Chiang Mai (เชียงใหม่) is the hub of Northern Thailand. With a population of over 170,000 in the city proper (but more than 1 million in the metropolitan area), 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".
Founded in 1296 AD, Chiang Mai is a culturally and historically interesting city, at one time the capital of the ancient Lanna kingdom. Located among the rolling foothills 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. This isolation helped preserve Chiang Mai's distinctive charm intact to this day.
Chiang Mai's historical centre is the walled city (City is chiang in the northern Thai dialect while 'mai' is new, hence Chiang Mai - "New City"). Sections of the wall dating to their restoration a few decades ago 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 Wat Phrathat 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.Loi Kroh Rd is the center of the city's nightlife . 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. Of course this is touristic nonsense, but the Kao Soi, Bo Sang umbrellas and Doi Suthep are important cultural icons for Chiang Mai residents. Ratchadamneon Rd hosts the main Sunday night walking street market from Thapae Gate to the popular Wat Phra Singh.
International departure hall at Chiang Mai Airport
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:
Air Asia  - a well-known Asian low-cost airline, flies from/to Bangkok (Suvarnabhumi airport) and Phuket. Usually it's a cheapest choice if you book at least a week before, with price tag (as of July 2009) just above 1000 baht from Bangkok and 2000-2500 baht from KL/Phuket; promotional fares may be even cheaper. Their prices can be significantly higher, however, if you book just a few days before, or want a specific day/flight.
Nok Air  - Thai (semi-)low-cost carrier, flies from/to Bangkok (Don Mueang airport, from 1400 baht and up) and Mae Hong Son. Starting from 17 January 2010, they also fly from/to Udon Thani, ticket price is 2400 baht. The latter, while still 4 times more expensive than bus, is more than twice cheaper than Lao Airlines' flight to Vientiane, which is easily accessible from Udon Thani. Nok Air only allows bookings of up to 3 months in advance.
One-Two-Go  (low-cost division of Orient Thai Airlines  ) files from/to Bangkok (Don Mueang). They fly 23-26 years old McDonnell Douglas MD-83 jets, but if you are not afraid - it's often a cheapest (1450-1750 baht) option if you book during the last days before flight. One-Two-Go also only allows bookings of up to 3 months in advance.
SGA  - Recently renamed 'Nok Mini'. - from/to Chiang Rai (twice daily), Mae Hong Son (once daily), Nan (Daily) and Pai (once daily). Their tickets are booked via Nok Air website.
Thai Airways  - from/to Bangkok (Suvarnabhumi airport only, from 2500 baht and up, but sometimes there are promo fares as low as 1500) and Mae Hong Son; in addition, flights from and/or to Phuket & possibly Nan may also be available seasonally.
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 120 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 per person. Most hotels and some upmarket guesthouses offer cheap or free pick-up/drop-off services.
Rattling government buses make frequent stops at every minor township. The journey takes around 12hrs and costs 200 baht.
Non-stop 24/32-seaters and 1st class buses provide larger seats and snacks; making the long trip more comfortable. They manage the trip around 9 hours and cost around 500 baht. Be cautious about the so-called "VIP" buses touted on Khao San Rd; they may be cheaper, but you may end up crammed into a 2nd class bus or worse.
At Arcade bus station, where you'll arrive, public songthaews stop near the bus station building exit - look for local people getting into those, and ask the driver if he goes to your destination (if songthaew is empty, don't forget to confirm the price). Shared trip to Tha Phae Gate (edge of the old town) should cost 20 baht, though you may have to wait for a driver who agrees. Virtually all songthaews will pass Warorot market (city centre,just after crossing the river), from where it's just 1 km walk to Thapae gate, or numerous (see "Get around" section) songthaews to other areas.
Alternatively, you can charter the whole songthaew or take a tuk-tuk. The drivers will approach you once you've arrived and will ask as much as 80-100 baht to the city center/Thapae gate, showing you the bogus price list with "fixed" prices. Bargain, it's just 5-6 km, so the fair price for tuk-tuk there is 50 baht, and is not more than 100 even to the opposite side of the city. It may be difficult to bargain with these drivers, however - good idea is to ignore them from the start, walk out to the nearby street, and catch a passing tuk-tuk/songthaew there. If your luggage is light, you can walk to the centre - however, it's quite a long walk, as the Arcade bus station is located in the city north-east outskirts, almost near Super Highway.
Daytime services leave at 8:30AM, and 2:30PM with second class (281 baht) and third class (121 baht) carriages. The seats in each class differ in softness and width can become uncomfortable after 10+ hours.
Overnight sleepers are a popular a popular with travellers the fold down bunk beds that give you relatively comfortable and good value nights accommodation as well as transport. The trains leaving at 6PM and 7:35PM have 1st class air-con (1253 baht upper bed, 1453 baht lower bed), second class air-con carriages (791 baht bed upper bed, 881 baht lower bed) and third class carriages (531 baht bed upper bed, 581 baht lower bed). Services leaving at 7:20PM, 10PM only have regular carriages and third class seats.
Though the carriages are not particularly modern, all classes are clean; fresh sheets, pleasantly fragrant toilet and regularly mopped floors. Annoyingly persistent vendors make regular rounds selling snacks and drinks, or you can Thai and Western meals, politely described by most as uninspiring. Prices are exorbitant, if not utterly extortionate (40 baht for a glass of Orange juice, 140 baht for a 650ml Chang beer!); it might be wise to bring your own.
For the initial part of the journey, you can lounge in pair of facing seats, till at some late hour in the evening, or on request, the attendant will come around with a special tool to flip down the bunks and make up your bed. At this point you have little other choice but to climb into your bunk, draw the curtain to enclose yourself and be lulled off to sleep by the rocking rhythm of the rail. First class passengers have their own, slightly more spacious, two berth cabin with private toilet, separated from the commoners in the cheap seats.
If you are not in the mood to go to bed early you may have another option: the dining car. Whatever seat or first class berth you are traveling in you will find the prices in the dining car are far more affordable than than the vendors who approach you. And later at night the dining car can turn into an international disco complete with loud music and flashing lights.
Tickets can be bought up to 60 days in advance at any station in Thailand. Booking in advance is advised, especially for the popular 2nd class overnight sleepers. Larger stations accept payment with VISA/MasterCard – this is fairly safe, as SRT is a state-owned company. Alternatively, if you are not yet in Thailand, the SRT e-ticketing (not currently working - Jan 2010) website will let you buy and print out an e-ticket. Some find it tricky to register - you have to avoid any special characters while filling a registration form, you must book at least three days in advance, and you can only purchase 1st and 2nd class aircon sleeper tickets (which are 150-200 baht more expensive than fan-only car tickets). The price online is exactly what you'd pay in the ticket office. Various travel agencies, some available to contact from outside Thailand, can also procure tickets for delivery or pick up, with fees typically starting at 100 baht.
SRT charges 90 baht to transport a bicycle between Bangkok and Chiang Mai.
Chiang Mai train station is about 3km east of the city centre. Plentiful Songthaews and Tuk Tuks await each train's arrival or if you want to walk, exit the station, cross the open square in front and turn left on the first major road you come to (Charoen Muang Road); this road goes directly to the city centre.
Chiang Mai did have a nice new large air conditioned bus service. These were all over the major city routes but have been discontinued until 2011. There are pedicabs called samlor; the 3-wheeled tuk-tuk; and the most popular, the songthaew.
By songthaew or seelor
A songthaew serves as a bus or a taxi.
In lieu of a local bus service, locals get around the city on songthaew (สองแถว). These covered pick-up trucks have two long bench seats in the back (songthaew means "two rows" in Thai), ply fixed routes or to any destination, picking up passengers enroute who are going the same way.
The colour of the songthaew indicates its general route or usage. Most common by far are red songthaews (called rod daeng, red truck), which don't follow a specific route and roam the main streets around markets, temples or the bus/train stations. These are the most convenient to take if you are going somewhere specific. Prices must be negotiated. but expect 20 baht anywhere within the city walls and 40-60 outside. Because of the city's somewhat irrational road design, especially inside of the old walls, the driver may be forced to take a circuitous route to get to a nearby destination but will make no difference to the fare.
Fixed route songthaews congregate around Warorot Market. 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 all charge a 20 baht flat rate.
From Pratu Chiang Mai market, songthaews also travel to Hang Dong (20 baht) and San Patong, south-west of Chiang Mai.
To catch a songtheaw; approach a waiting driver or flag one down on the street, state your destination and if the driver is going that direction he will nod in agreement and give you a price. Negotiate a lower fare if you wish. The price agreed to should be per person; it's a good idea to confirm this with the driver before you leave. On reaching your destination, ring the buzzer on the roof to tell the driver to stop, or most likely the driver will pull over, wait for you to get out and pay.
By tuk-tuk or samlor
Tuk-tuks are a quick, though noisy way to get around. Fares are usually 30-40 baht for a short hop and 50-100B for longer distances, depending on the proficiency your haggling skills. As a guide, expect to pay 40 baht from the old city to the riverside and Night Bazaar, 40-50 to the railway station and 80-100 to the bus station or airport. Tuk-tuks parked near the bus and train stations will ask you for something like 120-150 baht - just haggle or walk away to the nearest road and stop passing-by tuk-tuk or songthaew there.
Based on expat information, the highest fee for a tuk-tuk at any time of night or day should be B150 for any location in the town (June 2011)
The fee seems to be based on multiples of B20 which is the smallest note. It is a good idea to stock up on notes and coins as whenever you offer a note higher than the agreed fee the driver has no change!
A few samlor (three-wheeled bicycles) still cruise the streets and will happily take you to a temple for the same price as a tuk-tuk, though at a considerably quieter and slower pace.
Chiang Mai has metered taxis, though it can be difficult to persuade the driver to switch the meter on. If you do prevail, the flag fall is 30 baht for the first 2 km then 4 baht/km after that, otherwise you will have recur to bargaining a fixed fare. You cannot generally hail taxis in the street. To book a taxi, call +66 53 279-291, state your destination and the call centre will give you a quote; or contact individual drivers on the mobile phone numbers displayed on their vehicle.
