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Chiang Mai - Thailand

Famous for its temples and bustling night markets, Thailand’s second city has a vibrant food scene where tradition meets foreign influences, says James Williams

Travel Time 14hrs 20min

Why go?

Seven centuries old and nestled in the mountainous north 700km from Bangkok, the former capital of the Lanna Kingdom is where ancient traditions collide with the frenetic pull of the modern day. Thailand’s second city is a culinary epicentre, and its ornate temples and busy night markets re flect its fascinating culture and history. Easy to combine with visits further a field, the ‘Rose of the North’ is full of hidden gems worth discovering.

What to do

Start at the Chiang Mai Gate at the southern entrance to the old city – a 1.5sq km district surrounded by a moat and ruins of the ancient walls. Talat Pratu market is the place to immerse yourself in the ritual avours of Lanna cuisine; roam the stalls to see and smell the herbs and spices that go into Chiang Mai’s punchy dishes. A number of cookery schools run tours of the city’s markets, including Thai Akha which focuses on the authentic cooking of the Akha people who populate the villages above Chiang Mai. Just like the region’s culinary offerings, the Buddhist temples are a treasure trove of influence – there is said to be over 300, dating back to the foundation of the city itself. Call in at Wat Chiang Man, the oldest temple in the city. Established in 1296, it’s home to the kingdom’s longest surviving Buddha. However, the most sacred has to be Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, where you can follow a mosaic serpent up 306 steps (fear not, there’s still a lift in case you need it). Nestled in the verdant hillside, it has incredible views over the city and a giant chedi (stupa) bathed in gold concealed in the courtyard. Back in the city, the bars and restaurants spring to life come sundown – nowhere more so than at Anusarn Night Market. Ideal for a spot of late night shopping, it’s also a chance to catch some cabaret. Chiang Mai’s ladyboy shows are highly popular – and if you grab a seat near the front, there’s a chance you’ll be part of the act.

Where to stay

Named after the 200-year-old tree that extends its branches across the hotel’s verdant inner courtyard, Tamarind Village 00 66 53 418 8969, makes a handy base within the old city walls. The 41 rooms and ve suites are decorated in tribal textiles, and the ower- filled gardens offer a sense of calm. Set between Tha Phae Gate and the Ping River, Banthai Village 00 66 53 252 789, is a friendly retreat with a decent choice of bedrooms. Parquet floors and designer furnishings give the interiors a luxe look, but you can also choose to relax by the outdoor pool and Jacuzzi. Akyra Manor Chiang Mai 00 66 53 216 219, is one of the top boutique picks in town. The rooftop pool is great for cocktails any time of the day or night, with stellar views out across Chiang Mai’s city and into the countryside and its mist-topped hills.

Where to eat and drink

Chefs here compete to create the best versions of local dishes, and all have their own take. Take the smoky coconut noodle curry that is khao soi. Try it at Khao Soi Khun Yai, located on Sri Poom Soi 8, or Khao Soi Wulai on Wulai Road, where the Spartan decor is no match for the food. Head to Sorn Chai opposite Tha Phae Gate for their minced pork and offal salad infused with spices, or for lighter eats, head to the Nimmanhaemin district, where sisters Poy and Pye run Salad Concept, serving healthy soups, salads and smoothies. They’re not alone either, as Nimmanhaemin has evolved into a trendy area rife with culinary creativity, and plenty of Western in uences – like Bar Fry with its chips with Chang beer concept, or the food trucks that pull up to dish out steak and oysters. The nest food though is eaten on the street. Look for the long queues forming at carts where pork skewers and glistening sh sizzle over hot coals, and roam the night markets for jackfruit curry, papaya salads and the ubiquitous kaao nieow (sticky rice), perfect with barbecued meats.

Time running out?

Take time out for a traditional Thai massage – an essential part of local culture. Even the no-frills salons can give a good service, including a foot bath and herbal tea.


Travel Information

Travel Information

Currency is the Thai baht. Time is seven hours ahead of GMT. Chiang Mai is around a 14-hour ight from London.

Getting There

British Airways has daily ights from London Heathrow to Bangkok where you can transfer to Chiang Mai.

Thai Airways also operates ights from London Heathrow to Chiang Mai via Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport.


Amazing Thailand is the country’s of cial tourist board and has a useful website packed with information for making the most of your time in Chiang

Average daily temperatures and rainfall

Min Temp141518222324232323221915
Max Temp293335363432323131313028

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