“The Cultural Heart of Northern Thailand”
There’s no doubt that Chiang Mai is the grand dame of the region, squared neatly off by a moat and set like a jewel on the banks of the Mae Nam Ping. The city has weathered seven hundred years of fascinating history that welcome visitor’s with an eclectic fusion of history, culture, natural beauty and laid back charm.
Experiencing the amalgamation of the past into the present in Chiang Mai where locals are proud of the city’s rich traditional heritage and unique blend of culture is a perfect foundation for the development of the city. Chiang Mai is one of the few places in Thailand where it is easy to believe you could open any door and step deep into the past. Perhaps the way the atmospheric ruins conspicuously laid out pass you as you walk or the flash of the city’s three hundred temples as they stretch golden spires into the tropical sky. It certainly gives the city an atmosphere of calmness and timeless elegance. This place has magic about it.
Chiang Mai is an old city with a proud history, of course, an ancient and yet very modern too. Chiang Mai certainly a unique city, where it is likely to find the convergence of ancient temples and chedis adjacent to contemporary shopping centers and state-of-the art hotels right in the center of the city. The fundamental designs still survive up to this day with relics of the buttressed walls and its four principal gateways providing primary access to the old town.
Chiang Mai was founded by King Mengrai the Great in the mid-13th century as a capital of Lanna Thai Kingdom, Known as the “Kingdom of a Million Rice fields” also regarded as a walled city surrounded by a moat to protect the city from Burmese incursion, but eventually invaded and occupied from the 16th to 18th century. Until today, you can still see the Burmese influenced in this part of Thailand.
Chiang Mai flourished for several centuries as the major religious, cultural and trading center and became the center for the study of Buddhism in northern Thailand. Chiang Mai is a melting pot of ethnic Thai, Thai minorities, ethnic Chinese, Burmese, and Laotians.
Chiang Mai is approximately 700 km north of Bangkok and is located in the fertile valley about 310 meters (1,027 ft.) above sea level. Chiang Mai is known as “The Rose of the North”. Chiang Mai is blessed with majestic nature, cooler climate and buffered by lush mountains with plentiful of verdant flora and fauna.
Chiang Mai known for its outstanding handicrafts, like wood carvings, Thai silk, silverwork, umbrellas, lacquer ware, and among other things. It is also famous for her warm friendly people, beautiful women and the sheer delight of their cuisine.
The city has become a popular destination in Northern Thailand from the dazzling views on top of Doi Suthep, one of Thailand’s holiest wats to the disintegrating fragments of Wiang Kum Kham-the ancient city. Trekking and excursions into the mountainous area and meeting the Hill Tribes of Northern Thailand are also rewarding experiences.
Chiang Mai provides vast selection of accommodations from reasonably priced to the most luxurious hotels. Restaurants offer broad range of eastern and western eating experiences. Modern day-shopping and its renowned night bazaars are also at the top of the list of things to see and do in Chiang Mai where backpackers and luxury tourists can benefit from and enjoy themselves fully.
Traveling to Chiang Mai is considered cornerstone journey to make one’s visit to Thailand truly a treasured one because Chiang Mai’s charm is hidden beneath the cloak of modernity just waiting to be discovered.
Generally, the climate of Chiang Mai is tropical but there is a slight differentiation with Bangkok and the rest of the region of Thailand, due to its location and elevation. Chiang Mai is surrounded by mountains and fertile vegetation and enjoys a pleasant, temperate climate, cooler and less humid than elsewhere in Thailand. The climate in Chiang Mai falls into three main seasons, although throughout the year, temperatures are often above or close to 30°C (85°F).
During the summer months from early March to end of May, the average temperature is 27°C-30°C.(80°F-85°F) However, April is the hottest month, temperatures could get higher and can be a little hotter, and they can reach 40°C (104°F) at times. So for those who worship the sun should consider a visit to Chiang Mai in April, the hottest month.
The rainy season usually begins early June and reaches to the end of October. Most rain will probably fall in September which is the wettest month. Chiang Mai’s rainy season is typical of the weather and climate in Thailand, when monsoons are commonplace. However, even the rainiest days are generally interposed with fine spells and there is some sunshine on occasion.
Between November and February cool air blows in from China and northern Vietnam, bringing a dry season with mild days and balmy nights. Temperatures are at their lowest in December and January, the ‘cool season’ is particularly appealing and noticeably cooler at night where temperatures could drop as low as 11°-13°C (52-56°F.) chilly enough to require a warm jacket at night. Nevertheless, average daytime temperature is 21° C (70° F).
So what is the best time of year to come to Chiang Mai?
The ideal time to come to Chiang Mai is definitely the cool dry months between November and February. Nevertheless, the rainy season need not spoil a trip here. Rain in the wet season is usually limited to a couple of heavy down pour a day rather than lengthy and continuous rainfall.