By moped (scooter) or motorcycle
A moped is a convenient and cheap way to get around town or reach the outlying sights. There are an abundance of near indistinguishable rental outfits in town, though most guesthouses can arrange rental. Automatic geared, 100cc and 125cc bikes capable of carrying two people are the easiest to jump on and ride away with if you don't have riding experience, but off-road bikes and larger street bikes are also an option. A valid international drivers permit (IDP) isn't required to ride.
Mopeds run about 150 baht/day for a 100cc motorbike and 150+ baht/day for a Honda Wave 125; supplied with helmets and a chain.
Larger machines cost 700 baht/day for a V-twin chopper or larger sport-bike. Expect discounts when renting for a week, month or longer.
Rentals will require a deposit, and while many ask for a passport you should under no circumstances leave your passport with anyone as collateral. Most shops will accept a photocopy with a cash deposit of around 3,000 - 5,000 baht, this is a much better alternative. While the petrol/gas tank may be full on pickup, it is not uncommon for shops to deliver a bike with just enough fuel to go make it to a service station (and of course they will siphon the remainder off when you return it so the next person is forced to do the same). In any case, return the bike with as much or more fuel than received to avoid any penalties. Also check out the relative mechanical merit of the bike being offered. Focus especially on the brakes - the degree of 'pull' needed for the handlebar lever, and the travel needed for the foot brake. Check that indicators and headlights work properly, and the tires are reasonably OK.
Some rental agreements claim to insure you but generally only cover the bike for theft or damage. Don't expect much in the way of compensation if something bad such as an accident occurs - and despite who is at fault - assume you will be the one considered at fault. Police occasionally fine riders (including passengers) 200 baht for not wearing a helmet, plus you usually have to go to the police station the next day to collect your license.
Traffic inside the old city walls is subdued enough to make biking a safe and quick way to get around. Bike rentals are plentiful; rental costs 30-250 baht/day depending on the bike quality.
Car hire services are available both in the city center and at the airport. Typical cars that can be rented include Toyota Vios, Altis, Yaris, Honda City, Jazz. Typical rates for newer models are 1200-2000 baht per day. Expect a slight discount when renting weekly. Utility pickups such as Toyata Hilux and Fortuner are also available. Many places offer minivans such as 10-seater Toyota Commuter with driver from about 2000 baht per day plus fuel. Older Suzuki Caribean 4WD jeeps are a cheaper option at around 600-800 baht per day but they are relatively difficult to drive and less mechanically reliable than a standard passenger car.
The old city is only a mile square, and as such is easy to walk around. The airport is also quite close to the old part of town--about 2.5 km--so if you have the energy and an hour to spare, you can even walk to and from the airport. Note that this is not necessarily a pleasant experience as the sidewalks are uneven (or non-existent) and Chiang Mai gets hot during the day, especially during the hot season, and rainy during the rainy season. The cost of a taxi or songthaew from the moat area to the airport is around 150 THB.
Hiring a car or minivan with driver
This is is a great option for traveling to places outside Chiang Mai city, and the price is often similar to hiring a car and driving yourself. You'll also be able to relax and enjoy the scenery in air-conditioned comfort. The cost for a private car with driver is generally from 1500 baht per day plus fuel depending on the type of vehicle and where you are going. The driver will typically pick you up with a full tank of fuel and you pay at the end. Large Toyota Hi-Ace, Nissan Urvan and newer Toyota Commuter minivans go for around 2000 baht per day plus fuel. Most hotels and some guesthouses can arrange it for you, in addition to vehicle rental outlets and the many travel agencies in town.
Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep
Courtyard of Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep
The quintessential image of Chiang Mai with its large gold-plated chedi, visible from the city on a clear day, Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep (วัดพระธาตุดอยสุเทพ, Huai Kaeo Rd, 30 baht, ) is 18 km from town, sitting at a 1,073 m elevation on the slopes of Doi (Mount) Suthep. Built in 1383 during the Lanna Thai period, legend has it that the temples site was selected by an elephant sent to roam the mountain side, where upon reaching a suitable spot, it trumpeted, circled three times, knelt down and promptly died - which was interpreted as a sign indicating an auspicious site. The temple is and offers grand views over the city, but no reward is without effort as you must accent the 300-plus steps of the Naga lined stairs. The climb may be a strain in high altitudes thin air for the less fit so you may opt to take the cable car for 20 baht. During July it is traditional for people to walk from the zoo to the temple and vast numbers make the pilgrimage to the top, which takes around 4-5 hours.
In the vicinity there are several other attractions you may want to consider visiting. The Bhuping Royal Palace gardens (see below) are 4km further along the road from Wat Prathat, with a reasonably easy walk along the meter-wide road shoulder, or you can get a shared Songthaew from Wat Prathat for B30, but you may have to wait until it fills up. Further along the road is a hilltribe village, and although tourist oriented, is really worth the trip! There are many shops for local handicraft etc. These are the people from the far north of the country, many originally from Myanmar.
Getting there is a source of much consternation by many travellers. Clearly marked songthaews leave from Pratu Chang Phuak. Prices are fixed at 40 baht up and 30 baht down; but the drivers wait until they have sufficient (up to 8) passengers before they depart, potentally making for a lengthy wait. Most guidebooks advise taking a sawngthaew from Th Mani Nopharat, resulting in the drivers milking the tourist cash-cow and raising their price from a reasonable 40 baht to a ludicrous 500 baht.
Another option to get there is to take a songthaew from your hotel to the northern gate of Chiang Mai University for B20 (if you are close to the city walls), where there will be several waiting on Huai Kaeo Rd to get a full load of passengers for a trip up the mountain. Prices range from 40 baht for a one-way trip to Wat Prathat to 180 baht for a full round-trip tour, including the temple, Bhuping palace gardens and the the hill tribe village, with an hour at each location, but you may have to wait until there are sufficient people who want the same tour or be prepared to pay more. You can also get between many of these by buying point-to-point tickets at the time you want them, or walking some segment. Any songthaew up the mountain road may be a trial for those prone to motion-sickness, so take appropriate precautions.
There are several little annoying charges to pay for Westerners - mainly 10 to 20 baht. To enter the Doi Suthep itself is free for Thais, and 30 baht for foreigners. Tour operators will ask 700 baht for a tour.
The journey from town can be made by motorcycle or a bicycle with appropriate gearing. The final 12 km from the zoo onwards is entirely uphill and will take 60-90 minutes if cycling.
There are more than 300 temples in Chiang Mai and its outskirts, with a dozen stand-outs of historical or architectural significance within walking distance of each other. Buddhist temples in Chiang Mai show a mixture of Lanna Thai, Burmese, Sri Lankan and Mon architectural styles that reflect the varied heritage of Northern Thailand.
Though certain temples on the conventional tourist circuit can be overrun with loud groups it is not hard to find many less well known, but no less interesting, temples quietly and gently crumbling in the absence of tourist hordes. Whichever you visit, keep in mind that the temples are sacred religious places of deep cultural significance for the locals. Show respect by wearing appropriate attire (long pants for men, modest tops and skirts for women, no bare shoulders or plunging necklines and women must wear a bra). You must take off your shoes before entering the temple or other buildings, but they may wear them in the courtyard. Taking photographs of Buddha images is no problem, but it is polite to ask before taking pictures of monks or locals. All temples are free.
Inside the old city walls
Wat Phra Singh, Corner of Singharaj Rd and Rajdamnern Rd. Probably Chiang Mai's best-known temple, housing the Phra Singh image, completed between 1385 and 1400. Of most historical interest is the 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 Man, Rajpakinai Rd. The oldest Royal 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 Man 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 Rd. Almost in the centre of Chiang Mai is the remains of a massive chedi that toppled in 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, restored sections hint at its former glory. Wat Chedi Luang is also home to the "Pillar of the City", a totem used in ancient Thai fertility rites.
Wat Phra Jao Mengrai, Ratchamankha Road (Near Heuan Phen). An atmospheric wooden temple away from the beaten track, quiet and gently crumbling in the absence of tourist hordes.
Outside the old city walls
Wat Jet Yod (วัดเจ็ดยอด. Sometimes called Wat Chet Yot), SuperHighway (about 1km north of the Huay Kaew Rd/Superhighway intersection). The history and unusual architecture scattered under the yawning canopy of ancient trees is an pleasant antidote to the flash and bustle encountered at popular temples. Established in 1455 to host the eighth World Buddhist Council, many features of the grounds imitate significant places of the Buddhas enlightenment. Originally called Botharam Maha Vihata in honour of the venerated Bodhi tree, it came to be known as Wat Jet Yod by locals, after the seven spires (Jet Yod) protruding from the roof of the Vihara. The square sided design of the Virhra is a replica of Mahabodhi temple in Bodhgaya, India, though the translation has distorted proportions somewhat. Remnants of the graceful stucco relief murals that adorned the walls depict angels with a distinctly Indian flavour. The grounds also hold some more recently built, but abandoned looking, eroded chedis and buckling bases of vanished halls, overshadowed by a fully intact, though more diminutive, replica of 'Chedi Luang that was built around 1487 to house the ashes of King Tilokarat.
Wat Suan Dok (Suthep Rd). A large open sided hall with a jumble of rougly hewen Buddhas with a huge dazzlingly whitewashed Chedi behind.
Wat Umong, off Suthep Rd (At the end of a long narrow road, off Suthep Road. Turn at the Italian restaurant.). 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. The large stupa is magnificent, and there is an eerie statue of a fasting, emaciated buddha next to it. You can also take a break by the ponds, where you can feed the fish and turtles.
There are many art galleries and exhibitions in Chiang Mai, featuring contemporary artwork of both local Thai and Myanmar artists.
The Chiang Mai City Arts and Culture Centre building
Chiang Mai City Arts & Cultural Centre, In the very centre of the old city on Prapokklao Road between Rajdumnern Road and Rajwithee Road, ☎ +66 53 217793. 8:30AM-5PM daily except Mondays. This fully modernised multimedia history and cultural education centre has guides dressed in elegant traditional Thai clothing who 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.90 baht.
Chiang Mai National Museum, On the Super Highway (Within walking distance of Wat Chet Yot), ☎ +66 53 221308, . 9AM-4PM W-Su. Offers an insight into the history of Chiangmai100 Baht.
