Things To Do In Chiang Mai
One of the best ways to enjoy a Chiang Mai vacation is to visit the Wat Chedi Luang; it is unlike any other ancient attractions you can find in Thailand; mainly because of its natural appearance and the presence of the numerous mini temples on its grounds. The climb (309 steps) to the beautiful temple of Wat Pra That Doi Suthep is steep and winding but also fun to do. Take the cable car to see the top of the mountain and magnificent views over the city.
After indulging yourself with Chiang Mai’s charming temples, natural history museums, botanical parks, and watching cultural shows, get a feel of the local life and Thai culture of haggling by shopping at its widely popular Night Bazaar.
When To Go:
The city of Chiang Mai used to be available for visit anytime of the year for it is indeed a remarkable city. Due to the worsening smog and smoke pollution that usually occur in February, March and April, the city is in a deplorable state and tourism is at its low point. The climate is polluted during these months due to a number of reasons; farmers in Thailand and the nearby Asian countries burn rice stubble and perform forest fires in these months. The reversal of temperature and the absence of predominating winds intensify matters much in Chiang Mai city itself, concealing even the temple of Doi Suthep which stands 1600m high, which is just a few kilometers from the countryside.
The polluted climate is impossible to avoid for working individuals and the families in the city. Travelers however, especially those with asthma or breathing problems, should take note of the “smog months” and travel sometime else from February to April.
More popularly known as the city of temples, here are the top things to do in the city of Chiang Mai.
Wat Chedi Luang
The ancient temple of Wat Chedi Luang looks great from all sides. This temple reveals the oldest relics of Buddhism. The central temple, which was destroyed by an earthquake and never rebuilt, has a great appeal. Do not fail to visit one of the temples where a wax figure of a monk inside a glass case looks lifelike. The temple is within walking distance from the city.
It is an oasis of calm and peace built in 1400, which stands 60 meters high (originally 90 meters but was partially destroyed by an earthquake in 1545). Like all the temples in Chiang Mai, the entrance is free and with all due respect you can roam even in the most secret corners of the huge complex.
From every angle, it is nice to see it calmly and once you get inside you discover the fine architecture of the temple that is a bit decadent but exudes a certain kind of charm. There are very beautiful statues of elephants surrounding the pagoda and the stairs are bordered by huge dragon statues. As you come out you can meet the monks who are prepared to explain their devotion to the faith and their daily tasks. The temple is open from 6 am to 5 pm.
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep
The Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is a temple sacred to the Buddhist Thais. It overlooks the city of Chiang Mai, and is a must-see attraction when you visit the northern part of Thailand. It is located just outside the city (about 15 km), and is placed on top of a hill from where it derived its name. Once you arrive, park the car in the parking lot, to reach its summit and the temple, you may decide to climb the 309 steps of the staircase guarded by two fearsome dragons or if you want to climb it more conveniently, you can get on top of the hill via cable car.
Warning: you can enter inside the temple only if properly dressed (also applies to other temples) and barefoot. Once inside you can see many religious representations, architectural designs, and ornamental furniture.
Everything is very amusing, from statues, to the bells and tabernacles symbolizes a call to the religious aspects of life, same with the huge display of gold and vivid use of colors. What is special about the temple is that due to the fact that being in a border area where people and cultures for centuries mingle, the religious influences are not only about Buddhism but also those of Hinduism, so it is not surprising to see that next to the Emerald Buddha, the space has a statue of the Hindu God Ganesh. And all around, including a traditional group of Thai dancers and a girl dressed in the traditional costumes of Chiang Mai are ready and allowed to be photographed. Within the complex there are many stalls where you can choose a souvenir of your trip in northern Thailand.
Wat Phra Singh
The Wat Phra Singh is one of the oldest temples in Chiang Mai that was built in 1345 and served as the royal burial place. The temple is decorated with carved teak and its walls are covered with frescoes. In one of the buildings of the temple is an altar with a copy of the Emerald Buddha. If you travel to the northern side of Thailand, be sure to visit the temple. It is free to roam around the temple grounds and take pictures of the waxed monks and their deities. At night, the area is not closed and everything lights up magically making the temple glisten with numerous lamps, lanterns and candles. You will be impressed by the dedicated veneration of the Buddhist monks during prayer time.
This temple situated in the city center is a place of prayer for the people of the place but also a place of peace for those who want to escape from the chaos of traffic. Inside of the wall is also a garden (actually a bit small) where silence reigns and where you can sit on the benches of the trees in the garden while surrounded by the favorite phrases from the Buddha. The temple is beautiful both in day and evening (although you can only see from the gate) when the illumination of the temple is such that you can see even from the bottom of Ratchadamnoen Road.
