5 cool things to do in Chiang Mai.
by Joanna Staniec
Chiang Mai – the heart of northern Thailand, the city of temples, heaven for foodies, Mecca for backpackers and the dream place for expats from all over the world. Chiang Mai is a must see place in Thailand. If you have not been there yet, you have to catch up! Prepare yourself for a great adventure and read about 5 cool things to do in Chiang Mai.
Visit Elephant Sanctuary.
I am sure that you have already heard about elephants in Chiang Mai. This is the real must see in Thailand! You can’t be in Chiang Mai and not make a visit to Elephant Sanctuary. I guarantee you will be delighted! Meeting these incredible animals is an amazing adventure and an unforgettable experience.
You can spend a whole day with elephants at one of the farms hidden in the jungle and choose your favorite activity. You can feed elephants, play with them in the mud and even swim with them in the river! Trust me, you will not have enough. If you have more time (and money) you can also rent a house in the jungle and spend a day or two surrounded by elephants in their natural environment. You don’t have to worry all animals are tame and friendly.
In Chiang Mai, there are dozens of places where you can meet elephants. Unfortunately, not all of them treat animals with the respect they deserve. It is important to check the place before you will choose the one you will visit. Do not support unethical business and avoid places where elephants are being forced to work (which include riding on them).
Have fun at Cooking School.
Chiang Mai is a real heaven for foodies. Thai cuisine is considered one of the best in the world. And believe me, there is a reason for that. Thais like to eat and they do it in great style. The food here is amazing. A crazy but brilliant combination of flavors (space, sweet, sour) makes all dishes unique. Try it and you will never forget it. And you will not have to!
If you want to bring some Thai cuisine to your home, sign up for a cooking class at one of the famous school in Chiang Mai. There are plenty of them in the city. You can get an impression that it’s a simple tourist attraction but it’s not! All schools are really professional and you can easily find many good reviews on the internet.
A schedule is usually the same. You will start a day from visiting one of the local food markets where a teacher will explain to you how to choose the best ingredients and teach you about local spices. You will also have some time for shopping. After that you will arrive at a cooking school and that where the fun begins! Prepare yourself for a lot of entertainment and positive energy. After all, you will have to eat all the meals you will prepare so better skip breakfast that day! We are talking about 7 meals at least so it can be a challenge!
Climb on Sticky Waterfalls.
This is my personal number one on the must-see list in Chiang Mai. Honestly, I am shocked that no one is talking about it. But on the other hand – maybe it is better that way. Thanks to this Sticky Waterfalls are still uncrowded and have maintained a natural charm. I spent there about 5 hours and met maybe 10 people during all this time.
You may say that there are plenty of waterfalls close to Chiang Mai, so what is so special about this one? Well, rocks, where water flows, are incredibly grippy and have a sponge structure, so you can literally climb up the waterfall. There are a lot of ropes everywhere which can help you because sometimes it is really steep. But it is an amazing feeling and a great adventure.
Sticky Waterfalls aka Bua Tong are located about 1 hour away from the center of Chiang Mai. There is no city transport here, and you will not find any organized trip to this place. The best way to get there is to rent a scooter and go on your own. There is one small shop there but nothing special. You will be able to buy some soda and candy but definitely not dinner. Sticky waterfalls are a perfect spot for a picnic so don’t forget to take your own snacks!
Trekking in the jungle.
If you are tired of sweltering heat and you need a day off out of the city think about trekking in the jungle. Chiang Mai is surrounded by many green areas where you can enjoy fresh air and cooler weather. If you want to go to the mountains you should even take a jacket with you. The temperature there could be even 15 degrees lower than in the city. And believe me, it is not impossible to get cold when it is 20 degree.
Anyway, back to the point. Old rainforest, amazing views, wild animals – all of it should be on your must-see list. If you don’t have unlimited time, it is good to go on a trip with a travel agency. There are plenty of them in Chiang Mai – just walk around the main street, collect the leaflets, and choose the perfect one. I chose a 1 day trip to Doi Inthanon which included visiting the biggest waterfalls, 3 hours trekking in the jungle and visiting a coffee plantation. It was perfect! Our guide showed us things which I would have never noticed on my own. Green Python hanging from the tree? Giant spider on its web between trees? Wild coffee fruits ready to be eaten? Yep, I would miss all of them without my guide.
Chill on at Chiang Mai Night Markets.
Nightlife in Chiang Mai is incredible. You must see it on your own to understand what it is about. The most popular markets are Saturday Night Market and Sunday Walking Street Market. Both are starting about 4 PM and this is the perfect time to visit them if you want to avoid the crowds. Night markets are the perfect place to try local street food and buy some souvenirs. Among many typical Chinese products, you can find real Thai artists who are selling some handmade jewelry, beautiful pottery, original woodwork and many, many more.
If your trip to Chiang Mai does not include a weekend, there is nothing lost! You can check on the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar which is open daily. You will also find there many souvenirs, local food courts, and even ladyboys show. There is also the Ploen Ruedee Night Market in Chiang Mai which is the most tourist bazaar and it is maintained in the western style. But it’s still worth seeing. You can spend there a nice evening after a long day, with a cold local beer, tasty food, and live music.