Chang Mai

Chang Mai is the second city in the “Land of Smiles”. Located in the north of Thailand, nestled amongst mountains, this city is the gateway to the area’s jungle and trekking trips that are so popular here. The city is seeped in history, and is home to hundreds of ornate Buddhist temples as well as one of the most important sites on the Buddhist pilgrim’s trail. With a cooler climate, Chang Mai means that more energetic activities can be engaged in than just the usual beach combing done in the rest of the country. The city is also home to some of the best crafts in Asia and the abundance of markets here are every shopaholics dream.


The highlight of the city itself is its moat, which is one of the best preserved in the world. Tours can be taken around the city on foot or bicycle, or there is the option of completing some of this leg on the water. At night the moat takes on a new character altogether and becomes illuminated with lights all around its course of the city. The best way to experience the city’s greatest landmarks is to take part in a guided tour (details of these are available from the Tourist Information Centre) which will take in some of Chang Mai’s most impressive temples and Buddhist sanctuaries. Wat Phra Singh is one of the most popular in the city, as it contains the revered Buddha Pra Singh which dates from the 1400’s.

Chang Mai is most famous for being the gateway to the jungle treks which are so popular with tourists. Two or three day treks are available with a guide, which include trekking through the jungle and learning about its vegetation and animals, as well as staying with hill tribes, learning about them and eating their cuisine. Elephant riding is usually included in one of these trips, as well as rafting down one of northern Thailand’s rivers. You can book these trips from tour operators in Bangkok, the Kho San Road is lined with travel agents who offer these, or operators in Chang Mai itself. Much of the accommodation in the city also sell these trips and you can often go the next day, so you do not have to worry about booking until you get here.

Thai cooking courses are also particularly popular in Chang Mai. By wandering around the streets of the city you will come across dozens of them dotted around the place, and it is usually best to go in and ask what the day involves and see where you will be learning before you make your decision. Asking other tourists, as well as getting information from your accommodation and the Tourist Information Centre, will also help give you an informed decision.

At the peak of Doi Suthep Mountain you will find Wat Phra Borommathat temple, dating from 1383, which looks over the entire city and is one of its most prominent landmarks. This is one of the most famous Buddhist shrines in the world, as it is said to hold relics from the Buddha himself, and thousands of pilgrims flock here every year from all over the world. To reach the temple you need to climb the two hundred and ninety steps, or for the less energetic there is the option of using one of the funicular railcars.


Chang Mai is one of the major craft centres of Asia, and people will travel here just to shop at the famous night markets. The daily night bazaar consists of several blocks of stalls selling everything you could ever wish for, from silk to spices, clothes to crafts. There is also a handicraft wholesalers at San Kamphaeng, and shopping at night, out of the heat makes the experience much more enjoyable. The shops in Chang Mai also sell silk, ceramics, Thai antiques, Buddhist art and, of course, lots of fake brand clothing. The city is also a good place to get handmade clothes produced for you from one of its many tailors, and you will also be able to buy produce from the hill tribes that live in the north.


The further north you go in Thailand, the hotter the curries, and Chang Mai is no exception. If you are partial to hot food then you will appreciate this raise in temperature, however if chilli is not your thing make sure you tell your waiter/waitress so that they can make it “tourist spicy”. There are dozens of eateries all around the city, which range from expensive restaurants to street snack stalls. As with the rest of Thailand, all produce magnificent food and you will never be left to go hungry here and many are open for as long as the markets are.

There are a few bars and pubs in Chang Mai, many of these double up as restaurants, but in general the city’s main night time attraction is the markets and after these finish Chang Mai is quiet.

Tourist Information

The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) 105/1 Chiang Mai-Lamphun Road, Chiang Mai, Thailand 50000

  • Tel: +66 53 248 604, 248 607
  • Fax: +66 53 248 605


Chang Mai International Airport has internal connections to Bangkok, Phuket, Mae Hong Son and Chang Rai, and international connections to Singapore, Luang Prabang, Taipei, Kunming, Rangoon, Mandalay and Chittakong. For connections to and from England, flights need to go to Bangkok Airport and then an air connection can be made, or you can travel the eight hundred km by rail or bus. The airport is less than ten minutes drive from the city centre, a tuk tuk or bus ride will cost you around one hundred baht, and there is a single terminal which deals with all flights.