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If you want to make the most out of Thailand, skip Bangkok and Phuket. I visited Chiang Mai at the end of last year, and I had a much better experience than I’ve ever had anywhere else in the country. Thailand is beautiful, and that’s exactly why so many tourists turn up there. You won’t have to fight past them to experience it if you go somewhere they’re less likely to go. This is why I compiled for you this list of the best things to do in Chiang Mai Thailand.
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In Chiang Mai, you’ll get to know the real Thailand
Must See in Chiang Mai – The Animals
Chiang Mai is a very family friendly face. Whether or not you have kids, you’re going to want to see the animals while you’re there. Chiang Mai has one of the biggest zoos I’ve ever seen.
There are more than 400 different animals to view – even pandas. The Chiang Mai Night safari might be even better. You can actually hand feed tiger cubs, and that’s not something most people get to do every day.
If you find elephants to be amazing, you absolutely need to see the elephant camps. These elephants can paint pictures! It’s incredible.
Best things to do in Chiang Mai
Camp Near the Chiang Dao Mountains
I backpacked through Thailand, and the Chiang Dao Mountains were the best spot by far. The area is great to hike. The large mountain is covered in green grass, and you can see everything from the top.
It’s nestled right into a wooded area with plenty of spots for hammock camping. It was such a peaceful place to sleep. If you want the get a full experience of Chiang Dao’s nature, you can’t pass this one up.
Meet the People Who Live There
(My picture. Please feel free to use)
One of the best things about visiting a new place is meeting the people who live in it. Just past the caves is a large Karen tribe – where the women wear lengthening rings on their necks. You can tour their village, but you don’t have to tour it like a tourist.
Most people just walk around and take pictures, which is exactly why the people in the village are happy to actually have conversations about their lives and their culture.
I didn’t take many pictures because I was so focused on learning from these people. They’re extremely friendly, and they’ll teach you everything about who they are and where they came from.
Get Some Work Done
Chiang Mai is a digital nomad hotspot. People from all over the world visit to work while they travel, and I did a lot of that while I was there.
The internet is ridiculously fast – much faster than the internet I was used to at home. Coworking groups pop up all over the place, and it’s easy to find a seat at a table.
It’s really cheap to stay in Chiang Mai. Everything costs less, from food to rent. With the nomad culture and networking opportunities all over the place, it’s simple and very inexpensive to stay in Chiang Mai long term.
There’s always another remote worker to talk to, so it’s not surprising to find a lead on a new job while you’re hanging out and eating lunch.
Explore the Temples
There are over 300 religious temples in Chiang Mai. You need to at least visit some of the bigger ones, even if you only look at them from the outside. Most of these temples are old, from an era where people painstakingly built things all by hand.
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is the most popular temple. It’s usually swarming with tourists, but it might be worth waiting for the crowds to thin out to get a look.
Wat Sri Suphan is painted solid silver. Go at night. When it’s dark outside, they turn on a bunch of neon spotlights than make the temple light up in a giant rainbow of colors. The whole thing shines – it’s so bright, you could probably find it without even looking for it.
Wat Lok Molee is a little quieter. If you want to have more of a personal experience, go there. It was built in the fourteenth century, and it really shows its age. The front of the temple has been completely restored, but when you walk around the back, the rest of the temple is still the original architecture.
It’s off of the main roads, so most of the tourists don’t even see it. It’s a quiet place to sit and think.
Browse the Street Markets
You can find anything you’ll ever need in the Ploen Ruedee Night Market. It’s more like a nightly street fair than it is like an open air mall. Bands perform all the time, there’s plenty of beer, and way too much to eat. There’s more than just typical street food. You can get a whole real meal for almost no money, and it’s just as good as it would be if you got it at a normal restaurant.
There are also some interesting things you might not get to try anywhere else. Some of the food stalls serve bugs, like worms, crickets, and grasshoppers. If you’re really feeling bold, go for it. They’re not as terrible as you might think they are.
Visit the Art Museums
I didn’t know how important art was in Chiang Mai until I got there. Their art museums are kid friendly, but as an adult, I definitely don’t have any regrets about visiting. The 3D Art Museum is the coolest thing. All of the exhibitions are in three dimensions. Paintings wrap around walls, and some of them have props with them.
A lot of the exhibits are designed for people to interact with. If you like to take a lot of pictures, you’re not going to run out of opportunities to do it.
The best part of this museum is that you can touch almost everything. There aren’t glass cases between you and the art, so you can really get involved with it. Look up close. Feel the textures. Put yourself in the picture.
I would rather go to Chiang Mai than anywhere else in Thailand.
I feel like I know the country better than I did visiting the larger cities, and it was far from boring there.
Chiang Mai is the perfect blend of busy and calm. Whether you’re a solo traveler or going on a family trip, you’re going to love it as much as I did.
This is a guest post by Karlis Kikuts of Independent Wolf blog.