Bangkok and Pattaya are no longer the preferred destinations today — Chiang Mai, the second largest city in Thailand, has stepped up their game and gained more appeal in the recent years. It’s not hard to see why either! Chiang Mai is jam-packed with endless activities worthy of your bucket list and it’s not hard to see why this is a backpacker’s heaven.
1. The people
Most Thais in Chiang Mai are devoted Buddhists leading simple and slow-paced lives. Coming here, you’ll understand why people say “happiness is easy, it’s the people who make it difficult”. Locals here are always full of smiles and quick to warm up to tourists, especially backpackers. Now you know why Thailand is known as the Land of Smiles!
2. Scenic views
Did you know that Doi Inthanon, one of the highest mountain in Chiang Mai, is part of the Himalayas? This explains the pleasant and comfortable climate, making it a great choice of escape from Singapore’s constant heat.
3. History and culture
Although Chiang Mai literally means ‘new city’ in Thai, it is anything but! With over 700 years of history tracing back to the Lanna Kingdom, what makes Chiang Mai stand out from other modernised cities is its distinctive rich background mixed with local way of life, making it a perfect place for backpackers to distance themselves from technology and discover themselves.
4. Authentic local delights
Backpackers love the authentic street food in Chiang Mai – not only are they yummy yet affordable, they are comforting as well. One of the highly recommended must-eats is the Kao Soi Curry Noodles. A bowl of this goodness starts from 35 – 50 baht (~ SGD $1.40 – $2). What makes the dish so different is the crispy fried egg noodles served on top of the curry noodles.
For the shopaholic in you, or if you’re simply looking for a souvenir for your family, you’ll be relieved to find that just like Bangkok, Chiang Mai has many great shopping spots too. If you have limited time for shopping, at least visit two of Chiang Mai‘s weekend bazaars, opened on Saturday and Sunday respectively. At these places known for their handicrafts and local items, you will be able to find something with a added touch.
Chiang Mai Saturday Market is a great place to get handmade souvenirs and clothes. Located opposite the Chiang Mai gate, this market even has a street food market for you to fill your stomach after all the retail therapy.
Address: Wua Lai Rd, Mueang Chiang Mai District, Chiang Mai 50100, Thailand
Opening hours: 18:00 – 22:00 (opened only on Saturdays)
Chiang Mai Sunday Market, the more popular weekend bazaar of the two, showcases the many art and craftsmanship of Northern Thais from handmade home decors to jewelry and more. After all that shopping, rest your exhausted feet with Thai massages starting from only 60 baht (~SGD $2.40).
Address: Rachadamnoen Rd, Mueang Chiang Mai District, Chiang Mai 50200, Thailand
Opening hours: 18:00 – 23:00 PM (opened only on Sundays)
6. Join classes
Travelling is the best time for you to learn! More than just finding more about yourself, there are a variety of lessons for you to learn in Chiang Mai. Cooking is one of more popular classes amongst backpackers. That way, you’ll be able to recreate your favourite Thai dishes for your family and friends when you return home.
There are many places in Chiang Mai waiting for you to discover. If you haven’t set foot in Chiang Mai, go let your wandering heart free. There’s no time better than now!