1. Saturday & Sunday Night Markets
If this is your first visit to Chiang Mai, you need to check out one of the weekend night markets.
The Saturday night market is on Wua Lai Road and the Sunday night market is on Ratchadamnoen Road.
I wrote an article about the weekend/night markets including a map and I talk a lot more about these two night markets on this article Chiang Mai Saturday & Sunday Night Market.
If you love shopping, food, and experiencing something new that you can’t find in the western world, you need to check them out, even if you’re not into shopping. It’s an amazing experience.
The markets are open from 5pm to 10 or 11pm on Saturday and Sunday. Hence the name.
2. The Giant Tree House
The Giant Tree House first opened in 2014 and was built with the cooperation of the local villagers formerly known as Baan Pok.
On the top level of the Giant Treehouse is a coffee shop and there are two walkways to the Giant Treehouse. One walkway is used to enter the treehouse and the other is to exit, but it looked like everyone was too busy taking pictures and doing selfies.
If you like, you can even rent a room here and sleep overnight. They cost about 3 to 5 thousand baht per night. I cannot comment on the accommodation as we did not stay overnight and I can’t understand why anyone would want to spend the night there. But they have rooms for you if it was too dark to drive back down the mountain.
If you don’t mind two hours’ scenic drive up hill, on very small curvy, dangerous roads for a coffee and some nice views on a giant tree house. Then this is a great place to visit.
There are limited food choices, and the food might not be as good and I think a bit overpriced. However, the view was great.
We went there during the weekend and it was a bit crowded with tourists. Many of the local Thais also come visit these spots, and if you come during the weekdays, you might find less locals and generally less tourists.
Because we went during the weekend, there were too many tourists and we couldn’t find a table to sit down to have a cup of fresh coffee or some cold drinks. So, we ended the trip early and headed back to the car.
3. The Temples (wat)
I’ve been to a number of temples in Thailand. For example, when I was living in Bangkok, I went to one of the most famous temples called Wat Pho to see the giant reclining Buddha.
Also, in the North Eastern part of Thailand aka Isaan, I also went to many temples with my family.
I have yet to travel to the southern part of Thailand, like Phuket. From all the Buddha temples I have seen and visited in Thailand up to now, in my opinion, the most beautiful temples in Thailand are the ones in Chiang Mai.
Even the local Thais come to visit Chiang Mai just to visit the temples.
I’m not saying the other temples around Thailand are not beautiful, but if you look closely at the artwork in and around Chiang Mai’s Temples, you can see small little details from the beautiful handcrafted artwork on the doors, to the floors, to the pillars, the wall and up to the ceiling.
You don’t need to be a Buddhist or religious to go in any of these temples. All the temples I visited in Chiang Mai had no entrance fee and everyone is welcome to enter. Just make sure you dress properly and leave your footwear at the door.
4. Mae Kampong Village & Waterfall
About 1.5 to 2 hours’ drive in the mountains, just north from Chiang Mai City, there is a tiny village called Mae Kampong.
The Mae Kampong village is what I call the total opposite experience you get from the bright lights and fast-paced cities like Bangkok or Chiang Mai. Sure, you can go zip lining through the jungle, climb the waterfall, but this village is very peaceful, soothing with nature.
Sometimes you can hear a motor bike passing by or a bus full of tourists going up the mountain but most of the time it is very quiet. It felt like you’re back in time seeing how Chiang Mai was like many decades ago. Seeing how people can live so close to nature the way it was many generations ago. Except for the cars, motorbike, …. smart phones of course.
It’s a great day trip if you have some free time and if you have your own private vehicle. I was fortunate enough to know a few locals in Chiang Mai who took me to this village to check out the waterfall.
There are no hotels that I know of, so if you want to stay overnight, there are some homestays you can book through the local Thai people.
What they do have in abundance are coffee shops on the side of the road with some scenic jungle overlooking the village. Good place to stop and have a break, take photos.
I ordered some ice lemonade, it wasn’t great, just too sweet for me but I bet the coffee was great. But check out the view over the village.
We also took a quick tour to the Mae Kampong Waterfall. There were stacks of stairs to climb up to the top of the waterfall. We eventually made it to about level five and after that, we had to cut our tour short because of a blockade.
Overall, a great rustic getaway. One visit and the memory will stick with you forever.
5. Umbrella & Fan Factory
To me, this place was a bit touristy. This shop / factory has a giant tourist bus parking lot. But, this was a quick/fun tour and I find it interesting to see the process of making the traditional umbrella and fans by hand from start to finish.
