Checking Out Chiang Mai
Ministry of Villas
Thailand is one of the most visited countries on the planet, attracting a whopping 35 million travellers every year. Our team is definitely part of that group: we’re crazy about the stunning beaches of Koh Samui, gaga for the clifftop villas of Phuket and all about the big city buzz of Bangkok. This time, we’re turning our gaze towards Thailand’s northern gem – here is our guide to all things Chiang Mai.
Chiang Mai – Orientation
Chiang Mai is the largest city in northern Thailand with a population of some 130,000, though the larger metropolitan area is home to near one million people. The city’s history reaches all the way back to the 13th century and Chiang Mai still maintains a significant historic, cultural and religious importance to this day. The city is home to literally hundreds of Buddhist temples and the Old City is still surrounded by a moat, with parts of the ancient city walls still left standing. You don’t have to drive far from the city to be surrounded by green rice fields, lush forest and unfiltered sounds of nature. If you ask us, Chiang Mai has it all – the only thing you’ll be lacking is beach access.
Things To Do in Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai and its surrounding hills are home to more than 300 Buddhist temples or “wats” so it’s practically impossible to travel to the region without visiting at least one of them.
The most famous and most visited temple is Wat Phra That Doi Suthep located outside the city up a winding mountain road. You need to climb a few hundred steps to reach the top, so this one’s definitely not for the faint of heart! Inside the city walls, Wat Phra Singh is a gorgeous structure with dramatic Lanna roofs and a beautifully detailed façade. Another popular option in the Old City is Wat Chedi Luang which dates back to the 14th century.
These three temples are among the most popular spots to visit in Chiang Mai, so don’t expect to have the place all to yourself. With literally hundreds of temples to choose from, we also recommend visiting the less-known temples and spending more time in each temple rather than trying to cram all the temples in to a single trip. Temple burnout is a very real thing.
Basic Temple Etiquette
Dress modestly – no mini shorts, beer brand singlets etc.
Take off your shoes, hat and sunglasses before entering the temple
Look for signs in English and/or follow worshippers who aren’t monks as parts of the temple are for monks only
Basic decency goes a long way: don’t be loud, don’t photograph people without asking permission, don’t point or make fun of the Buddha
Chiang Mai has a definite spiritual feel to it and it’s little wonder that more than a few yoga schools have sprouted up in the area. Since you’re surrounded by ancient temples, vibrant Thai culture and lush nature anywhere you go, it’s hard not to get inspired to go “om” while you’re in town.
I’ve personally practiced at the Yoga Tree which is one of the most beloved yoga schools in Chiang Mai. Like so many others, I loved the peaceful vibe this place exudes. The yoga school is located in the heart of the Old City, surrounded by green gardens. Yoga Tree offers classes for all experience levels and they also offer meditation circles, Tibetan bowl meditation and more.
Other highly-rated yoga studios in Chiang Mai include Mahassidha Yoga, Freedom Yoga and Wild Rose Yoga. Not surprisingly, Chiang Mai is also a popular destination for yoga retreats, workshops and yoga teacher trainings.