A Short Guide to Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai’s narrow old town roads, various cafes and the beautiful temples make for a stunning weekend’s diversion. Whether you want to climb mountains to temples high in the sky, trek jungles or say “sawadee” to the local monks, here’s out short guide to Chiang Mai: Thailand’s northern capital.


Of the 300 or so Buddhist temples in Chiang Mai, Wat Phra Doi Suthep remains my favourite. Visiting this temple is a must for view hunters, but its stupas, a particularly pretty site after conquering the temple’s 306 steps are more than worth the effort too. After some exploration, in awe at the vistas of the stunning Thai countryside and the beautiful chedi, be sure to join a Sai Sin ceremony.


Orange robed monks seem to be on every street in Chiang Mai – and of course in and around every temple. If you’re intrigued by their way of life and would like to have a chat – then do so. There’s an interesting Monk Chat programme within the city which gives people an opportunity to interact with local Monks – primarily students. It’s a good way for them to continue their English language learning and can be a fun way to unravel some of the mystery.


The Thai jungles that carpet the northern mountains make a relatively easy introduction to those hoping for a peak at Thailand’s wilder side. Take a 4 day hike through the jungle between Chiang Mai and Burma savouring the nighttime atmosphere, whether in a tent close to a jungle waterfall or in a village with food prepared by locals. The sounds of the fauna are mesmerising, the scents intoxicating and the people and animals one meets along the way, each truly unforgettable.

Northern Thai Food

Thai cuisine is delicious. Whether dining in a fine island restaurant or by the roadside in Bangkok, the Thai people are culinary experts. Northern Thai cuisine though has its flare. You’ll rarely find coconut milk in northern Thai food and the rice is always served sticky. Burmese curries are popular, as are marinated meats, but the most notable dish is Kôw soy which combines wheat-and-egg noodles and a rich, fragrant curry broth. A favourite northern Thai dish is probably Nám prík nùm which is a mix of long green chillies, shallots and garlic that are grilled and then mashed into a spicy paste that’s served on top of sticky rice, with vegetables and deep-fried pork crackling. 

Honourable mentions go to the Chiang Mai night bazaar, the breathtaking collection of temples in the old city and Chiang Mai’s flourishing cafe culture.