As you know from my post about the Four Seasons Chiang Mai, Chiang Mai is definitely one of my favorite cities I ever visited. While the Four Seasons is set in Mae-Rim, which is an idyllic countryside, the city of Chiang Mai is brimming with culture and wildlife sanctuaries where you will get closer than you ever though possible to elephants, tigers and monkeys! Here are my top picks for the best things to do in Chiang Mai.
Chiang Mai Night Bazaar: This is located in the center of the downtown area along the Ping River. This is one of the best night markets I had the chance to visit while in Southeast Asia and trust me I dragged my husband to more than a few (Luang Prabang, Siem Reap, the list goes on…). The main street is lined with vendors selling everything from Thai silks, t-shirts, jewelry and fake purses. Definitely get your souvenir shopping done here. And don’t forget to bargain!
Doi Suthep/Wat Phrathat: This steep hike up 309 stairs, (or tram ride for a tiny fee) will bring you to the peak of Doi Suthep. From here you can take in breathtaking views of Chiang Mai’s countryside. While up here your visit is not complete without exploring Wat Phrathat, my personal favorite, golden temple. Definitely probably the one must-see temple here if you’re pressed for time.
Elephant Rides: Get up close and personal to the smartest animals on earth. An elephant never forgets and you won’t forget this experience anytime soon either. Most camps are about an hour outside the city (closer if you’re staying in Mae-Rim). I promise you this will be a magical and unforgettable day. Take an elephant ride through the jungle and watch the elephant show before, most of the elephants will even make paintings you can purchase after. Be sure to pick a camp that treats their elephants humanely though. We’ve heard some not nice things about a few while we were there. We visited the Elephant Training Center in Chiang Dao. I will say that we did the longer elephant trek and a short one would have been fine, we took the elephants to the “tribal village.” This was a farce, just a bunch of people at fake huts with crappy souvenirs you will feel compelled to purchase. This place also had an awesome lunch. It was absolutely delicious and had huge portions. After we took a raft ride down the river. This was nice and romantic but don’t forget your sunblock! It gets hot, man.
Tiger Camp: Easily one of my favorite activities of our entire honeymoon. Nowhere in the entire world do you get to slip into a tiger pen and play with, pet and pose with not only baby tigers but also full-grown cats! There is no way this is as safe as they make it out to seem so I would definitely be careful when you’re in the cages with the larger animals. We definitely stayed vigilant. The trainers seriously just have wooden sticks, not sure what that’s gonna do if they decide to attack…But on a lighter note, we loved this and the baby tigers are absolutely adorable. The people who work there are wonderful about taking your photo too so you get amazing shots.
Food Glorious Food: While in Thailand I invite you to eat up all the street food you can! Noodle carts, freshly squeezed fruit juices and other delightful snacks like sugary rice sticks. (I loved the passionfruit juice! YUM!) I also recommend taking a cooking class to learn the techniques and secrets behind all of the delectable goodies you’re eating while here. It will be the gift that keeps on giving. We did the Four Seasons Resort Chiang Mai’s Cooking School, which was pricey but fabulous. It’s in a gorgeous open-air kitchen and you use all fresh ingredients. I’m sure you can find cheaper places but we loved this one, I think it was about $200 USD pp. And speaking of food, be sure to check out my favorite picks for the best restaurants in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
You may also choose to do a street food tour, which I think is a great way to experience some of the best food Thailand has to offer! Thailand has some of the best street food I have ever tasted in the world. It’s also a great way to eat like a local and experience some of the most authentic recipes. Doing a guided tour allows you to learn more about what you’re eating and make sure you’re hitting up the best spots. With Locals offers some amazing tours.
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Where else are you going in Southeast Asia? Check out the Best Things to do in Luang Prabang, Laos
Check out the tour group I used while I was in Southeast Asia that I swear by: Trails of Indochina.
I also highly recommend visiting Hanoi, here are my Top Ten Things to do in Hanoi, Vietnam, maybe one of my favorite places I’ve ever been to because it’s so different!