Guesthouse, 365 Charoenrat Road (bit north on same road as The Riverside and Good View) +66 53-242450 [54] - family style guesthouse with a tropical garden on the banks of the Mae Ping River, 10 minutes from the center of town by taxi. Fan/air-con rooms 500 baht.
  • Home Place Hotel, 9 Soi 6 Tapae Road. +66 53-276468 offers double-bed rooms and twin-bed rooms with fan or air-con (250-450 baht). All rooms have hot shower and cable television. It's very clean and staff is quite friendly.
  • Julie Guesthouse, 7/1 Prapokklao Road Soi 5, +66 53-274355 [55] - familiar and chilly Guesthouse located in a quiet part of the Old City 5 minutes from Tha Phae Gate. Fan rooms with or without bathroom (100-300 baht), restaurant (Thai and Western Food) and Adventure-Tour specialized travel agency.
  • Marlboro/Joe Guest House, 138 Sithiwongse Road +66 53-2325989 [56] - clean and cheap guest house, more like a small family run hotel that really makes you feel at home.
  • Pachkit House, 8/1 Arak Road Soi 7 [57] - Clean family-run guesthouse/apartment in the Old City. 15 minutes walk to Chiang Mai Ram Hospital and Central Kad Suan Kaew Department Store. Bathroom in every room with hot/cold shower; each room has fridge, TV with cable and free 1024 Kbps ADSL hook-up. There are also a few computers for free Internet use in the café next to reception. Rates from 650-850 baht/day with daily cleaning and sheet change, monthly rental rate also available (starting at 4500 baht). Can be quite noisy, especially in the mornings, due to a large number of barking dogs in the neighborhood.
  • Rendezvous Guesthouse & Café, 3/1 Ratchadamnoen Road Soi 5 +66 53-213763 or +66 53-419009 email="rendezvousgh@hotmail.com" fax+66 53-217229" A very nice family run guesthouse (Preecha and Juliwaan). Both fan and air-con rooms, all with refrigerator, cable TV, and ensuite bathroom. Air-con rooms 500 baht and fan rooms 350 baht. Outstanding location just off the Sunday Walking Market Street inside the old city. Delicious food both Thai and Western and excellent coffee / espresso. Very quiet lane with motorbike rental and laundry service nearby. Free Wi-Fi 24 hours a day. Staff is very friendly and owner speaks good english.
  • Smile (Guest) House 5 Soi 2 Ratchamankha Road, Prasingh +66 53-208661 -2 (fax: +66 53-208663) [58] - rooms 300-450 baht.
  • Tawan Court, 15/1 Charoenprathet Road, 66 (53) 284 212 to 9 (, fax: 66 (53) 284 221), [59]. Small family-run hotel. Free Wi-Fi
  • The Garden Guesthouse Chiang Mai, 139 Rachadamnorn Road, T. Pra Singh +66 84-8098768, [60] is situated in the center of the old town. Live music nights including "The Chiang Mai Blues Club" [61] every wednesday at 8:30 PM. Free use of their PC, Internet and Wi-Fi for customers.
  • The Royal Guest House, Kothchasarn Road, Soi 4 T.ChangKarn, A.Muang +66 53-282460 [62]
  • Wanasit Guesthouse, 6 Ratchamankha Road Soi 8 [63] - modern, clean guesthouse located in a quiet alley in the historical centre next to the Wat Phra Singh temple.
  • Yourhouse Guesthouse 8 Soi 2 Ratvithi Road +66 53-217492 [64] - traditional Thai teak wooden house, conveniently situated in a small lane in the old part of Chiang Mai, just a 5-minute walk from Tha Phae Gate. Excellent restaurant, and offers a variety of traveller services (e.g. tickets, visas). Very friendly staff. Offer TAT-licenced treks.

