Top 5 Free Things to Do in Chiang Mai
May 8, 2019
by Cat Verwaal
Oh, the wonders of Chiang Mai. This beautiful Thai city is known for its beautiful nature, temples and amazing food. As the city is already very cheap, one might wonder why I felt inclined to write an article about the free things to do in Chiang Mai. Well, I have lived there for nearly 2 years, during which I have also been unemployed for some time. Additionally, I have found myself getting tired of often having to pay a higher price, just because I’m a foreigner. So without further ado, here is my top 5 free activities to do in Chiang Mai.
The Monk’s Trail in Doi Suthep
The Monk’s Trail, also known as the Wat Pha Lat Hike, is definitely my all-time favorite activity. It is an easy hike in Thailand’s beautiful nature, up to a serene temple. This hike features gorgeous nature and breathtaking views. As the trail is so easy to follow and there are so many people that walk it on a daily basis, it is the only hike in Chiang Mai that is completely safe to do by yourself, without a tour guide needed.
The starting point of the hike situates itself at the end of Suthep Road, right next to Dcondo. It can even be found on Google Maps under the name Wat Pha Lat Hike.
You can drive yourself to the starting point and park there, or you can take a songtaew or Grab Taxi to Dcondo and walk up to the starting point from there. The trail really speaks for itself as it is well kept, easy to follow and you will meet others along the way, who are walking, or even running up to the temple.
An interesting fact is that you will see many trees along the way dressed in Monk’s robes. This is a spiritual movement against cutting down the trees in the forest. By giving the trees the spiritual status of monks, Thais are much more likely to leave their beautiful nature alone.
Walking up through the colors of brown, green and orange, with the sound of birds and the view of the city in the background is a very grounding experience. And arriving at temple Wat Pha Lat, with its beautiful waterfalls and city views gives a feeling of serenity and freedom. I usually walk to the back of the temple, arriving at this lake with the calming sounds of running water and I’d meditate for 20 minutes before making my way back down.
However, for those looking for more of a challenge, you can also walk up next to the waterfall until you arrive at the main road, cross the road and walk a little to your left until you find another path that goes up even further. This path is longer than the first one and will arrive close to the famous temple Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. To extend your challenge even further, you can even climb up the 309 steps to the top.
In short, it is an amazing experience, during which you can work on your own physical exercise and spirituality as you wish, and completely free!
Wat Phra Singh Gardens
Wat Phra Singh is a really famous temple located in the old city of Chiang Mai. Unfortunately, the entrance to the main temple is quite pricey for foreigners and the area is quite touristy. But did you know that the temple is much more interesting when you walk around to the back of it? There is a smaller place of worship, a golden chedi to walk around, a golden statue of the reclining Buddha and a beautiful garden where both monks and lay people hang out.
Take a seat among at one of the tables among the trees and have a drink at the small drinks stand. This is where I’ve spent a lot of time writing poetry and reading books while sipping on delicious coconuts.
In my two years of living in this city, I’ve found myself, again and again, coming back to its beautiful gardens for inspiration and grounding.
Doi Suthep at Night
Back to the beauty and majesty of Doi Suthep. Many people drive the main road up to the temple during the day, but did you know that it is also beautiful to look at during the night?
Unfortunately, the entrance to Chiang Mai’s famous national park closes from 8 PM to 6 AM and is to be guarded by police officers, however when you get in before 8 PM, you can get out at any time. The roads are usually pretty quiet at night and so one does not have to get frustrated with the heavy, touristy traffic from during the day. And trust me, the view of the illuminated city at night is definitely worth it.
Tip: it is quite nice during New Year’s Eve, as you have the perfect view of the sky being illuminated by fireworks.
Yoga in the Park
Chiang Mai has many yoga studios, but did you know free yoga sessions are organized in the city park? Different types of yoga sessions with different teachers take place nearly every day at 9 AM in Nong Buak Hard Public Park, which is to be found in the southwest corner of the old city.
The park itself is really nice to visit, with its beautiful waters, bridges, and fountains. Snacks, drinks and even coconuts are sold in the little shops and the entrance is completely free. The yoga sessions are usually organized by the foreigner, expat community of Chiang Mai and usually include hatha yoga, yin yoga, and laughter yoga. Laughter yoga is something that I’ve discovered and completely fell in love with in Chiang Mai as it’s incredibly fun and uplifting to do.
More information about Yoga in the Park is to be found on their Facebook page: Yoga in the Park – Chiang Mai.
Huay Kaew Waterfall
This waterfall is quite famous already with many visitors on a daily basis. It is definitely a nice place to walk around and have a picnic or read a book. But did you know you can also swim in it? For the ultimate local swimming experience in Chiang Mai, in a waterfall, often surrounded only by locals and monks, look up Huay Kaew Waterfall Swimming Hole on Maps.Me. Be careful and don’t go by yourself as it is rocky and gets slippery, but it is so beautiful. It is quiet and full of nature and not to mention, completely free!
And there you have it, a comprehensive guide to experiencing Chiang Mai in its full glory, without having to pay any entrance fees or tour guide. Enjoy your stay