The picturesque town of Chiang Mai nestled in the verdant hills of Lanna, Northern Thailand, is an idyllic haven of calm and serene bliss, away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. T+L brings you 10 ways to make the most of your Northern Thailand jaunt. By Raul Dias
Commune With The Divine At Wat Chedi Luang
Make the surreal Wat Chedi Luang, nestled at the very core of Chiang Mai—both physically and metaphorically—your first pit stop. According to ancient Lanna beliefs, the temple is at the epicentre of the city which marks the centre of the universe. Dating back to 1385, this grand temple was once home to the stunning Emerald Buddha that you can now find in Bangkok’s Grand Palace.
Go Handicraft Hunting at Bo Sang
One of the finest repositories of the ancient art of parasol making is the Bo Sang Handicraft Centre, which lies at a short distance from the main, compact Chiang Mai city centre. Here, you can not only pick up a few gorgeous parasols at rock bottom prices, but the on-site artists making them are only too happy to give you a short little demonstration.
Learn to Cook Lanna Cuisine
With a lighter, more herbaceous take on the coconut milk-redolent southern and central Thai food, the Lanna cuisine of the north is a unique and flavourful one. Sign up with the newly launched Airbnb Experience and learn the art of Northern Thai cooking with a four-hour hands-on class with Air, one of Chiang Mai’s most celebrated chefs.
Meet Elephants At A Training Centre
The Chiang-Dao Elephant Training Center is a mere 30 minutes out of the city and as far removed from a ‘zoo’ as it can be. This centre is home to 32 elephants that are each trained by their own mahout. Here, there’s a strong emphasis on eco-tourism. Travellers can not only come up close and personal with the centre’s inhabitants but can also see them wander through the dense forests and help bathe them in the placid Po River.
Mingle With The Hill People
For a glimpse of the elusive Hmong, Shan and Karen tribes of this region, book yourself on a half day trip with Airbnb Experiences and learn about everything from their traditional stilt bamboo houses and tribal lifestyle to fabric weaving and indigenous rice farming techniques.
Visit An Opium Museum
In nearby Chiang Rai, pay a visit to The Hall of Opium Museum. Here, you can learn about the trade, sale, consumption and after effects of the drug that was notoriously popular all over the Asian continent in the 17th and 18th centuries. The eerie, cavernous tunnel-like entrance is a fascinating introduction to the museum with its sculpted frescos showing twisted, contorted human faces, all bathed in deep blue light.
Release a Lantern
If you happen to be in Chiang Mai in November, then all your senses will be treated to the delights of the beautiful Yi Peng festival. This autumn festival celebrates the full moon day in the second month of the Lanna lunar calendar with intricately fashioned lanterns called khom loi launched into the air to take one’s wishes up to the Gods!
Visit A Royal Villa
Chosen as the summer home for the Thai Royal family, Chiang Rai is famous for the rather unusual Doi Tung Royal Villa that the current King’s grandmother Princess Somdej Phra Srinagarindra had built to partly resemble a Swiss chalet, as she lived in Switzerland for a while. With its well-manicured lawns and botanical gardens, this is a must-visit on the list.
Learn About Thai Yantra Tattoos
Visit the tiny village of Samnak, an hour outside Chiang Mai, where you will meet Nikom, who was previously a monk as well. As part of a curated Airbnb Experiences tour, he will share with you the different patterns and meanings behind each ancient geometric, animal and deity design of traditional Thai Yantra Tattoos.
As part of a rather unusual and interesting Chiang Mai Airbnb Experience, Kanokwan—a renound Thai massage specialist—will not just share more about the usefulness of the Thai herbal ball containing various medicinal herbs, oils and spices—but will also show you how to make one yourself and administer a traditional Thai massage.