Welcome to Chiang Mai, one of the largest and most important cities in Thailand. Home to around 1.5million people, this glorious mini metropolis lies in the fertile Mae Ping River Basin, overlooked by the Himalayan mountains. Founded in 1296, Chiang Mai, meaning ‘new city’, was the capital of the first independent ‘Kingdom of One Million Rice Fields’. With a wide range of Chiang Mai Hotels available the city is a must-visit destination, attracting visitors from around the world with its ethnic charm, ancient history and stunning surroundings.
Chiang Mai is a city of diverse dialect. Although Kam Muang is the main language of northern Thailand, you can expect to hear many differing accents, tones and speeds. There is a huge community of around 25,000 foreign residents, all speaking in their native tongue, so you’re bound to find someone to talk to! The locals are extremely friendly, so don’t be afraid to approach people.
The currency in Chiang Mai is the Baht, which comprises of six coins and six notes. If you’re visiting from Europe, the exchange rate is in your favour, with one baht equating to around 20 English pence, or 0.03 Euro (April 2013). Cash payment is recommended here, especially for street food and transport.
The city has a typically mild climate and experiences three separate seasons. Expect dry, warm weather of up to 25 degrees between November and March, with temperatures reaching 40 degrees from March onwards and wet weather from May to October.
Chiang Mai is a food lover’s haven, offering an exciting mix of ethnic and international infusions in a variety of dishes. There are many entertainment, ambience and traditional restaurants, but for the best tastes of the city, you must try the street food. Popular for spicy soups, fried noodles, meat and fish, the food markets of Chiang Mai are a 24 hour utopia of choice. As you walk through the markets, watch and smell authentic local cuisine steaming on hot pans and choose your own mix of flavours from your favourite stall. Look out for the stalls most popular with locals, as they will be the best and most trusted. Favoured markets include the Night Bazaar, Worarot Market and Sompet Market.
Chiang Mai is easily accessible from surrounding countries by air, road or rail, making it an ideal holiday location. Taxis are fairly cheap in the centre, but the most common mode of transport is the bus, or ‘Song-Thaew’. Each vehicle is painted a different colour, depending on its destination and usually costs about 20 baht per journey. Simply flag a bus down, tell the driver where you want to go and chat to the locals on board. For a more leisurely ride, rent out a bicycle from one of the city’s many hire stores. You can reach most places in the centre in about 10 minutes and even venture up the valley. For 30 baht a day, it’s a fun and inexpensive way to explore the surroundings.
Things to see
Home to ancient temples, undisturbed nature and tribal culture, Chiang Mai is a city for all tourists. There’s no need to travel far to discover its history. The original square layout of the city, built 700 years ago, has been preserved to display its exotic past of trade, culture and religion. Cross the moat and explore Buddhist temples and prized monuments, telling the tale of its prosperity. Immerse yourself in hilltribe life with a mountain trek and experience breathtaking views from the summit of Doi Inthanon. Visit one of the many local markets, selling fresh food, traditional crafts and beautiful clothing, and take a piece of Chiang Mai home to remember your adventure.