Chiang Mai - the pride of the North. The starting point of exciting trekking tours and excursions to the sights in Northern Thailand.
Chiang Mai is a beautiful city with a long history and very old traditions. Chiang Mai is famous for its beauty, culture, natural sceneries and the gentle nature of its people. Chiang Mai (somtimes also written Chiangmai or Chiengmai) is considered the cultural center of the North and it is the second largest city in the country, next to Bangkok.
It is located some 700 km north of Bangkok, among some of the highest mountains in the country. The Chiang Mai City area has a population of about 1 million.
Half Day Guided Tours
Temple Sightseeing, Activities, Handicrafts Shopping, Wat Prathat Doi Suthep, Khantoke Dinner, Cultural Show, Horse Carriage, Wiang Kum Kam, Dinner on the Ping River
Elephant Care, Jungle & Adventure Trekking
with elephant riding, bamboo rafting and visiting hilltribe villages.
Play with elephants for half a day or a full day, Seven days volunteer program
One to three days trekking with elephant care, Special Off-road Sightseeing Tour
Why choose Thai Cottage Home Cookery School?
All courses include:
Chiang Mai Motorbike Adventures
Motorbike sightseeing and trekking tours for everyone
One to three days motorbike tours with 125 cc. or automatic motorbikes on and off-road through the mountains in Chiang Mai province with elephant riding, bamboo rafting and other activities.
Trekking and the Hilltribes in the Surroundings of Chiang Mai
The Sightseeing Guide to Chiang Mai, Thailand
Chiang Mai owes her existence to the Ping River. The river provided the route along which the power of Chiang Mai could be extended beyond the wall of mountains that surrounded the valley; it was a channel for trade from China and Myanmar to the Gulf of Siam. The wide, fertile valley was able to support a large number of people, the basis of political power in the feudal kingdom of Lanna (the million fields).
History of Lanna (Chiang Mai)
Evidence from archeological remains has shown that early inhabitants used iron tools in the valley at least two thousand years ago. These early people, who came to be known as the Lawa, were later supplanted by the Mon of the Dvaravati period (6- 10th centuries)... Read more...
People and Culture of Chiang Mai
Seventy percent of the land in the north is mountainous and in the past was densely forested, making overland communication difficult. As a result each valley developed slight variations in customs and language.
People practiced wet-rice subsistence agriculture and were self-sustaining, making what they needed. Customs and beliefs associated with the agricultural cycle were passed down from their ancestors. Read more...
Festivals in Chiang Mai
The Chiang Mai valley is blessed with festivals almost the whole year round. Old festivals are based on the lunar calendar and either have their origin in Buddhist traditions or in Brahmanic and Tai beliefs associated with the rice growing cycle. Newer cultural festivals have evolved from a blend of local traditions and commercial interests. Read more...
Chiang Mai City Sights
Protected by the moats, the old city is filled with monuments that mark the course of change in the city's seven hundred year history. Generations have trod the narrow lanes that link the quiet neighborhoods to the temples and the markets. Along the main streets, trade has been the lifeblood of the city; but it is the spiritual and artistic striving focused at the temples that has given beat to city's enduring heart.
King Mangrai founded Chiang Mai at the location of a small Lawa settlement known as Wiang Nophaburi. The site lay between the river to the east and Doi Suthep mountain to the west. The proximity of the river was favorable to trade as well as political control of the area. Free from flooding, the site also had a good timber and water supply and enough land for rice farming to sustain the population. Finally, the omens were favorable. Read more...
When Visiting a Temple
Thais prefer visitors to temples to cover their bodies as a sign of respect for their religion. Religious objects like Buddha images and chedi should not be climbed upon or touched. When Thais sit on floors, they do not point their feet in a direction worthy of respect, such as a Buddha image, monk, or a teacher. They consider the head as "high" and the feet as "low".
The Main Temples of Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai Temples are the cultural and historical heart of the city. The most famous have been places of pilgrimage for northern people for centuries. As traditional centers of merit making, they are the best places to see Buddhist ceremonies. Funded by noble and wealthy benefactors over a long period, they have also become the repositories of some of the finest examples of religious art. If you had but half a day in the city, then it is to one or two of these temples that you should go. Read more...
Wat Chedi Luang
King Saen Muang Ma began building the Phra Chedi Luang to enshrine the relics of his father at the end of the 14th century, but King Tilokarat completed it. The chedi used to be 90 meters high before it was partly destroyed in an earthquake in 1545; it was to remain the tallest structure in Chiang Mai for over 500 years. The present restored chedi is about 60 meters high. Read more...
Wat Jet Yod
King Tilokarat built the temple in 1455. The temple was probably copied from the design of the Mahabodhi temple in Pagan, which itself was a copy of the Indian temple at Bodhgaya.
The temple gets its name from the seven chedis - jet yod - which sit on top of the old viharn. An arched tunnel at the center contains a seated Buddha image. Read more...
Wat Chiang Man
This temple was built in 1297 at the site of the camp King Mangrai used when he supervised the building of Chiang Mai. It was the first temple to be built in Chiang Mai and contains several very old artifacts. Read more...
