Visit as many wats as you can handle, light some incense, donate some coins to a monk, write your name on a golden stupa wrap. It’s all good, and it is all here for you to explore.
1. Two wats not to miss: Wat Doi Suthep + Wat Phra Singh
Wat Doi Suthep: Near Sriwicha Alley and Huai Rap Sadet Waterfall in Mueang Chiang Mai District (map)
Wat Phra Singh: Near Intrawarorot Rd and Rachamankha Hotel in Mueang Chiang Mai District (map)
2. Get up close and personal with elephants.
A trip to Chiang Mai isn’t complete without getting in touch with some elephant-love! They’re kind, smart and gorgeous creatures. Several training camps and farms are located throughout Chiang Mai and they’re all different. Some have conservation credentials, some are established purely for tourists. You can pick and choose based on your budget and distance. Here are some recs:
Patara Elephant Farm focuses on the health-care and breeding of elephants. You can join their “Elephant Owner for a Day” program during your visit and it allows you to know the elephant’s temperament, feed and check its health, learn about and take care of your own elephant, bathe and brush it in the river, learn how to ride on its neck, and communicate through different spoken commands. An elephant ride is also included through the forest and waterfalls.
ELE is more of a boutique elephant experience, unlike other touristy elephant camps. ELE offer the freedom, flexibility and time you need with their elephants. You can bath the elephants, learn from mahout (an elephant keeper) about training. Elephant rides are included, and you can also visit a mahout’s home to learn about his lifestyle. Depending upon the time of day, you’ll be provided with a meal, picnic style or more formal dining as appropriate to the occasion. This is a great place to visit if you’re with your own group of friends or traveling with kids.
Mainly for tourists and the camp doesn’t have conversation credentials. Elephants will do tricks and there are 30 to 60-minute elephant rides available.
3. DO go chasing waterfalls!
Easy day trips can be done in Chiang Mai’s national parks. They’re located in magnificent areas where you are purely surrounded by nature, majestic waterfalls and high mountains. Here are two National Parks we think you should carve out time for:
The geographical features of the National Park consists of high mountains, including Doi Inthanon, which is the highest mountaintop in Thailand (2,565 meters above the sea level). To get there, you can either drive yourself, hire a car through your hotel or a travel agent, join an organized minibus tour. It takes 2-3 hours to get there. You’ll encounter the Vatchirathan/Wachirathan waterfall and Mae Ya Waterfall in the park.
Doi Suthep-Pui National Park includes Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, a Buddhist temple, and Bhubing Palace, the winter residence of King Bhumibol Adulyadej and family. If you truly want to understand everything at the temple, getting a guide is highly recommended.
4. Get a Thai Massage
5. Sip on coffee and watch the world go by