Chiang Mai: An Alternative Place to Visit in Thailand Other than Bangkok

Chiang Mai: An Alternative Place to Visit in Thailand Other than Bangkok

From night markets to delectable street food - there's just as many things to do in Chiang Mai than in Bangkok!

Bangkok has long been a go-to weekend getaway destination for many travellers who wish to eat, shop and indulge in Thai culture. However, that also means throngs of tourists at most of the popular attractions!

If you’re looking for an alternative weekend getaway that is relaxing, and yet just as culturally rich as Bangkok – then Chiang Mai is the perfect place for you!

Here are 7 reasons why you should make Chiang Mai your next weekend getaway destination to rest, relax and recharge.

1. Get more for less with Chiang Mai’s pocket-friendly prices

From food to transportation and accommodation, everything is a lot cheaper in Chiang Mai. Hostels start from about 100THB per night (~S$4) for a large 10-person dorm room, 120 THB (~S$5) for a 6-person dorm room and 200THB (~S$8) for guest house accommodations. Even hotels located at central locations only start from 400THB per night (~S$16) and are fully-equipped with free Wi-Fi, hot water, a comfortable bed and air conditioning.

Chiang Mai Street Food

Image credit: Babak Fakhamzadeh

Chiang Mai is also home to cheap and tasty street food ranging from 25THB to 50THB (~S$1 to 2). Even restaurant meals cost a mere 80THB (~S$3) for a main dish with a drink.

As for transportation, the songthaew (pick-up truck) is the most common form of transportation and they only cost around 20 THB to 30THB (~S$0.80 to 1). Thailand is without a doubt one of the world’s best travel bargains, and Chiang Mai is certainly no exception!

2. Enjoy the empty roads and relaxed vibes

With a population of only a million (compared to the 8 million population in Bangkok), Chiang Mai is far more laid-back and relaxed. Not to mention, fewer tourists and lighter traffic makes it far easier to navigate around the city.

Chiang Mai Roads

Grasshopper Adventures Historic Old Chiang Mai Bike tour

Image credit: (top) Lachland Hardy, (bottom) Grasshopper Adventures

With its smaller geographical area, you can explore Chiang Mai easily with walking tours, on a songthaew or several other modes of transportation.

Kick off your weekend getaway with the Historic Old Chiang Mai Bike tour, a 4-hour bike tour of Chiang Mai which will unveil Thai history, food and culture as you visit the many historical sites in the city. This tour will take you to the first and oldest temple in Chiang Mai – Wat Chiang Mun – followed by a visit to the City Navel and the Three Kings Monument. Enjoy some local snacks at the roadside stalls before heading to Wat Chedi Luang – Chiang Mai’s grandest temple – to witness the city pillar and reclining Buddha.

Next, pedal through the backstreets to Tha Phae Gate, formerly an east entrance to the old city district, which protected the city during the Burmese invasion. Lastly, enjoy a mini food tour at Somphet Market. If it’s your first time in Chiang Mai and you’re pining for some adventure in this city, this bike tour is certainly an activity worth exploring.

Historic Old Chiang Mai Bike tour: 87, Bumrung Buri Rd, Prasing, Muang, Chiang Mai 50200, Thailand

Chiang Mai Segway Tour

Image credit: Flight of the Gibbon

Alternatively, hop on the only Segway Tour in Chiang Mai and glide through the streets of Chiang Mai to discover historic landmarks, temples and markets. Two local guides will bring you on a two-hour tour to the Three Kings Monument, Wat Chiang Man, Wat Phra Singh, Wat Pan Tao, Buak Haad Park, Wat Chedi Luang and even a local café for refreshments. If you’re tired of walking the streets, this Segway tour is an easy and fun way to get around the quaint streets of Chiang Mai!

Segway Tour: Si Phum, Mueang Chiang Mai District, Chiang Mai 50100, Thailand

3. Rich cultural experiences at every corner

Albeit a modernising city, Chiang Mai retains its traditions and cultures with its well-preserved sites dating back to 700 years ago, echoing its past as the centre of the Lanna Kingdom that ruled northern Thailand.

Chiang Mai Wat Suan Dok temple

Image credit: Tore Bastad

Amongst Chiang Mai’s 300 temples is the Wat Suan Dok temple, built in the 14th century. It houses Buddha’s relics and mausoleums belonging to past rulers and important nobles of Chiang Mai, including King Kawila (r.1802-1813) and Princess Kokaew Prakaykavil (1934-2005).

Monk Chat Chiang Mai Thailand

Image credit: Monk Chat Thailand

You can even chat with a monk at Wat Suan Dok temple on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 7pm, giving you insights into Buddhism and the daily life of a monk. You can also opt for an overnight meditation retreat for a more immersive experience, where a monk will teach you about Buddhism and also the different methods of meditation. Transportation, lodging and meals are included, so clear your mind and spend a spiritual night at Wat Suan Dok temple.

Wat Suan Dok Temple: 139 Suthep Rd, Chiang Mai 50200, Thailand

4. It’s a nature lover’s haven

Unlike Bangkok, Chiang Mai is also surrounded by rich flora and fauna, allowing you to bask in nature and disconnect from city life.

Flight of the Gibbon Zipline Chiang Mai

Image credit: Flight of the Gibbon

Looking for some thrill on your weekend getaway? Try the Flight of the Gibbon zipline, the #1 trusted Zipline operator in Thailand! Glide through the treetops and marvel at the beauty of Chiang Mai’s rainforest. Rest assured as Flight of the Gibbon maintains the highest possible safety standards and promises for a memorable zipline adventure! Replenish your energy with an appetising lunch provided at the end of the tour. Be sure to book in advance as slots for Flight of the Gibbon tours fill out fast!