Chiang Mai Travel Guide
Chiang Mai Attractions
Transportation in Chiang Mai is as easy as ABC. Like Bangkok, transportation here is aplenty and varied. Utmost convenience is what the city of Chiang Mai has to offer; comfortable, economical and user friendly transport for both local and tourists.
There are several easy methods in getting to Chiang Mai. It is linked to Bangkok by train and as well as roads. Chiang Mai is approximately 700 kilometers north of Bangkok, and one and half hour by plane. Visitors can choose the best comfortable way traveling to the “Rose of the North”.
The quickest way to travel the 700 kilometer from Bangkok to Chiang Mai is by plane. Domestic and international carriers service the Chiang Mai International Airport. Travel time between Bangkok and Chiang Mai by plane takes one hour.There are also direct domestic flights between Chiangmai and Phuket, Hat Yai, Ubon Ratchathani, Udon Thani, Khon Kaen, Mae Hong Son, Chiang Rai, Phitsanulok. International direct flights into Chiang Mai International Airport are from the following cities of Kunming, Yangon, Mandalay, Kuala-Lumpur, Vientiane, Singapore and Taipei.
The domestic airlines that operate from Chiang Mai are:
- · Bangkok Airways (www.bangkokair.com)
- · Nok Air (www.nokair.com)
- · One-Two-Go (www.fly12go.com)
- · AirAsia (www.airasia.com)
- · Thai Airways International (www.thaiair.com)
The international airlines that operate from Chiang Mai are:
- Air Asian (www.airasia.com)
- Air Mandalay (www.air-mandalay.com)
- China Airlines (www.china-airlines.com
- Silk Air (www.silkair.com)
- Thai Airways International (www.thaiair.com)
- Lao Airlines (www.laoairlines.com )
- Mandarin Airlines (www.mandarin-airlines.com)
Buses to Chiang Mai, both public and government, leave from Bangkok’s Northern Bus Terminal at Mo Chit. Bus remains the most popular and widespread means of transport in Thailand They ply the routes of the Kingdom at all hours of day and night, transporting tens of thousands of people every day. Services are usually very reliable; tickets can be booked at the bus station itself.
Roughly 9-10 hours journey from Bangkok to Chiang Mai can be made on first class air-conditioned coaches, VIP buses and non-air-conditioned buses. The VIP buses are 32-seaters and you can get a very comfortable night’s sleep in the reclining wide seats and more leg room. VIP buses have about 3 departures each day; 9.00 hrs, 20.00 hrs and 21.00 hrs from Bangkok’s Mo Chit Station. The ticket price on the Bangkok-Chiang Mai route is about 863 baht.
First class air-conditioned coaches is a 24-seater. Very convenient for a long trip or an overnight journey, seats are reclining and there is leg rests as well, leaves every half hour from 6.45am to 9pm for 600 Baht. Return tickets are always cheaper than one-way tickets.
You can book at Mo Chit Station before your departure time or call their call center number 1490, if language becomes a barrier you can ask for English speaking staff. You can also ask your hotel concierge to help you book. But if you plan to travel during a festival or important holiday in Thailand especially during Songkran and Chinese New Year then you need to book in advance, sometimes a month prior to your date of departure would be better. Government buses are more reliable than the private ones.
Travel from Bangkok to Chiang Mai by train is another popular and good alternative to travelers, aside from less expensive than flying, the window view from the 12- 15 hours train ride from Bangkok to Chiang Mai affords so much insights, getting across exhilarating valleys traversed by the broad Mae Ping River and watching the sunrise from the train in the morning is surely breathtaking and more of a real Thai experience.
Various ordinary, rapid, express and sleeper services leave from Bangkok’s Hualamphong Train Station. They offer 1st and 2nd class air conditions sleepers, 2nd class non-air-conditioned sleepers, 2nd class air-con and fan seats and 2rd class fan seats and Special Express Diesel Railcar.
The overnight trains especially the 2nd class air-con and non air-con sleepers are very popular, convenient, reliable and fun; but if you have problem sharing bathroom amenities, better avail the private 1st class carriage.
Chiang Mai train station is about 3km east of the city center, near the main Post Office, at the intersection between Charoen Muang Road and Rat Uthit Road. If you arrive late it would be wise to take a songthaew to town which is available outside the train station. If you wish to walk, going to the city center will be easy, just exit the station, cross the open square in front and turn left on the first major road and your at Charoen Muang Road ; follow this road as this road goes to the city center.
It is advisable to have a booking in advance especially during Songkran and Chinese New Year holidays.
Chiang Mai is relatively a small city, if your hotel is in the center of the city, maybe then, you may not need any of the transport options indicated below as you can walk to some Chiang Mai’s attraction sights and shopping area that are just a walking distance. Strolling around Chiang Mai is a great way to admire its vintage charm. Your effort is compensated well by the stateliness of the complex and the thrilling views of Chiang Mai.