Chiang Mai Numismatic Museum (Treasury Hall), 52 Ratchadamnoen Rd, ☎ +66 53 22 4237/8. M-Sa 9AM-3:30PM. Though far from shore and high above rivers and sea,close encounters with marine life is at close at hand. This Mountain Top Aquarium is a living museum that boasts world’s longest and most spacious underwater tunnels with over 20,000 marine creatures large and small. With a seemingly endless variety of fresh and salt water organisms on display, you will marvel at the immensity of the ocean’s most fearful hunter and observe graceful water ballets with the world’s most agile underwater acrobat.
Chiang Mai University Art Museum, Corner Suthep and Nimmanhaemin Rd, ☎ +66 53 944833. Tu-Su 9AM-5PM. There are exhibitions by undergraduates from the Fine Arts Department at Chiangmai University. These change often and the standard of work on display by the students is of a high standard. Each month there is usually at least one art exhibition featuring the works of artists from South East Asia. The museum also hosts musical concerts - often free - in the adjoining theatre.Free.
The Lisu Hill Tribe display at the Hilltribe Research Institute Museum
Hilltribe Research Institute Museum, Chotana Road, ☎ +66 53 210872. M-F 9AM-4PM. 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. Slide and video show available daily 10AM-2PM
Museum of World Insects and Natural Wonders, Soi 13 Srimankalajarn Rd, ☎ +66 53 211891, . Daily 9AM-5PM. One of Asia's most unusual museums housing butterflies, beetles and beyond.>300 Baht.
Postal Museum, Mae Ping Post Office. Tu-Sa 8:30AM-4:30PM. Free.
Gardens and nature
Bhuping Palace, (On Route 1004, beyond Doi Suthep). 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. Dress code strictly applied: dress modestly or pay B15 for fisherman pants hire to cover your lack of it - this includes ANY leg above the ankle either gender). The palace itself (built in 1961) is not particularly exciting, but the extensive gardens are picturesque with some amazing plant life, including carefully curated tropical flowers, as well as centuries-old trees and giant bamboo. A sign at the bottom of the hill near the zoo will indicate when it's closed. It is close to Wat Prathat Doi Suthep, so travel directions are similar.50 Baht, children 10 Baht.
Chiang Mai Foreign Cemetery, Thanon Chiang Mai-Lamphun (about 800m north of the Holiday Inn, on the east side of the Ping River). A serene place of history and remembrance.
Chiang Mai Zoo & Aquarium, 100 Huay Kaew Rd (At the foot of Doi Suthep), ☎ +66 53 893-111, . 09:00-17:30 daily. Though far from shore and high above rivers and sea, close encounters with marine life is close at hand. This aquarium is a living museum that boasts some of the longest and most spacious underwater tunnels with over 20,000 marine creatures. The zoo is home to over 7,000 animals in a wooded natural environment.
Dokmai Garden, . This garden displays 120 different edible fruit plants, 140 different vegetables, 200 native orchid species, in total over 1000 vascular plants. Of these, 500 have been selected for pesentations on aluminium signs with informative information (English, Japanese and Thai). The plants have scientific names. The area is compact (4 ha or 10 acres) and surrounded by plantations of teak, bananas, longan and dry dipterocarp savannah. It is near Opkhan National Park, and between the famous Doi Inthanon and Doi Suthep national parks. The garden also hosts natural populations of the Atlas moth and the Golden Birdwing butterfly, and is visited by over 80 wild and free bird species. The garden is a member of the SEABG (Southeast Asian Botanical Gardens network) and collaborates with Chiangmai University (mushrooms), Maejo University (fish), Queen Sirikit Botanical Garden (plants), Tourism Authority of Thailand and Opkhan National Park.
Elephant Nature Park, ☎ +66 53 818932, . Approximately 60km north of Chiang Mai is a sanctuary for rescued and distressed elephants. They are not here to perform or do tricks and people visiting here will leave with a whole new understanding of these magnificent creatures. Day and overnight visits as well as one week volunteering opportunities can be booked via their website. During the day visit, which costs 2500 Baht per adult, you will feed and bathe the elephants, watch them wander around the 150 acre area, and will be provided with a magnificent buffet lunch. They will also pick and drop you off at your hotel in Chiang Mai.
Maesa Elephant Camp, 119/9 Tapae Rd, ☎ +66 53 206247 or +66 53 206248, . 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 (people) do enjoy the performances.
Baanchang Elephant Park, 147/1 Rachadamnoen Rd, ☎ +66 53 814174 or +66 89 6355206, . Aside from being one of the cheapest places to appreciate these wonderful animals in Chiang Mai, Baanchang treats these animals extremely well and the love and care displayed by Mahouts (elephant carers) contrasts markedly with that displayed at many other local elephant 'camps'. For those who stay overnight, the hosts host a night by the campfire putting on rural entertainment such as making sticky rice in bamboo and releasing fire lanterns into the night sky. A true gem of Chiang Mai which can be accessed from many of the local hotels and hostels.
Thai boxing is the national sport of Thailand. It can be seen in three different stadiums:
Kawila Boxing Stadium - not far from Narawat Bridge, a short block south of Thapae road in the NIght Bazaar, has real Muay Thai fights (almost) every Friday at 20:00 with 10 bouts ranging from young debutant fighters, local champions, and locals vs foreigners. Entry is 400 baht and 600 baht (as of November 2011).The smaller of the three stadiums it is nearly open-air but with a new tent covering and good lighting. This is much more authentic than the frenzied beer bar atmosphere of the other two locations.
Loi Kroh Boxing Stadium is on Loi Kroh Road near the Night Bazaar. Fights are usually held 3-4 nights per week, look for flyers posted up all over the old city. They usually have about 8 fights and feature Thai fighters as well as a few matches with foreign fighters. This may not be the best location to see Muay Thai with family, as it is surrounded by "girlie bars" and during a break between the fights a group of ladyboys will put on a dance and occasionally strip. Admission is 400 baht for normal seating or 600 for VIP. After about 11pm the complex is opened up for free, letting all the touts (flower sellers etc) in. If you are on a tight budget you may be able to see a few of the remaining fights for free this way.
Thapae Boxing Stadium is on Moon Muang Road near Thapae Gate. It also hosts around 8 fights per show, including a few matches with foreign fighters. This is the larger of the three stadiums and has food as well as beverages served. Gambling is prominently featured.
If you are feeling templed-out, there are a multitude of things to do in Chiangmai.
Chiang Mai Vista Cinema (Kad Suan Kaew)  - on Huay Kaew road. The tickets prices around 80-120 Baht depending on the duration of the film. The place is not very popular amongst local since it is a bit old and worn. No digital or 3D films shown at Vista.
Major Cineplex (Airport Plaza)  - tickets prices around 120-260 depending on the duration of the film and seat type. Honeymoon seats generally cost 40 Baht more than standard seats. If you would like to avoid the crowd, avoid going on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. Make sure to check the language of the film prior to booking. Some kids movies are dubbed in Thai.
The Playhouse Complex (Changpueak)  - on Changpueak road. The tickets prices for the show are Adult 1,000 Baht and Child 500 Baht. Including Thai buffet (Saturdays) Adult 1,300 Baht. Child 650 Baht. The Playhouse Theatre is Chiang Mai’s newest & trendiest attraction. Start your evening with a unique dining experience in Kinnaree Park. Set within an eco-friendly environment, surrounded by mountains and waterfalls offering a unique Lanna Culture experience to excite your senses with traditional dance and delicious northern Thai buffet before entering the theatre adjacent to the restaurant. The 350 seat capacity theatre hosts two shows per day at 8pm and 10 pm. Presenting Sequins & Dance a fun and happy performance of wholesome entertainment thats full of sparkle, movement & emotion to make a memorable evening. Performed by 30 Thai national performers it will excite you with every form of dance. Family, individual or Group bookings welcome.
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.
Green Bamboo Massage, 1 Moon Muang Road, Soi 1(mobile: +66(0)898275563). Is a small and very charming studio inside the moat with a fair and sustainable concept,located in a typical wooden thai house. The certified staff is highly trained in the arts of ancient Thai Massage Therapy. The owner uses real homemade cosmetics and even created her own aloe vera oil. Choose from a great variety of treatments and packages for fair prices (start with 200 Baht/hour).
The Sun Massage, Loi Kroh Road, Opp 7-Eleven. Recently relocated to Loi Kroh, the shop sports a very clean, and pleasant modern decor. The masseuse are very friendly, and provides decent, skilled massages. A traditional thai massage goes for 199 baht/ hour. There is a white table in front of the shop where the masseuse often hang out when they're not working.
Viang Ping Massage & Spa, Thapae Road, Soi 2. Tel 053874071 Opposite Wat Bupparam. A very clean & well run business , professionally run by Fern, manager-proprietor. All massages based on the Lanna, Northern Thai style, using pressure points & energy lines. Home made coconut oil & natural facial, body scrub & wrap products. Fern also teaches massage & spa to individuals or occasionally to small family groups.Prices average, 200 baht Thai, foot or head & shoulder, 250 baht oil. Loyalty cards for regular customers , free massage after 10.
Fah Lanna Massage,  186/3 Loy Kroh Road, near the night bazaar, down the street from Mc Donald's, past Royal Lanna Hotel. (mobile: +66(0)896950802 or +66(0)820303029; email@example.com). A small and very cozy massage shop close to the Iron Bridge across Ping river. Clean, friendly and professional, Fah Lanna gets continuously the highest ratings in customer reviews. First customers get a gentle foot-bath with scrub and comfortable clothes to change into and after the massage they offer ginger tea and a cold towel. The decoration and the music they play are beautiful and add to the experience. After collecting 10 stamps (1 stamp per 1 hour treatment) they give a free massage. Massages here are excellent and prices are very reasonable, starting from 200 Baht.
Motorcycle touring is a great way to explore Northern Thailand. One good day trip out of Chiang Mai is up and over Doi Suthep, which will take you up to Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep, and beyond the mountain to the reservoir.
Motor-scooter touring as far as Mae Hong Son and suitable for the less experienced motorcyclist.
Rafting down the Maetang river is offered by several companies and can often be combined with elephant riding or mountain biking. 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.
Peak Adventure Tour offers 10km rafting trips that can be combined with elephant riding or ATV driving.
Rainforest Canopy Walk
An activity normally associated with Central America, Thailand is now emerging as a world-class canopy tour destination.
AFECT runs a course exploring canopy bio diversity .
Flight of the Gibbon Adventure Tour  (~3000 baht) zips people through spectacular old-growth rainforest high above the forest floor. 2km of ziplines connect tree platforms, lowering stations and skybridges. Located in the mountains outside of Chiang Mai, the area is also much cooler than in the city.After the tour you can hike up alongside the Mae Kompong Waterfall. Allow 7 hours total for the tour from pickup to drop off - earliest collection time 5.30am.
Collection by van.
Briefing and equipment, place valuables in lockers.
Introductory (short - but still high!) ziplines.
10 minute hike to main ziplines.
Descent via ziplines and guided 'abseiling' (though you are carefully lowered by the guide).
Retrieval to basecamp to remove equipment and pickup belongings.
Short drive to waterfall, unguided hike alongside waterfall for 40 minutes.
Retrieval to basecamp for lunch and dropping off in van.
The tour is very exciting and the tour guides are friendly and fun - but apart from your beautiful arboreal surroundings there is little in the way of "education" involved, and it seems unlikely you will encounter gibbons. This is not necessarily a downfall of the tour but rather a consideration to be aware of for this rather pricey tour.
Food provided is standard Thai tourist café fare, ask for naam prik naam plaa if you would like to add some heat. Note that drinks (except water) are not included in price.
Honestly, one could skip the waterfall, it is attractive but given this area is awash with them in public areas it is not a selling point for this tour.
A pleasant way to get a feel for the Chiang Mai city and its layout is to take a boat trip on the Ping River.
Aerobics Aerobics sessions are held in the car park of Tesco Lotus on the Superhighway every weekday from 5.30PM The sessions are very popular and tourists or visitors to Chiang Mai are made very welcome. Regular water aerobics classes, incorporating Tai Chi and yoga exercises, are held at the Centre of the Universe Swimming Pool 
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. 
Rock Climbing - Approximately 35 miles east of Chiang Mai lies Crazy Horse Buttress, a 60-meter, orange- and black-streaked monolith jutting out of the green Mae On farming valley. Crazy Horse boasts more than 130 bolted routes between (French system) grades 5 and 8a, which makes it an ideal destination for beginners and experienced climbers alike. Spend multiple days exploring every part of the crag, or just spend a day or an afternoon above ground as a break from exploring the magnificent caves of the region. Climbing guides and information are also available from Chiang Mai Rock Climbing Adventures  and The Peak .
Mountain Biking - Just west of Chiang Mai lies the beautiful Doi Suthep National Park, its sumit at 1650m, 1300m above the valley floor. Chiang Mai Mountain biking runs daily downhill trips and nature cross country rides see 
Tennis - There are several places to play tennis in Chiang Mai: Amari Rincom Hotel, 1, Nimmanhemin Road, Anantasiri Court, 90/1 Chiang Mai - Lampang Super-Highway; Chiang Mai Land Village, Chiang Mai Land Road; Gymkhana Club, Chiang Mai - Lamphun Road ;Imperial Chiang Mai Resort & Sports Club, 284 Moo 3, Don Kaew, Mae Rim ; Lanna Sports Club, Chotana Road; Palm Springs, 120 Moo 5, Mahidol Road, and Chiang Mai Sports Complex (700 Year Stadium, Irrigation Canal Road (Route 121 to Mae Rim), which has 12 courts. All courts are bookable in advance and at most floodlighting makes it possible to play in the evening when it is cooler. There is an additional charge to cover the cost of electricity.
Chiang Mai swimming pools open to the public vary in quality, cleanliness and accessibility. On balance, those pools which are operated to internationally recognized standards of water quality are those which are privately owned by foreign investors.
Seven Hundred Year Stadium - a huge sports complex built for the South East Asia Games, held in Chiangmai in the early 1990's, and now a public sports and recreation center. This is located along the outer ring road (Irrigation Canal Road) Route 121, towards Mae Rim. It is about 8 kilometers from the city center and takes about fifteen minutes to get there by tuk-tuk/taxi. The pool is sanitized using chlorine.
Centre of the Universe Swimming Pool and Resort - open to tourists and other visitors. There are 3 swimming pools and deck. To get there, take Huay Kaew Road (Route 1004) from the city towards Doi Suthep. At the intersection of Routes 1004 and 121, follow the signs for Mae Rim. From the intersection, travel 1.2 kms towards Mae Rim and turn left at the 5th bridge over the canal. Go straight for 600 metres to the end of the road following signs for "Sang Serene House" and turn right. The Centre of the Universe is 300 metres on the right. It is 6 km from the city and takes 10-15 minutes by tuk-tuk/taxi. A detailed map and directions in Thai and English can be printed from their website  The pool is sanitized using salt water.
Hotel Pools - Some upmarket hotels such as The Orchid and the Amari Rincome Hotel on Huay Kaew Road, allow "outsiders" to use their pools on payment of a fee. Traveling time from the city center is around 10 minutes. These are sanitized using chlorine.
Chiang Mai Land Swimming Pool - is in "Chiang Mai Land" off Chang Klan Road. Open to the public current (2008) prices are 50 Baht per adult and 30 Baht per child. It has a pool deck and also has a restaurant and pool-side service. The pool is about 5.5km from the city center and takes between 10-12 minutes by tuk-tuk/taxi. The pool is sanitized using chlorine.
The lake at Huay Tung Tao - This is a reservoir within surrounding woodlands, and is located further along the Irrigation Canal Road than the Centre of the Universe and after the 700 Year Sports Stadium, as you head towards Mae Rim (Route 121). The lake is about 12 kilometers from the city center and takes 15-20 minutes by tuk-tuk/taxi. 20 Baht entrance fee.
Waterfalls and natural pools - at the foot of Doi Suthep on Huay Kaew Road. Look out for a large Buddhist Shrine on your left after traveling past the the entrance to Chiangmai Zoo. Turn left into the market at the back of the Shrine, and keep walking up the hill. You will come to the waterfalls after about 5 minutes. There is no charge for entry. The pools at the bottom of the water falls are not really big enough for swimming but are a great place to cool off at the height of the summer. During the dry season some of the water falls dry up - head for the high ground and you will still find pools full of fresh water! There are usually quite a few students hanging out there from the nearby university, who will happily practice their English conversational skills with you. About 7 kilometers from the city center, it takes 10-15 minutes by tuk-tuk/taxi to get there.
Festivals & exhibitions
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, . A magnificent showcase of 50,000 orchid plants representing nearly 10,000 orchid species, plus much more.
Flower festival float
Khom Loy hot air balloons launch
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.
Inthakin or Tham Boon Khan Dok is the City Pillar Festival around May/June. This is a six-day festival where spirits are propitiated to ensure the continuity of the city.
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".
Songkran Festival. Celebrated as the Thai new year around April 13-15. The most obvious sign that you're in the middle of the festival is when you get soaked by someone pouring a bucket of water over you, or squirting you with a water gun! This tradition evolved from people tossing water that had been poured over holy statues, since this water was expected to be good luck. Now, it takes the form of a free-for-all water fight, and you will undoubtedly be drenched. It's also a way of staying cool during the very hot and humid month of April.
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 (under See). The International Buddhist Centre offers short and long residential courses in Vipassana meditation in English. A brand new centre, including accommodation blocks and Vitara (chanting hall), is now open.
Wat Ram Poeng, Tambon Suthep, Amphoe Muang (4 miles south-west of the city) +66 53-278620, . Offers facilities for retreats and meditation instruction. Ten day minimum stay required for introduction to Vipassana Meditation techniques. English speaking monks are available to assist foreigners. For non-native English speakers, long-term students from your home country may be available to offer translation services.
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 17:00 and 19:00 hrs. Also, you can sign up for a 24-hrs introduction meditation retreat (they are offered on Tuesdays).
Wat Umong, Tambon Suthep, Amphoe Muang (3 and a half miles out of town) +66 53-277248 (08:30-16:00), . Offers meditation courses and Dharma instruction in English every Sunday 15:00-18:00.
Thai Boxing (Muay Thai)
Learn to fight off those pestering touts:
Chiang Mai Muay Thai - Chay Yai Gym In Nong Hoi, about 10 minutes from downtown. Top northern fighters train foreigners for a day, a week, or a month at a time. Accommodation available near the gym.
Lanna Muay Thai on Soi Chiang Khian, off Huay Kaew Road, near Centre of the Universe Chiangmai Swimming Pool. Muay Thai coaching
Muay Thai Chiangmai gym, Burklerk Gym located on 41 Kalare Night Bazaar ,The 2nd floor of The Night Bazaar Place Hotel, use Hotel Gate Entry to gym, opposite to the D2 Hotel, Night Bazaar walking street,the Muay Thai training center in Chiangmai city , Muaythai Training for the beginner,for being the coach,for fitness and for the professional fighter. Muay Thai by own Thai and champion of Thailand , Lumpini champion name master Burklerk Pinsinchai emai: firstname.lastname@example.org 
Air's Thai Culinary Kitchen, 9/1 Nongprateep Rd. -- +66 53 249326, +66 81 9936564, . Set in 1.6 acres of tranquil, landscaped grounds in a private house. The kitchen’s unique design draws from professional experience and is purpose built, and surrounded by herb and spice gardens.
A Lot Of Thai Cooking School, +66 53-800724. A family run home cooking class, taught by the owner for every class. Welcome to vegetarians and people with any kind of food restriction. Courses include market tour and a recipe book is provided for later use.
Baan Thai Cookery School, 11 Ratchadamnoen Road, Soi 5, near Thapae Gate, +66 53-357339 / +66-16714120, . Courses include a cook book and market tour. Have full day or evening classes
Chiang Mai Kitchen Cooking School+66-97002099. 20 minutes from downtown Chiang Mai. The organic herb and vegetable garden supplements ingredients that are purchased at the morning market. Before and/or after your day in the kitchen, you can stay overnight in their traditional Thai bamboo house.
Chiang Mai Thai Cookery School, at 1-3 Moon Muang Road, +66 53-206388 (fax: +66 53-206387), . Offers 1/2/3/4/5-day courses. 990 Baht for 1 day course.
Cooking Class Asia. Cooking Class Asia offers interactive cooking class vacations to people who want to make Thai cooking and culinary discovery the focus of their holiday in Chiang Mai.
Gap's School Of Thai Culinary Art Has its office at Gap's House, 3 Rajadamnern Soi 4 +66 53-270143. High standards, proper organisation, your own stove, 1 teacher per 5 students.
