Located just three hours away from Singapore, Chiang Mai might just be the next place to check out in the land of smiles for that quick weekend getaway. Here’s a three day two night itinerary to help you get the most out of your trip.
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Day 1: Café Hopping and Wat Visiting
Get to know the city through its food and cultural insights upon your arrival - intersperse café-hopping with wat-visiting in the heart of Chiang Mai’s old city.
A string of farm-to-table concept restaurants have cropped up in Chiang Mai, known to be the agricultural hub of Thailand. The Rustic and Blue Farm shop is one that is known for its hand grown produce and fusion, artisanal food.
Also in the area: Ristr8to Lab, Overstand
Within the old city - Wats are ancient Buddhist temples, with stupas and pagodas dotting the surrounding temple grounds. With over 300 wats in the city and surrounding countryside, Chiang Mai is home to more wats than any other province in Thailand.
Pay a visit to Wat Chedi Luang, Wat Chiang Man, or Wat Phra Singh. Some wats have ‘monk chat corners’, where a resident monk is happy to field questions from foreigners. Ladies, remember to dress appropriately for wat visits. (Scarves are also usually available at most wats.)
At the outskirts - Located West of Chiang Mai’s old city is Wat Phra That Doi Suthep – the most majestic of wats and a sacred site to the Thais. It features over 50 mural paintings illustrating the life of Buddha, shrines and monuments, including statues of white elephants.
Just a few kilometres away from Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is the Doi Pui village - home to the Hmong tribe people. Get a glimpse into the life of the locals – making their living through weaving of scarves and handicrafts, or try your hand at a traditional cross bow and aim for coconuts hanging in a distance.
Day 2: Enjoy the Outdoors
Be prepared for a day of walking on Day 2.
Hike to the highest point (2,565 meters or 8,415 feet above sea level) in Thailand at Doi Inthanon National Park, and take pictures beside the Mae Ya or Wachirathan waterfalls. Part of the Himalayan mountain range, temperatures can drop below 10 degree Celsius.
In the vicinity, the Royal Twin Pagodas - King and Queen Chedis, were built in commemoration of King Bhumibol and Queen Sirikit’s 60th birthdays. Beautiful gardens surround the chedis, and you’ll be awed by the magnificent views at the top.
End the day exploring Chiang Mai’s night bazaar (opened every day, from dusk till midnight). If you are looking for some action, check out Muay Thai fights or cabarets located within the compound.
After a day of walking, treat yourself to a traditional Thai massage to soothe those aching muscles and you’ll be sure to fall into a restful slumber.
Day 3: Take a ride on an elephant’s back
Elephants have long been revered by the Thai people. At Maesa Elephant camp, be entertained by elephant shows, enjoy an elephant ride, or sign up for mahout (elephant caretaker) training – with a certificate to boast upon completion.
Round up your holiday with a refreshing organic meal at Ohkajhu Organic Restaurant on the way to the airport. The restaurant owns organic farms across Chiang Mai, and you can expect nothing less than the freshest greens. Vegan and vegetarian dishes are available, and for the meat-lover, a well grilled steak or rack of ribs will please. This place is hugely popular – expect long queues during peak timings such as Friday nights or the weekends. If you haven’t got your fill, take home pre-marinated meats and homemade salad dressing, or grab a detox cleansing drink for the road.
Have more than three days to spare? Here are some other attractions you can check out:
· Admire the flora and fauna at Queen Sikrit botanical gardens
· Rejuvenate at the local Sankampaeng hot springs while enjoying a spring-boiled egg
· Enjoy a round of golf on perfectly manicured greens at Chiang Mai Highlands Golf and Spa Resort
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Best Time to visit
The ideal time to visit Chiang Mai is between October and April. Weather during this period is mostly cool.
If you plan a trip in November you will catch Loi Krathong (or Yee Peng as it is known in Chiang Mai), a festival where illuminated lanterns are launched into the sky. In February, enjoy the beautiful flower display at public parks and the iconic flower parade during the Chiang Mai flower festival. Celebrate the Songkran in the month of April.
Around the city centre, hop onto tuk-tuks, Songthaews, taxis or rent your own motorcycle. If you’re travelling in a group to places further out like Doi Inthanon, hire a minivan which best navigates the windy roads.
Thai Baht (THB). Money changers can be found easily within the city centre.
SilkAir and Tigerair fly to Chiang Mai from Changi Airport several times a week. Search for airfare deals and book your tickets now!