Do you fancy getting “Lost in Thailand”? If you’re not up for the kind of over-the-top adventures found in the film, choose a holiday of low-key luxury in Chiang Mai. As one of Asia’s top holiday destinations, there’s plenty to see and do—no Muay Thai skills required!—and these five iconic sights should be on everyone’s list.
5 Must-See Sights in Chiang Mai
The mythical birth story of this ornate mountaintop temple has made it one of the most sacred sites in northern Thailand. Legend has it that, in the 14th century, a visiting monk gave the Lanna king a Buddha relic, instructing him to use it to establish a temple. The relic was mounted on a white elephant, which roamed the jungle until it died in this at the site of Doi Suthep. The king and his mystics interpreted this as the “chosen” location. A 306-step staircases—intended as a meditative journey—leads to the temple and its revered seated Buddha, but a tram will take you there for a mere THB 20. In addition to the shrine, a gallery filled with Buddhas and a museum, the temple affords beautiful views of Chiang Mai on clear days.
Night Market Walking Street
If you want to shop till you drop, Chiang Mai’s weekend markets are just the ticket! The Sunday Market is the biggest, so strap on comfortable shoes and come ready to bargain. Its main drag is Rachadamnoen Road, beginning just behind Thapae Gate, where you’ll find handcrafted lamps, dolls, soaps, jewelry, clothes, Christmas ornaments, local handicrafts and plenty of quirky keepsakes. Take some time to work up an appetite, because at the end of the first block you’ll come to an intersection flanked by two temples; their courtyards are filled with food stalls slinging everything from pad Thai to sushi, samosas to fried bananas. The Saturday Walking Street is on Wualai Road—just behind the Chiang Mai Gate—and is slightly less crowded.
Wat Phra Singh
Wat Phra Singh, Chiang Mai’s largest and most revered temple, sits in the heart of the Old City. Sightseers and Buddhist pilgrims from around the world come to ogle the Lanna architecture and pay respects to its famous Buddha, Phra Singh. The temple itself was built in 1345, but Phra Singh (Lion Buddha) arrived some 15 years later and is housed in the Phra Wiharn Lai Kam chapel, a small Lanna-style building at the rear of the grounds next to the stupa.
Elephant Nature Park
Getting up-close-and-personal with Thailand’s gentle giants is high on many visitors’ to-do list, but not all elephant experiences are created equal. Club Escapes at Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp & Resort works with the Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation to make sure elephant-guest interactions are healthy, fun and rewarding for both travellers and animals, but if you can’t make it to Chiang Rai on this visit, Elephant Nature Park is a great choice. This highly respected park lets visitors spend a day volunteering with elephants, many of which have been rescued from cruel conditions, helping to feed them and bathe them in the river while learning about their plight.
Wat Chedi Luang
One of the tallest structures when it was built in 1441, Wat Chedi Luang once had the privilege of hosting the famed Emerald Buddha (now held in Bangkok’s Wat Phra Kaew). A jade replica now sits in for the original, a gift to the reconstructed chedi from the Thai king on its 600th birthday. A special pulley system lets visitors bathe the chedi with water as they offer prayers, and in addition to the chedi, the main attraction here is the city pillar, said to house its guardian diety.
Excited? Start planning your Chiang Mai escape now and be the first to check out the new Anantara Vacation Club Chiang Mai, coming in 2016!