Grandma's Thai Recipes, +66 53 -121656. Provides traditional Thai cooking instruction. Vegetarian Friendly. Restaurant and booking office located in the center of town just north of Thapae Gate. 48 Chaiyapoom Rd.(Cooking School 15 minutes out of town, transportation provided).
Siam Rice Thai Cookery School, +66 53-329091. Friendly and knowledgeable staff provide a course on local and traditional recipes. The course includes a market tour and provides you with the recipes for 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.
Sompet Cookery School, 56 Patan Road, +66 53-214897. Learn to cook traditional Thai food at a riverside home. Daily courses, morning and afternoon. A recipe book with color photographs provided for each dish, suggesting many ways to prepare and serve Thai food.
Smile Thai Cookery School, +66-53-800-567-8. They teach you to prepare good Thai dishes with the real techniques that you can take back home. The class runs Monday – Friday in a fun environment. You can discover that the good Thai food is not that difficult to make.
Classic Home Cooking, (+66 53219056) Choose any dish from more than 50 dishes on their menu. 6 dishes per day for morning class and 4 dishes for evening class. The cooking class is running every day in a house.
Spicyhouse Cooking School, +66 857135425 42/1 Ratchamanka Road next to Wat Kha Phao. Small class max. 5 taught by the owner. Participants choose 5 dishes for a full day or 3 dishes for half day. Market tour and cook book included. Students eat what they cook. Vegetarians welcome.
Thai Cottage Cookery School, +66 53326608 25/2 Ratchadumnern Rd Soi 1. Participants learn 5 dishes in a full day, including making curry paste from scratch 800 Baht. 3-course half-day courses are available 600 Baht. Market tour and cook book included. Modifications for vegetarians are easily made. Tu and Kat are excellent teachers and a lot of fun.
Thai Massage School of Chiang Mai (TMC) is a Thai government-registered to teach Thai massage.
Green Bamboo Massage - Chiang Mai,1/1 Moon Muang Rd.,Soi 1, phone=0898275563, . Offers individual daily or weekly courses in Traditional Thai Massage, Thai Yoga Massage, Tok Sen Massage and Thai Oil Massage. Seminars are run by Ms. Mesa, a certified and experienced expert in this art.
Viang Ping Massage & Spa Tel 053874071 2/4 Thapae Road, soi 2. Opposite Wat Bupparam. Thai, & oil massage courses , also Spa courses. all courses run by Fern are individual or occasionally to small groups of friends.
Chiang Mai is a great place to shop. Sprawling markets during the day and night carry items from cheap trinkets to skilfully made local craft. ATM's can be found all around, but all charge 150 baht to foreigners, except for Aeon. Their most convenient ATM's can be found at Central Plaza Chiang Mai Airport on 3rd floor, and at Tesco Lotus north of old town at the superhighway, ground floor.
Mengrai Kilns, 79/2 Arak Rd, Samlan 6, (email@example.com), . +66 53 272063. Celadon green-glazed ceramics. Sift through their pile of rejects in the covered area to the right of store and find something interesting for 20 baht.20-500 baht.
Nok 'Em Ded Designs, 162/5 Prapokklao Rd, Prasingh, Muang (From Thapae Gate, go straight on Rachadamnoen Rd, turn left at 2nd intersection. Shop is on left opposite Wat Puntao & Wat Chedi Luang.), ☎ +66 (0)53 280 960, +66 (0)87 034 4067 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . M Noon-8PM, Tu-Sa 10AM-8PM, Su 10AM-11PM. Unique styles from simple to extravagant. English speaking owners & staff. Jewellery is handmade by the artist owners. Great quality t-shirt collection toofrom 50 baht.
Modern shopping malls sell have all the usual big brand products, though it might be worth investigating for electronic good as the prices can be negotiated down to a bargain.
Central Plaza Chiang Mai Airport (เซ็นทรัลแอร์พอร์ตพลาซ่า), Corner Thipanet Rd and Mahidon Rd. About half a mile from the airport is a somewhat adventurous walk from the terminal. It has several floors, with a food court, banks/ATM's and multi-screen theater. It also has a Cultural Center attached selling many crafts, a large food market and an extensive selection of Thai ready-to-eat stalls in the basement.
Kad Suan Keaw, Corner Huay Kaew Rd and Bunreuangrit Rd. Has many decent shops, restaurants and banks/ATMs.
Night Bazaar, Chang Khlan Rd (between Tha Phae Rd and Si Donchai Rd). 5PM-11PM. A huge outdoor market stretching along both sides of the road with the Night Bazaar Building at the centre of the maelstrom. It can take a concerted effort to find something interesting among the near identical stalls selling tourist orientated trinkets, t-shirts and pirated gear. You rarely will see Thai people shopping here.
Sunday Walking Market, Rajdumnern Rd (From the inner-east side of Tapae Gate). Su 4PM-11PM. The street is blocked off to traffic for local craft vendors to layout their handmade wares.
Saturday Walking Market, Wualai Rd. Sa 5PM-11PM. In the old silver working district, it's a smaller version of the Sunday market with most of the same vendors.
Warorot Market (กาดหลวง / Kad Luang), Thapae Rd and Chang Moi Rd. 7AM-5PM. This sprawling indoor market is where the locals shop and is worth a visit to look over the plethora of fabrics, spices, tea and dried fruit piled up along the aisles. Across the road is a flower and fruit market and out-of-this-world fireworks stands. At night the street is packed with snack stalls.
Along route 1006 (Charoen Muang Rd.) just past the Superhighway (route 11) are various factories offering tours on how the wares are made and showrooms. Silverware, silk, furniture and brass items generally priced with the cashed up tourist in mind, but the tours might be worth a look to see how things are made. They are generally open during typical day time hours.
A bowl of Chiang Mai's signature dish, Khao Soi Kai, with pickled cabbage and lime to add to taste
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 (kai) or beef (neua), but available some places as vegetarian or with seafood. Another local speciality is hang ley, Lanna-style pork curry. For those tired of eating rice or noodles there's also a wide range of excellent international food restaurants, from cheap hamburger stands to elaborate Italian eateries.
When you come to Chiang Mai you should try a Khantoke dinner and show. Although these are just for tourists it is still a nice way to spend an evening. The first Khantoke dinner was held in 1953 by Prof Kraisi Nimanhemin who wanted to host a special event for 2 friends leaving Chiang Mai, 2 others were held both in 1953 and thus "Khantoke" dinners are not "authentic" but a relatively recent invention. Khantoke literally means Small bowl, low table (Khan = small bowl. Tok = low level table) There are also many garden restaurants where you can enjoy an excellent Thai meal in a beautiful setting.
The range and value of western food in Chiang Mai is unsurpassed in Northern Thailand and there is a full range of restaurants from Australian/British/Irish, through French and German to Italian, Spanish, American and Mexican. In fact considering how remote Chiang Mai is from the major centres of population in Asia, it is remarkable how many Western restaurants there are! this is one city where eating Thai is not the only option.
Markets & roadside stalls
Transient groups of roadside stalls set up in the evening selling basic but good Thai food that may well be the most authentic you will find.
Anusarn Market, Chang Khlan Road. Is a busy outdoor night market with lots of little Thai, Indian and Western restaurants and food vendors. Great atmosphere.
Kalare Food Centre, Chang Khlan Rd (opposite the Night Bazaar Building). 5PM-10PM. Has a large open-air food court, featuring free Thai classical dance performances nightly. All food is paid for with pre-purchased coupons.mains 20-50 baht.
Suthep Road outdoor eating, (Past Canal Road, by the University). Dozens of food carts set up every evening around from around 17:00 until about 22:00, with a huge variety of very inexpensive food, and tables set up along the sidewalk.
Funkydog Cafe, Moonmuang Rd, Soi 6. Local handmade coffee from a local hill tribe. Fantastic Thai family cooking. All fresh and made by hand, great atmosphere and music, low cost food. Genuine owner who will keep you informed of all the natural products you should eat. The yellow curry is to die for.
Kuaytiaw Reua Koliang, Moon Muang Road (Near Ratchamankha Rd; no English sign). Serves authentic kuaytiow reua (literally "boat noodles", rice noodles in dark broth with beef). It's good stuff anyway.25 baht.
Muan Baan, Moon Muang, Soi 7. A variety of Thai meals, for breakfast and lunch. The food is excellent and the owners and staff are very pleasant and helpful.
Ratana’s Kitchen, Tha Pae Rd. Popular for its wide range of Thai dishes and a huge vegetarian selection.30-60 baht.
Re-Feel Café, 48/4-5 Rachavithi Rd. Offers great Thai food, good atmosphere, friendly staff and free billiards.
Sailomjoy Restaurant, 7 Rachadamnoen Rd (near Tha Phae Gate). Daily 7:30AM-4PM.. delicious food (Thai, Western and vegetarian), friendly service, and simple and relaxed atmosphere.
Ghekko Garden Bar and Restaurant, (Located opposite the Imperial Mae Ping Hotel.). Highlights are lemongrass beef and sundried beef. Their chilli crab is also worth a try. Enquire at the bar blackboard to daily specials.
Huen Phen, 112 Ratchamankha Rd. daily 8AM-3PM & 5PM-10PM.. 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 100 baht!
Ob Luang. daily 10AM-2PM and 5PM-12AM.. Serves genuine Thai-Chinese cuisine in a secluded garden setting directly on the Ping River.
Sila Aat, (on the southern edge of the Kalare Market). daily 3PM-12PM. Fresh seafood and a wide selection of Thai and Northern/Lanna specialties. Operated by two sisters.
Galae Garden Restaurant, (at the end of Suthep Road), ☎ +66 53 278655. Thai & Northern Thai food and grilled specialties in delightful outdoors.
Khum Khantoke, (in Chiang Mai Business Park), ☎ +66 53 304121. daily 7PM-10PM. Traditional North Thailand Cuisine. Reservations are a good idea to get a good seat.All you can eat 350 baht.
Old Chiang Mai Culture Center, 185/3 Wualai Rd, ☎ +66 53 275097. daily 7PM-9:30PM. 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 others.
Mike's Hamburger Stand, corner Chaiyapoom Rd and Chang Mai Rd. Brightly-lit, old-school joints - just stools and a counter in an open shop.
