Known as the Thailand Northern Capital, Chiang Mai is a delightful destination not to be missed by travelers who are interested in Thai culture, nature and wellness.
The city is a lovely match of modernity and tranquility where riverside walks, cafe' and small restaurants create a pleasant and relaxing atmosphere for travelers and locals alike. Dotted by numerous temples, some of which unique for their architectural beauty, Chiang Mai's cultural and artistic side is expressed by many art studios and galleries featuring modern and traditional Lanna style productions.
The Ping River divides the city in two: the centre is on the rivers' west side with the old city surrounded by the ancient defensive walls at its heart. Around these, a dynamic and modern city has gradually grown retaining the relaxed, temple-sprinkled, cultural capital atmosphere, alongside new hip happenings. The east side of the river is famous for the fine handicraft shops, riverside bars and restaurant specializing in delicious Lanna style food and great live music. Many new wellness and luxury retreats are also located in this area: a great choice for those looking for peace after a day out visiting temples, markets or some of the amazing natural attraction of the city's surroundings.
Chiang Mai is the ultimate destination for Spa lovers. Besides traditional Thai massage and aromatherapy treatments, Chiang Mai's wellness culture is strongly influences by the Indian one; important Ayurvedic centers combine traditional knowledge and modern technologies to balance the Chakra in the human body. The peaceful natural environment of the city and its countryside provide the perfect setting for meditation and yoga retreats. Specific detoxifying treatments, such as colon cleansing, are also available by professional clinics equipped with the newest technologies.
Chiang Mai's region is among the most beautiful in Thailand. Just 1 hour drive north of the city, the beautiful Mae Rim valley offers a great number of entertainments for nature and animal lovers alike. Elephant camps home to some of the largest assembly of these beautiful animals in Asia, tigers natural parks, monkey and snake shows, waterfalls and hot springs surrounded by lush forest; all of these attractions can make a great day out for adults and children. Some of the best natural retreats can be found here: luxury tented camps, villas scattered among jungle trees, cascade resorts...a fairy tale setting in a tropical environment.
Adventurous travelers can explore the region by mountain bike guided by professional guides or can travel as far as Mae Hong Son to visit the hill tribes living along the Burmese border. Trips to Mae Hon Song from Chiang Mai take a couple of days at the least, but what you'll find here is well worth the trip. If you are not keen on travelling that far, a few settlements of tribe people have been moved around Chiang Mai. Even though you should not expect to see their true and natural environment, a visit here can still be an educational and touching experience.
Closer to the city travelers can visit Thailand's holiest temple: Wat Phra That Doi Suthep located in Doi Suthep National Park. Further south, Ob Khan Natural Park attracts visitors to the beautiful Tak Tan caves while many also travel to Doi Inthanon Natural Park for its stunning waterfalls and lush nature, ideal for hiking and trekking.
To the East of Chiang Mai travelers can visit the Bo Sang Handicrafts and Umbrella Village to appreciate the fine art of bamboo umbrella making and decoration, traditionally famous in this area. Further on in Mae On the bravest can experience the thrill of soaring among trees suspended by cables 50m above the ground on a 300m long zip line. With its many attractions, lovely surroundings and relaxing atmosphere the days of Chiang Mai being just a stop before heading somewhere else in Thailand are long gone.