Chiang Mai is a very approachable, typical Thai city. It's more open plan, and cooler (in temperature) than Bangkok, and somewhere you can easily get your head around. The ambience is predominantly ‘laid back Sunday morning’ and you can idle away hours wandering between spa boutiques, sacred temples and street markets. Take time to kick back and relax before venturing into the surrounding countryside. Trekking to a hill tribe village and breathing in the early morning mountain air is a real tonic, especially after cutting through the crowds at Chiang Mai's buzzing night bazaar.
Obviously there's a lot more, this is just to get you started...
Eating out in Chiang Mai is a real event. It's a chance for families and friends to socialise in the evening, surrounded by the bright lights and constant hubbub of the streets. Market food stalls tend to be clustered together in large outdoor courtyards or under-cover canteens, so there’s plenty of space to get together. The dishes are hotter and saltier than what you'll taste down south. Spicy sai ua sausages on sticks, steamed seafood balls, and even artisan scotch eggs can all be found without too much trouble. Learning to cook Chiang Mai-style gives you an interactive education in the region’s cuisine, from choosing the ingredients at the market to discovering more about the flavour influences from neighbouring Laos and Myanmar.
Wake to cockerels crowing and bamboo floors creaking as life in a hill tribe village slowly begins to unfold. Early mornings in these mountainous regions offer unforgettable excuses to soak up the misty highland scenery and chat to people living life beyond the boundaries of Chiang Mai. The luscious green valleys of Mae Taeng provide excellent opportunities to trek and discover the landscape with local guides. Tribal communities, such as the Lisu people, have embraced the initiatives of trekking tourism and harnessed its value to help preserve their cultural heritage. Spending a couple of nights at a Lisu-staffed lodge allows you to be truly surrounded by nature whilst supporting hill tribe communities on their terms.
Although Chiang Mai's central night bazaar might have become a bit big and brash over recent years, the weekend markets are still largely the preserve of local folk. The Sunday walking street market, for example, has a palpable buzz about it, with pop-up bars, noodle carts and handicraft stalls all creating a community-style carnival atmosphere. Several stalls are run by members of the region’s minority tribes and offer the chance to buy hand-made artisan items rather than mass-produced souvenirs. Chat to one of our friends in Chiang Mai and they'll be sure to point you in the right direction.