The biggest city in the North of Thailand and second biggest after Bangkok, Chiang Mai has a very peculiar feel, impressing all visitors. Anyone who arrives in Chiang Mai falls for this place which offers many activities for all tastes.
Chiang Mai is one of the most beautiful and important cities in all Thailand. In ancient times, it was the capital city of the Kingdom of Lanna and played a strategic role in the north of the country. Nowadays Chiang Mai has managed to renovate itself and grow without losing its charm, offering much to all the people who visit the city.
Chiang Mai, meaning new city, has in fact become one of the most modern cities in Thailand and thousands of visitors come here every year, some even deciding to stay. Sorrounded by the mountains which make weather less sultry and humid if compared to Bangkok, Chiang Mai is regarded as one of the best places to live in Thailand thanks to a relatively low cost of living.
The atmosphere is very relaxed, especially within the walls of the old town, giving Chiang Mai a particular charm and there are many opportunities for relaxation and interesting attractions for anyone who decides to visit it.
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep: One of Chiang Mai's symbols is this Buddhist temple built on the mountains which sorround the city; a long stairway allows to visit the temple and enjoy a breath-taking view of Chiang Mai from above, directly from the roof terrace. To reach the top of Doi Suthep mountain you can rent a motor scooter or get on one of the red buses of the city, called Song Thaew.
Night Bazaar: The most famous market in Chiang Mai, it's set up every evening from 5 pm to 11 pm. Here you can find everything, from clothes (mostly counterfeited), electronics items such as iPods, headphones and even telephones, shoes, suvenirs and many handmade objects.
Wualay Saturday Market and Sunday Walking Street: Two unmissable weekly markets, where all Chiang Mai population, both Thai and foreign, flocks to the streets to eat, drink, bond and go shopping. The Saturday market is set up during the night just outside the walls, while the Sunday market can be visited within the walls of the old city; entire roads are closed to make room for any kind of stalls.
Loi Krathong Festival: Every year, usually in November, the lantern (Krathong) festival takes place and local people meet in the streets of Chiang Mai and throw a lantern made of paper up in the air. The sight is really suggestive and, according to the tradition, this event helps the population to keep away problems and diseases.
Songkran: A festival which takes place every year in the middle of April, a celebration which is halfway between religious and amusing and includes a water balloon fight.
Cooking schools: If you love cooking (and eating) you mustn't miss the countless Chiang Mai schools offering cooking lessons. If you're staying in the city for few days you can attend a basic course, lasting a few hours, to learn how to cook some typical Thai dish. It's fun and interesting for all cuisine lovers.
With a growing presence of foreigners, Chiang Mai is becoming a very important and developed city, nevertheless it retains its ancient fascination. Local people are very sociable and always ready to offer a smile; those arriving in Chian Mai will undoubtedly fall for this beautiful city.