Thailand is one of the most visited countries in the world, and tourists usually opt to explore the beaches, islands, and culture of the southern islands, like Phuket and others. However, another popular option for tourists is the northern city of Chang Mai, located near the mountains and high plains inland. In fact, Chang Mai is a rich, interesting, and surprisingly entertaining city that’s also home to one of the largest expat communities in all of Thailand.
When you go visit Chang Mai, you’ll have countless options for things to do and see, but here are seven you shouldn’t miss:
Doi Suthep Doi Suthep
Just northwest of the city of Chang Mai sits the majestic mountain of Doi Suthep, home to the shining Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. The temple is about 700 years old and attracts spiritual followers, well-wishers, and tourists every day.
Chiang Mai Night Safari
Come out at night (when its cooler and the animals come out to play) to observe and interact with native creatures in three separate zones: the Savanna Safari, Jaguar Trail, and Predator Prowl. You can either observe them by walking or on a tram that’s open. You can even hand feed some of the animals, play with baby tiger cubs, or enjoy their nightly fountain and laser show.
All throughout Chang Mai, you’ll find amazing food markets in traditional Thai fashion, with kiosks and stalls set up nightly offering the best of Thai food, sweets, vegetarian cuisine, Thai beers and mixed drinks, and also handicrafts, souvenirs, and clothing. It’s always a great time to stroll around the night markets of Chang Mai and sample some of the great food!
Old City Temples
Chang Mai’s rich architectural history is unsurpassed in Thailand, and you can get a glimpse of it just by walking through its venerable and storied streets and buildings. Of course, the Old City is based around the iconic temples it was built upon, like Wat Phra Singh, Wat Chedi Luang, Wat Phan Tao, and more!
The Underground Ancient City
In the southern countryside about 3 miles outside of Chang Mai, you’ll find the ancient underground city of Wiang Kum Kam. The complex of ruins and partially-excavated remains dates back to the eighth century during the Haripunchai Kingdom, and you can even take a horse-drawn carriage there and around on your tour.
Right by the riverside in the jungle outside the city, you’ll find the Chang Mai Elephant Sanctuary, the first of its kind as awareness and conservation shifted the way we interact and care for these majestic animals. Many of the elephants here are rescued from their “jobs” in logging or tourism elsewhere, where they were mistreated or lived under less than optimal conditions. But now, you can still see the elephants and even bathe them (which they love!) but riding them is off limits, as it should be.
Lanna Folklife Museum
The weather forecast is usually filled with sunshine and high temps in Thailand, but, sooner or later, you’ll encounter a rainy or gloomy day. When it starts to pour, go indoors with the Lanna Folklife Museum in Chang Mai, which contains really interesting relics, artifacts, and documentation of ancient life in the Kingdom Od Siam. Interestingly enough, the museum is a white building of colonial architecture, although Thailand is the only country in Southeast Asia never to be conquered and colonized!
Of course, you can travel the world, or just read about it. What would you rather do?