Chiang Mai is a bustling city located about 700km north of Bangkok. The fast growing metropolitan area has a population of a million or so but the city proper, with around 170,000 inhabitants, retains a small town feeling.
At its heart is the charming ancient square-walled town surrounded by brick ramparts (of which only fragments still stand) and a moat.
Chiang Mai’s northerly location and moderate elevation of 310 metres above sea level produce a more comfortable climate.
Expats seem to like living in Chiang Mai and there appear to be a lot of long-term foreign residents here, including retirees.
Over five million foreign tourists and 10 million Thai tourists visit Chiang Mai annually and many throng the Sunday Market. The crowds are crazy!
The Night Bazaar is less busy and a good place to shop for tourist tat, T-shirts, Thai handicrafts and souvenirs. Some of paintings sold by artists here are of high quality.
There are dozens of splendid Thai Buddhist temples to visit, including the city’s most famous landmark, Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep. This temple is located on a hill overlooking the city at an altitude of 1,073 metres.
You can travel the 18 km trip to the temple in the back of a “songthaew”, which is a pick-up truck with bench seats in the back.
While this is a fun experience (like a jeepney ride in the Philippines) the diesel exhaust fumes inhaled on such trips are noxious and probably life-shortening.
Tuk-tuks are just as bad and the sooner these ubiquitous methods of transport are replaced with non-polluting electric vehicles the better.
To experience some cleaner air, take a river cruise on the Ping River which runs through the heart of the city and is a major tributary of the Chao Phraya River.
The two-hour cruise is on a traditional teak rice barge and will stop off at the “Thai Farmer’s House” where you can see exotic fruit trees, herbs and vegetables. It is quite a touristy thing to do but pleasant all the same.
This article first appeared on thriftytraveller.wordpress.com