Essential Chiang Mai

Tour Creator

CY is a Bangkok-based author and traveler, and reckons he has visited 83 world cities more than once. His first book, Travels with the Fish, recounts his quixotic travel stories.…Read More Bio »

Chiang Mai

GPS-directed

Remote Tour Included

2hrs

2.5km

Our tour explores Chiang Mai’s historical, majestic and vibrant sides of Chiang Mai. We’ll be visiting its famous wats, Wat Phantao, Wat Chedi Luang, Wat Phra Singh —and one revered shrine, the Three Kings Monument, in Chiang Mai’s old walled city.

Avoid the Crowds

Allows you to explore without having to be shoulder-to-shoulder in a large tour group

Created by an exceptional travel writer

Written by a Chiang-Mai based writer, who authored the Lonely Planet Guide to Thailand

GPS Directions

Easy-to-follow GPS directions to get you from one point to the next on your tour

Highlights include:

Wat Phantao, Wat Chedi Luang, Wat Phra Singh and the Three Kings Monument

Remote Tour Included

As with all our tours, a remote tour is included that can be enjoyed from home

Itinerary

Essential Chiang Mai

  1. Tha Phae Gate - Our walk begins at the famous Tha Phae Gate, the auspicious eastern entrance into the original walled city of Chiang Mai. The portal that once allowed travellers, traders and kings now swarms with tourists with cameras and backpacks. On weekends, it turns into a carnival as the Sunday Walking Street and night market opens. The area around Tha Phae Gate comes alive with musicians, puppeteers, fire-eaters, food vendors and dancers.
  2. Lila Thai Massage - Situated to the left of Ratchdamnoen Street, just a minute's walk from Tha Phae Gate stands the Lila Thai Massage parlour. Though it looks like every other massage parlour on the street, this one is unique — each of its highly rained masseuses was once a prison inmate. It was the brainchild of a former Director of Chiang Mai Women’s Prison, who thought up the scheme as a way to help the women become useful citizens in civil society. They are rigorously trained by certified massage instructors in a programme that is supported by the Chiang Mai Public Health Department.
  3. Sunday Walking Street - This famous Sunday Walking Street is only closed to traffic on Sunday evenings, but its thriving market is open every day. It's a great place for original local art and handicraft products ranging from elephant design bags and tee shirts and customer-designed jewelery to food courts where you can get pancakes on a stick with your favorite cartoon character rendered in jelly — or eat a plateful of spicy deep-fried crickets. On weekends it gets a carnival atmosphere as the Night Market comes alive, and the street throngs with performers, musicians and entertainers — and of course tourists taking pictures of it all.
  4. Lanna Folklife Museum - Think of it as Chiang Mai's own Madame Tussaud's Museum, giving you a rare peek into the life and times of the ancient Lanna kingdom, whose capital was Chiang Mai. Although it has no artefacts and relics, it does have riveting life-size wax dolls dressed in traditional costumes show realistic depictions of the daily lives, history and culture of the Lanna people. Despite its apparent size, the two-floor museum is rather small and could be viewed in less than an hour, although there is a small entry fee.
  5. Three Kings Monument - Although the Three Kings Monument is not a religious site, you will find local leaving incense, flowers, fruits and prayers to the great bronze statues of the three great royal friends who together made the street plan for the city of Chiang Mai — King Mengrai, the founder of Chiang Mai; and his two friends, King Ramkamhaeng of Sukhothai and King Ngam Muang of Payao. More recently, the city built a large square in front of the Three Kings. On festivals like Loy Krathong, the square becomes luminous with hundreds of lanterns and worshippers.
  6. Wat Phan Tao - It is easy to dismiss Wat Phantao as a minor temple, standing in the shadow of the much better known Wat Chedi Luang. But this temple was once the royal palace or ho kham of Chao Mahawong, king of Chiang Mai from 1846 to 1854. It's also known as the Temple of a 1000 Kilns, probably because it also served as a workshop for casting Buddha images for the nearby Chedi Luang.
  7. Wat Chedi Luang - Two stunning giant water serpents, recently restored, guard the staircase on two faces of the Wat Chedi Luang — which literally means Temple of the Big Heap, Chiang Mai's tallest temple at 82 metres until an earthquake toppled its spire in 1545. The temple is also home to the City Pillar, erected back in the day to mark the centre of the universe, which was of course assumed to be within the Lanna Kingdom. Note also the gum tree that looms over the City Pillar — local belief is that great disaster will follow if that tree should ever fall.
  8. Wat Phra Singh - From outside, you might think that you're looking at a temple made of pure gold, every inch gilded. Some say that the so-called Temple of the Lion Buddha — or Wat Phra Singh — is among the most beautiful in Chiang Mai. It is certainly the second-most important, after the Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, and is an outstanding example of Lanna architecture.
  9. Khao Soi Arak - Some people say Chiang Mai's legendary Khao Soi coconut noodle curry is a near cousin of the Burmese dish Mao swé. Another, more likely story says that that Khao Soi was born Muslims from China's Yunnan brought their richly spiced curries to Chiang Mai in the late 19th century and met the local Chinese egg noodle, and after some mutations emerged as Khao Soi, Chiang Mai's signature dish.

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