Mid-range

  • 3Sis Bed and Breakfast, 1 Soi 8 Phrapokklao Road, +66 53-273243 (), [65]. Opened in early 2006, this quiet guesthouse is right in the middle of the old city. Clean, very comfortable, and tastefully furnished and decorated in Thai style. Bed and breakfast from 800 baht.
  • Affordable Chiang Mai, Huay Kaew Road +66 48-098768 [66] is a comfortable, clean and convenient place to stay. One month stay from USD320, including motorbike.
  • Baan Orapin, 150 Charoenrat Road +66-16164016 [67] - this "boutique B&B" with just 6 rooms is in beautifully restored old Thai house set in a small garden. Air-con, hot water and far more character than any other hotel in this price range. Walking distance to the Night Bazaar and the riverside restaurants. Rates from 1000 baht for a double.
  • Central Duangtawan Hotel, 132 Loi Kroh Road, [68]. Excellent four-star hotel with Internet rates from around 1800 baht. Probably a little cheaper than similar competitors as it's in the red-light district, but the area seems quite safe and the hotel is of very high quality.
  • Chiang Mai Gate Hotel, 11/10 Suriyawong Road (south of the moat) +66 53-203895 -9 [69]
  • Lotus Hotel, 2/25 Viangbua Road, Tambol Chang-Phuak, +66 53-215376 [70] advertises itself as "The Hub of Chiang Mai's Premier Gay Entertainment Center" (sic). Rooms are individually decorated and have air-con, TV, radio, 'phone, 'fridge, and safe; rates 900-2500 baht.
  • Pornping Tower, 46-48 Charoenprathet Road +66 53-270099 (fax: +66 53-270119) [71] offers not only an amusing name, but slowly fading grandeur at affordable prices. Located near the Night Bazaar, the hotel has a pool and the Bubbles disco, among the most popular in Chiang Mai - and a source of some noise pollution if trying to sleep. The newer and quieter Tower Wing is a bit more expensive than the older Front Wing. 1,000 baht and up (with breakfast).
  • Raming Lodge, 17-19 Loi Kroh Road, T. Chang Klan, A. Muang +66 53-271777 (fax: +66 53-270039) [72] - great boutique hotel between the night market and the old city. Unique Lanna architecture. No swimming pool. Food at the restaurant is reasonably priced as are the massages (Thai massage 300 baht/hour). Great place to stay with prices starting at 1,800 baht (Internet rates start at 850 baht).
  • River View Lodge, 25 Charoenprathet Road Soi4 +66 53-271109-10 [73] - overlooking the Ping River. All rooms are twin, decorated in Northern Thai style with individually controlled air-conditioning. Private shower, telephone and personal safe. Has a beautiful tropical garden with several intimate pavilions, patios and riverside swimming pool. Less than 10 minutes Walking distance to the Night Bazaar. Rates from 1,450 baht for River Side room with balcony.
  • Sri Pat Guesthouse, 16 Soi 7 Moon Muang Rd +66 53-218 716

Nice guesthouse close to the city centre. Rooms start at 900 Bath, have air conditioning, TV, private shower, fridge and a little balcony. Basic breakfast is available for an extra 100 Bath. Try getting a room on the street side, since the other side has a water pump working in the night which can be annoying in some rooms.

  • TaNiTa (Riverside) Resort, 25/2 Moo 3, Chonpatan Road, A. Sarapee +66 81-8846334 (fax: +66 53-892110) [74] - Northern Lanna Thai style from teak with beautiful garden a hotel mainly visited by foreign tourists because very quiet and private place, in a good location between the Ping River and Baan Tawai. Some rooms offer wonderful mountain and river views. It's a good mid-range option with prices starting at 1,200 baht for River Side room with balcony.
  • YMCA International Hotel, 11 Mengrairasmi Semsuk Road +66 53-221819 [75] - tucked away in an area northwest of the moat, the hotel is just a 10 minute tuk-tuk ride away from the Night Bazaar and many tourist venues.