Doi Inthanon National Park
The Doi Inthanon National Park is the highest in Thailand (2565 meters above sea level). A visit here is a must in Chiang Mai, you can see beautiful waterfalls, climb to the top of the highest mountain and also visit the temple stupas. It is probably the most impressive attraction of Chiang Mai with its breathtaking view and beautiful gardens. There is wonderful nature all around this trail as you start with the trek to the two breath taking waterfalls (Mae Ya and Vachirathan), and admire the view of the steep mountains while walking along the serpentine road.
The most visited is the Vachirathan waterfalls, because it is big, powerful and beautiful, and then progresses into the river. The Mae Ya falls is likewise equally impressive. The highest point is a forest with unusual trees, overgrown with moss in a forest lined bridge with railings on which you can walk. Also there is a crypt for Lanna Inthanon, who ruled the northern territories of Siam in the middle of the XIX century and stands in an open area radar air defense station which is forbidden to photograph.
Wat Umong – Suan Buddha Dhamma
The Wat Umong (Suan Buddha Dhamma) is a quiet temple with unique tunnels and is quite different from all the other temples in Chiang Mai. Located in the forest, in this complex you can get some rest, meditate, and feed the pigeons or the fish in the pond. At the temple of the Ashoka pillar you can see a replica of the column of Asoka in India.
You can wander through the tunnels inside the temple up to the stupa. The serene atmosphere inside is very favorable for some philosophical reflection. Tourists are impressed by the galleries (woodcarving) and the series of Buddha statues that surround the complex. It also has ancient caves to visit as well as a lake filled with catfish and turtles. Picture taking is allowed and modest clothes are required for both men and women.
Wattana Art Gallery
Do not miss the Wattana Art Gallery after a visit to the nearby Wat Umong. It is located at the west side of the old city and just across the university. The gallery is bright and on two levels contains the exceptional works of Wattana Wattanapun, a Thai artist who has lived and exhibited in the U.S. and Canada.
He personally welcomes every guest with great gentleness and kindness, explaining in English his work and evolution. He is known for using different materials for painting like; textiles, steel, gold leaf, bamboo curtains, and paper with the use of oil or acrylic. His art perfectly fits the traditional Thai motifs in a contemporary perspective.
Wat Sri Suphan
The stunning temple of Wat Sri Suphan is another unique attraction in Chiang Mai. It is made of silver and painstakingly labored by human hands. All the walls of the temple are covered and minted with the silver coinage.
Located next to the temple complex are the shops where you can observe a huge number of silversmiths at work. The temple itself is small and old, but what the silversmiths have done is a masterpiece. The detailed interior decoration is truly impressive. It is unfortunate that women are forbidden to enter this temple.
However, it is still worth seeing because of its unusual theme. All the main buildings of the temple are entirely decorated in silver, including the stupa (located near the southern wall of the Old Town). Before reaching the temple, you can find a silver statue of Ganesha (the god of wisdom and prosperity) and a silver tree with golden leaves.
Wat Lok Molee
The Wat Lok Molee is a wooden temple located on the outer side of the old town, the western part called the Manee Nopparat (north side of the square). From the outside, the roadside temple does not look impressive and only the colorful guards attract attention. But once you get inside this temple, you will never expect to see such beauty exists in the city of Chiang Mai. The mosaic ceiling of the main temple and the sun at its zenith, gives a magical play of light and color and leaves a good impression.
You will be greeted by the charming statue of the white elephants at the entrance, gold and silver trees, a small pond with pink lotus on the right of the entrance to the temple, the rich interior of the church, carved wooden window frames, and columns decorated with mosaics. The stupa is impressive and dressed in sumptuous robes are the Buddha statues, Buddhist drums of different sizes and small Buddha sculptures can also be seen all throughout the manicured grounds of the temple.
Royal Park Rajapruek
Be sure to visit the Royal Park Rajapruek or you can combine it with a visit to the nearby Temple of the Golden Buddha and village artisans Baan Taway. The park was built for an international exhibition in 2011, and there are a lot of stylized pavilions dedicated to the member countries. It is an excellent place to stay and admire a sea of flowers and greenery, figures of plants and orchids, and still there is a pavilion with tropical trees along with a well maintained garden rich with the flora and fauna of Thailand.
Wat Phra That Doi Kham (Temple of the Golden Mountain)
One of the exciting things to do in Chiang Mai is to visit the Temple of the Golden Mountain (Wat Phra That Doi Kham). The atmosphere is surreal and like being in a tranquil sanctuary on a mountain and being close to heaven.
In the temple you can even take blessings from a Buddhist monk. It is not too big, without loads of tourists and also non-commercial. There are no souvenir shops, food stalls or restaurants around the temple. It is a solemn place that is ideal for soul searching and finding one’s inner peace. On a clear day you can see the entire city of Chiang Mai below.
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