Chiang Mai Travel Guide

Chiang Mai Travel Guide

Get to / from Chiang Mai || Go around Chiang Mai || Must See & Do || Tourist Information Centres


Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai literally means “new city” and has retained the name despite celebrating its 700th anniversary in 1996. King Meng Rai the Great founded the city as the capital of the Lanna Kingdom on Thursday, April 12 1296 around the same time as the establishment of the Sukhothai Kingdom. King Meng Rai even conferred with his friends, King Ramkhamhaeng of Sukhothai and King Ngam Muang of Phayao before choosing the site where the capital of the Lanna Kingdom was to be founded. Henceforth, Chiang Mai not only became the capital and cultural core of the Lanna Kingdom, it was also to be the center of Buddhism in northern Thailand, King Meng Rai himself a very religious leader who even founded many of the city’s temples that remain important to this day.

Chiang Mai is one of the few places in Thailand where it is possible to experience both historical and modern Thai culture coexisting side by side: the city features centuries-old chedis and temples next to modern convenience stores and boutique hotels. This dichotomy is best appreciated within the moat-encircled old city, which retains much of the fortified wall that once protected the city center as well as the four main gates that provided access to the former Lanna capital city.


Get to / from Chiang Mai


As the transportation hub for the north, Chiang Mai can be reached via car, bus, train, or plane. Once there, it is possible to rent a car or motorbike, or get around via local transportation including songtaew, bus, samlor, and tuk tuk.

By Train

Express and rapid trains operated by the State Railways of Thailand leave for Chiang Mai from Bangkok’s Hua Lumphong Station six times a day from 8.00 a.m. to 10.00 p.m. The trip takes about 11-12 hours on an express train. For more information, contact tel. 1690, or 02 223 7010, 02 223 7020. Chiang Mai Railway Station, tel. (053) 24 2094, 244 795, .247 462 245 363-4

By Car
Driving from Bangkok takes approximately 8 hours and is best by one of the following routes:

Route 1: Drive on Highway No.1 (Phahonyothin Road) and turn left to Highway No.32 (Asian Highway) which passes Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya, Ang Thong, and Nakhon Sawan; then take Highway No. 117 to Phitsanulok and Highway No. 11 through Lampang and Lamphun to Chiang Mai. The total distance is 695 kilometers.

Route 2: Follow route 1 to Nakhon Sawan and then take Highway No. 1 through Kamphaeng Phet, Tak, and Lampang until you arrive in Chiang Mai. The total distance is 696 kilometers.

By Bus
From Bangkok there are ordinary, 2nd class, and 1st class air-conditioned busses leaving throughout the day from Bangkok's Northern Bus Terminal (Mo Chit 2) for Chiang Mai (8.00 a.m. to 09.00 p.m.) Call 02 936 3600, 02 936 2852, and 02 937 8055 for an updated bus timetable.

Private buses, which can be conveniently booked in tourist centers in Bangkok, are also available. However, the public busses from the Northern Bus Terminal are generally more reliable. The journey takes approximately 10-12 hours, depending on traffic.

From other provinces, including Mae Sai, Chiang Saen, Chiang Rai, Nan, Phayao, Phrae, Lampang, Lamphun, Phitsanulok, Sukhothai, Mae Hong Son, Mae Sot, Mae Sariang, Khon Kaen, Nakhon Ratchasima (Khorat), and Udon Thani, there are direct busses that service the Chiang Mai Arcade Bus Station. Contact tel: 0 5324 2664 for an updated bus timetable.

By Air
Domestic airlines, including Thai Airways, Bangkok Airways, Thai AirAsia, and Nok Air, operate several flights daily between Bangkok and Chiang Mai. Depending on where you are flying from, one of these airlines can also fly you directly to Chiang Mai from Mae Hong Son, Pai, Chiang Rai, and Koh Samui.

From international destinations, visitors can fly directly to Chiang Mai on a number of domestic and international air carriers. While these routes are subject to their economic viability for individual airlines, it is usually possible to fly directly to Chiang Mai from Kuala Lumpur, Luang Prabang, Singapore, Vientiane, and Yangon. International airlines servicing Chiang Mai from those destinations include Silk Air, Lao Airlines, and Mandalay Air.


Go around Chiang Mai


To/From Airport
There is a licensed airport taxi service available at the taxi kiosk outside the baggage-claim area. Purchase a ticket and present it to the drivers waiting by the arrivals exit area (on your left as you leave baggage claim). The trip will cost approximately 100 baht for a sedan car that seats 4-5 people (with luggage).

From the airport, train station and bus terminal, you can easily get a ride in share songtaew (red mini-bus). To charter a minibus or car, please check the correct fare at the TAT counter first.
Normally, first-class hotels provide complimentary transportation between the airport, railway station, or bus terminals and the hotel for guests who have made advance reservations.

Around Town

By Samlor or Tuk-Tuk

For relative short distances you can take a samlor or tuk-tuk, three-wheel cabs that are respectively pedal or motor powered. Fares must be bargained in advance. Short rides within the city cost between 20 and 30 baht. Longer rides may cost as much as 50 baht.

