Day 1 in Chiangmai
Known as the former capital of the Lan Na Kingdom from 1296 to 1768 before become the Kingdom of Chiang Mai a tributary state of Siam or Thailand in the present, this popular northern province claims its right to be one of the world’s best travel destinations with a longstanding history, rich culture, age-old traditions passed from generations to generation and unique ways of life. Situated among mountains, Chiang Mai proposes exceptional experience for city break or nature getaway. You can only do so much in 48 hours, it will be one packed-trip that will leave you impressed and long for more.
8 a.m. Visit Doi Suthep
First stop in Chiang Mai is to pay respect at the city’s most sacred instituation. A must while in Chiang Mai, Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is one of the most sacred temples amongst Buddhist Thais. The temple is situated on Doi Suthep mountain and house a model of the Emerald Buddha inside. To get there you can take public shared car up from Chiang Mai. Once you arrive, you can choose to climb 309 step of the stairs with two grand nagas on the side or take a tram. At the temple, you will see the glistening golden chedi and its buildings with Lan Na craftsmanship. After paying respect, take a look at the view point to see the city of Chiang Mai in panoramic view.
11 a.m. Off the Grid
While the city has countless choices to fill your itinerary, you can go off a grid for a day trip or stay over for a night at two of the most trending places among visitors. The first is Maekampong Village. This small village has become a must-visit after widespread popularity and backdrop to a music video of local superstar. Hugged by the mountains, the village is an hour and a half by car from the city of Chiang Mai. If you are making a day trip, the central local organization provides a tour guide service who will tell you everything from the history of the village to the common plants in the forest. The walking tour is a great work out in the nature as you walk through the village and visit the waterfalls and temple. A wonderful surprise awaits a Maekampong temple as you will see a wooden sanctuary in the middle of the stream built from ancient time. What makes this village trendy is the charming villagers who operates homestays or handicraft projects or farming. Maekampong is known for coffee farming and it has a central roaster. The riverside coffee shops in the town uses the coffee grown in the area, showcasing the smooth and fresh scent of Maekampong beans.
Another day trip from Chiang Mai guarantees for picturesque view and some adventure. Head northwest to Mon Cham or Mon Jam, it takes about 40-50 minutes to go up the small mountain and experience the scenic beauty with rows of coloful flowers and greenery. We suggest to rent a motorbike and ride uphill to enjoy the roadside view. The area is about 1,300 meter above sea level, making the climate cool and breezy throughout the whole year. It is the perfect escape away from the heat. The Royal Projects had spearheaded the development of Mon Cham mountain turning it into attractive destination. The main restaurant offers delicious food and drinks featuring ingredients harvest from the projects. The recommended menu is Thai-style chicken salad with sorrel leaves and vanilla-infused braised pork shanks. If you want to spend a night in the mountains to see the sun rises and the fog sea, there are many camp bases providing area to set up tents or you can rent on if needed.
5 p.m. Coffee in the Nature
When you were young, did you wish to have a dream treehouse? If the answer is a yes, stop by the Giants, a restaurant and small hotel in Mae On district. It is located on the way between Maekampong village and the Chiang Mai city. You will be greeted by enormous wooden doors which evoke the set design in Jurassic Park. Once enter the area, two bridges lead to the gigantic treehouse with massive terrace and beautiful view of the forest. While it’s opened to dinners and guests, it also focuses on environmental preservation and highlighting local ingredients grown by farmers in the area. Take a sit in a cocooning seating and sip a hearty cup of latte. If you are looking for more fun, the restaurant also has a zip line adventure above the forest in typical manner or in form in lounging in a cocoon chair. The restaurant service does not take reservations. If you want to stay the Giants, make sure to reserve ahead because the restaurant has only 5 rooms.
