As we have already talked about the city of Chiang Mai in my last post (read here), you have probably realised that the city is a full package for backpackers. It offers a variety of different attractions to be able to spend some quality time there. Chiang Mai is not only the second biggest city in Thailand, but also one of the bordering cities which is en route to other neighbouring countries such as Myanmar and Laos. We spent four days in Chiang Mai before taking our ‘Backpacking Express’ back to Bangkok. As I had mentioned in my earlier post, we had attended a Couchsurfing event where we met some locals and travellers on our first night there. One of the local guys named ‘Art’, offered to show us around the city and that was very kind of him. We spent the next day with him and the following days were dedicated to doing many other things in town. Below are few of the amazing things we did during our short stay.
Whether you are into temples or not, temples are something you cannot avoid if you are in Thailand. In Chiang Mai, there was a temple at a distance of every 100meters in any direction. On our first day, we hired a scooter for 250 Bhatt to explore most of the famous temples in the city. We visited 10 temples, most of which had been constructed under the same architect, Ely. We didn’t spend much time going inside or spending quality time in each of them and were able to cover most of the famous ones within the same day . Temples which you shouldn’t miss out on while in Thailand are the Wat Chiang Man, Wat Phra Singh, Wat Chedi Luang, Wat Chet Yot, Wiang Kum Kam, Wat U-Mong, and Wat Suan Dok. Apart from this, Art took us to the most famous temple named Wat Doi Suthep the next day. Doi Suthep is located on a mountain with the same name and is famous for having 309 steps which one has to climb to get to the main temple. 309 sounds like a lot but it doesn’t feel overwhelming when you are standing at the end of the stairs, with a dragon on each side to give it a perfectly traditional look. The temple itself is beautiful and gives an amazing panoramic view of the city.
The Night Market of Chiang Mai used to be open only on Saturdays but ever since the tourism explosion, the city has accommodated to having an almost daily nightly market. Thousands of small vendors selling handmade a craft, cheaply printed clothes, delicious home made food, and all sorts of cheap things that money can buy. It’s one of the greatest attractions to the western tourists because it’s something very local and new for them. Don’t forget to negotiate if you plan to visit the market.
The Grand Canyon:
Nikk and I were excited to see this one because we had never been to the real Grand Canyon in Arizona, Us. We were eager to visit the smaller version of it but it turned out to be a highly overrated place. It was a man-made canyon, located outside the compounds of the main city at a place where the locals had been digging sand for construction purposes since ages.The remaining ground hole has been now filled with ground water and given the name of the ‘Grand Canyon’ of Chiang Mai. The local authority has even put up a miniature version of the famous ‘Hollywood’ sign and charges 50 Bhatt to visit the same. It’s not that great an experience but you might as well check it out for the sake of it. One can jump off the cliff and into the water which according to me, was the most fun part about the Grand Canyon of Chiang Mai.
As I had mentioned earlier, Chiang Mai is the city of tours and tourists. You can find billions of advertisements in every hotel/hostel/street, offering the same tours with different companies. Some of the most famous tours are the one or two-day trekking trip to the mountains, Thai cooking classes, zip lining and other adventure activities, yoga sessions, tour of the Elephant reserve, etc. We weren’t able to do all of them thanks to our time restrictions and also the fact that most of the activities were just traps for the enchanted tourists whereas we were interested in the things which were endemic to Chiang Mai. Trekking is one of the most famous things to do in Chiang Mai but we didn’t have two days to spare and so we skipped it this time.
Elephant Nature Park:
Despite of being a part of the organised tours, the Elephant Park deserves a separate tribute because it was a very special experience and it was one of those places where all backpackers go. There are quite a few elephant nature parks around Chiang Mai and it’s not just any reserve. They rescue injured or old elephants from all across Asia to take care of, in their last days. We booked our one day tour with the official Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai. We spent the entire day feeding elephants, learning about them and their backgrounds, about how they are usually tortured before they reach there. Some of them had their backs broken due to being tourist rides, some had stepped on bordering landmines in the jungles and lost their legs, some of them were 90 years old, etc. The last time while on my African Safari, I had had the same feeling hit me while seeing and understanding about the innocent animals and it just made me feel closer to them. We even got to bathe along with the elephants in the same river which was possibly the highlight of the tour. Overall, it is definitely a must in Chiang Mai.
Doi Inthanon National Park :
Thanks to Art, we were able to explore this part of the city as well. He drove us to the Doi Inthanon National Park on the Doi Inthanon mountain which is located about 104 kms north of the city. The national park has a lot to offer and our first stop was the Wachirathan waterfall. Even though it wasn’t quite the rainy season, there was enough water falling from a height of 80 meters to create a perfectly misty atmosphere. Our next stop was the Doi Inthanon peak which is also the highest peak of Thailand. Doi Inthanon is the highest mountain in Thailand and so as we drove up until the heavy clouds took over the roads with just 5 meters of visibility. There was a board saying the same and as a souvenir, we took some pictures there.It started drizzling all of a sudden and we quickly took cover at a small local cafe and had some hot noodles as we waited for the rain to stop. Our last stop for the day werethe Royal Pagodas. The Royal Pagodas are two huge pagodas which had been made by the Thai Air Force to honour the of King’s 60th birthday. They are two huge temple shaped building facing each other in the honour of both the King and the Queen. It was extremely foggy that day and none of the pictures we took turned out really clear.With less than a meter of visibility in hand, we couldn’t manage to take any pictures but the day had been a very productive one (all thanks to our new friend, Art).