Splurge

  • Chedi Chiang Mai, 123-123/1 Charoen Prathet Road, Tambol Chang Klan, Amphur Muang, Chiang Mai 50100 +66 (0) 53 253 333 [76] - a new stylish, modern design hotel located on the banks of the Mae Ping River on the grounds of the former British Consulate. Just a short walk from the Night Market and close to the inner city. 84 deluxe rooms and club suites, all with a private courtyard it also features a fitness and health club, 2 bars, a restaurant featuring Thai, Indian and Western cuisine, a spa and an outdoor swimming pool. Rates start at 10,400 baht.
  • D2, 100 Chang Klan Road, Tambol Chang Klan, Amphur Muang, Chiang Mai 50100 +66 5399 9999 [77] - just outside the city walls right next to the Night Bazaar, probably more convenient than the Oriental or Four Seasons a way outside of town. Most of the sights are within walking distance (not a short walk, but a comfortable walk). Rates over 3,000 baht.
  • Four Seasons Resort Chiang Mai, Mae Rim-Samoeng Old Road +66 53-298181 (fax: +66 53-298189) [78] - set in the lush and tranquil countryside amid working paddy fields and water buffalo (the downside of this being, obviously, a less than central location). Featuring a spa and Thai cooking classes within its grounds, if it wasn't for all the mystical temples and fabulous bargains to be found within Chiang Mai, you might never want to leave. If you can afford it, look into the residences, otherwise the garden rooms are equally spectacular and well worth the 17,000 baht they start at - if you can foot the bill.
  • Lotus Hotel Pang Suan Kaew, 21 Huay Kaew Road (northwest corner of the moat) [79] - rates 2000-6000 baht.
  • Mandarin Oriental Dhara Dhevi, 51/4 Chiang Mai - Sankampaeng Road Moo 1 T. Tasala A. Muang +66 53-888888 [80] - done in the traditional Lanna style of Northern Thailand, this resorts spreads across 60 acres of serene, natural landscapes, incorporating picturesque rice paddies, tropical hardwoods and exotic plantations. The resorts also includes a spa, cooking class, kids club, fitness center, as well as a cultural center. It's truly a unique experience, but the resort caused some local controversy when it built a 'fake' temple based on one of Thailand's most holy sites in its grounds.
  • Pacific Mansion (long-term-splurge), 16 Hassadhisewee Road, T.Changphuak (northwest of the moat) +66 53-404515 [81] is within walking distance of the "Central" shopping mall and a ten-minute tuk-tuk ride away from the Night Bazaar. Popular with many Japanese tourists.
  • Viangbua Mansion (long-term-splurge), 3/1 Viangbua Road, Chang Puek, Muang +66 53-411202 [82] - offers deluxe serviced apartments for daily, weekly and monthly rental. Perhaps one of the most expensive housing options in the city at a monthly rate of 12,000 - 100,000 baht, but they do offer a wide range of services and some degree of security. Located in a somewhat remote northwest area of the city.

Contact

Internet

Prices vary from 10 baht/hour (in "gaming" places filled with local kids) to 60 baht/half-hour (2 baht/minute) and up. Most places charge per 15 or 30 minute block, others by the minute.

  • Crank Tavern, 3/2 Ratchapakinai Rd. (Near Chiang Mai Gate). Internet is free if you by a drink. They have fast ADSL equipped with Skype and you will be in comfortable surrounds. Also good for bike hire and tours.
  • Buddy Internet, 12 Huaykaew Road (Northweast corner of the moat, opposite the Central Department Store), Tel: 05340-4550. Open 08:00-midnight.

Post

  • Main Post Office - Charoenmuang Road. Tel: 053 241070, 053 245376.
  • Phra Sing Post Office - Singharat Road (a three-minute walk south of Wat Phra Singh)

Telephone

  • Directory enquiry service: 183/1133
  • International and domestic operator assisted service: 100
  • Overseas dial-out code: 001
  • AT&T International operator for collect calls: 001 999 11111

Stay safe

Chiang Mai, like most of Thailand, is quite safe, even at night. The dark streets can look forbidding but crime is rare and visitors shouldn't worry unduly. As always, travellers should take extra care in all poorly lit or more remote areas.

Unfortunately some scams from Bangkok have started to rear their ugly heads in Chiang Mai as well. Two in particular are worth watching out for: the gem scam, where you are talked into buying near-worthless gems at far above their real value; and the tuk-tuk scam, where a smooth-talking tuk tuk driver tells you that the attraction you want to see is closed, and instead offers you a sightseeing tour for 20 baht (or some similarly unrealistic number) - needless to say, the tour will either consist of nothing but overpriced gift shops, or will smoothly segue into the gem scam. See Bangkok | Stay safe for more details.

Stay healthy

Clinics

  • Savitri-Sharin Clinic 95/2-3 Kochasarn Road (East side of the moat, almost to the southeast corner) Phone 053 275-330 Daily hours 09:00-12:00, 17:00-20:00; Closed Sunday evenings. English spoken. Personable husband and wife team, both are doctors. Highly recommended.

