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Chiang Mai (Part 1)

The Thais call it "The Rose of the North". For most tourists it is the second city in popularity to visit. Many Thais (and also many expats) want to retire here. A fact is that Chiang Mai is a beautiful city, and much more quiet than Bangkok, although it is becoming more crowded now, in the 21st Century.


Canal in Chiang Mai Another canal in Chiang Mai

The central part of Chiang Mai is a perfect square area, surrounded by canals and a city wall. The canals can be seen very clearly from the two pictures above. If you go to Chiang Mai by plane, you can see the square, surrounded by canals and walls, even better just before you land or just after you have taken off. A walk around the canal square (around the City walls) certainly is one of the recommended walks. 

City wall corner in Chiang Mai City wall gate Chiang Mai

The function of the City wall  was of course to prevent intruders to enter the city. In old times Chiang Mai has been taken by the Burmese several times, and therefore it has been under Burmese rule once too often in its history. Therefore the wall was eventually built in 1800, after Chiang Mai was re-captured from Burma in 1775, by King Taksin

Two parts of the wall, one near a corner and one near a City gate, are show above. Mark the thickness of the wall.

The Ping River

The important waterway near Chiang Mai is the Ping River. It floats just outside the walled part of the City and you should take a look at it. As you can see, the river is quite wide. There is not much traffic on it, contrary to the Chao Phraya River in Bangkok. There are, however, rafting tours that go upstream into the (remains of) the jungle near Chiang Mai.
Some tourist guidebooks warn us for possible robbers that hold up these tourist rafts. I cannot tell you if these warnings are to be taken seriously or not. There definitely have been some robberies upstream Chiang Mai, but I doubt if there is a serious risk right now. To be certain, leave your valuables in a safe box in your hotel when you make a rafting tour.

Traffic in Chiang Mai Street sign in Chiang Mai

Traffic in Chiang Mai is much more acceptable than in Bangkok, but it is getting more busy in Chiang Mai every year. You will see more motorcycles there than in Bangkok, but less Bangkok-style tuk-tuks, although Chiang Mai is one of the few places outside Bangkok where you can find Bangkok-style "tuk-tuks". The street signs (right hand side picture) are typical for Chiang Mai.
Most public transport is by "songtaews" (small buses or trucks with two opposing planks as seats) in various sizes. Some drive a fixed route, and you can jump on and off for a (low) fixed price, whereas others make tours around Chiang Mai. For more details about the public transport in Thailand, please also consult the pages about public transport in Thailand of this site.
Chiang Mai is not a very large city, so -if you prefer that- you can do most of your sightseeing by foot.

The night bazaar (1) The night bazaar (2)

A major attraction of Chiang Mai is the night bazaar, a market that opens after sundown. Go there after 8 p.m. and you will  find it busy and attractive there.
Expect the usual souvenirs at the night bazaar, as sold anywhere in Thailand. You will find a bit more wood carved articles in the night bazaar. They are typically being made in and around Chiang Mai. The price of wood carved articles usually is a bit lower in the night bazaar than in the shops in Chiang Mai or in the large handicraft centers around Chiang Mai, but often the quality is lower. So inspect the articles you want to buy well, to see if it meets your requirements. Furthermore you will see people from the Hill Tribes, typically dressed, as sellers in the night bazaar.

Seafood in the night bazaar

Within the night bazaar area you will find some good open air restaurants, several of them specialized in seafood. At the far end (reckoning from Ta Pae Road) of the night bazaar are some hotels with good restaurants.


You will also find lots of silverware in Chiang Mai, including in the night bazaar. It also is a local product. The silver is 99.9% pure (which is the standard in Thailand), but the price for silverware in Bangkok is - at least according to my experience - lower.
Furthermore you will find the (usual) clothing and small souvenirs.
Anyway, the Chiang Mai night bazaar is not to be missed. You can bargain there. Many shops in Chiang Mai, however, and all the handicraft centers around Chiang Mai have fixed prices. You can only bargain  a few percent there. In the night bazaar, however, you can do your very best to get a larger reduction. But please remember that you are in a developing country and that the people there sell thing not for pleasure, but for a living.

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