I was sixteen years old the first time my family and I visited Chiang Mai. Chiang Mai in 1996 was very different from the one people experience today. Like every city untapped by tourism, the capital of Northern Thailand conveyed a daze of coveted innocence. For several days, we stayed at The Regent – the city’s most luxurious hotel at the time. Breakfast was brought to our suite every morning and I finished my summer reading for school under giant banana leaves. Even then, I was tirelessly writing in my journal, inspired by the sight of greenery in assemblage before my eyes.
It’s been 18 years, of course Chiang Mai has changed dramatically as did I. Today, it is a destination where backpackers and luxury travelers intertwine at hundreds of wats, vivacious markets, tasty street food and majestic national parks. Currently, Chiang Mai has more than 33,000 hotel rooms and Chiang Mai International Airport has grown to be Thailand’s third largest airport.
In this Guide to Getaway, we’ve partnered with David Csizmadia, the man behind popular travel blog: GlobeHug. Just when I consider myself well-traveled, David forces me to redefine the term as he sends us photos not only from Chiang Mai but even from North Korea. Combining David’s insider tips and our own dash of sassiness, this guide speaks true to the implications of present Chiang Mai. It speaks to all kinds of travelers, especially those who are curious and down to have a good time. Eat, Drink, See, Stay, and Shop in Chiang Mai with us. As David says, “it’s lovely out there.” Especially in Thailand. – Xo, Wendy
For first-time travelers to Chiang Mai, here’s the 411:
Population: Approximately 148,000 inhabitants.
5 Fascinating City Features:
- Chiang Mai means “new city” in Thai.
- Chiang Mai was the capital of the Lanna Kingdom from the 14th to the 16th centuries. When you visit Lanna-style temples, you’ll also see combinations of Burmese and Sri Lankan decor with Naga staircases, gilded umbrellas, and wood carvings.
- Thai people refer to foreigners (i.e., Europeans and North Americans) as farangs.
- Neighborhoods: Chiang Mai’s historical centre is the walled city. Modern-day Chiang Mai is on the east side of Ping River (Mae Nam Ping), where you’ll find the famous night bazaar and many hotels. Loi Kroh Rd is the centre of the city’s night life.
- Chiang Mai doesn’t have winter, so the seasons are divided into: cool (Nov-Feb), hot (Mar-Jun) and wet (July-Oct).
- Weather: Chiang Mai has a tropical wet and dry climate. Summers are particularly hot while winters aren’t too cold. Through the year, highs in July can reach 32°C (90°F) and lows in January can be 14°C (58°F).
- Electricity: 220 Volt with the two round prongs and generally recessed sockets.
- Time Difference: Indochina Time, UTC +7.
- Money: Thais use baht (THB).
- Airport: Chiang Mai International Airport (CNX). Most people fly in from Bangkok (1 hour 13 min) or you can take the train in which services from Bangkok leave on a regular daily schedule and take 12-15 hours to reach Chiang Mai.
- Getting around: There are 3 options: samlor (pedicabs), the 3-wheeled tuk-tuk, and the songthaew (most popular) which is a truck that acts as a bus. Chiang Mai is small enough to walk around by foot, or you can get around in a tuk-tuk. We highly recommend hiring car service for day trips (1,000-1,500 baht/ USD $30-45 a day). They’re all over the city or you can ask the hotel concierge.
- Hello – sawadi
- Thank you – kob kun
- Yes – chi (pronounced like “chai”)
- Where is this? – thi ni khu (pronounced like “tee nee ku”)
- How much? – tao rai (roll the “r”)
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