Flight of the Gibbon zipline: 106 Village, No.3, Huai Kaeo, Mae On District, Chiang Mai 50130, Thailand

Leave your adult responsibilities behind this weekend and relive your childhood with a treehouse experience! The Rabeang Pasak Treehouse Resort was designed by retired architect Mr. Bullsiri (Lee) Suwannachin and started as a family treehouse project, before it eventually turned into a unique treehouse resort for nature-lovers and adventure-goers.

Experience a warm welcome from the owners upon your arrival at the resort. The helpful hosts will even give you suggestions on where to go and what to do in the vicinity. Of course, the treehouse resort isn’t just your ordinary treehouse. It is a fully-equipped resort with built-in beds and amenities for you to relax.

If you’re feeling hungry, both lunch and dinner is available from 150 THB (~S$6) – delicious and cooked in great portions. So what else are you waiting for? An exciting treehouse retreat awaits you in Chiang Mai!

Rabeang Pasak Treehouse Resort: Luang Nuea, Doi Saket District, Chiang Mai 50220, Thailand

Kew Mae Pan Chiang mai

Image credit: Zenrio Believe

Disconnect to connect on your next weekend getaway with a trek up Kew Mae Pan which promises spectacular views of the surrounding Doi Inthanon National Park area. A guide from the local village will steer you through the dense forests, bringing you to the peak for panoramic views of the mountainside. The trail takes approximately two hours and a steep climb of about 10,000 steps but it is certainly worth it!  

Kew Mae Pan: Ban Luang, Chom Thong District, Chiang Mai 50160, Thailand

5. Get up close and personal with Chiang Mai’s wildlife

Home to the one of the ethical animal sanctuaries in Thailand, Chiang Mai is where you can get up close and personal with animals like elephants, in a safe and ethical environment.

Blue Elephant Thailand Tours Chiang Mai

Image credit: Sonia

Join the Blue Elephant Thailand Tours where you can cook healthy treats and feed the elephants, bathe the elephants in the waterfall, walk with them through the jungle (no riding) and more! A delicious lunch cooked by the locals is also included in the tour. Be comforted by these big friendly giants and their hugs and kisses – it’s sure to dissipate your stress!

Blue Elephant Thailand Tours: 66/11 Suriyawong 5 Road. Muang, Chiang Mai 50100, Thailand

6. Be treated to a unique shopping experience  

Forget about luxury items and shopping malls in Bangkok – Chiang Mai offers a shopping experience like no other! It is home to culturally-rich local markets with unique handicrafts and a thriving creative scene.

Chiang Mai Sunday Night Market

Image credit: Nicolai Bangsgaard

If you’re in for some sumptuous food, shopping, crafts, and cultural performances, the Chiang Mai Sunday Night Market is a good enough reason for you to make Chiang Mai your next weekend getaway destination. The Chiang Mai Sunday Night Market is held along Ratchadamnoen Road every Sunday, from 4pm until midnight.

A popular spot amongst both locals and tourists, the market will surely entice you in with its charming stalls selling mouthwatering Pad Thai, coconut pancakes, curry, Thai tea and more! If you’re feeling a bit more adventurous, tickle your taste buds with fried tarantulas, crickets, worms and other creepy crawlies. After traversing the entire market, treat your screaming muscles to a cheap massage along the streets!

Chiang Mai Sunday Night Market: Rachadamnoen Road, Si Phum, 50200, Thailand

7. Experience culture with local homestays

What better way to get a taste of local culture than a culturally immersive homestay experience? A beautiful and peaceful retreat from the citylife, Chiang Mai is home to peaceful and culturally-rich homestays.

An hour’s drive east of Chiang Mai, the small village of Mae Kampong with a population of only 500, is a homestay-village where tourists can stay with a family and live the life of a local – growing crops, looking after animals and other daily tasks.

Mae Kampong Chiang Mai

Image credit: Flight of the Gibbon

The Ban Mae Kampong Homestay allows you to bask in the simple charms of traditional life and enjoy some delicious local kampong coffee, traditional Thai massages and Northern Thai cuisine. At just 350 baht (~S$15) per night (inclusive of accommodation and food), the Ban Mae Kampong Homestay promises a worthwhile and enriching experience! A place that has long sustained its traditions, the Lanna hospitality will not disappoint you.

Ban Mae Kampong Homestay: Huai Kaeo, Mae On District, Chiang Mai 50130, Thailand

We all lament torturous weekdays and fantasise about a splendid weekend getaway, only to laze about at home and do absolutely nothing. It’s time to stop procrastinating and pack your bags!

Bangkok is not the only weekend getaway destination available. Why not go off the beaten path and visit Chiang Mai for a unique and memorable experience?

For more information on travelling in Chiang Mai, check out Tourism Authority of Thailand’s (TAT) official website and their Facebook page.

Brought to you by the Tourism Authority of Thailand.

About Author

Siti Nurfatin
Siti Nurfatin

Fatin is a Thai milk tea lover who yearns to try all the Thai milk teas she can get! With her wavy short hair and undercut, Fatin may look a tad bit unapproachable but she’s a big softie at heart. Greatly inspired by Ellen DeGeneres, “be kind to one another” is a motto she lives by. Fatin is also a proud mother of three endearing felines named Korra, Bubu and Mochi.