10 Places That Prove Chiang Mai & Chiang Rai Are Thailand’s Most Underrated Hidden Gems
Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai’s top attractions
When we think of Thailand, many of us think of shopping heaven Bangkok or beautiful white sand beaches and clear waters of Phuket. Little did we know, Chiang Mai is one of Thailand’s best kept secrets. The largest city in Northern Thailand is home to over the top beautiful temples, elephant mud spas and hipster cafes galore!
Here are the 10 things you definitely don’t want to miss on your visit.
Getting around Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai
The public transport systems around this region is not the most efficient, so we’d definitely recommend going around by car. If you don’t want the hassle of driving on your own, be sure to pre-book a private car charter on Tripsle and let the driver take you around. Especially if you have plans to travel from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai, we would not advise driving on your own unless you are a seasoned driver. The roads are windy and unpaved with plenty of potholes along the way.
1. Elephant Jungle Sanctuary
Forget elephant rides and making them do tricks, the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary is an eco-sanctuary where you’ll get quality time and direct experiences with the elephants and these are 100% sustainable and ethical.
Not only will you get to feed these greedy gentle giants with sugar cane sticks, they respond to “bon bon” which also means up! They’ll then lift up their trunks and you can gently place the sugar cane sticks on their trunks or into their mouths directly. Don’t forget to give them a rub on their faces as well, they’re just like giant playful puppies.
After which, you’ll be tasked with making treats to feed them as well as the ever important health check. It truly takes the entire village for a health check where you’ll be using huge brushes to scrub them clean and inspect for any insect bites. You’ll then proceed to give them a mud spa followed by a cooling bath in the river to wash them clean.
Pre-book your Elephant Jungle Sanctuary experience on Tripsle and it includes roundtrip transfer on an open jeep! Be warned that the sanctuary is located deep within a forest and it’s probably best that you don’t try to navigate those roads unless you’re a seasoned professional. There’s even a photographer snapping photos of your interaction with the elephants so you don’t have to worry about not having pictures to immortalize your visit.
We can’t think of anywhere else in the world you’ll get to spend this much quality time with elephants!
2. Doi Inthanon National Park
The Doi Inthanon National Park is home to the highest point in Thailand!
Tips for an enjoyable visit to the national park:
Pack a light sweater because it can get pretty cold at the top
Bring insect repellent
Wear comfortable walking shoes
3. Royal Twin Pagodas
The Royal Twin Pagodas located in the Doi Inthanon National Park were built by the Thai Royal Army as a gift to the King and Queen on their birthdays. The full name of these pagodas are Phra Maha Dhatu Nabha Metaneedon and Phra Maha Dhatu Nabhapol Bhumisiri but let’s just call them the King and Queen pagodas.
These are located on the top of the hill but thankfully for all of us who don’t wish to break a sweat, there are escalators taking you to the top. For the rest of us on #legday, feel free to take the stairs.
The Queen’s Pagoda is graced with a beautiful garden and in spring, you’ll even find blooming Cherry Blossom trees.
4. Vachiratharn Waterfall
The Vachiratharn Waterfall is a waterfall that you should go chasing. Located in the Doi Inthanon National Park, this is one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Thailand. Located just off the road up to the highest mountain in Thailand, this powerful waterfall plunges about 60 meters off the edge of a high cliff.
5. Angkha Nature Walk
Take a leisurely walk through the Angkha Nature Walk path in the Doi Inthanon National Park and try to spot some wildlife on the way. You’ll see plenty of birdwatchers with huge camera lenses trying to capture these small creatures of flight in their natural state.
6. Royal Agricultural Station
As part of the Royal Project, the King and Queen of Thailand started up the Royal Agricultural Station for the indigenous locals to learn new skills in order to support themselves. This includes the whole process from planting crops to even packing them for sale. Head over to the Royal Agricultural Project and pick up some of these local produce to take home!
Pre-book your Doi Inthanon National Park day tour and it will take you to these spots and more! Not only will you get transported in comfort, saving you the hassle of driving up winding mountain roads on your own, you’ll also be have a local guide explaining the stories of the city to you along the way.
7. Queen Sirikit Botanic Gardens
The Queen Sirikit Botanic Gardens is 560 acres of beauty housed in one place! Home to glass bottomed canopy trails, glasshouses with more plant varieties than you’ve ever known and even hanging gourd walkways, you’ll definitely want to save a spot on your itinerary for this!
Our favourite glasshouse is the one with the cacti! You’ll feel as if you’ve stepped into a page from Kinfolk with the huge variety of cacti surrounding you. Do note that these are extremely prickly and should not be touched.
8. The White Temple
The White Temple is probably the most popular attraction in Chiang Rai. Designed by artist Chalermchai Kositpipat, this temple is not your traditional Thai temple. Opened in 1997, you’ll find plenty of modern motifs along the way.
Starting with the skulls on the traffic cones to the Minions, Michael Jackson and even Iron Man found on the walls inside the main hall, this place is definitely one of a kind!
9. The Blue Temple
Lesser known that the famous White counterpart, the Blue Temple is equally stunning! The intricate details of the carvings and the giant white Buddha in the main hall still draw crowds from everywhere. The name Wat Rong Suea Ten which translates to House of Dancing Tigers, came about as the place where the temple is built on used to be a natural habitat brimming with wildlife, including tigers who “danced” (leapt) over the nearby Mae Kok River.
There’s also a blue coconut ice cream beside the temple that you shouldn’t miss! The cool and sweet ice cream and refreshing coconut water is the perfect pick me up after a long day in the sun.
10. Singha Park
Happening in the month of February, the Singha Park hosts an annual balloon festival that’s home to hundreds of hot air balloons. This sight alone makes it worth a visit.
Even if you’re not visiting in February, there’s still plenty of reason to head here. If you love your furry friends, there is a giraffe and zebra petting zoo for you to get up close with these beautiful creatures. You can even purchase a basket of food to feed them!
If you’d like to explore the White Temple, Blue Temple and the Singha Park all in a day, the best way to do is with the Tripsle private tour! Let the driver and expert local guide show you around the best spots in Chiang Rai, plus they even double up as photographers for your photos!
Don’t forget your essentials
Some other things you’ll need for your Chiang Mai trip include:
A 4G SIM Card to stay accessible and of course post all your social media updates
A relaxing massage at Let’s Relax Spa after exploring the whole day