Set 700km north of Bangkok and at the edge of the Himalayan mountains, Chiang Mai has retained the charm of its rich history while adapting into a thriving and cosmopolitan city.
Centred around a historical walled city, which despite its small size is crammed full of an astonishing 30 temples, Chiang Mai’s beauty means it deserves its moniker of ‘the rose of the North’.
Like much of the country, Chiang Mai has completely recovered from Thailand’s recent flooding and is packed-full of things to do, whatever the budget.
A good place to start is at the Bo Sang handicraft village, where visits can be organised by a number of local tour operators. It is hard not to be shocked by the talent and dexterity of the local craftspeople, whether they’re spinning the finest silk imaginable, making paper by hand or carving intricate parasols and statues. Items can also be purchased for extremely low prices, for example a hand-made and painted pot for around Dhs5.
While you still have the shopping bug, almost anything you could hope for can be found at the Night Bazaar, which sprawls over several blocks and is packed full of stalls often containing unique items.
Also worth a visit is the Royal Flora Ratchaphruek, a special event featuring plants that runs until March 14 2012 and is a short drive from the city. Finish the day with a great show and dinner combo at the Kum Kantoke restaurant, which offers traditional northern Thai food and cultural show including dancers and musicians.
While you’re there...
Visit Wat Phra Singh Temple
Be awed by the impressive architecture and statues of this important temple in the heart of the old city. Locals are also more than happy to see tourists as they pay their respects with flowers and incense.
Relax and unwind in Chiang Mai’s top spa. Feel the stress of the city dissipate as you enter over the teakwood walkways, and completely evaporate during their signature two-hour ‘King’ treatment.
Maesa Elephant Camp
Just 30 minutes from the city centre, witness the must-see show featuring elephants playing football, dancing, playing harmonicas and even painting genuinely impressive artwork by clutching a brush in their trunks!
Where to stay…
00 66 53 253 333, www.chedi-chiangmai.com
All of the tastefully decorated rooms and suites in this colonial British consulate-turned-hotel have huge balconies that face Chiang Mai’s main river Mae Ping. Enjoy the space while still being in the middle of town.
Dusit D2 Chiang Mai
00 66 2200 9999, www.dusit.com
All of the rooms have a sleek urban interior, the food at the in-house Moxie restaurant serves Thai food with a contemporary twist and if you feel the need to leave, it’s right on the doorstep of the bustling night bazaar, restaurants and other options.
Four Seasons Bangkok
00 66 2253 9195, www.fourseasons.com
If your trip allows a night or more in Thailand’s capital Bangkok, the Four Seasons provides all of the amenities you could hope for, along with a majestic but relaxing lobby in the heart of the city.
Gail Porter using the local charm to help her unwind from all the stresses of life.