Happy New Year!
Chiang Mai is a famous province in the northern part of Thailand. It is one of the most visited destinations in the country besides Bangkok and Phuket. Locals and foreigners alike travel to the north especially during the months of December to February because of its cold weather. In contrary to Bangkok’s temperature of 25-32 degrees Celsius, Chiang Mai’s temperature ranges from 10-25 degrees or even colder in the early morning and late evening.
My first time in Chiang Mai was for a school-related activity. We stayed in a town, called Chiang Dao, which is roughly 2 hours away from Chiang Mai city. It was more of nature, camping trip than anything else. But I loved it nonetheless because it was my first time camping for three straight nights, literally sleeping in tents, hardly able to wake up in the morning because of the cold. I am not used to cold weather so it was a real struggle getting up and ready for the day with a temperature of lesser than 10 degrees Celsius. However, I enjoyed the trekking part and the physically challenging activities such as the rock climbing and the community service.
This time is different because our sole purpose is to explore the province and visit the top destinations in Chiang Mai. We have, or rather my cousin has meticulously planned out our activities for the duration of our stay.
How to get to Chiang Mai
The easiest and the most convenient way will be flying to Chiang Mai. We booked a flight plus hotel package through airasiago.com for around 4,500 THB/ person. Then we flew from Don Mueang Airport in Bangkok to Chiang Mai International Airport.
Bus and van are also available as public transportation to Chiang Mai. The fare costs as low as 500 THB and travel takes 9-12 hours depending on the traffic.
The train is another option if you are up to a little adventure. The entire trip takes 11-12 hours and tickets cost from 500 – 2,000 THB.
By private car
For those who own a car, driving to Chiang Mai will be a fun route to take especially if joined with family or friends. Do a stopover or stay a night in other towns or provinces to make the journey less taxing.
Our itinerary for the day is to visit a few of the most popular temples around Chiang Mai. Generally, there are about 300 temples situated in the province. We chose to visit the temples that have unique designs or remarkable history.
1. Wat Chedi Luang
The temple was constructed in the 14th century when a King named Saen Muang Ma decided to bury his father’s ashes on site. A severe earthquake toppled the top part of the spire.
One remarkable tree near the entrance of the temple is the Dipterocarp tree. It is believed to be one of the three protectors of the city.
There is an entrance fee of 40 THB/ person. Consider the Do’s/Don’ts before entering the temple in terms of proper clothing as a sign of respect.
2. Wat Suan Dok
Wat Suan Dok was built in the 14th century. It was founded by King Kue Na of Lanna for the monk Sumana Thera.
On the temple grounds are a large number of white chedis or pagoda which makes it unique. The tallest chedi is a Sri Lankan style which is 48 meters in height and contains the relic of the Buddha. Majority of the smaller white chedis contain the ashes of members of several generations of the Chiang Mai Royal Family.
Entrance is free.
3. Wat Umong
The temple was built in 1297 by King Manglai of the Lan Na dynasty. The wat is known for its ancient tunnels and large chedi located in the forest. We have to pass through tunnels with Buddhist images.
Map of Wat Umong
It has a very natural location as tall trees surround the temple. There are chickens and other wild animals found outside the temple too.
Entrance is free.
4. Wat Phra That Doi Suthep
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is a sacred site to Thai people. It’s a must-visit destination in Chiang Mai following a famous saying, “You’ve never been to Chiang Mai if you’ve never visited Doi Suthep”. It was believed to have been founded in 1383.
It’s located on top of a mountain that visitors will need to climb 309 steps to reach the pagodas.
While walking up the stairs, we’ve found these cute little kids wearing their tribal costumes and when we took photos of them or with them, they asked for “money” afterward. I guess that’s how they are trained to earn money which I feel conflicted about.
There is a viewpoint of Chiang Mai on the top.
Entrance is 30 THB/person.
Day Tour Cost
We hired a taxi driver (red songtaew) for 300 THB/person and since there were three of us, we paid 900 THB in total after the tour. We ended up hiring him for our next tours in Chiang Mai. I will share his contact details at the end of this series.