Thailand

6 Activities to Explore Chiang Mai’s Culture Like a Local

Chiang Mai was honored as the best city in Asia in 2017. Each city was ranked on criteria like sights/landmarks, culture, food, friendliness, shopping, and value. Yet, Chiang Mai stood out with its old town walls and golden temples whispering ancient stories while you’re walking by. Featuring majestic temples, killer street food, madcap tuk-tuk rides, lively night markets, and speechless encounters in Elephant sanctuary parks.

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Pim is a local tour guide with many years of experience, out-going and easy to be with, she knows how to explore this magnificent Lana Kingdom’s culture and history in just the right way. Here are some recommended attractions to visit so you don’t miss out on all the amazement!

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I. Temples

Temples are the storybooks of culture. It stands in time and witnesses history. There are a couple of breath-taking temples in Chiang Mai waiting for you to see.

1.Wat Chedi Luang

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One of the oldest temples in Chiang Mai. It was once home to Thailand’s most sacred religious relic, the Emerald Buddha. Unfortunately, now you can only see half of it since the other half collapsed during an earthquake in 1545.

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2. Wat Phra Singh

The second most venerated temple in Chiang Mai after Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. The temple has signature Lanna-style roofs and glittering viharn that catches the attention of visitors. Decorated with pure white paint, it brings out the golden light of the great temple standing majestically while giving life to the city.

3. Wat Phan Tao

Apart from all the golden shining temples, Wat Phan Tao is a beautiful wooden temple with a decorated garden area. Although not as glamorous as the other temples, Wat Phan Tao still echoes with a hint of a mysterious and religious smell in the air. The decorated garden reliefs your worries and the temple heals you with its peace and silence.

II. Doi Suthep

“If you haven’t tasted Khao Soi or seen the view from Doi Suthep, you haven’t been to Chiang Mai.” Doi Suthep is the home of some of the most deeply loved symbols in the Kingdom such as the main attraction Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. It is a temple made of endless gold. On sunny days, the Chedi’s golden exterior catches the sun and blazes like a beacon over the city. If you hire a tour guide, they might show you an amazing waterfall near-by as it requires some walking to get there.

Scattered around the temple are various statues depicting everything from the legendary white elephant upon whose grave the temple was erected to the assorted gods and Buddhas of the Thai religion. Another highlight of Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is the set of rakhang (temple bells) which are touched by devout Buddhists to bring good luck.

III. Elephant Jungle Sanctuary

Do not say you have been to Thailand without seeing an elephant! This is a new ethical elephant attraction. Rather than riding on the back of an elephant, they have activities like washing the elephants or feeding and playing with them. They have a full-day and half-day plan for you to choose from. They even pick you up at your hotel (with cars obviously). 

Full-day tours cost 2,400 baht per adult and 1,800 baht for children aged 3-10 with under 3s going free. The tour starts with being collected from your hotel at around 08:00 for the 1.5-hour drive to the sanctuary.

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The half-day tours cost 1,700 baht per adult and 1,300 baht for 3-10-year-olds. You can choose to depart from your hotel in the morning (approximately 08:00) or the afternoon (approximately 11:30), depending on your preference.

IV. Padung Village – Long Neck Karen Hill-tribe

Some more different cultures to explore by paying a visit to the Padung Village. It introduces you to the ‘Long Neck Karen’ ethnic hill-tribe. The women here wear brass rings around their necks, wrists, and ankles as part of their culture. It is said that the more rings they have on the more beautiful they are. Long necks with golden wring around them are seen as a sign of beauty in their culture.

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Scientists had tried to remove their rings before to help them to blend into modern society, but lots have failed due to the rings are the only thing that is supporting their long necks, their neck bones have already separated from their head.

V. Chiang Mai Night Bazaar

No travel is complete without some mouth-watering food. The famous night market is open every night and is a shopper’s paradise. Night markets are where you can find great street food and cheap but most amazing souvenirs. With vendors from selling drinks, beer, and milk tea to food stands that provide you your daily dose of Thai seafood and spiritous street food, many people find haggling and getting a good deal is a part of experiencing the Thai culture, and Bazaar Night Market is where you can practice this fun skill.

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VI. Other activities

Apart from walking around all day long, being a tourist traveling around can be actually quite exhausting. Pim Suggests that you can go and get a massage before you leave Chiang Mai, as Thai massage is also one of its famous attractions. Let the soothing warm hands of the massagers and mind-cleansing scents heal you from inside-out and prepare you for your next journey.

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