Wat Phra Singh
This temple contains supreme examples of Lanna art. A chedi was first built by King Pha Yu (r.1337-55) to house the bones of his father King Kam Fu (r.1328- 37). The original name of the temple was Wat Li Chiang Phra but this was changed to Wat Phra Singh when the Phra Sihing Buddha image was first housed there in 1367. Read more...
Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep
According to legend, the temple site was chosen by an elephant carrying a holy relic. Originally the relic was to be enshrined at Wat Suan Dok in 1371, but it split in two. The second piece was placed on the back of an elephant which proceeded to climb Doi Suthep, stopping twice.
After three days the elephant finally reached a level piece of ground, circled three times, knelt down and then died. A hole was dug at the site for the relic, which was then covered with a chedi over seven meters in height. Read more...
Wat Suan Dok Temple
This temple originally lay in a fortified square beyond Chiang Mai walls. Legends tell that King Ku Na invited the venerable Sumana Thera, a very pious monk from Sukhothai to bring the Buddhism of Sri Lanka to Chiang Mai.
The King offered him the royal flower garden (Suan Dok) as a place to build a temple. The temple was established in 1371. Read more...
Wat U-Mong Suan Putha-tham
Located in a grove Wat U-Mong (Tunnel Temple) is a practicing meditation temple. The origins of the temple, which are traced to the 14th century, are obscure. The temple may have been founded by King Mangrai himself to accommodate some forest monks from Sri Lanka. Read more...
City Temples of Chiang Mai
Here are 36 active temples in the old city alone and many more in the greater city area. Should you be casually strolling down a narrow lane and you see a temple not listed here, take the time to walk in and look around, for every temple has something unique to offer. Many have special plaques that give a brief history at each location. Read more...
Places of General Interest in Chiang Mai
Ever since King Mangrai founded the city, the market has been of fundamental importance. Today the commercial heart lies where it has always been - between the old city and the river.
Away from the traditional center, the National Museum and the zoo are some of the places of interest in the larger city area. Read more...
Touring out of Town
In past times travelers had to follow tracks up the riverbeds and torrents, braving tigers and occasionally bandits, just to pass into the next valley.
While sealed roads now make travel easy, there still remains plenty of rugged mountainous country that may only be reached on foot or by four-wheel drive.
The Tour Routes in this guide follow the main highways out of town before branching off. For the first few kilometers these highways are high-speed double roads lined with commercial developments. Small lanes lead away from these main highways into traditional villages and modern housing projects. Once away from the city, the highways become single roads that go through small towns and countryside before climbing out of the valley. Read more...
To the East and North
North-east to Doi Saket
(Half to one Day. H118 Chiang Mai - Chiang Rai. 50 km. return.)
Highway 118 goes almost straight to Doi Saket, where there is a temple (Wat Doi Saket) on a low hill.
For a different route back to Chiang Mai, you may take R1014 from the market of Doi Saket. The road goes to the handicrafts village of Bo Sang. Read more...
East to Bo Sang & San Kamphaeng
(Half to one day. Round trip to hot springs 70 km.)
The road to Bo Sang is lined with handicraft emporiums. Bo Sang itself is a handicrafts village selling all manner of souvenirs, but specializing in umbrellas and Sa paper.
From Bo Sang, you may go to Doi Saket on R1014 or continue to San Kamphaeng, a small market town, and the hot springs beyond. Undeveloped rural countryside off the tourist track lies beyond the hot springs. A fast return journey avoiding the busy San Kamphaeng Road (H1006) may be made on H1317.
The San Kamphaeng Road
Sometimes referred to as the "handicraft highway", the San Kamphaeng Road is very busy. Though the many handicraft emporiums serve as destinations for tour coaches, individuals are also welcome. Many stores will provide an English speaking guide to show you around their handicraft demonstrations and factories. Read more...
Wiang Kum Kam & the East Bank of the Ping River
Wiang Kum Kam (wiang goom garm) was a settlement long before it became King Mangrai's capital around 1287-90. Frequent flooding caused Mangrai to move, but the place remained important throughout the Lanna period. The site was later buried under mud when the river changed course during the Burmese period. The area was restored as a historical park during the 1980's. Surrounded by paddy and village houses, the extensive site has a pleasant rural feel, yet it is very close to Chiang Mai. The best way to see it is by bicycle or motorcycle. Read more...
Mae Rim, the Mae Sa Valley and Samoeng
(Half to one day. Go along H107 as far as Mae Rim. Turn west off H107at KM. 17 onto R1095. Round trip to Mae Sa 66 km; to Samoeng via Mae Sa & Hang Dong 103 km. Yellow minibuses to Samoeng via Mae Sa wait near the Bangkok Bank on Chang Phuak Road.)
Road 1096 to Samoeng passes through the narrow valley of the Mae Sa. The river tumbles down numerous cascades which are best seen at the Mae Sa Falls. The natural beauty of the area and closeness to Chiang Mai has attracted orchid farms, elephant camps and resorts with lovely gardens. Read more...
