Chiang Mai Digest

Dining, Travel and Living in Chiang Mai & Northern Thailand

Chiang Mai, "The Rose of the North"

Chiang Mai has been referred to as "The Rose of the North" in so many tourist publications and holiday brochures it has become cliche. Cliche or not, Chiang Mai is a unique area of contrasts. Established in the late thirteenth century, Chiangmai (เชียงใหม่) grew in importance as a major crossroads for trade in South East Asia.

Northern ThaIland

Northern ThaIland
The seventeen north-western provinces of Thailand comprise the Northern Region. Much of the area's territory is mountainous and heavily forested.
Chiang Mai has much to offer the traveler or expatriate no matter what their interests may be. With structured tours and packages encompassing trekking, whitewater rafting, rock climbing, motorcycle touring, go-karting, Thai cooking schools, Kantoke dining with traditional dance shows and many more there is something to please all interests. You can find tour agents on most of the busy streets in the "Old City" Chiang Mai.
"Old City" Chiang Mai is approximately 1 sq mile (2.56 sq km) surrounded by a moat and the remnant of the city walls. Portions of the walls have been restored while others sit in rustic ruin. The eastern portion of the city could be considered the center of all things tourism related. If you find yourself in Chiang Mai at a loss for for ideas an hour or less spent exploring this area will provide you with more than a few things to add to your itinerary.
Chiang Mai University student dressed in traditional clothes
This Chiang Mai Girl in traditional dress is participating in the freshman initiation at Chiang Mai University. The students march from the university gates to Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep (วัดพระธาตุดอยสุเทพ) where their scholastic endeavors are blessed by Buddhist monks.
The "Old City' herself is worth a day or two exploration. The city just calls out for you to wander aimlessly. Tha Pae Gate is centered along the eastern border and a perfect center from which to base your exploration.
Eschew the tuk tuks and use your feet, the city is dotted with centuries old chedis and temples there are plenty of shops offering a place to sit and rest over a plate of local food, western food, a cup of tea/coffee or a cool drink. This City was established in the late thirteenth century and has been the cultural, trade and government center of the region for centuries, a good deal of what was built then is still in existence today.
Wat Pra Non (reclining Buddha
Reclining Buddha in Ampur Mae Rim, Chiang Mai. Rarely visited Wat with a large reclining Buddha. A local gem.
An hour or less, in any direction, out of town offers a plethora of places to go, things to do and sights to see. To the west is Doi Suthep, offering gardens, Wat Doi Suthep and a view of the entire valley. Further along is Doi Pui with hill-tribe villages there are places to camp if you like tents and equipment are available for rent.
Buddha at wat on Doi Suthep
Buddha at Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep in Chiang Mai. (click for a larger view)
To the north are a couple of elephant camps with shows or a chance to see these animals at work, Queen Sikirit Gardens or short guided treks, dirt bike adventures to hill tribe villages and other fun stuff. To the East lies San Kamphaeng and Mae On - Hot spring baths, camping, wildlife and jungle tours.
Sunset over rice fields in Mae Rim, Chiang Mai
Twenty minute north of the Old City, in Mae Rim, we sit on the veranda of a small traditional Teak Bungalow sipping iced lager and enjoying a sunset.
Between these destinations, and beyond; rural Thailand awaits. With just a little effort you can find yourself removed from anything remotely resembling structured attractions or packaged adventures, yet just as interesting. There are temple caves and remote monasteries. With a little help you can find these gems, apparently hidden away at first glance. If you are interested in traveling "off the beaten path" it's not that difficult and it can be fun. However you choose to explore Northern Thailand, Chiang Mai is the "gateway to the north." Exploring Northern Thailand is well worth your time.