Thailand’s second-largest province is a place of serenity and surreal landscapes. Fabulous temples are dotted across green mountains, distinctive hill tribes occupy hidden hills, and the fresh cool air makes a pleasant contrast to Bangkok and the south of Thailand. The province is located in the far north of the country and borders Myanmar. Most visits start or end in Chiang Mai, Thailand’s most cultural city and the capital of the province.
Chiang Mai Province is a place for recharging the batteries, as it’s also a province with attractions galore, from historic temples to intriguing backstreets and huge national parks. Chiang Mai city is unmissable, not least due to its airport and transport connections. Nestled on forested foothills, Chiang Mai dates back to the Lanna kingdom of the 13th century. It’s a hub of temples and heritage buildings, as well as being a popular spa town. An old moat encases the historic part of the city, and Chiang Mai feels much more like a sleepy country backwater than the second largest city in Thailand. For an introduction to the province’s landscapes and people, travel up Doi Suthep mountain and enjoy a sunset above Chiang Mai.
All across Chiang Mai Province, the attractions are both soothing and scenic. Rice paddies abound while national parks offer some excellent hiking. Small towns like Pai are perfect for a few days of rural landscapes and local street food. Eight different hill tribes occupy the province, and the local authorities have established a village network so that visitors can explore different hill tribe lifestyles instead of everyone jamming into the same tired village. Elephants are found around the Taeng River, and there are many opportunities to spend time with these giants.
The roads in Chiang Mai Province have improved exponentially in recent years, making journeys to national parks and hill tribes far more accessible. Popular routes are covered by shuttle van tourist services, which are an affordable and quick means of getting around. Chang Puak Bus Station in Chiang Mai is a hub for local bus services. Chiang Mai International Airport has dozens of daily connections with Bangkok, as well as flights to destinations across Thailand and the rest of Southeast Asia. It’s located three kilometres from Chiang Mai city centre.
The preservation of the province’s charms can be accredited to its inaccessibility. Until the 1920s, the only way from Bangkok to Chiang Mai was the two-week journey by river or elephant.