If you want to see how the local artists make their artwork and you would like to purchase some affordable artwork as gifts or souvenirs, then this Umbrella Factory is a great opportunity to do just that and it won’t break your wallet… unless you want to.
Once you leave the parking lot, you enter a small narrow section. You walk through each section and see how the local artists make the umbrella or fans at each stage.
When I reached the painting area, they offered hand painting on your cell phones or cases, wallet, bags, even on your clothing. If you want, you may bring a clear smart phone case or a blank t-shirt before you come and have the artist paint on them. However, they already do have different smart phone cases for purchase at the shop for about 200 baht and the painting is about another 50 to 100 baht and up.
Don’t worry about the artwork washing off, it will last for months unless you have the artwork painted on some slippery surface where the paint can easily peel off.
These are not your amateur artists; these are real and experienced artists at work. The hand painted artwork here is truly unique and beautiful. Very hard to find this back in North America because most artists in North America sit behind a computer.
The highlight was the shop itself, containing the finished products from jewelry, furniture, home decoration, and of course big to small hand painted umbrellas and fans.
There were many souvenirs to buy in the shop, from low cost items for 50-100 baht to 3,000 to 100,000 baht.
I ended up buying several small fans for decoration and gifts.
6. Chiang Mai Zoo
If you have some time to kill or if you have kids, check out the Chiang Mai Zoo.
You can get there by the red truck. Ask any red truck driver if they can take you to Chiang Mai Zoo. Most drivers will know Chiang Mai Zoo and ask how much to take you there. I paid 20 baht near the Old City to the entrance of the Zoo.
The Chiang Mai Zoo is huge, if you want to look around the zoo. It’s best to rent a golf cart for a few hours. You can find a rental shop near the entrance, a few minutes’ walk after you pay for the fee and enter the zoo. One-hour rental for the golf cart is 350 baht. I think 2 hours or 3 hours max should be enough for a visit.
This is not a zoo where any normal person would want to walk through. You really don’t want to walk around here since this is a huge zoo, with many big hills and in some areas, there are no sidewalks.
If you don’t want to drive around yourself in a golf cart, you can always get on one of the shuttle buses with 20 other people. This will be the best value and they will take you around the zoo. The problem I have with these shuttle buses is there is no timetable I can find and I don’t know when they come and where I need to go to wait for one.
The golf carts are more flexible, allowing you to visit places that are too far to walk and go places between the shuttle bus stops.
I came here for the aquarium, which was about 20 minutes’ walk from the entrance. So, I didn’t rent a golf cart or ride the shuttle bus.
Overall, I only checked out the aquarium. It was not the best maintained aquarium I’ve ever seen and not the most vivid. There is a long glass dome tunnel with all kinds of fresh water fish and dozens of large salt-water tanks. The kids would enjoy them.
The zoo and the aquarium were not too busy when I visited.
You can find pandas, fish, aquarium, zebra, elephant, hippos, tiger, lion, birds, giraffes and many other animals in this zoo. If you like, you may feed them for 10 or 20 baht.
Entrance Fees for zoo & aquarium:
Adult: 520 baht
Child: 390 baht
Thais or if you have work permit in Thailand
Feeding Various Animals: 10 – 20 THB
Hop On/Off Shuttle Bus: 60 THB
Golf Cart Rental (1 hr): 350 THB
Seeing Pandas: 100 THB
All published prices are subject to change without prior notice.
7. Mae Taeng River
Mae Taeng River is located at the North West region of Chiang Mai City. It is a stream of water flowing into the Ping River, which flows right through Chiang Mai and flows into the Chao Phraya River in Bangkok.
When we arrived, we could clearly see the water level was not very high. Since this was filmed at the end of March which is considered the dry season. If this was during the wet season, the water level would have been a few feet higher.
I went to the Mae Taeng River with some local Thai friends. We didn’t go rafting in the river, although we should because it looked so much fun.
Instead, we sat next to the riverbank inside a local Thai restaurant made up entirely with bamboo. We sat inside that restaurant, swam and ate all afternoon. That was fun, but probaly not as exciting as the rafting.
We also had a lot of time watching people rafting down the Mae Taeng River on inflatable kayaks and boats along with their tour guide. Since the water level was not too high, many of these inflatable kayaks got stuck between the rocks. People inside were instructed to bunch up and down to get themselves unstuck. Kinda funny to see.
Then there were some funny moments when there were just too many rafts coming down at the same time creating this traffic jam.