7 p.m. Food Tasting Like Locals
As the night falls, get a taste of northern Thai cuisine at Tha Pae Walking Street. Here is one of the biggest and longest walking street starting from the ancient Tha Pae Gate through Ratchadamnoen Road for about 4 kilometers with more than 3,000 merchants. The products sold at the walking street range from personal accessories to fashion clothing to crafts projects from local artists and artisans. But the real deal here is the street food you can savor along the way from start to finish that will sure delight your taste buds. While Thai food is widely popular around the world, each region in the country has its own cusine with distinctive flavors and identity. In the north, the most famous dish is Khao Soi Gai, an egg noodle with meat in curry coconut milk soup and Sai Oua, a sausage with aromatic herbs, lemongrass, chili and pork stuffing, best cooked on charcoal grill and eaten with warm sticky rice. Another favorite amongst Thais is green chili dip with pork crackling. The subtly spiciness of the dipping combined with satisfyingly crispy pork cracklings equals match made in heaven.
Day 2 in Chiangmai
8 a.m. Fresh in the Market
Before you leave Chiang Mai, stop by Kard Laung or Waroros Market. This market has stood the test of time and is still one of the most important market in the city where you can find everything you are looking for. On your way into the market, you will notice the plant and gardening shops along both sides of the road. Once you get in, many food shops have been passed from generation to generation. Inside the market, you will find food and local specialty on the ground floor. If you are looking for souvenir, the second and third floor have clothing and handicrafts stalls. Get yourself a special woven fabric that you will only find in this part of Thailand or a hand painted paper umbrella, a symbol of a Chiang Mai beauty. The market is very accessible, by car, by motorbike or by public shared car. If you feel like throwing back to the past, hop on a rickshaw and head to your next destination.
10.30 am Shopping at CentralFestival Chiangmai
Escape the heat and get to the mall to shop away with the best of local and international brands. This shopping complex is one of the biggest in the city and offers a great range of products from traditional handicrafts to only-at-Central fashion stores from around the world. Premiere services include a cinema theatre with IMAX 3D and a Sub Zero ice-skating rink. If you want to just sit back and relax, the city’s cult favourite tea house, Vieng Joom On, has launched a new branch and concept at the mall serving specialty milk tea and tea-infused desserts. If you want to buy something for home, the market area offers gourmet and premium produce as well as locally sourced products. You can do so much at CentralFestival Chiangmai, that you will forget your next appointment.
2 pm Artsy Afternoon
If you still don’t want to face the summer heat, go and indulge in the city’s latest premier art museum. Chiang Mai has always been known for amazing skilled artisans throughout history and much of the architecture in the city is preserved remains of the past. The shiny silver warehouse of Maiiam Contemporary Art Museum is a seamless contrast between modernism and history. Opened in mid-2016, contemporary Thai art enthusiasts Jean Michel Beurdeley, his late wife Patsri Bunnag and their son Eric Bunnag Booth co-founded this museum to showcase their permanent collections which include some of the most intriguing masterworks by Thai icons. With many artists calling the city their home, this is a much-needed space for locals and foreigners to expand their knowledge of Thai contemporary art as well as to cultivate and highlight young local talent. Located in district of Sankampang, famous for artisanal handicrafts, its minimal yet strikingly eye-catching architecture elevates the district to a place to be for any art enthusiasts.
5 pm Happening in Nimmanhaemin
If you ask a Chiang Mai native where the trendiest and most happening neighbourhood, their answer would be Nimmanhaemin road. This main road is in the heart of the city. Lining two sides of the block-like road are numbered alleys filled with cafés, galleries, restaurants and shops. Known among locals as ‘Nimman’, those who love taking pictures will go wild. Some of the great picture points include Think Park, iBerry and its giant sculpture and cool décor. The fun interior at the Artel Nimman makes a great location for Insta-photoshoots but you have to stay at the hotel to play at some guest-only areas. For inspiration, you can stop by the Booksmith, a cool concept bookstore that stock Thai and English copies. If you are in an arty mood, Gallery Seascape has one of the coolest art installations and some quirky designs. By the real winners are the coffee shops and restaurants that compete on both taste and design fronts. For coffee lovers, Ristr8to Lab comes in first place with a great knowledge of coffee making and the barista’s craft that has been practiced to perfection, with many international awards. The café is bedecked with industrial and wooden furnishings to give a raw edge. But if that’s not your style, the farmhouse at Rustic Blue is photo-perfect and their focus on farm to table dishes made from home grown produce. It is also one of the best brunch spots in town. Check out their website to sign up on their special one-off events.