Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai is the gateway to a different Thailand. Far from the southern dream beaches, away from the historical parks of Ayutthaya and Sukhothai, the skyscrapers of Bangkok and the dusty plains of Isaan. Chiang Mai is the Rose of the North, surrounded by mountains, rich in culture and diverse ethnicities. Travel nomads and long-term backpackers have discovered the region for themselves as a quiet antipole to Thailand’s sex and party destinations.

Buddha Statue in a Temple
Buddha Statue in a Temple
Bells in a Temple

A bicycle tour is the best way to explore Chiang Mai. The old moat surrounds the historic part of the city. Between the alleyways of the old town, we cycle around temples and stop for a short break at the market. The city seems to be different from other cities in central or southern Thailand. Is it the fading echo of the Lan Na culture? A slightly different architecture, adapted to the cooler climate? The geographical proximity to Myanmar and Laos and various hill tribes? We don’t know.

In the evening, we sit on the banks of the Ping River. The colorful lights of restaurants are reflected in the water. Another cold beer, then we head to the crowded Night Bazaar with its street food stalls, bars and the Hard Rock Cafe. Here you can see the tourist side of the city where you can’t do without a party. There are also bars with pink or red neon lights and women in short skirts sipping a drink.

A trip to Chiang Mai is not complete without an excursion into nature and the Doi Inthanon National Park. Everything that backpackers like is on offer: rafting, climbing, jungle tours, elephant washing. Nature belongs to humans – it is their playground.

The road winds its way past waterfalls up to the summit of Mount Doi Inthanon. Even when it is over 30° Celsius in the city, a cool breeze blows up here and sometimes the summit sinks into a sea of clouds. The Thai army built the royal couple their own chedi on the summit of Thailand’s highest mountain to celebrate their 60th birthdays.

Hill tribes such as the Hmong and Karen populate the north of Thailand, as well as regions in neighboring countries. They stand at the tourist sites, dressed in traditional costumes. Women and their children smile into the camera for a few banknotes and sell handmade souvenirs.

Chris' Tip

If you opt for a day tour, make sure that you choose a reputable and sustainable provider. Some tour operators simply pack too much into a day trip and often include controversial activities such as elephant rides or visits to ethnic minorities who are presented like zoo animals. If you want to get involved in the conservation and protection of Thai elephants, visit the Save Elephant Foundation, which we also support.

Tribe People around Chiang Mai
Flowers in Chiang Mai
Flowers in Chiang Mai
Waterfall in the Doi Inthanon Nationalpark

Chiang Mai is a Thailand without the sea and beaches. A somewhat quieter Thailand, perhaps a more original Thailand. Fewer bars, less sex tourism, fewer parties. A Thailand with lush nature and a milder climate. Long-term travelers and expats appreciate the peaceful and idyllic north without mass tourism and the hustle and bustle of Bangkok.

Info about our trip