Chiang Mai

Spiritual centre, gentle pace of life and surprising adventures

Overview

Hailed by Low Season Traveller as the Thailand the travel world fell in love with 40 years ago, the north is adored for its friendly locals, mouth-watering food, and stunning mountain scenery. At the midst of it all sits the charming city of Chiang Mai, home of a hundred wats and lifeblood of this wonderful part of the world. Founded in 1296, the old centre retains ancient walls, moats, stupas and countless remnants of its days as the Lanna capital. Explore the magnificent temples of Wat Prathat Doi Suthep and Wat Chedi Luang before seeking out more of what makes this place like it is truly feels a million miles away from bustling Bangkok and the crowded islands of the south.

Although the steamy March to May period can be unbearably hot (and often accompanied by the eye stinging smoke from the burning fields of farmers), we very much recommend venturing here in the low season from June to October. This is when the rains bring welcome relief from the heat, jungles are lush and verdant, but visitor numbers remain low and you’ll get great deals on accommodation and touring experiences.

Trekking

Don a poncho and get into the mountains where everything is wonderfully green, the rice terraces look stunning, and rivers and waterfalls are in full flow. An afternoon downpour creates lovely fresh conditions while cloud cover takes the edge off the blazing sun. Ducking into a hillside retreat for a mug of mountain coffee while a storm passes makes for one of the most memorable experiences of your entire trip. It’s possible to take trails to the villages of other ethnic groups such as the Karen, Hmong, Lawa, Lisu tribes. If you choose to do this, do your research and always travel responsibly. There are many treks close to the city but if you’re able to drive out, visit beautiful Doi Inthanon National Park, home of Thailand highest peak, or Chiang Dao with its caves, hot springs and bamboo forests.

Markets for fun and for food

There’s practically a market on every street corner, but hit the Friday morning market from 6am and witness Chiang Mai coming to life. This age old institution in Chang Moi district is where farmers gather to sell their produce. Local fruit and veg is piled high and you can’t get a better wake-up call than the heavenly scents of fresh lemongrass, coriander and galangal in the morning. Trinkets, jewellery, textiles and crafts are on sale too. Not far away the nightly bazaar, a huge affair, gets going about 5pm and continues until late. Saturday and Sunday night markets operate separately all offering a fun experience with stall after stall filled with souvenirs and culinary delights. Steaming pans of Pad Thai and fried chicken on sticks await you or try the slightly less appetising 100 year old egg or the array of delicious edible bugs – crickets, beetles and mealworms. Yum. If you really want to avoid tourists, head to Malin Market near the university where young artists hawk their work and prices are not inflated either.


Low Season Saving

From 35% versus Peak Season


Tourist:Local Ratio

Peak Season

Low Season

30:1
15:1


Major Airport

Chiang Mai International Airport CNX

Low Season Months

Jan Feb Mar Apr May
30°C
160mm
8hrs
Jun
29°C
130mm
6hrs
Jul
28°C
160mm
5hrs
Aug
28°C
200mm
4hrs
Sep
28°C
190mm
6hrs
Oct
27°C
110mm
7hrs
Nov Dec

Hotels

Top Experiences

Tuk Tuk Adventure

Choose a self-driven guided option and head off in convey into the Thai countryside for an experience you’ll never forget. 3, 5 or 11 itineraries are available.

Cooking Class

Learn the skills to make delicious Thai dishes at home. Classes include a trip to the market, fresh organic ingredients, recipes to take away and a mouth-watering lunch.

Monk Chat

Several temples take part in this program allowing visitors a fascinating cultural exchange and a chance for monks to practise English. Try Wat Chedi Luang or Doi Suthep.

Insider Tips

  • Bring a swimsuit. You won’t be sunning yourself on the beach, but you’ll want to keep it handy for wild swimming in pools and waterfalls on your mountain trek.
  • Don’t leave without trying a Thai massage. Although there are many cheaper, we suggest the lovely Fah Lanna Spa. It has three venues and often offers discounts in the low season.
  • Shoppers and photographers will love Bor Sang Market , the Umbrella Village. It’s outside the centre, but is worth the trip for its array of colours and a different souvenir.

Good To Know

  • In the low wet season, rain often arrives in the mid to late afternoon, so get up super early, trek and plan to be under shelter with a cold Chang beer before the heavens open.
  • Even the busiest sites are much quieter and more enjoyable in low season. Visit Wat Doi Suthep around sunrise for the full majesty of the complex and enjoy stunning city views.
  • The best cooking classes are fully booked, so find your favourite and reserve your place in advance to avoid disappointment.

Food & Drink

Fern Resort Sunset Bar

££

Superb year round and surrounded by rice field and forests, it’s perfectly placed for a cold beer as the sun goes down between the gap in the mountains.

Maetha Chang Kang Tong.

££

Super laid back bar and restaurant a half hour from Chiang Mai Popular with students, bikers and artists. No menus but there may be spontaneous music.

Hop-pi-polla.

££

Hipster roadside BBQ hangout with incredible food. Outside of the city but worth the effort. Be sure to order the set menu and don’t forget to book ahead.

Reviews

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Fill out this field
Fill out this field
Please enter a valid email address.

Menu