Sodas Restaurant, In Sompet Mall. Business CLOSED since 2009. Western, Fish & Chips, Mexican and Thai meals. Fresh coffee and free refill, fruit shakes, cold beer and soft drinks. A range of breakfasts and western meals. Free online PC for customers.
Woody's Fine Fast Food, 56 Chaiyapoom Rd (next to 7/11 near Spicy nightclub). 5PM-late. Kebabs (Gyros), Hamburgers, Hot Dogs, Falafel, Chips (Fries), Beer, Liquor and Soft Drinks. Free wi-fi. Stays open after most restaurants have closed.
SoupaSteak, 26/5-6 Huaykeaw Rd. (opposite Shell gas station on the way to Doi Suthep), ☎ 053215010. Budget pork and chicken steaks.
Amazing Sandwich, 20/2 Huay Kaew Rd, . M-Sa 8AM-10PM, Su 8Am-4PM. Choose any of the ingredients on their list and they'll build a sandwich for you exactly how you like it. They also serve breakfasts and have bagels.
Chiangmai Saloon, 30 Ratchawithi Rd, ☎ +66 08 1930 2212, . American-styled burger and Southwest steakhouse, friendly staff, nice atmosphere, music videos and sports on three 10 foot screens, pool tables and free internet, free popcorn and peanuts, over 50 kinds of margaritas, Chang beer on tap, kitchen open from breakfast until late, everyday. Another outlet at 80/1 Loi Kroh Rd.
El Toro Restaurant & Pub, 5/2 Loi Kroh Rd. New Mexico style Mexican food prepared by experienced cook. Free food 5PM-7PM every Friday.
La Fourchette. Authentic French restaurant in the center of the old city (across from Wat Chedi Luang). Large selection of imported meats and wines at affordable prices. Romantic open-air seating area with upstairs art gallery. Open Monday to Saturday, 6PM to 11PM.
O'Malley's Irish Restaurant, 149-14/15 Changklan Rd, ☎ +66 53 271921. International cuisine and Guinness on tap.
Red Lion English Pub & Restaurant, Loi Kroh Rd, ☎ +66 53 818847, . International and Thai food. All the pub favourites like Bangers 'n' Mash and Fish 'n' Chips as well as Steaks, Pies and Pasta. Draught Guinness Heineken and Tetley's Bitter.
The Dukes, 49/4-5 Chiang Mai-Lumpoon Road (South of the Narawat bridge), ☎ +66 53 249231. 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 Olde Bell: British Pub, Loi Kroh Rd, ☎ +66 53 275948, . Modern British cuisine and Indian Curries are served up by attractive bar staff. British and Continental Cheese boards are a speciality of the house. Traditional British Pub Atmosphere: A wide range of beers, ciders and wines are kept in the well stocked bar.
Arcobaleno Italian Restaurant, 60 Keaw Nawarat Rd, Soi 1 (In front of Watket Temple), ☎ ''+66 53''-306254, . Open for lunch & dinner with a range of traditional Italian soup, pasta, antipasti, meat and vegetarian dishes.
Fillmore East Bar & Grill, Charernrasd Rd, ☎ +66 53 262416. CLOSED since 2006. Delicious USDA Beef, lamb, veal, chops, burgers. Excellent homemade deserts such as pecan, pumpkin and apple pie with large choice of toppings.
Piccola Roma Palace Italian Restaurant, corner of Charoenprathet Rd & Sri Donchai Rd, ☎ +66 53 820297. Open lunch & dinner amid beautiful surroundings. Serving residents over 15 years.
The House, 199 Moonmuang Rd, ☎ +66 53 419011. 6PM-late. Old 1930's colonial style house in town center. Pacific rim & fusion food
Kanson Sushi Bar, Kotchasan Rd, Soi 1. A little hidden in a side street but visible from the main road near Tapae Gate. Delicious and very good value for money (250 baht will fill you)
Fuji, Central Airport Plaza. While perhaps not a special restaurant in that it is not unique to Chiang Mai (it's actually a large chain) for those seeking reasonably priced Japanese food Fuji is a must. Expect to pay 120 baht and up for each dish (for instance a single sushi roll), however there are several spectacular sets that offer great "bang for your buck", for instance the Fuji Sashimi Set which can easily fill a sushi lover for 190 baht. Another outlet in branch Panthip Plaza.
Gigantea, 300 Chang Moi Rd, ☎ +61 53 233464. daily 11AM-2PM, 5PM-10PM. Owned and managed by a cute Japanese-Thai husband and wife team, this restaurant is known as the best Japanese restaurant among Japanese residents in Chiang Mai. Although the menu is limited, ingredients are always fresh, cooking and presentation are excellent. Lunch is best value for money, with sets costing around 140-200 baht.
It can be hard to find strictly vegetarian food in Chiang Mai, as fish and oyster sauce are used frequently, and the local Buddist monks themselves often eat fish. (Thus, asking for your dish to be prepared "like the monks," which works in other places, does not get the same results in Chiang Mai.) There are a few completely vegetarian options, however.
Blue Diamond, Muan Muang Rd, Soi 9. M-Sa 8AM-9PM. Thai and Western, strictly Vegetarian, huge selection of items for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Great salads, fruits, juices, noodle dishes, bakery, good breads.
Khun Churn, Nimmanhemin Rd, Soi 15, ☎ +66 53 224124. daily 9:30AM-10PM. Thai vegetarian. A lunch buffet is available every day from 11AM-2:30PM. Closes at 2:30PM on the 16th of every month.
Taste from Heaven, 237 Thapae Rd, ☎ +66 53 208803. Thai vegetarian with vegan options. Owned by a friendly English ex-pat, this restaurant offers curries and noodle dishes in a comfortable and clean setting, with both indoor and garden seating.
Pun Pun Vegetarian Restaurant, Wat Suan Dok temple, Suthep Road, Chiang Mai (Restaurant is located inside the temple compound behind the monk chat building in an outdoor courtyard with a large boddhi tree and tables with umbrellas.), ☎ +66 86 101850. 9:00AM - 7:00PM; closed Wednesday. Thai vegetarian with organic ingredients from local farmers and many vegan-friendly options. Run by a local self-reliance and seed-saving center outside the city.
(See note about tap water under "Stay Safe" below)
Chiang Mai's nightlife scene is the most happening in the North, although still a far cry from Bangkok's hot spots, this guide will show where you can hangout, meet some of the most beautiful girls in Thailand, get outrageous or do whatever takes your fancy. 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
Many, but by no means all of Chiang Mai's tourist oriented bars and pubs are located along Loi Kroh Road where in addition to the street bars, a large Beer Bar Centre can be found at the Night Bazaar end of Loi Kroh. Here you will find around 30 bars ranging from sports bars that feature big screens to view your favourite sports and play pool, to Pattaya-style girlie "beer bars", to even bars staffed exclusively by kathoeys (ladyboys), the choice is yours. The centre also features a Muay Thai boxing ring that has exhibition bouts for free or a voluntary donation and on Thursdays real competition boxing that requires a small entrance fee unless your bar has provided you with complimentary viewing. And for extra fun, the ocaasional westerner tries his hands/feet/knees/elbows - usually with hilarious results.
Also take a stroll along Moon Muang Road and its side sois. 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. Be aware despite their charm and friendliness, the pressure to purchase lady drinks can end up with a very surprising "check bin" (tab) at the end of the night. A few of those similar bars recommended by expats are:
So Cool, with cheap prices and, as the name suggests, a very cool atmosphere, this bar is sure to satisfy. The decor is excellent and the beers are as cold as they get .
2gether Bar,now at Chaiya Phum soi 1 opposite Tuskers Bar and Restaurant, . Very reasonable prices 20-30% less than others in the Loi Kroh neighbourhood, and no pushy "Lady Drink" ripoffs here. Your hostess is the very charming Mai, free pool table but don't expect an easy game if Mai is playing. Great music and interesting mix of more discerning and witty expats PLUS a bevy of beautiful, single female visitors are always dropping by, (including Mai of course!) .
Crank Tavern, Bottom of Ratchapakinai Road (Near Chiang Mai Gate) +66 819 527699,  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.
Half Moon Pub, Soi 2 Moonmuang (around the corner from Topnorth Guesthouse), +66 853 205023, . 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.
Kat Bar, Loi Kroh in the Beer Bar Centre - hosted by the feisty and effervescent Jane who always has a great selection of music of your choice played as loud as you like, together with free pool and a wonderful group of really friendly girls to ease your shyness. Always a great favourite as it does not have girls of the "pushy - buy me a drink" type but the quality service always ensures their welcome visitors want to come on back.
Dragonfly Bar, 8/1 Loi Kroh Road - One of the smaller bars at the top of Loi Kroh but also one of the most cosy. What really make this place stand out is the friendly staff and the fact that this bar has two floors so you can get away from the bustle of street level and enjoy the relaxed atmosphere from the balcony.Dragonfly Bar Chiang Mai There is also a big screen with projector on the second floor where the bar shows most live sporting events available in Thailand and the staff will let you choose what to watch most of the time.
Number One, Loi Kroh Road Soi 1 - friendly bar with free Internet and pool table. Plenty of talkative expats and pretty hostesses. The hostesses are not allowed by the management to ask customers for lady drinks (however, they'll be glad to accept one, if you do offer yourself), but they're still friendly even if you won't buy. Multiple large TV screens (mainly sport or news translations), food is also available, as well as Belgian beers (from 150 baht). Free wi-fi.
Sportsbar@ChiangMai, Changklan Rd. 100/1 (The Plaza 4th floor, Night Bazaar), +66 53 235 771, . Open daily 11:30-02:00, Nice and clean bar with excellent food and drinks. Thai and western kitchen, many draughts and cocktails. 22 flatscreens and 1 beamer to watch the sport action from 16 different channels simultaneously. Even request you channel to watch. Nice view over the Night Bazaar. Parking place available.
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.
Chiangmai Saloon, Two locations: 80/1 Loi Kroh Rd., 150m from Night Bazaar, +66 08-0675 2169, and 30 Ratchawithi Rd., inside the moat, +66 08-1930 2212. American-styled burger and Southwest steakhouse, friendly staff, nice atmosphere, big screen music videos and sporting events, pool tables and free internet, free popcorn and peanuts, over 50 kinds of margaritas, Chang beer on draft, kitchen open from breakfast until late, everyday.