Pai is a small Shan town on the Pai River in Mae Hong Son province. The temples are all in the Shan Burmese style, but there is also a strong Muslim community. Many wooden buildings remain in the town except in the more modern south-west corner. Picturesque scenery, languid atmosphere and easy access to hilltribe culture has made Pai a popular destination for budget travelers. Read more...
To the South
Half to one Day. Return 52 km. Lamphun station is 2 km from the old town. Regular buses begin at Chang Phuak bus station and may be caught at the start of the old Chiang Mai - Lamphun Road near the Nawarat Bridge.)
Lamphun remains a small provincial town on H106. The quieter pace of Lamphun makes it an attractive destination for those interested in historical culture. The old city is in the shape of an oval surrounded by lotus-filled moats and by the Kuang River on the east side. Read more...
South from Lamphun
To Doi Khun Tan National Park by Train
(1 or 2 Days. Morning departures from Chiang Mai at 06:45 only. Journey time to Khun Tan Station is about 80 minutes: Return the same day via Lampang only at 16:17 h.
For a day trip take a pack lunch and a change of clothes for the return journey. Park accommodation may be reserved. Tents are available from park officials.) Read more...
Hang Dong and the Ping River
(Half-day. H108. Return via Ping River 40 km.)
Take this route if you want to look at two handicrafts - one traditional, and the other highly commercialized - and a fine 19th century temple showing the spiritual origins of modern wood- carving. Return to Chiang Mai by following the banks of the Ping River. You may visit on the return leg. Read more...
Chom Thong & Doi Inthanon National Park
Full Day. Round trip to summit 200 km. Regular buses to Chom Thong. Yellow minibuses from Chom Thong go to Mae Chaem and the summit)
You must start early if you want to visit Wat Phrathat Sri Chom Thong (60 km.) and go to the summit of Doi Inthanon (47 km. from Chom Thong) in one day. The road to the top passes several famous waterfalls and goes through some dramatic mountain scenery. Alternatively you can just visit a waterfall in the park and then continue south on H108 to see a cotton-weaving village before returning.
A longer scenic circular (overnight recommended) route goes via Doi Inthanon, Mae Chaem, Ob Luang National Park (44 km. from Chom Thong) and Hot. The Mae Chaem valley west of Doi Inthanon offers beautiful scenery and relatively undeveloped rural villages. Read more...
Ob Luang National Park via Mae Chaem
(Overnight recommended. R1192 starts on R1009 on Doi Inthanon at KM.38. Mae Chaem 22 km. The return to Chiang Mai from Mae Chaem on R1088 via Ob Luang and Hot is 156 km.)
R1192 from Doi Inthanon to Mae Chaem offers fine views west, but be very careful of oncoming traffic on this narrow, twisting road!
Narrow country lanes along the valley link pretty villages to the market at Mae Chaem town. Less affected by development than the main valley of the Ping River, the area offers some of the most picturesque rural scenes near Chiang Mai. The town offers only basic accommodation; the best is near Hot. Read more...
Into the Mountains of Chiang Mai
The Mountains were once the preserve of aboriginals and were avoided by the lowland farmers. With the arrival of logging interests and the hilltribes, roads began to penetrate into the high hills. These roads now bring visitors who wish to visit these hilltribes and see their culture. You may either rent a vehicle and drive straight up into the hills yourself, or take an organized trek with one of the many companies offering this service.
Dirt Roads into the Hills (All 4WD)
The dirt roads in the hills provide an opportunity for adventure. A motorcycle or "Caribian" is essential.
Though exploring dirt roads can be fun, going up remote dirt roads is risky and should be avoided in the rainy season. Rain can make steep tracks very muddy and dangerously slippery, if not impassable. Turning around can be difficult. Hill folk may help if you get stuck, but you should offer payment for the rescue service.
Tourist facilities do not exist and you may have to improvise for accommodation. Fuel is sold from drums in villages on main routes only. All signs (if there are any) are in Thai and usually indicate routes to distant villages with unfamiliar names. Even on good dirt roads, it is possible to take a wrong turning. Some spoken Thai is essential (to ask for directions and handle breakdowns, etc.), or you should take a guide. Guides can be hired for reasonable sums (500-1000 per day negotiable) by contacting your hotel or a nearby guest house or trekking agency.Read more...
Practical InformationGetting to Chiang Mai Transport around Chiang Mai Train and Bus Schedule to Chiang Mai
ActivitiesLeisure Activities Traditional Thai Massage Shopping The Night Bazaar
Hotels in Chiang MaiSuperior Hotels Mid-Range Hotels Resorts Guesthouses Hostels Apartments
Airlines to Chiang MaiAirline Tickets from Bangkok to Chiang Mai
From Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK)Thai Airways Bangkok Airways Transfer Bus Suvarnabhumi - Don Mueang
From Don Mueang Airport (DMK)Nok Air Thai Air Asia Thai Smile Air Thai Lion Air