With its gorgeous natural attractions, laid-back atmosphere, and inexpensive prices, Chiang Mai is fast becoming one of the most popular tourist spots worldwide. There are so many things to do at any time of the day in this little city, that by the time we have exhausted the list, I am quite sure that something new would have sprung up somewhere.
While it may not feature the bright lights or big city brand of entertainment, Chiang Mai has a bustling nightlife with loads of live music venues featuring jazz, rock and classic blues tunes. For those who prefer good music to thumping beats, settling in with a few cool drinks on the banks of the Ping River to enjoy some good company and mellow background music is a relaxed option.
The Nimmanheimin Road area is popular with the clubbing crowd with a range of bars and restaurants as well as backpackers in the area. The Chiang Mai Night Bazaar is not to be missed with its bustling markets filled with sparkling jewellery, handicrafts and delicious local foods, and by day the Khamthiang Market fascinates with its range of beautiful flowers. Soak up the atmosphere of the vibrant markets while enjoying a relaxing foot massage from one of the many massage spots on the sidewalk.
Daytime activities in Chiang Mai are varied and numerous. There are many well-respected Thai cooking schools offering lessons from master chefs, some within the city, while others are only a short bicycle ride away. You can check out local culture at the Chiang Mai National Museum, Tribal Museum and City Arts & Cultural Centre, amble among the expansive grounds of Queen Sirkit Botanic Garden, spoil yourself at one of the many Thai spas, or visit Doi Inthanon National Park nicknamed the “roof of Thailand”, with its waterfalls and caves and the country’s highest mountain. Many of the national parks offer camps sites where you can pitch your tent to stargaze or even rent one of the local cabins for the night.
Sound too boring? How about cycling, biking, rock climbing, abseiling, paragliding, bungee jumping or caving. There is also plenty on offer for those not seeking the adrenalin rush, a gentle river cruise on the Mae Ping River, a strenuous trek in the mountains, a trip to the Butterfly Farm, Tiger Park or even the natural hot springs at Doi Pha Hom Pok National Park. A stay in Thailand is not the same without and elephant ride experience. There are quite a few elephant camps around, which offer rides into the surrounding jungle and put on shows where these magnificent creatures display their performing skills.
All these activities are available close to Chiang Mai and accessible by a number of roads which are an attraction in themselves, winding through the breath-taking countryside, you can even get a bird’s eye view of your surroundings with a hot air balloon excursion.
I have managed to enjoy quite a few of these activities during my spare time while teaching in English in Chiang Mai, just some of the reasons why teaching in Thailand is such a rewarding experience.
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