Chiang Mai is the cultural capital of the north, featuring an old city, temples, cooking schools and delicious food influences including Japanese sushi and Burmese curries.
If you do visit the area, a visit to Doi Suthep is a must. The temple sits high on a mountain, and to get there you must travel on a long, windy road and then climb 300 stairs. Trust me, it’s worth the effort.
Time your visit right and you can sit and quietly and watch the monks, in their bright orange robes, chanting. It’s a mesmerising and calming experience. The monks were a colourful contrast against the gold and yellow hues of the temple.
After being blessed by an older monk who tied bracelets on our wrists for good luck, we walked around to a viewing deck to see the stunning view of Chiang Mai. It was so calm and peaceful, high above all the action and crowds of the city.
One of my favourite experiences in this northern city was visiting a large dining hall for a Khantohk dinner and cultural show. We were served an impressive spread (I was very well catered for with a number of vegetarian dishes) and we drank sweet tropical cocktails out of fresh pineapples.
We were entertained by traditional dances from the Akha, Yao, Lahu, H’mong, Lisu and Karen tribes. It was great to see these young people keeping their history and culture alive, and doing their family and elders proud.
The city has loads of shopping options including the Sunday Walking Street (a large outdoor market along the main street every Sunday), Chiang Mai Night Bazaar and bustling Wororot Market.
I found some of the artist stores in the Old City really interesting, and great for finding local and modern paintings.
I particularly loved the ‘elebit’ artwork by Supachet (featuring the colourful friendship of an elephant and rabbit), and a beautiful store called Things Called Art where I had a lovely chat with artist Siriwan Lohacheewa (and her mother) about her adorable paintings she’s made of her cats.
Up next: Some of the brilliant veg eats I enjoyed in the city (so many good ones!) followed by my truly memorable elephant encounters.
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