For me this place was all about learning to cook some deliciously tasty Thai cooking on one of the fabulous and world renowned courses.
(I may have a few places available at our travel shop just for a cheeky early plug, group discounts available for this and the other Chiang Mai tours)
Suffice to say I was fascinated by that but didn't realize just how much Chiang Mai had to offer.
Besides being home of loads of historical sights and beautiful nature landscapes (the minimum you expect on Thailand if you have ready any of my articles) Chiang Mai also offers something very few cities in Asia can boast; the intimate feel of a small town.
Most of the main tourist attractions are located in the city center and within walking distance from one another but if you take a half an hour drive you will soon find yourself entangled in thought about the numerous opportunities to explore the nature in the Chiang Mai countryside.
Want to hear a bit more about the must see places and must try adventures in the ever enchanting Chiang Mai?
Check out my top suggestions below:
Chiang Mai Zoo
I am quite zooed out most of the time as I have seen them all around the world (most recently Budapest but that is another story) and prefer to see animals where they belong, that said if I think it looks like it is worth a visit I will take a look.
No reason not to recommend and this one is well worth a mention!
Housing more than 400 species the Chiang Mai Zoo is definitely worth taking the time to visit even though it's not the first thing that comes to your mind when you get to the city.
Covering almost 200 acres (pretty big for a zoo) there is plenty to see at the zoo.
I like to visit a Zoo if it offers something different something that you rarely see whether that be a lizard, Koala or one of my all-time favorites a Pandas.
In Chiang Mai Zoo everything from their appearance to the habitat constructed to resemble their mountain home is spectacular and that's your money's worth right there alone.
The best time to visit this exhibit is in the morning as this is when the animals are most active.
If you are looking for a good time and a chance to see some of world's most majestic animals in their wildlife habitat then the night safari has to be on the top of your list. The safari covers three animal zones where you will hopefully get to see everything from various the various species of African herbivores to Bengal tigers and jaguars.
It's definitely an experience you will remember for the rest of your life, take plenty of mozzie spray and make sure you plan it in advance if you can.
Not only are the tours popular but the different animal zones often work to different schedules. Don't forget the travel shop we would love to get you all booked up and ready to go!
The Underground Ancient City of Wiang Kum Kam
Oh come on you can't tell me this doesn't sound intriguingâ€¦The eighthth century city of Wiang Kum Kam is located in the vibrant countryside of Chiang Mai and is home to many interesting structures.
The highlight and one that you can't afford to miss is the Wat Chedi Liam. The Wat Chedi Liam is a spectacular temple, restored to a former glory in 1908 and the most remarkable architectural achievement of the Haripunchai style also known as Lamphun.
While you are there make sure you catch a glimpse of some of the more recently discovered cultural artifacts available on display at the Wiang Kum Kam Information Center.
The Elephant Camp of Mae Sa
The Mae Sa elephant camp offers you a unique opportunity to see some of them most intelligent elephants in the world and ones already recognized by the Guinness World Records of all people!
This Elephant camp was founded in 1976 and home to dozens of domesticated elephants. Many of these huge grey fellows used to have a much tougher life in the logging industry operating from every corner of Thailand.
So not only do these guys have their own daily routine the ones at Mae Sa have some more unique skills including painting, dance and would you believe play football, something you can barely imagine so this has to be something you just simply cannot miss!
The Tribal Village and National Park of Doi Pui
The highest peak in the Doi Suthep-Pui Park is Doi Pui and widely recognized across Thailand as home of some of the most beautiful waterfalls you can find there.
Not only will you be amazed by these fantastic and absorbing spectacles an even more surprising and unique attraction is the tribal village as you are able to witness a different aspect of village life deep in the Thai countryside.
There is no better way to experience the native and much simpler life common of the people in this region.
This was another major attraction to Chiang Mai for me, you can't beat wandering your way around some well-trodden paths or stepping a bit more outside your comfort zone with one of the various hiking tours available throughout the area.
It is well worth checking out the area as a simple trek along a train to the breathtaking heights can mean you are able to visit one of the remote villages scattered around and say hi to some of the locals.
Chiang Mai is well known for having the most diverse range of adventure activities in all of Thailand and with the luxury to be able to choose from multiple types of transport you will never be far from your next adventure.
Whatever you choose, you are sure to have amazing experience.
It's a good time to give you some essential advice here. If you plan to participate in these more adventurous activities you need to seriously consider the proper preparation. Make sure you have the right clothes, footwear, supplies and off course most importantly some kind of experience in outdoor navigation.
If you are not experienced and fancy getting out there and seeing it you may want to think about a hiking tours. Ranging from just few hours to more than 5 days there is plenty of adventure lurking around the in Chiang Mai catering for all abilities.
Thailand is home to numerous sacred spots, grounds, and religious temples and this is very much part of the Thai culture.
In Chiang Mai you have the rare opportunity to experience the life of Buddhist monks firsthand and learn more about their religious beliefs and their spiritual practices such as the all-important mediation.
No matter whether you are experienced in spiritual meditation or you are just learning its basics this opportunity is definitely something that shouldn't be missed it can be truly enlighteningâ€¦
The Weekend Market
You guessed it Chiang Mai holds a traditional weekend market that is so common throughout Thailand. The outdoor markets of Chiang Mai come to life bringing the fresh, vibrant, local produce along with various souvenirs, clothing and other consumer goods all displayed along the city streets.
The locals often play music to welcome visitors and this helps transform the entire occasion into much more interesting spectacle.
If you are at a loose end at the weekend check it out as this experience along with the delicious local cuisine is definitely worth a look.
Get a Massage
Ah man when I was in Thailand I must have had a massage almost every other day, there is nothing better to enhance the chill or ward away that hangover than a full body Thai massage.
Whether you just want to just relax or learn the art or the ancient practices of Thai massage Chiang Mai has it all on offer.
Home to some of the most widely renowned massage parlors in the country you can train to master your skills from the best and also learn the traditions behind all of it if you so wish.
There are different types of courses available, depending on the preferred duration.
I preferred the easier option of lying there and just â€¦â€¦ enjoy
Learn Muay Thai Boxing
One of my friends went over to Thailand to do this (check out the share an experience section and look for the featured blogger Rachel in the "Rachel "hits Thailand" post, sure makes for interesting reading.
If you are fascinated with the martial art of Muay Thai then this is a great place to learn from some of the best local fighters, get some tips and get into tip top shape in no time.
On the other hand you may not want to spend your travel time working hard on building muscles and enhancing your stamina. If this is the case and you want to get closer to the scene why not head to a gym and see some of the locals train or visiting one of the boxing matches that are on all over Thailand.
Whatever way you choose to experience Muay Thai Boxing will most likely leave you with some long-lasting memories of your visit to Chiang Mai and I can almost guarantee you think twice before getting in a tangle with anyone in Thailand no matter how small just in case they whoop your arse! Ha ha
Information provided by http://www.experiencebackpacking.com/