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The Essence of Chiang Mai: Things to do, places to go, and foods to eat

Chiang Mai is the name of the biggest city in northern Thailand. In comparison to the hustle and bustle of Bangkok and other tourist destinations in Thailand, Chiang Mai is relatively calm. When people think of Chiang Mai, they may think of mountains, tea farms, temples, and cool temperature. Many Thais like visiting Chiang Mai from October to January when the weather becomes very cold (for Thais) and frost accumulates on the grass and leaves. Things to do in Chiang Mai include temple visits, adventure tours and excursions to national parks so if you are looking for a glamourous entertainment and nightlife, you’re better off heading to Bangkok and Pattaya. However, if you decide to stick with Chiang Mai, keep reading to find out the things you could do in this city.

Before Chiang Mai became the capital city of Chiang Mai province, it was the capital of Lanna Kingdom which reigned in northern Thailand between the 13th and 18th century. Originally people in Chiang Mai spoke Kham Muang, which was a language spoken during the Lanna period. Today the Chiang Mai locals still speak Kham Muang amongst themselves but most of them can speak and understand the standard Thai language. When you are in Chiang Mai you may hear people say the word jao (pronounced as ‘jow’ like in ‘cow’). This word is the equivalence of the Thai word ‘ka’ which is a polite word used at the end of a sentence. ‘Ka’ and ‘jao’ also means ‘yes sir’ or ‘yes ma’am’. So, if you hear the shop vendor say something like “yee-sib-baht-jao” it means “that costs twenty-baht sir (or ma’am).”

Thai people from different parts of the country sometimes label one another based on the province a person is from. For example, Bangkok people are reputed to be materialistic, always in a hurry, and hot-tempered. People in Chiang Mai on the other hand, have the reputation of being calm and polite. Some say this is due to the cooler climate which makes people less irritable.

Temple Tour

things to do in Chiang Mai_templeThere are plenty of things to do in Chiang Mai, but be sure to make temple tour one of them. There are over 300 Buddhist temples located across the city, the popular ones are Wat Umong, Wat Chiang Man, and Wat Prathat Doi Suthep. The word ‘wat’ means ‘temple’ in Thai and the word ‘doi’ means ‘mountain’.  Although at first glance, all temples may look similar, but each one possesses a unique quality. Wat Umong for instance, is built inside a cave located in a forest while the golden Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep is believed to house a shard of Buddha’s shoulder bone.


Shopping in Chiang Mai

things to do in Chiang Mai_shoppingChiang Mai is famous for it’s variety of handicrafts which make for great souvenirs. There are handmade silverware, clothes, and the saa paper made from the bark of the mulberry tree which could be turned into various products such as the well-known Chiang Mai umbrellas.


Chiang Mai Fruit and Vegetable Farms

things to do in Chiang Mai_tea plantationBecause Chiang Mai is located in the northern part of Thailand, the city enjoys a much cooler climate than other parts of the country. Due to this cooler temperature, certain fruits and vegetables which could otherwise only grow in cooler climate such as strawberries, cabbages, grapes, and apples are able to grow here. High up on the mountains you could visit the tea plantations where you could learn about tea planting and picking. You’ll get a chance to pick your own tea leaves and learn how to properly brew them in order to get the best flavor.


Chiang Mai Food

Kaaw-soiMany people who come to Chiang Mai would buy fried pork rind to take home with them. The crunchy pork rinds are usually eaten with green chili dipping sauce and served as an appetizer or a snack. When you come to Chiang Mai you should try khaaw-soi. This is a signature Chiang Mai spicy egg noodle curry. The curry is often topped with fried noodles and scallion and include either chicken, pork, or beef.


 Nature Tour

chiang mai tourThis Chiang Mai tour is perfect for people looking for a little adventure. You might want to try ziplining where you will be flying across the forest with pulley and cables strapped around you. If you don’t like high places, then try white water rafting and practice your paddling skills. You’ll paddle your way through the rushing river but don’t worry, there will be a trained guide sitting in the raft with you. For people who like to try something a little “calmer” a visit to Doi Inthanon National Park should do the trick. Doi Inthanon is Thailand’s highest mountains and the peak is a popular tourist destination. The weather up there is cold and the air is thin, so if you have high blood pressure make sure to bring your medicine and a warm jacket when you go there. The view on the mountains is spectacular and the long climb is well worth it.

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