Hospitals

  • Baan Sabaii, 22 Chiang Saidai Road. A special AIDS hospital backed up by a Christian and Japanese societies (The head doctor is a Japanese woman, Aoki Emiko).
  • Chiangmai Ram Hospital, 8 Boonruangrit Road, Sripoom District (north-west corner of the moat), +66 53-224851 / +66 53-224861 (fax: +66 53-224880), [83]. Offers state-of-the-art (but a bit pricey) medical care.
  • Malaria Centre, 18 Boonruangrit Road, T Suthep, A Muang +66 53-221529 / +66 53-894271. Chiang Mai city itself is considered low-risk, however malaria is endemic in the region and risk can be especially significant when trekking in the hills.
  • Maharaj Nakorn Chiang Mai Hospital, 110 Intawaroros Road, T.Sripoom, A.Muang Chiang Mai. A university-based hospital, leading medical tertiary-care for the North of Thailand.

Dentists

  • Chiang Mai Dental Hospital, 1/42 Moo 3 (Chiang Mai - Lampang Road) T Changphuak, A Muang, +66 53-411150, [84].
  • Grace Dental Care Clinic 45 Soi 11 Nimmanhemin Road T.Suthep (north-west corner of the moat, near Chiang Mai University), +66 53-894568/69, [85]. Offers quality care by a team of specialists.

Cope

Local foreign-language newspapers

This guide uses the following price ranges for a standard double room:
Budget budget
Mid-range midrange
Splurge splurge

Emergency contacts

  • Police - emergencies: 191
  • Police - Tourist: 1155, 053-278559
  • Fire: 053-241777
  • Rescue Team: 053-218888

Expat associations & clubs

Embassies & consulates

  • Australia, 165 Sirimungklajarn, T. Suthep, A.Muang, +66 53-219726 or +66 53-400232 / +66 53-221083 (fax: +66 53-219726).
  • Bangladesh, 95 Huay Kaew Road, T. Suthep, A.Muang +66 53-53 212373 - 4 (fax+66 53-53 223524).
  • China, 111 Changlo Road, Haiya District, +66 53 -276125, 272197, 200424 (admin office) (fax: +66 53-274614) cgprccm@loxinfo.co.th.
  • Finland, 104-112 Thapae Road, +66 53-234777.
  • Germany, Consulate of the Federal Republic of Germany, 199/163 Moo 3, Baan Nai Fun2, Kan Klong Chonpretan Road, Tambon MaeHia, tel+fax: +66 53-838735.
  • India, 344 Charoenprathet Road, +66 53-243066 (fax: +66 53-247879),
  • Japan, Airport Business Park, 90 Mahidol Rd. T.Haiya, A. Muang +66 53-203367 (fax: +66 53-203373)[87].
  • South Africa, 2nd Floor Chiang Inn Hotel, 100 Changklan Road, Amphor Muang +66 53-270070-6 (fax: +66 53-274299 / mobile: +66-1 8412629).
  • South Korea, V Group Building, 3rd Floor, 50 Huay Kaew Road,Tambon Chang Puak, Amphoe Mueang +66 5322-3119 Ext : 206,210 (fax: +66 53-22-5661). [88]


  • Sweden, Svenska Konsulatet i Chiang Mai, 11 Sermsuk Road, Mengrairasmi, +66 53-220844 (fax: +66 53-210877).
  • USA, American Consulate General, 387 Witchayanond Road, +66 53-252629 (fax: +66 53-252633), [89].

Get out

  • Chiang Dao - an hour north of the city, and a good starting point for treks into the mountains
  • Doi Inthanon National Park [90] - boasts the highest peak in Thailand (2,565m), 60km southwest of Chiang Mai
  • Lampang - urban Northern Thailand without the commercialism, 100km southeast of Chiang Mai
  • Lamphun - a scenic town with a long history and a longan festival, 26km southeast of Chiang Mai
  • Mae Hong Son - a picturesque little town with lush valleys, rocky streams and a lake
  • Nan - the former capital of a small kingdom filled with history and temples and surrounded by mountains







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