Oh Chiang Mai, you totally stole my heart. I’ve long heard people talking about Phuket, Bali and Bangkok, but few have mentioned much about Chiang Mai. So when I decided to visit there, I didn’t have a high expectation. But it completely surprised me. Its nature, culture and people are so beautiful. Apart from the city, its verdant countryside and mountains offer unlimited possibilities for explorations too. That’s why I can’t wait to share you the best of Chiang Mai and how you can spend your wonderful 6 days there.
Best of Chiang Mai – Where is it?
Located 700km (435 miles) north of Bangkok, Chiang Mai is a city in mountainous northern Thailand. Founded in 1296 as the capital of the ancient Lanna Kingdom, it has now been transformed into a beautiful place where past and the present seamlessly merge with modern buildings standing side by side with venerable temples.
Don’t confuse Chiang Mai’s modernity with a land full of sky-scrapper. No it’s not. The buildings there are rather low. Yet the whole urban planning is carefully designed to integrate the past into the present. You’ll also be surprised how clean the streets are!
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Best of Chiang Mai – How to get around?
There’s no better way to explore Chiang Mai and its countryside than renting a car on your own! You may be wondering why do you need a car. Well, if you are just exploring the Chiang Mai city, there may not be a need. But if you want to explore the “nearby” places like Doi Inthanon and Pai, which is at least 2 hours away, you need to get a car! If not, your transportation cost is going to be crazy!
Personally we chose Budget Car Rental, as it’s very affordable and service is awesome. Once you get out from the airport, the counter is right beside the arrival gate. Pick up and return is a piece of cake.
And guess what, the car that we booked was surprising new! We were so happy to be driving our new car around exploring different parts of Chiang Mai. 🙂 When you have your own car, you have the freedom to stop whenever and wherever you want!
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Best of Chiang Mai – 6 Days of Awesomeness
- Day 1 Explore the historical temples in the city
You won’t believe how many temples there are in Chiang Mai. There are over 300 ‘wats’ scattered throughout the city and surrounding countryside – no other province in the whole of Thailand has more than that! Most temples in Chiang Mai are of the ‘Lanna’ style, dating between the 13th and 18th centuries and characterized by curved wooden roofs pointing up at the top.
Wat Chedi Luang
Temples like Wat Chedi Luang located in the middle of the Old City, Wat Phra That Doi Suthep high up in the mountain, Wat Umong the famous tunnel temple are one of the few you must visit! Check out my post on Must See Temples in Chiang Mai and discover their beauty for yourself!
At night, stay at the Opium Serviced Apartment and Hotel, a super comfortable hotel with a tribal touch.
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- Day 2 Play at Elephant Retirement Park
Do you dream to play with elephants, feed them, shower them and have mud bath with them? Well, your dream can finally come true when you visit the Elephant Retirement Park. This park is dedicated to provide a safe sanctuary for elephants. No riding, chaining or beating is allowed in the park. I was so happy to see happy and carefree elephants roaming around in the park! Bathing and mud bath with the beautiful creatures are memorable experience I’ll never forget.
Due to time constraint, I opted for half day tour at a cost of 1700 baht per person, which includes two-way transportation to the park. Although the price seemed a little steep, I later found out that keeping an elephant needs around 2000 baht a day. Just in case you are wondering, elephants eat non-stop and eat 10% of their body weight to stay healthy. And the owner really pay so much effort to ensure the well-being of the elephants. Needless to say, money well spent for a meaningful purpose!
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- Day 3-4 Visit the romantic Pai
3 hours drive away from Chiang Mai, lies a little charming town called Pai. Set in a particularly picturesque valley, Pai offers a relaxed atmosphere that you can rarely find in other places. Be sure to stay at Puripai Villa, a resort that’s set in the middle of the mountain, offering breath-taking views and amazing luxury.
If you want to catch amazing sunrise, go to Yun Lai View Point. Over there, you will witness the Mist of Sea, a view that many travelers long to see.
Pai Canyon is another attraction you shouldn’t miss. The serene, scenic canyon with narrow, ledgy hiking trails offer sweeping valley views. Just be careful as you are trying to climb the stiff canyon. And guess what? This is the place my fiance proposed to me! Aww…
I also wrote a post on Best Things To Do In Pai and made a video below. You’ll soon find out why Pai is the most romantic town in Thailand!
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- Day 5-6 Explore Doi Inthanon National Park
Having a nicknamed “the roof of Thailand”, the park is part of the Himalayan mountain range, elevation ranges between 800 and 2565 meters. Its highest peak at Doi Inthanon is the highest mountain in Thailand. Due to the high altitude, the park has high humidity and cold weather all year round. The average daily temperatures are normally around 10-12 °C. So do bring a jacket!
When you get there, be sure to admire the twin towers and the beautiful Buddha statues inside. Apart from that, the designated walks inside the national park will make you feel like you’ve entered an enchanted forest. If you played Final Fantasy before, this is game scene coming to life!
To give yourself ample of time to explore the national park, it’s best to spend a night at the Touch Star Resort. The beautiful resort is very near to the entrance of the national park. Inside the huge resort, you’ll find many cute statues and art installations, perfect for photo taking!
Chiang Mai is both a natural and cultural destination. There are so many places to see in and surrounding the city that you’ll have to plan well to fit them all in. That’s why I highly recommend you to hire your own Budget Car and explore this gorgeous destination at your own pace.
Next week, I will continue to share with you my little adventure in Chiang Mai and around. So stay tuned for more! Have you been to Chiang Mai or Thailand before? Share with us your experience and inspire others to travel longer, better and smarter!
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