Chiang Mai is one of the most popular cities in Thailand, comparable in popularity to its capital city Bangkok. Being surrounded by beautiful mountains and abundant green space, and because it is located in the northern part of the country, it is aptly tagged as the Rose of the North. Though the name literally means new city, Chang Mai is an old city dating back 1296. It is amazing how the city balances the two extremities of historical, cultural heritage and the inevitable progressive modernization. Chang Mai is best known for its majestic temples, the picture perfect views of mountains and the magnificent elephants. To experience Chang Mai, here is the list of sites you should not miss.
One of the most famous and noteworthy temples here in Chang Mai is the Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. Built in 1383 to give homage to Buddha’s relics, the temple is frequently visited by devout Buddhists for their pilgrimages. They take a walk up the hilltop instead of driving uphill or taking the cable car. Aside from its historical and religious importance, the Wat Phra That Doi Suthep offers panoramic views of the city. So take the 290 steps and feast your eyes on the beauty of Chiang Mai.
Situated at the center of this old city is the Wat Phra Singh. It is home to Chiang Mai’s most important and sacred Buddha statue, the Phra Phutthasihing. Wat Chiang Man is the oldest temple in Chiang Mai. It is a great example of classic Lanna architecture. It houses two ancient Buddha images. Wat Chedi Luang is another temple worth seeing. Being true to its name, Luang means large, it remains the tallest structure in the city. Sitting right next to Wat Chedi Luang is the Wat Phan Tao, another ancient temple in the city which enshrined the sacred Phan Tao Buddha. Other temples you might want to visit are War Prasat, Wat Chedi Chet Yot, Wat Suan Dok, Wat Doi Kam, Wat Jed Yod and many more. You can also check out Wiang Kium Kam, and ride a bike or a carriage to have a good look at those recently unearthed temples in the area.
For some nature tripping, visit the Doi Ithanon National Park. Being Thailand’s tallest peak, Doi Ithanon is a must-see. It is best to visit this site in winter if you want to witness the blossoming Siamese sakura flowers. You can also find waterfalls in this park like the Namtok Mae Klang and Namtok Wachirathan. If you love caves and want to observe fascinating stalactite and stalagmite formations, Tham Bori Chinda is the place you shouldn’t miss. There are also hiking trails that you might want to try for some sightseeing and other adventures. Another park to visit is the Huai Nam Dang National Park. Overlooking the peak of Doi Chiang Dao, it is a favorite destination for photographers. Camping and hot springs in Pong Nam Ron Tha Pai are among the things you might enjoy while in this area.
The Royal Park Ratchaphruek is a 240,000 square meter area divided into a number of zones. To fully see the beauty this place offers, you need to spend your whole day surrounded by nature at its finest. Different gardens by different countries are featured to represent their corresponding cultures. There is an Orchid Garden where you can find and smell rare orchids. At the heart of the park is the Ho Kham Luang Royal Pavilion. It exhibits paintings and artworks that feature King Bhumibol’s life and works. Other zones showcase different insects and rare plant species. There is also the Corporate Zone. There is no problem with transportation because the park provides trams for visitors.
The Chiang Mai adventure will not be complete without paying a visit to the Chiang Mai Zoo. One of the favorite attractions in this zoo is the Panda House with the cute and adorable pandas. Afterwards, be amazed by the longest underwater tunnel in Asia and enjoy the Chiang Mai Aquarium that contains different sea creatures. There is also the Nakhon Ping Bird Aviary where you can explore different bird species in a walk-in aviary. Bird watching with a scenic view of a waterfall as a backdrop, in a zoo? What could be more fascinating?
And don’t forget the elephants. Baan Chang Elephants Park allows you close encounters with these majestic creatures. They even have a one day training course to familiarize yourself with Asian elephants’ behaviors and lifestyle. After learning more about these massive but gentle giants, take an elephant tour through Eddy Elephant Chiang Mai. Here you can have a unique ride with one of their elephants while exploring the jungle. Have fun in the river with your newfound friend!