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Chiang Mai, Thailand

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Chiang Mai scored plenty of accolades in recent years through reader polls of widely read magazines and websites like Condé Nast Traveller. It has much going for it, not least its setting in a beautiful mountainous region of northern Thailand. Its ancient old town has a wealth of sights and there are impressive attractions and activities city-wide.

The original part of Chiang Mai is still enclosed by its original moat and retains remnants of its fortifications. Within the town is a relatively quiet network of small alleys pockmarked with temples, galleries, boutique guesthouses and irresistible cafés. Rich Lanna culture is all around, best discerned in ancient teak shophouses and big temples of this area.

Chiang Mai has nearly as many temples as Bangkok, some of which are just as impressive, such as the must-see Wat Phra Singh. Wat Phratat Doi Suthep, with its high vantage point overlooking the city, is one of the top visited sights in the country. From up here, visitors can see Chiang Mai spread out below.

Cyclists often make a beeline for this high point before heading further up the mountain and into the jungle, or before racing back down. Mountain biking is one of the top activities here, since there is great terrain and many professional outfits that offer extensive touring options. You can also choose to cycle the old town or get on a motorcycle trip and explore the area at large.

Other main activities in the Chiang Mai area include trekking, zip lining, white water rafting, bamboo rafting and elephant riding. Trekking in particular is a much sought out activity. Tours head up into the mountains to visit some of the many hill tribe villages. They may take several days and usually include an elephant ride or encounter.

Golf is also hugely popular, with more than a dozen good courses and resorts dotted around the city and landscape, some to championship level, albeit with reasonable green fees. There are also more extreme activities on hand here, such as bungee jumping and zorbing.

Those with children have a good choice of activities and attractions, including a zoo, night safari, waterfalls, beautiful parks and gardens and several large shopping malls with full facilities. In fact the city is especially well set up for families, some returning year on year to enjoy the cooler air, excellent hospitality and top hotels.

In addition is some of the most impressive and value-for-money shopping in the kingdom. The Night Market sells vast supplies of locally made handicrafts, which make perfect gifts and keepsakes. Chiang Mai also produces high end products, to include stunning silks, carved furniture, artwork and fashion.

The wellness industry is also a big attraction. Thai massage has influences from across Asia and has likely been used here for well over a century. The Thais themselves are masters at hospitality and wellness. As a result, along with Thai traditional massage, there are numerous options available in the many spa centres in town. These include beauty treatments, manicure, reflexology and yoga. Prices are very reasonable.

48 Hours in Chiang Mai: #SSBD Cheat Sheet

Posted on 21 July 2016


Chiang Mai is known as the “rose of the north” in Thailand, and for good reasons. Once the capital of the ancient Lanna Kingdom, Chiang Mai has natural beauty in abundance. Surrounded by lush jungles, national parks and the picturesque foothills of the Himalayas, this city is a stunner in the best way possible. In the next episode of #TravelSSBD, Sonia Chew gets utterly charmed in Chiang Mai. Meanwhile, this is 48 hours in Chiang Mai, #SSBD style.

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