Founded in 1296, Chiang Mai is the largest city in northern Thailand and the capital of Chiang Mai Province. Straddling the Ping River and surrounded by old city walls, Chiang Mai is a beauty of a city that offers a peaceful alternative to the hustle and bustle of Bangkok. One day is hardly enough to soak up all that Chiang Mai has to offer, but here’s an action-packed single day itinerary to get the highlights.
Watch the sun rise over the river, then get head to one of the local temples. Be sure to wear clothing that covers your shoulders and knees, a respectful way of dressing required to enter these sacred spaces.
Start with the visually stunning Wat Phra Singh temple complex, dating to the 14th century. While the main assembly hall (Viharn Luang) is certainly impressive, don’t miss the smaller Viharn Lai Kham hall, where three walls are covered in 19th-century murals illustrating local stories.
Next, head to a “monk chat” at the nearby Wat Chedi Luang, where young monks sit with visitors to talk about Buddhism or any other subject that allows them to practice their English.
Head to the Baan Kang Wat Artists’ Village, where craftspeople live above their shops in a modern and airy community built in the style of a traditional village. Pop into the lovely shops, or stroll to the back of the village to take a look at the garden spilling over with squash and other vegetables. Before you leave, perk yourself up with a Thai coffee at the Old Chiang Mai Café.
If it’s Saturday, head to the Wua Lai Saturday walking street market for some authentic street food and shop for souvenirs, especially woven clothing and textiles made in the traditional style by local Hill Tribes. Bring Thai baht (the local currency) and be sure to haggle.
Head to the Anantara Chiang Mai in time for the evening candle-lighting ceremony featuring traditional Thai dance on the main lawn. Then, stroll past the pool to dinner at The Service 1921 Restaurant and Bar in the riverside colonial house that used to serve as the British consulate. (Ask to take a peek at the private dining room hidden behind a secret bookshelf upstairs.)
After dinner, walk five minutes down the road to the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar. If you’re not shopped out, you can browse the many stalls of merchandise – or, if you’ve already purchased all the treasures your suitcase can hold, get your feet back in shape to do it all again tomorrow with a fish pedicure, where tiny garra rufa nibble away at your dead skin.
A fine day, indeed.