By Taxi
Meter taxis, nearly identical to those running around Bangkok, are now available in Chiang Mai, where fares likewise begin at 35 baht.

By Songtaew
Songtaews (red pickup trucks with benches in the covered flatbed portion of the truck) are the most common means of transportation in Chiang Mai. Passengers can hop in and out as they wish. Simply tell the driver the destination and negotiate the price before boarding. Fares range from 10-20 baht depending on the distance, considerably more for long rides up to Doi Suthep, where the songtaew will wait for you to explore and then return you to town, stopping at various sights, such as the zoo, along the way if you wish.

By Bicycle
Some travelers prefer to ride bicycles around the city as most of the roads and alleys are accessible by bicycle. Bicycles can be rented from bicycle shops and certain guesthouses.

Around the Province

By Bus
If you travel to any districts in Chiang Mai, use the Chang Phuak Bus Terminal located on Chotana Road, tel. 053 211 586. Destinations include those located along the northern route (Highway No. 107) which passes through Mae Rim, Mae Taeng, Chiang Dao, Chaiprakan, Fang and Mae Ai. Some buses continue to Tha Ton, the northern-most district of Chiang Mai.

By Rental Car
All major international car rental companies, such as AVIS, Budget, and Hertz, as well as Thai car rental companies, have various vehicles for rent and are ready to provide suggestions on travel itineraries. The easiest way to locate a car rental company is to ask at the airport or a major hotel, as those are the places where most rental agency offices are located.

While most Chiang Mai roads are in good condition with signs posted in English, be aware that only Commercial First Class Insurance provides full coverage on rental cars (as opposed to limited personal or third party only insurance). Most international car rental agencies will offer this insurance (some only for those with a valid international driver’s license) while local companies may or may not. You may wish to request a copy of their insurance policy and ensure that it states "For Commercial Use". Regardless, inspect rental vehicles prior to rental and drive with caution, particularly as traffic in Thailand can be quite confusing, especially the habit of Thai motorcycles drivers to drive on the wrong side of the road.

By Motorbike
For anywhere from 150 to 1,000 baht per day you can hire your own motorbike, which will typically require you to leave your passport as a deposit. Be sure to inspect bikes prior to rental and drive with extreme caution as rental motorbikes are not normally insured and accidents are frequent. Helmets are required by Thai law and foreign visitors unfamiliar with either driving motorbikes or driving in Thailand should drive carefully and obey all local traffic rules (there are numerous one way streets in Chiang Mai city).


Must See & Do


As one of the premier tourist destinations in Thailand, Chiang Mai has innumerable attractions, ensuring that visitors with any interest will find something to keep them entertained on their Chiang Mai holiday. The following are some of the most popular attractions on Chiang Mai:

More attraction information, please visit
http://www.tourismthailand.org/where-to-go/cities-guide/attractions/destination/chiang-mai/

Dining in Chiang Mai

As one of the top tourist destinations in Thailand its not surprising that there is a wide range of authentic international restaurants run by both Thais and foreign expats. Most guesthouses also feature menus that include both Thai and foreign dishes. However, Chiang Mai also features many foods that are part of its own distinctive cuisine, including both those handed down over the generations from the Lanna kingdom and those influenced by its neighbors, especially Myanmar (Burma). Chiang Mai specialties include spicy sausage, khao soy (a type of noodle soup), and the ultimate in northern cuisine, a khan toke dinner; khan toke dinners usually consist of several small dishes, such as curries, crispy fried pork skin, and northern style chili sauces, served with sticky rice on a small round table, usually in front of a traditional dancing show, especially if you are a foreign visitor.

More attraction information, please visit
http://www.tourismthailand.org/where-to-go/cities-guide/food-drink/destination/chiang-mai/

Shopping

Shopping is one of the premier activities in Chiang Mai, where nearly every souvenir product found elsewhere in Thailand is available for sale. The advantage of shopping in Chiang Mai is that visitors may learn about handicrafts production by watching artisans making the products firsthand. Both in the city itself and in several outlying villages, particularly along the Bo Sang-San Kamphaeng road, there are establishments where visitors can purchase handicrafts and works of art directly from the people who produced them. In addition to other goods, Chiang Mai produces parasols, silk and cotton textiles, jewelry, woodcarvings, silverware, celadon, and lacquerware.

For the more casual shopper, the Chiang Mai night market features numerous street stalls and shops, the Sunday Market offers more unique, independently created souvenirs and products, and the indoor, air conditioned Central department store shopping complex on Huay Kaeo Road sells international brand name products.

More shopping information, please visit
http://www.tourismthailand.org/where-to-go/cities-guide/shopping/destination/chiang-mai/


Tourist Information Centres


Area of Responsibility: Chiang Mai, Lampang, Lamphun

Language Support: English

Opening Hours: 08:30-16:30

Services & Facilities:
Support tourism for Thai and Foreign visitors by providing brochures on tourism and creating and producing tourism media.

Contact Details
105/1 Chiang Mai-Lamphun Road,Tambon Wat Ket, Amphoe Mueang, Chiang Mai 50000
Tel.
0 5324 8604, 0 5324 8607


Source: www.tourismthailand.org
 
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