Introducing Chiang Mai
Are you here yet? OK, good, breathe a sigh of relief – you're in Thailand's second city, but it ain't Bangkok. Now, have a look around you, because this nonchalant city encapsulates much of what is unique and breathtaking about Thailand.
Piercing the foothills of northern Thailand, and snuggling up to Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai contains hundreds of sacred temples, with chedi and gabled rooftop tiers soaring skyward, and then billowing out protectively as they swoop to the ground. The city's enduring Lanna characteristics are evident in these revered, merit-making houses of worship, along with the quaint, moated old city where so many temples are housed. The surrounding mountains, their legendary, mystical attributes ever watchful over the steamy metropolis, loom large over the city.
Chiang Mai is laid-back, creative and reverential. It's a city with heart – most NGOs working with Burmese refugees have their headquarters here. In reality, the city is dynamic and modern without having lost its down-to-earth charm. There's certainly traffic, pollution and ugly concrete buildings, but this is a very Thai place – Thai culture overwhelmingly pervades a city wrapped up in Western sensibilities and striving for advancement. Fortunately the university students keep Chiang Mai looking and feeling youthful. Head down to Th Nimmanhaemin and you'll glimpse the city's future movers and shakers, intent now on moving and shaking it in the nightclubs, bars and discos that crown this area as Chiang Mai's nightlife headquarters.
Oh, and don't forget the eating scene. Specialities of the city include Japanese sushi bars around the university, Burmese curries and salads, and of course Thai: from delicious street food to white-linen riverside dining where fine wines and twinkling candles floating on the water create a special Chiang Mai indulgence.
Best places to stay in Chiang Mai
Thailand’s unexplored north
Combining mountainous landscapes, cultural treasures and untouristed corners, Thailand’s north is arguably the part of the country most apt for exploration. Yet despite this, most visitors to the region head directly to Chiang Mai, followed by a trek in Chiang Rai or a tour of the ruins at Sukhothai.
Temples of Chiang Mai
Learning new things in Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai destination guides
The world's greatest markets
Nothing gives you an insight into local shopping like a loud and sprawling market. Come with us on a global tour of some of the world's greatest markets - bargains, food (and crowds) await. 1.
From the vibrant cityscape of Bangkok to Halong Bay's magnificent limestone karsts, this trip encompasses the highlights of Indochina. Marvel at the wonders of Angkor Wat, sail the Mekong and savour noodles in Chiang Mai. Shop for souvenirs in Ho Chi Minh City and join the locals sipping coffee at a lakeside cafe in Hanoi.
Thailand on a Shoestring
Perfect for those looking to experience Northern Thailand’s cultural treasures and the natural beauty of its southern islands. This 16-day trip will help you get off the beaten path with a trek to the region’s hilltribes but remains flexible enough to suit all tastes.
Lonely Planet's top 10 cities for 2011
Who doesn't love a city? Lonely Planet has scoured the globe for next year's hottest cities. Our top picks show that a city doesn't need to be a heaving metropolis to get on the list. Then again, sometimes it helps. One of our favourites is the world's largest city that cannot be reached by road.