By Michelle Yastremsky
Bangkok may be Thailand’s most famous city, but if you’re looking for breathtaking mountains, lush rice fields, and experiences in the wild, you’ll want to head north. Here are 10 amazing activities to do in Chiang Mai, Thailand’s northern capital.
1. Encounter Asian elephants
Bathe, feed, and roll around in mud with amazing Asian elephants. Choose an ethically responsible park and spend your day around these amazing beasts. Bring a banana or two if you really want to make fast friends.
2. Indulge in local jazz
Hugging the gate of Chiang Mai’s inner city you’ll find the North Gate Jazz Club. It won’t be difficult to track down either; you’ll see a crowd of locals and tourists indulging in the sounds of sweet saxophone while sipping on Chang beer. On Tuesdays it even hosts an open jam session for local artists, so if you’re feeling musical, grab the mic and join the jam!
3. Have a casual chat with a monk
Have a burning question or two for Thailand’s Buddhist monks? Chiang Mai is the place to get all of your answers! Join in on a monk chat.
4. Enjoy a scenic bamboo raft
Hop on a bamboo raft and wind your way through North Thailand’s winding rivers. Or sit back and let your guide paddle as you sip on a cold beer and enjoy the view.
5. Get a massage from female convicts
You can get a Thai massage just about everywhere, but getting one from female convicts from the local prison? Only in Chiang Mai. At the Chiang Mai Women's Correctional Institution, you will find women learning the art of massage while preparing for life on the outside. You’ll be greeted with a lush spa environment and a warm cup of tea before unwinding with an incredible massage while also giving back to the community.
6. Take a cooking class
Chiang Mai is one of the best destinations in Thailand for a cooking class. Most schools will offer the choice of making a 5 or 7-course meal; learn to make Pad Thai, Tom Yum, and end on a sweet note with some coconut sticky rice with mango!
7. Trek through the jungle with a hill tribe
Hike through the jungle with a local guide from one of North Thailand’s many hill tribes. They’ll show you the best path as well as teach you how to survive in the jungle on your own, making bamboo utensils and snacks along the way.
8. Eat Grandma’s Khao Soi
When in Chiang Mai, you must eat the local specialty of Khao Soi, and what better place to enjoy it than at the most famous spot, Khao Soi Khun Yai (Grandma’s Khao Soi). At Grandma’s, you’ll enjoy this savory soup made only by Thai grandmothers. Plan accordingly though, as this spot only stays open from 10AM-2PM Mon-Sat; come around 11AM-11:30AM to avoid lines and crowds.
9. Temple hop to Doi Suthep
When in Thailand, you must see temples, and Doi Suthep is Chiang Mai’s most famous. On Saturdays you can even join in on some donation-based meditation if you wish.
10. Eat, shop, and sample at the markets
Chiang Mai is a city of markets! You’ll find daily night markets along the North Gate, but if you’re lucky enough to visit during the weekend you’ll encounter the famous Saturday and Sunday markets, where food, crafts, and one-of-a-kind souvenirs await.