Once done with the hubbub of Bangkok, it feels only natural to draw into the calm and collectedness of the north. Chiang Mai, the Thai province – and its city of the same name – is bountiful with natural surrounds, hillside communities, and a generally laid back atmosphere. Here’s a guide to spending the weekend in the northern countryside.
Start with a visit to Wat Phra Singh, a temple and Buddhist monastery home to 700 monks. Drop by the two assembly halls, admire the murals depicting Jataka tales – Indian stories on the births and lives of Buddha – and roam the chedis that dot the grounds. Tip: Get a head start on your day by arriving early – the temple opens at 6AM.
Next stop: Wat Chedi Luang next door. It’s a temple ruin with beautiful stone snakes and elephants on guard. See the Buddhist shrines and look out for the Dipterocarp tree near the entrance, said to protect the city from evil spirits. Next to it, as well, is a pillar known as the ‘Spirit of the City,’ enshrined in a cross-shaped structure.
Enjoy a quick lunch at one of the restaurants along Charoen Rat Road afterward. While in Chiang Mai, don’t forget to sample khai soi, a soup noodle dish featuring curry broth and crispy noodle toppings. Tip: Consider hiring a tuk tuk to take you from site to site throughout the morning.
At around 1:30PM in the afternoon, get picked up for a biking trip that takes you to perhaps the best known Chiang Mai landmark, and also the most sacred: Wat Phrathat. It’s a Buddhist temple roofed by a massive golden chedi, perched on Doi Suthep mountain. The cycling adventure comes with a guide to lead you up dirt roads, through orchards and other scenic routes, concluding at Huay Tung Tau Lake for a snack, before you journey back. (Approx. schedule: 1:30PM-5:30PM)
Get some rest and freshen up after your trip, then head out into the night for the popular Chang Klan Road Night Bazaar, where you may enjoy dinner, too.
White & Black
Visit the spectacular Wat Rong Khun, also known as White Temple for its blinding white sheen. The Buddhist and Hindu temple is designed by National Artist Chalermchai Kositpipat.
Afterward, drop by the Black House, home to another National Artist, Dr. Thawan Duchanee. Pay attention to the buildings’ interesting details – the skulls, furs, feathers, and bone displays.
Enjoy a local lunch, which comes with the White Temple & Black House tour package. The itinerary covers most of the day, from around 7AM to 6PM.
Afterward, partake in a khantoke dinner, where diners are seated on a mat and traditionally served food on a low table. The meal is graced with cultural dance performances by hill tribe members. Here’s a list of places to savor a khantoke dinner.
A day in nature
Spend the day at the Himalayan mountain range at Doi Inthanon National Park, also referred to as the “Roof of Thailand”.
Immerse yourself in the beauty of the dense evergreen forest, roaring waterfalls, intricate Buddhist shrines and a wide variety of flora including the Siamese Sakura flowers.
Remember to bring your jacket because the weather at Doi Inthanon is characterised by year round cold temperatures, with average daily temperatures ranging from 10℃ to 12℃.