The Pub 189 Huay Kaew Road (near Amiri Rincome Hotel) +66 53-211550, . 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.
The Red Lion English Pub: A great location in the heart of the famous Night Bazaar, just past McDonald's and Burger King. Draught Guinness, Heineken and Tetley's bitter. Imported ciders as well as Belgian and German beers. All the pub favourites like Fish n Chips, Steak & kidney pie as well as Thai food. Menu in 7 languages including Japanese!! A great place to relax after shopping in the Night Bazaar. Live sports on big screen including Premier League Football, Aussie Rules, Rugby and Formula 1.The Red Lion is also the Unofficial home of The Chiang Mai FC Expats supporters club. They meet at 4pm at the pub on match days. Visitors welcome.
The Olde Bell: British Pub and Ex-Services Club. on Loi Kroh Rd (next to the Raming Lodge Hotel and behind the Bank of Ayuthaya foreign exchange booth) in the heart of Chiang Mai's entertainment district, within walking distance of most hotels. Draught beers including Heineken, Guinness and Tiger, Ciders including Dry Blackthorn and Olde English and a good wine selection as well as Great British/Australian food, are the hallmarks of this traditional British Pub with a cosy and friendly atmosphere. Open from 10.00a.m. for British and Continental Breakfasts.Monday night is Irish night with various themed promotions including cheap Guinness!, Tuesday is Quiz Night & Thursday Beatles Night. At the weekend live sports are shown including English football,Rugby, Formula 1, Golf, Tennis and A.F.L. Aussie Rules. A pool table and dart board are available. The Olde Bell is the Chiang Mai home of The Royal British Legion and members are entitled to discounts.
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. Little English is spoken in this part of town - however, little doesn't mean none, and the staff of many bars, being students, still can understand what do you want, or even sometimes can speak reasonably well.
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 and 20-somethings, with a variety of live music. Open 17:00-01:00.
Simmbar - decent prices and good crowd. very nice staff.
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.
Many smaller (usually no live music, but have TV, generally with football or some other sports) roadside Thai bars around this area, but outside of more up-market Nimmanhaemin Rd., being cheap (50 to 65 for big Chang or Leo is common), often have a discount if you buy 3 bottles of their favourite beer at once, with price of 129, 119 or even 109 baht for all three. The posters about those "promotions", if any, are in Thai language only - if you can't read, look for the numbers mentioned above, and, if in doubt, ask the staff. Often (if they can speak enough English) the staff will tell you about this offer themselves, if they have one. Expats sometimes can be seen in those small bars, but generally most of the customers are Thais.
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. Acoustic guitar is played outside (19:00-midnight) while in the bar you can catch the famous Took and friends (23:00-01:00) 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 Bridge Bar, Nimmanhaemin, Soi 11, 081-595-0678. Open every night till one o’clock. Live music every night – except Monday: Brit Pop, Rock, Thai Music. Mostly Thais go to this bar but you will as well get to see some expatriats, Age: 22-32. Service is excellent and if you happen to go there by yourself, there will for sure someone come up to talk to you. The menu includes delicious cocktails - „Mango Kiss“, „Velvet“! -, cheap beer & sangsom (=Thai whisky) as well as Snacks. The outside sitting area is perfect if u want to talk & understand the others ;)
The Chiang Mai Riverside Restaurant, 9-11 Charoenrat Road +66 53-243239 . 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 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 110 baht/person extra.
The Good View, 13 Charoenrat Road +66 53-241886, . 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 Jazz Collective, inside the city moat and east of Chang Puak Gate, . 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. Mixed bag in terms of quality, sometimes great sometimes mediocre. 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 reasonable.
Hot Shots at Pornping Tower Hotel - a 'Thai' place with live music most nights, reasonable drink prices and no cover charge for foreigners or locals.
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 girls looking to party - be warned, they almost always ask for money. Also be warned of the washroom staff who will provide you with an invigorating massage whilst you are washing your hands or worse when you are at the urinal and then ask for a tip. A place for farang men to pick up prostitutes.
Mandalay has a younger Thai crowd. Foreigners pay a cover charge - which locals don't. The manager doesn't seek Western tourist business, but if you don't mind dual pricing, this is a great insight into the world of young Thais at play! This may be true but every local person will tell you that this is only a gay bar.
Team Club Martini is Chiang Mai's premier party and electronic music promoters. Team Club Martini strives to bring in top DJ talents, both Thai and International, and showcase them in concert-like events which draw in big crowds of locals, expats and travelers. Check their party schedule on the website to see if you are in town for one of their events.
Chiang Mai is a popular destination for gay tourists and many gay people have retired here. Highlights of the vibrant gay scene include:
Glass Onion, Room 1 project, 61, Nimmanhaemin Rd, ☎ +66 53 218479. Sophisticated wine bar popular with the gay community
Golden Ball (Bon Tong), corner of Tewan Rd and Santitham Rd, ☎ +66 53 406043, . 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.
Garden Bar & Restaurant, 2/25 Soi Viangbua, Chotana Rd, ☎ +66 53 215376. Outdoor garden bar and restaurant serving Lebanese, Western and Thai food. Popular meeting place for gay ex-pats and tourists.
Chiang Mai has sprouted a thriving coffee culture, having an abundance of roadside stalls to Starbucks-style chains seemingly every few meters. The dilettante baristas consistently squeeze out a decent cup from their electric machines regardless of the price or opulence of their premises. A standard Espresso or long black (Americano) is 30 baht, iced around 35 baht and upwards of 45 baht for more elaborate milk and sprinkles.
@.ju Coffee, 52 Rajmunca Rd. Run by 'Oil', this little place has excellent espresso-based drinks, free WIFI or ten minutes on the computer with your coffee. Very modern design; seating in the front is open to the air while the back is air conditioned. Oil herself speaks excellent English and is happy to give you the low down.
Wawee Coffee, Many locations around the city. Looks much like a Starbucks, but nice mugs if you drink it there. Inside is well air-conditioned, outside is under a canopy (they mist water in the heat of the afternoon). The staff are all kids and pride themselves on their decorative drinks (look for the panda-topped latte.) Internet available for small fee.
Bitter Swee, Huay Kaew Rd. The noisy location is made up for by the excellent espresso. Internet is free, and the 'fishbowl' inside is both air conditioned and sound proofed against the rush of traffic.
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. If so please remove them from wikitravel. Evenings in Chiang Mai are cooler than Bangkok and the south during the dry season, so air conditioning may be less of a priority.
This guide uses the following price ranges for a standard double room:
less than 500 baht
over 1500 baht
Guesthouses and Boutique Hotels
7 Century, 270 Ratchaphakinai Road, Sripoom, Chiang Mai 50200, ☎ +66 53 287 541 and +66 81 43 88 175 (email@example.com). checkout: 12.00. (Facebook). Newly renovated guesthouse with 2 single (150 thb), 4 double (180-220 thb) and 1 triple rooms (250 thb). Hot shower (private for single rooms, shared for double and triple). Terrace. Free WiFi. If they have a laptop free you may borrow it to your room(!). Fan in rooms. Kitchen free to use. Soft beds. Service also available in well spoken German. Help with booking trips, trekks, motobikes and other things. Friendly staff.150-250 baht.
Giant Guest House 1 & 2, Giant 1, 24/1 Moon Muang Rd. T. Sriphum A. Mueng. Giant 24 Rachamankha Road, T. Prasingha A. Mueng., ☎ +66 871821611 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . checkout: 12.00. Cheap basic rooms, hot showers, free wifi, free shared computer, free bicycles, Reggae bar attached (Freedom Bar 4pm-12am). Easy base for North Thailand. Can book everything here and sight see by Bicycle. Kitchen with cooking lessons available and massage school 200meters away120 baht Dorms, 180 baht single fan room (shared bath), 250 baht Queen bed with fan (private bathroom). Monthly Rates 3500 baht, single room with fan and shared bathroom (1 person).
A Little Bird Guesthouse, 17 Soi 1 Ratvithi Road, ☎ +66 53289577 (email@example.com), . checkout: 12.00. Cheap basic dorms with hot shower and free wifi. An easy place to meet other travelers on a good location.100 baht mixed dorm -120 baht female dorm.
Bed and Terrace Chiang Mai Guesthouse, 10 Kotchasarn Rd, Soi 5, ☎ +66 53 449-708 and +66 838285599 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . Thai modern style guesthouse with terrace, comfortable rooms with double windows to see panoramic mountain view.450 baht.
Green Tulip Guest House, 18 Samlan Rd, ☎ +66 53-278367, . Guest house with a 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 Rd, ☎ +66 53 242450, . Family style guesthouse fan or air-con rooms and with a tropical garden on the banks of the Mae Ping River.500 baht..
Julie Guesthouse, 7/1 Prapokklao Rd, Soi 5, ☎ +66 53 274355, . Popular guesthouse located in a quiet part of the Old City near Tha Phae Gate. This guesthouse is notorious for filling quickly (quite often by 9AM), as it is listed in some guide books. The lounge area is often full of travelers. Food and drinks are served. The in-house travel agency can do all sorts of bookings for you. Free WiFi but it doesn't always work.from 100/180 baht (fan room without/with ensuite).
Le Bateau Ivre Guesthouse (The Drunken Boat), 141/8 Ratchadamnoen Rd, ☎ +66 53 272012 (email@example.com), . checkout: 12PM. Air Con, TV, free WiFi/internet.350-500 baht.
Lek Guesthouse, 22 Chaiyaphum Rd, ☎ +66 53 252686 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . checkout: 12AM. All rooms have fan and private bathroom with hot water. Hidden in a quiet alley. Free WiFi. s 250 baht, d 300 baht.
Parami Guesthouse, ☎ +66 53 266139, . A small cosy family run guesthouse. Prices s/d with fan 300/350 THB, twin/d with a/c 480/550.300-550 baht.
Riders Corner (Rider's Corner Bar & Restaurant - Chiang Mai Bikers Hotel Thailand), 357, Moon Muang Rd, ☎ +66 87 0481 787 (email@example.com), . Rooms are newly renovated, clean and comfortable. Hotel room rates are 350 – 600 THB. Full breakfast is available. Locked parking for motorcycles is provided.350-600 baht. (N 18° 47.692′,E 98° 59.606′)
Siri Guesthouse, 31/3 Moon Mueang, Soi 5, ☎ +66 53 326550. A family run guesthouse on a popular, but quiet lane. Fan and air-con rooms, all with bathrooms and hot water. Free Wi-Fi300 Baht.
