Tuesday, December 18, 2007


In town

As usual in Thai cities, massage establishments abound, both for treatments and for learning the art yourself. Cooking schools are also popular - see the Learn section.


  • Chiang Mai Vista Cinema (Kad Suan Kaew) [6]

  • Major Cineplex (Airport Plaza) [7]


  • Let's Relax, 2F Chiang Mai Pavilion and B1F Chiang Inn Plaza, Chang Khlan Road. Does professional massage in very clean if not downright sterile surroundings complete with air-con, the sound of running water and gentle scents. A 45-minute foot reflexology session costs 350 baht, nearly twice the price of the competition, but is worth every satang after a long trek.
  • Nantana Massage Shop, (near Sompet Market on Soi 6). Has very knowledgeable and friendly staff, and air-con. Thai massage 150 baht/hour; oil, foot, and neck/shoulder massage also available.

Muay Thai (Thai boxing, the national sport of Thailand):

  • Kawila Boxing Stadium not far from Narawat Bridge, has real Muay Thai fights every Friday at 20:00 with 10 bouts ranging from young debutant fighters, local champions, and locals vs foreigners. Entry is 400 baht (as of March 2006).
  • Lanna Muay Thai on Soi Chiang Khian, off Huay Kaew Road [8]. Muay Thai coaching.


A very popular pastime is walking and/or cycling around the city walls and exploring the old city, and Chiang Mai is a very popular place for arranging hill trekking too. There are also opportunities to try your hand at elephant riding, horse riding, and even ballooning and flying. Other possibilities include:

  • Bicycle tours or exploration either on your own, renting a bike, or joining a well organized bicycle / mountain-biking tour is a great way to see the North and the country side. Northern-Trails [9] is a reputable tour operator offering many programs, from day trips to multi-day circuits.
  • Motorcycle touring is a great way to explore Northern Thailand - the GT-Rider[10] website has a wealth of information, including routes and maps for both short and long rides. One route out of Chiang Mai not mentioned is a day trip up and over Doi Suthep, which will take riders up to Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep, and beyond the mountain to the reservoir.
  • Scooter touring is another great way to explore the region going out as far as Mae Hong Son and suitable for the less experienced motorcyclist. Motorbike Thailand[11] offers great tours using Honda 125cc scooters riding into some of the more remote regions and also offer rider training on route.
  • Game Fishing, [12].
  • Karting, bungy jumping, off road buggies, and paintball, [13].
  • Rafting down the Maetang river is offered by several companies and can often be combined with elephant riding or mountain biking (The Peak [14] is one of the better companies, and also offers many other interesting trips). During the dry season (Jan-Feb) water levels are relatively low with only grade 2-3 rapids, but during the rainy season (Jun-Oct) higher water levels make for a more exciting grade 4-5 trip.

Festivals & exhibitions

Flower festival float
Flower festival float
  • Chiang Mai Flower Festival is staged every year during the first weekend in February. The city is awash with vibrant colors ranging from the electric orange and lilac colors of the bougainvillea to the velvety blossoms of petunias in all shades of pink, white and purple. The strident red of the poinsettias, bought by many at Christmas and New Year, is echoed by beds of scarlet salvias. Homes and shop owners alike line the city streets with colourful flower boxes. The sheer profusion of colour that the flower festival and carnival brings to Chiang Mai aptly gives the city its name "Rose of the North". On all three days of the festival, prize blooms are on display at Suan Buak Haad near the city centre. Every type of flower, miniature tree and orchid is put on display for the judges to choose the best of the species. Landscape specialists put on an elaborate display, which includes patios and waterfalls with exotic decorative plants and flowers. The best part of the flower festival is on Saturday. The parade lines up from the train station to Narawatt bridge so the police close most of Jarenmuang Road around 8AM. The VIP viewing stand is right next to the bridge in front of the Chiang Mai Governor's home. The parade route goes down Thapae Road to the Gate and turns left and follows the moat to Suan Buak Haad City Park. The parade moves at a slow pace and stops several times so there is plenty of time to take pictures of the colourful floats, pretty girls and hilltribe people in costume. The people in the parade hand out roses to spectators lining the road. When the parade finishes everyone heads to Suan Buak Haad where all the floats, award winning flower growers and landscape projects are all on display. There are plenty of food stalls in the park, and in the late afternoon the Miss Chiang Mai Flower festival starts. The party goes well into the evening until the new Flower Festival Queen has been chosen. This is a great time to visit Chiang Mai, as the air is cool and the evenings fresh and clear. If you want to see the festival make sure you book your hotels and flights well in advance.
Khom Loy hot air balloons launch
Khom Loy hot air balloons launch
  • Loi Krathong Festival If you like candles placed in colourful paper lanterns, fireworks, beautiful girls in traditional dress, parade floats, lots of food, and parties, don't miss the Loi Krathong festival, which in Chiang Mai lasts for 3 full days, the last night being that of the 12th full moon of the year (which is usually in November). In the small town of Mae Jo, north of Chiang Mai, they start the festival on Saturday night by simultaneously launching thousands upon thousands of hot air balloons called "Khom Loy".
  • Bo Sang Umbrella & Sankampang Handicrafts Festival Takes place 20th-22nd January at Ban Bo Sang, Sankampang. The festival is in the form of a "street fair" in which the central road of the village is used, with stores on both sides. Stores are decorated in Lanna style, most with the well-known umbrellas, as well as with traditional lanterns. In addition there are contests, exhibitions, cultural performances, local entertainment, and assorted shows day and night. There is a grand procession decorated with umbrellas and local products, a variety of handicrafts for sale, northern-style kantoke meals, and the Miss Bo Sang pageant.
  • The 2nd Orchid Fair (January) is the biggest orchid fair of the year, with an orchid market, activities and more.
  • Royal Flora Exposition, [15]. A magnificent showcase of 50,000 orchid plants representing nearly 10,000 orchid species, plus much more.

No comments: