Almost a 3 hour flight away from Singapore, one may argue that it's a bit too far for a weekend away. That said, it's definitely worth exploring the mountainous north of Thailand. It made a good change from my weekend trips to Bangkok or Hong Kong.
So what exactly is there to do in Chiang Mai? Well quite a bit actually from trekking to elephant training and temple hopping. Unsurpirisngly, I didn't partake in any trekking as it's not really my sort of thing. Who would have guessed? On a serious note, if you are someone that loves trekking, this place is a must.
For all the non-trekkers like myself, here are some things you can get up to while in Chiang Mai:
1. Temple Hopping
The best way to see the various temples is to walk around. However if you want to go to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, it's best to use songthaews (red pick up trucks) or a cab. For those that aren't aware, songthaews are like big tuk tuks. It's is a shared ride with others. It's easy, convenient and only costs 30THB per person compared to the Tuk Tuks that try to charge 150THB upwards for a short trip.
If you do visit Wat Phran Tao during the day, make sure to go back at night. It's magical!
2. Elephant Training
If you're keen to bond with the elephants, have a full day to spare and feel like getting down and dirty then it's worth considering one of the full day tour options. If that's not your cup of tea, you can visit the Mae Taeng Elephant Park where you can see the elephant show and ride an elephant. I know what you're thinking, why see a show? Well, these elephants are quite incredible. They play soccer, paint and throw darts! It's also great fun, as the elephants really do have a lot of personality and seem to have fun showing off.
3. Tiger Loving
So maybe this is a bit crazy, but it's something I've always wanted to do... pet a tiger. At the Tiger Kingdom, you get to spend some time with a few tigers if you so wish. We stopped here for a quick lunch, which was surprisingly quite good. I recommend the tofu green curry.
4. Saturday Night Market
Like any market in the region, it's an intense place. It's bussling with people, street food and lots of random things. I was quite overwhelmed and completely forget to take any photos. Oops! Anyway, my one great find was virgin coconut oil! It smells heavenly and acts as a great moisturizer for my horribly dry skin.
If you do tend to be agorophobic, this might not be the best place. To say that it is packed with people, is an understatement.
So where is this place? It's in Wua Lai Road.
5. Karen Long Neck Village
Like most people, I was curious to learn more about the culture where women and girls elongate their necks with golden rings. This village however was not a true village, it was a more a market place which costs 500THB per person to enter. To be honest, I was a bit disappointed as I was hoping to see a bit more of the daily life of the Karen tribe. That being said, you do get a chance to meet the Karen woman, see how they hand weave scarves and buy various merchandise.
For those of you contemplating visiting, I highly recommend taking a direct flight from Singapore to Chiang Mai. Doing a stop over in Bangkok makes the journey that much longer and far more tiring. I've definitely learnt my lesson. As for airline carrier, it doesn't make too much difference whether you are flying SilkAir or a low cost airline.
If you've already visited Chiang Mai and have any suggestions on other things to see and do, please pop a comment below as I would love to hear them. Also if you have any questions, let me know... I promise to get back to you as soon as I can.