Chiang Mai, Authentic Thailand - Thailand South Africa
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28 Dec Chiang Mai, Authentic Thailand

Chiang Mai is located on the banks of the Ping River in a lush green valley in Northern Thailand. Founded in 1296 as the capital of the ancient Lanna Kingdom, today it is a peaceful place where past and present merge with modern buildings and luxury hotels exist effortlessly alongside sacred temples. In the Old City remnants of walls and moats, as well as elaborate Buddhist temples, including the 14th-century Wat Phra Singh and 15th-century Wat Chedi Luang, can be seen.

Yet somehow Chiang Mai feels more like a rural town than a bustling capital, and just beyond the city’s borders you find lush countryside, pristine rainforests and peaceful country villages.

In the daytime, the main streets are full of interesting shops, quirky cafés, art galleries, hotels and restaurants, and as soon as the sun sets, the square on the outer ring of the moat fills with vendors. Chiang Mai is a buyer’s paradise, and the famous Chiang Mai Night Bazar on the east side of the old walled city is open every day of the year regardless of the weather, and will appease any shopper.

With its Northern Lanna cuisine, Chiang Mai’s tasty delights are considered some of the best in the country and the Thai street food on sale at the Chang Pheuak Gate offers a great range of authentic Thai, Chinese and Japanese cuisine. The city’s bustling Chinatown spreads across a section of town known collectively as Worarot, the centerpiece being a three-story covered market with excellent value shopping.

Venturing further afield, a visit to the sacred Doi Suthep temple on the hill overlooking the city is a must, as is time at one of the elephant sanctuaries for which the area is renowned. A fun recommendation is a day touring with The Tuk Tuk Club, who will teach you to drive one, before you head out on your three-wheeled adventure.

Offering a quieter and more authentic look at the Kingdom of Thailand, Chiang Mai has developed a reputation as a spiritual retreat, a place to study meditation and yoga and where you can immerse yourself into Northern Thai culture. Whatever it is you hope to gain from your visit here, you’ll undoubtedly find.