Bangkok and Chiang Mai are the top pick of many tourists visiting Thailand. In contrast to the country’s bustling capital Bangkok, Chiang Mai is dotted with temples and surrounded by lush mountains. If you want to explore North Thailand, this is the best place to begin. It has a laid-back atmosphere and provides a different experience from the hustle and bustle of Bangkok.
How to Get to Chiang Mai from Bangkok
Though Bangkok and Chiang Mai are located 422.5 miles (680 kilometers) away, it is very easy to commute between the cities.
- Fly and save time: A direct flight between the two cities takes around 60 to 70 minutes. The drawback with flying is the cost involved but there are a number of low-fare airlines available. Airfare starts as low as $40 USD.
- Take the train: In spite of the 12-hour travel time, trains are a popular choice. Though there are 6 trains a day leaving Bangkok, it is recommended to book well in advance. Ticket fare varies depending upon the class you choose to travel in. A 10-minute cab drive takes you to the city center from the railway station.
- Ride the bus: Another cheapest alternative is by taking the Bangkok to Chiang Mai bus. Prices for the 10-hour 30-minute ride start from $20. VIP tickets provide the best comfort.
Book tickets through Bookaway. You don’t have to waste time clicking through different links and comparing prices. Everything is consolidated at Bookaway. The website also offers easy cancellation and contains a wealth of information for tourists.
Cultural Places of Interest
Interact with monks: There are monk chat programs available at different locations in Chiang Mai. Monk chats involve informal discussions with prep school monks who are accompanied by their teacher. It is a fun way to learn about their culture and their perception of things. Make sure you wear appropriate clothing covering your shoulders and above your knees.
Thai massage by a prison inmate: Arrive earlier than 10 am for a massage at Chiang Mai Women Correctional Institution Vocational Training Centre or you’ll end up waiting a long time for your turn. The masseuses are trained prison inmates who are convicted for minor crimes.
Wat Pha Lat Temple is situated amidst a jungle and can be reached only by a 30-minute hike. The hiking path is easy and at the end of the path, you’ll be welcomed by a trickling waterfall, chirping birds and bamboo forests.
Head to Chiang Rai to see the White temple & Golden triangle. Day tours are offered to this popular destination. Wat Rong Khun (White temple) is majestic and an unforgettable sight.
Chiang Mai markets: The popular tourist markets are Chiang Mai night bazaar, Saturday night market and Sunday night market. Warorat market is open during the day and you’ll find many locals here as this one is cheaper than other touristy markets.
Release a wish lantern: The Loy Krathong and Yi Peng festivals occur during the month of November. If you are lucky to witness these festivals, you can use the opportunity to release wish lanterns and take stunning pictures.
Muay Thai Boxing match. Catch the action in person at Chiang Mai. You can also take part in classes available in many gyms.
Visit an Elephant Sanctuary. Come visit and care for the elephants of Chiang Mai. When picking a tour, make sure your experience is ethical and sustainable. The Elephant Jungle Sanctuary has multiple locations throughout Thailand if you don’t get to it in Chiang Mai.
Chiang Mai is rightly dubbed as the adventure capital of Thailand. Apart from its cultural side, here are unusual and adventurous things to try.
Sticky waterfalls (Buatong waterfall): Though it is a bit hard to picture, you can climb up the waterfall since it is sticky. The calcium deposit in the path of flowing water is the cause of stickiness. When you climb barefoot, your feet stick on to it and you don’t even have to use your hands to climb.
Cliff jumping: If you love cliff-jumping don’t miss Chiang Mai’s Grand Canyon where you can take a plunge from a height of 10 and 20 meters. It is situated just half an hour away from the town.
Huay Kaew Waterfall: Very few tourists are aware of its existence which gives you one more reason to visit this serene place. Walk along the side path to reach the swimming hole.
Go on a hike! The Chiang Mai Hiking Club meets every Saturday. This is a fun activity to do if you love hiking and meeting new people. It is also totally free of cost. The crowds are large especially when short hikes are planned.
We recommend spending at least 5 days in Chiang Mai to fully experience what it has to offer. When in Chiang Mai, you are never going to be bored and the adventures are endless.