Thapae Inn, 164-166 Thapae Road (about 400 metres east of the Thapae Gate on the north side), ☎ 053 234640 (fax: 053 252790). Family run guesthouse. Friendly. Excellent value/location combination. Basic double rooms with bathrooms, hot water & small TV. Free Wi-Fi. Common area with tables so you can bring food and eat. Can buy refreshments. 200 Fan/300 Aircon.200 - 300 Baht.
Cool guesthouse (Affordable and conveniently located in the old city), 87 Sripoom Rd - Sripoom - Mueang Chiang Mai, close to Changpuak gate (Google Map Ref: 18.788169,98.835325), ☎ +66 53 21 26 18 firstname.lastname@example.org, . Cool guesthouse is a small boutique guesthouse with patio and garden, free bicycle use for the guest. English, French and Spanish speaking Staff. Each room has aircon and fan, cable TV, free WiFi, safe box.500-800 Baht.
Lai-Thai Guest House, 111/4-5 Kotchasarn Rd, ☎ +66 53 271725 or +66 53 206438 (email@example.com), . A large northern Thai style guesthose with hotel-like facilities and services. All 110 air-conditioned rooms en suit with hot shower are decorated with traditional wooden floors and bamboo walls, equiped with minibar, cable & satellite TV and free Wi-Fi.500-780 baht.
Centre of the Universe (Chiangmai Swimming Pool and Resort), Near Chiangmai Zoo and Aquarium (Google Map Ref: 18.8201,98.9584), ☎ +66 81 473 0746 or +66 53 327 808 firstname.lastname@example.org, . With only 3 detached Thai-style bungalows in a private garden, this has to be the smallest boutique hotel with the biggest swimming pool in Chiangmai. Very friendly and helpful staff. Each room has aircon, TV, WiFi, fridge, tea and coffee making facilities and access to 3 swimming pools.1200 - 1500 Baht. (N 18 49.189,E 98 57.509)
Hub53, 53 Kan Klong Chon Pra Tan Rd, ☎ +66 89 1188810, . Has seven air-con rooms with wood furnishings, cable TV, coffee/tea maker, hair dryer, room safe, telephone, keycard access, and refrigerator, a balcony, private toilet and bath with hot shower, free Wi-Fi Internet connection, and a free English newspaper daily.1100 baht.
Smile House Boutique, ☎ +66 53 800567-8, . A ‘wooden’ house which is simply decorated to create sense of simplicity that brings you an amazingly peaceful atmosphere. The rooms are beautifully decorated700-1200 baht.
Sri Pat Guesthouse, 16 Moon Muang Rd, Soi 7, ☎ +66 53 218716. Nice guesthouse with air conditioning, TV, private shower, fridge and a little balcony. 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.900 baht.
Royal Peninsula Hotel, Assadatorn Rd, Northeast a few hundred metres from the corner of the City Square to the north of ThaPae Gate. Good rooms, A/C, hot water, bar fridge and TV.900 baht.
Viangbua Mansion, 3/1 Viangbua Rd, ☎ +66 53 411-202, . Offers deluxe serviced apartments for daily rental. Perhaps one of the most expensive housing options in the city but they do offer a wide range of services and some degree of security. Located in a somewhat remote northwest area of the city.900 baht.
Sakulchai Place, Hueykaew Rd, Soi 10 - Plubplung T.Chainghueak District Muang, ☎ +66 53 211 982, . Spacious and clean Standard, Deluxe and Superior rooms available for daily/weekly/monthly rates. Internet (WiFi/LAN), A/C, Hot/Cold Shower. New building, modern rooms. In trendy Nimmanhemin area across from shopping mall and 5-10 minute walking distance to night life, cafes, restaurants, etc.
Ping Nakara Boutique Hotel & Spa, 135/9, Charoenprathet Rd, ☎ +66 53 252999 (email@example.com), . Hotel with a nice architecture with hand-carved fretwork.over 4,200 baht.
Baan Orapin, 150 Charoenrat Road, ☎ +66 53 16164016, . Only 6 rooms is in beautifully restored old Thai house set in a small garden. Air-con, hot water.3000 baht.
Four Seasons Resort, ☎ +66 53-298181, . In the tranquil countryside amid working paddy fields and water buffalo. Spa and Thai cooking classes within its groundsover 20,000 baht.
Blue Diamond, Muan Muang Rd, Soi 9. M-Sa 8AM-9PM. For international style hotels good one
BP Chiang Mai City Hotel, 154 Ratchamankha Rd, ☎ +66 53 270-711 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . A mid-sized hotel with a small fitness center and pool.1000-2000 baht.
Ban Shewe Wana Suite Resort, 290,292 Charoen Muang Rd, ☎ +66 53-240-020 (email@example.com), . Based at Shewe Wana, Chiangmai’s most intimate boutique resort and spa, you can join in the excitement of the city’s vibrant life and relax in the tranquillity of our shady retreat.
The Castle, 8/3 Rajchiangsan Rd, Soi 2, ☎ +66 53 209-093, . Upmarket looking place built like a Spanish villa.990-1200 baht.
Central Duangtawan Hotel, 132 Loi Kroh Rd, ☎ +66 53 905-000 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . Excellent four-star hotel with cheaper Internet rates. However the Internet connection speed there is terribly slow. Probably a little cheaper than similar hotels as it's in the red-light district, but the area seems quite safe and the hotel is of very high quality.1,450-2,950 baht.
Chedi Chiang Mai, 123-123/1 Charoen Prathet Rd, ☎ +66 53 253-333, . A modern design hotel on the grounds of the former British Consulate. 84 deluxe rooms and club suites, all with a private courtyard it also features a fitness and health club, two bars, a restaurant featuring Thai, Indian and Western cuisine, a spa and an outdoor swimming pool.from 10,400 baht.
Empress Chiang Mai, 199/42 Chang Klan Road, ☎ +66 53 253-199 (email@example.com, fax: +66 53 272467), . Four-star luxury hotel in traditional Lanna style with 375 rooms and suites, a convention center, sauna rooms, outdoor swimming pool, business center and massage parlor. Good breakfast and friendly staff.1,500 - 5,500 baht.
Mandarin Oriental Dhara Dhevi, 51/4 Chiang Mai - Sankampaeng Road Moo 1, ☎ +66 53 888-888, . In the traditional Lanna style, this resort includes a spa, cooking class, kids club and fitness centre. The resort caused some local controversy when it built a 'fake' temple based on one of Thailand's most holy sites in its grounds.
Tap water is generally not potable. Liquids from sealed bottles nearly always are, and should be used wherever possible. Nearly all restaurants use ice made by professional ice-making companies and is generally safe. There are street-side water dispensaries (1 THB per liter) throughout the city.
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. Don't carry valuables in a bag after dark as the most common tourist related crime here is bag-snatching by youths on motorbikes. Mind your bag especially if you are walking on a dark street at night.
The safest approach is to act like your Thai hosts and wear reasonable clothing (shoulders and chest covered)medium-length skirts, long shorts or long pants, speak in a moderate tone of voice, and avoid flashing money or jewelry. Not only will respectable Thais appreciate your behavior, you are much less likely to become a target of any criminal activity.
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 the "Stay Safe" section of the Bangkok article for more details.
Many guesthouses, hotels, cafes, shopping malls, and even swimming pools, offer WiFi connections. These are usually free or available for a small charge. If you are traveling with your laptop you should be able to connect to the Internet within a 500 metre radius of your Chiang Mai city-based accommodation at little or no cost.
Internet cafes abound and can be found everywhere within the City. 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. The cheapest and most comfortable places with fast connections, webcam, microphone and Skype, can be found along Huay Kaew Road near the main entrance to Chiang Mai University, where the cost is 10-15 baht per hour.
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 surroundings. Also good for bike hire and tours.
Buddy Internet, 12 Huaykaew Road (Northweast corner of the moat, opposite the Central Department Store), Tel: 053 404 550. Open 08:00-midnight.
As everywhere in Thailand, GPRS/EDGE is a cheap and convenient option to access Internet if you have a laptop and local SIM card. For more details, refer to the Thailand article.
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)
Airport 24 hr Post Office-60 Moo 3, Airport Road, T Suthep, A Muang, Chiang Mai 50200. Tel: 053 277382.
Changphuak Post Office'-195/8-9, Changphuak Road, T Changphuak, A Muang, Chiang Mai 50300. Tel: 053 222483.
Changklan Post Office- 186-186/1, Changklan Road, A Muang, Chiang Mai 50100. Tel: 053 273657.
Maeping Post Office- 24 Praisanee Road, A Muang, Chiang Mai 50100. Tel: 053 252036-7.
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
Police - emergencies: 191
Police - Tourist: 1155, 053-278559
Rescue Team: 053-218888
Embassies & consulates
Australia, 165 Sirimungklajarn, T. Suthep, A.Muang, +66 53-219726 or +66 53-400232 / +66 53-221083 (fax: +66 53-219726).
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). 
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), .
There are laundromats and laundry services all over town, but they all wash cold. There is a laundromat that has 3 machines that can do hot washing as well on Chaiyapum Rd (the outer ring road) about half way between Sompet market and Tapae Gate. Opposite there is a cafe from where you can watch your stuff having a beer.
Chiang Dao - an hour north of the city, and a good starting point for treks into the mountains
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 small lake, 235km from Chiang Mai on route 1095, by public bus about 6 hours.
Nan - the former capital of a small kingdom filled with history and temples and surrounded by mountains
Pai - a predominantly tourism-oriented town, offering a relaxed atmosphere with a broad traveller & backpacker scene. Popular with hippies.
Mae Sai - Tachilek, Myanmar - Five hours north of Chiang Mai on the Thai-Myanmar border lie Mae Sai (Thailand) and Tachilek (Myanmar) best known for their border markets. A popular place to pop over border for a few hours before renewing your Thai visa.
Chiang Khong - Huay Xai, Laos - Six hours by bus (from Chiang Mai Arcade Bus Terminal, daily 8:30AM) to the border where you can catch a boat across the Mekong river to the Laos side.