But your travel will not be complete without venturing out of the city center. Then the choices are yours to go one step further for your planned destination.
Songtaews are open-sided pick up truck, modified and converted to be used as public transportation, with roof and two rows of seats aligned on each side of the back of the vehicle. Songtaews are the usual vehicle for typical residents of Chiang Mai, they are affordable and readily on hand and a good choice when travelling within the main city. At present, they are the backbone of the transport system in Chiang Mai. They are seen everywhere and ply on a certain route, you just tell the driver where you want to go and if he is heading in that direction just jump in the back. To get down from the songthaew, press the buzzer located at the roof – pay attention to how the locals do it. The flat rate cost 20 baht. They can also be chartered on an individual basis.
The red songthaew ply the main streets of the city. Then there are songthaews painted in other colors. The yellow songthaews go north to Mae Rim; the green songthaews travel northeast to Mae Jo; the white songthaews travel the eastern route to Sankampaeng while the blue ones go to Sarapee and Lamphun to the south.
These multihued three wheeled vehicles are omnipresent in Chiang Mai. Tuktuk is one of the symbols of Thailand. They are relatively good for short-distance travel. Short hop within the city cost 40 baht and as much as 50-100 baht for longer distances. The tuk-tuks will take you anywhere you want to go but, be warned, they’re much more expensive than most other forms of public transportation in Chiang Mai especially if you’re a Westerner. But as a general rule, if you want to go to a particular destination, then you should negotiate the fare before embarking.
There are few taxis in Chiang Mai, but most run from the airport into town and vice versa. You cannot generally hail taxis in the street. However, if you see one with a ‘for hire’ red light on the dashboard, wave it down but, again, the fare will be much more expensive than a songtaew, although much cheaper than in any Western country. As a rule, taxi drivers have to put the meter on so, if the driver refuses, attempt to get out and the meter will quickly be switched on.
There is a call center for taxi in Chiang Mai, if you need one you can dial +66 53-279291, inform them of your point of destination then the call center will give you a quote. With the advent of cheaper mobile phones, individual drivers can be contacted using their mobile phone numbers which are conspicuously displayed on the vehicle.
Chiang Mai now has 26 air-conditioned, eco-friendly (they run on bio-diesel fuel, 20 percent of which is purified recycled vegetable oil) buses for the convenience of commuters. The city is addressing the clamor for a highly dependable public transport system. With the recent history of public bus in Chiang Mai that goes on and off, despite its cheap fare of 15 baht for any journey, municipal buses missed people’s interest because of their inadequate routes and snail pace service. The lack of dissemination program and confusing routes and timetable heightened the problem of the users especially visitors who are new to the city.
However, with the citizens’ and tourists’ comfort in mind the city produced a first class, cheap, efficient, user-friendly public bus service and in the long run, it may reduce the public’s reliance on the red songtaews which are themselves a big cause of traffic congestion and pollution in Chiang Mai.
An efficient public bus service is a welcome addition to the public transport alternatives in Chiang Mai. The 32-seaters air-conditioned bus, plies several winding routes around the city, with the sporadic trifling into the central areas. The current routes are displayed in both Thai and English on the side of the buses. The public bus system operates daily from 6 am to 10 pm. The bus fare is only Baht 15.
Chiang Mai Public Bus Routes for Your Guidance
Route 2 – Lamphun Road to 7th Field Artillery, Mae Rim
Route 4 – International Airport via Wualai & Charoenmuang roads to carrefour
Route 6 – Around the Mahidol ring road.
Route 8 – Provincial Hall, Mae Rim to International Airport
Route 10 – Kwan Vieng Village, Hangdong Road to city center
Route 11 – Bus Arcade (Kaew Nawarat Rd) to Airport Plaza to Night Safari
Route 12 – Wiang Khum Gaam (Nong Hoy) to city moat to Chiang Mai
University to Chiang Mai Zoo.
Route 13 – Train Station to Wat Pra Singh to Night Safari.
There are plethoras of motorcycles available for rent in many places in Chiang Mai from scooter to big bikes. But the most widely available rental bike in Northern Thailand is the Honda Dream, a very reliable and economical 100 cc four-stroke with about 8 bhp. It’s simply the perfect bike for the city traffic of Chiang Mai. This is recommended for novices, they are automatic bikes as they are the easiest to learn to drive. The price for small bikes; 100cc & 125cc is from 120 -250 baht a day, while the cost for renting a larger bike ranges from 400-1000 baht a day, depending on the brand and size of the engine. The owner of the bike should provide you helmet. Aside from safety issues in not wearing a helmet, you risk being stopped and fined at the frequent police checkpoints all over the city.
If you prefer to ride a bicycle around the city of Chiang Mai, then renting a bicycle is another option for you. You can traverse through the roads and alleys which are accessible and bicycle-friendly. Bike rentals are sprouting like mushrooms, they are offered in every corner. Price for a simple bike is 50 baht per day.
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