After the craziness of Bangkok, Chiang Mai was like a breath of fresh air. From the cafes and markets to the food and the backdrop of mountains, I loved everything about Thailand’s northern capital. So without further adieu, here are 9 of the coolest things to do in Chiang Mai that I discovered whilst exploring the city.


1. Visit the city’s temples

Chiang Mai city centre is home to lots of spectacular temples. However if you only have time to see a couple of them, I would recommend visiting Wat Phan Tao and Wat Chedi Luang. Wat Phan Tao has some of the most intricate detailing I’ve seen on such a large scale. Whilst Wat Chedi Luang which sits directly behind it, is a very well preserved and impressive temple ruin from the early 15th-century.


Temples, coolest things to do in Chiang Mai


2. Sunday Walking Market

This night market transforms a usually busy road into a shoppers paradise. Most of the stalls sell the usual touristy bits and pieces, so it’s a great place to go if you’re shopping for anything from patterned trousers and sarongs to jewellery and bags. There’s also a lot of good street food to be found here too between the other stalls, so keep your eyes peeled. The night market was super busy when we went, but the crowds had thinned out when we walked back through later so I would advise to go after 8 pm.


The details

Location: Tha Pae to Ratchadamneon Road

Opening times: Every Sunday 4 pm – midnight

Reviews: Trip Advisor


Sunday Walking Market, coolest things to do in Chiang Mai


3. The Grand Canyon – An alternative thing to do

This is perhaps one coolest things to do in Chiang Mai, as well as being one of its best kept secrets. It’s essentially an old quarry that’s been filled up with water and turned into a water park. It lies around 18 km south of the city centre so you’ll need a scooter to get there. And when you do get there, there are actually two grand canyons to choose from. They are right next to each other, but run by different companies and offering very different experiences. One of them you can only describe as a Thai version of Total Wipeout, complete with giant floats and jumping points. Whilst the other is a lot more chilled out with only one jumping point and lots of tubes and paddle boards to laze around the water on. Entry for the former is pretty pricey at 500TBH (£11, $15) and as we wanted to chill out anyway we opted for the latter which was just 100TBH (£2, $3) entry.


The details

Location: 244 Tambon Nam Phrae, Amphoe Hang Dong

Opening times: Daily 9 am – 6 pm

Price: 100TBH (£2, $3) entry

Reviews: Trip Advisor


Grand Canyon, coolest things to do in Chiang Mai


4. Night Bazaar

Similar to the Sunday Walking Market, the Night Bazaar is the other place to go for all the souvenirs, clothes, jewellery etc that you could wish for. There’s endless stalls selling this stuff both inside the bazaar and on the streets surrounding the building. The thing I loved most about the Night Bazaar though, was it’s food court. Here you are really spoilt for choice, with so much tasty food to try at really cheap prices. We ended up going there for dinner a lot whilst we were in Chiang Mai, each time paying no more than 100 TBH (£2.50, $3) per meal.


The details

Location: Chang Moi, Mueang Chiang Mai District

Opening times: 6 pm – 12 am

Reviews: Trip Advisor


Night Baazar, coolest things to do in Chiang Mai


5. Go to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep at sunrise

Visiting this temple at sunrise is definitely one of the coolest things to do in Chiang Mai. It’s around a 30 minute drive out of town, so it’s best to hire a scooter or get a taxi there. I hired a scooter and the journey itself to the temple was amazing – very peaceful and quiet with fantastic views of the city as you ascended up the mountain. Once you arrive you may or may not have to pay 30TBH entry, and then make your way across to the balcony to enjoy a fantastic view of the sun rising over whole city below. As it’s a bit of an effort to get there so early, you won’t find many other people there either, making the experience that much more magical.


The details

Location:9 Chang Wat Chiang Mai

Opening times: Officially 6 am – 5 pm (but you can enter before 6 am)

Cost: 30TBH entry (£0.75 $1)

Reviews: Trip Advisor


Temple at sunrise coolest things to do in Chiang Mai


6. Go to a cooking school

Now I know I’ve written quite a lot about food so far in this post. But now I’m going to write about it some more! Thai cooking schools are popular tourist attraction here, and going to one is arguably another one of the coolest things to do in Chiang Mai. There are plenty of options out there, but we decided to go with Smile Organic Farm Cooking School as they offered an evening class. The tour was very well put together with lots of dishes to cook as well as a visit to a local market and their own farm. Just make sure you go with an empty stomach as you also eat everything you cook!


The details

Location: 89 Ratchamanka Road, Phra Singh (Office address)

Opening times: Officially 6 am – 5 pm (but you can enter before 6 am)

Cost: From 800TBH entry (£19 $25)

Reviews: Trip Advisor


Cooking school, coolest things to do in Chiang Mai


7. Get a Thai massage & support a good cause – alternative thing to do

There are plenty of massage parlours and spas in Chiang Mai. But a select number of them solely employ and train women who have recently been released from correctional facilities. The idea behind these are to give these women job opportunities and help them to prosper in society, thus breaking the pattern of re offending. By visiting a massage parlour like this you will be helping them to start a new life and support themselves. We chose to go to Lila Thai Massage, and had a very relaxing (or as relaxing as a Thai massage is) experience.


The details

Location: 31 – 33 Ratchamanka Road

Opening times: 10 am – 10 pm

Reviews: Trip Advisor



8. Enjoy the city’s cafe culture

We loved the cafe culture in Chiang Mai. Every time the heat got too much for us, there always seemed to be a cute little cafe on the corner for us to cool down and chill out in. In particular I really liked Rustic and Blue – their brunch menu is to die for FYI. However my favourite was Ristr8to, as they focus on really experimental coffee. And as it turns out they have a cafe in Melbourne too, so I am definitely going to check it out when I get there. The only thing is I think I’m getting slightly addicted to iced coffee now…


Chiang Mai cafes, coolest things to do in Chiang Mai


9. Try Khao Soi

This northern Thailand dish is very popular in Chiang Mai and is a must try when you’re visiting the city. The dish is a spicy coconut noodle soup with either chicken or beef. The best part though is the crispy fried noodles that are sprinkled on top, and the fact it’s not too spicy! There’s so many places in the city that will serve you a bowl of it from as little as 40TBH (£1, $1.50), so there’s no excuse not to give it a go.


Eating Khao Soi, coolest things to do in Chiang Mai


This is certainly not a full list of all the coolest things to do in Chiang Mai. In the time I spent there I felt I only just scratched the surface on what it has to offer. But hopefully it should be enough to get you started on exploring this super chilled city. Have fun!



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