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The Chiang Mai Arts and Culture Centre is located beside the plaza that is home to the famous Three Kings’ Monument and at the heart of the city’s developing museum zone. The culture centre is housed in the former provincial hall. The 90-year-old building is an elegant draw in its own right and is the epitome of old style Lanna architecture.
The 15 galleries in the front part of the building contain exhibits and mock-up displays pertaining to the local region’s voyage through history. An ancient village and a traditional market are among the models that have been lovingly created. There are some videos which also add additional details about significant events, such as the establishment of the city by King Mengrai, as well as important locations in Chiang Mai.
On occasion, the courtyard in the centre of the building is used to stage cultural and visual arts performances. The souvenir shop is rated by many visitors as one of the best places in the city to buy personal mementos and gifts for loved ones. The museum opens between 08:30 and 17:00 from Tuesday to Sunday. The 1Stop Chiang Mai sightseeing guide has more details about the ample sights in the locality.
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From humble beginnings six decades ago, Chiang Mai Zoo has evolved into a massive 200-acre complex that is home to around 400 different species from all corners of the globe. It houses the standard African genres among which are ostriches, lions and giraffes. Camels, Asian elephants and other species of big cats are in large enclosures designed to replicate their natural environments.
An addition a few years ago was a family of cuddly koalas. The once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of cuddling a koala is available, but with a hefty 1,000 Baht price tag. The zoo’s famous trio of giant pandas have their own gigantic dome in the middle of the zoo. At the end of this month, the trio will become a duo for a few months because Lin Ping is off to her ancestral homeland in China to procreate.
The Humboldt penguin building is an authentic mock-up of the creatures’ South American environment and a cool place to shelter from the heat on hot summer’s days. At the nearby seal building, skilled trainers assist in putting on daily shows with these lovable marine animals the star performers. The zoo’s website gives details of show times.
A large walk through aviary, the snow dome and a 133-metre-long tunnel through the aquarium are the chief among myriad other highlights of a visit to the zoo. Chiang Mai Zoo is open from 08.00 to 17:00 every day of the year and sits at the foot of Suthep Mountain at the west end of Huay Kaew Road. Our 1Stop Chiang Mai sightseeing guide has more details about the main attractions in the city.
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Chiang Mai boasts plentiful accommodation options ranging from cheap and cheerful 80 Baht a night dorm beds in Julie Guest House on Phrapokklao Road right through to swanky five star options such as the Chedi and 137 Pillars House. Apart from at peak holiday times, which include the Songkran Festival and Christmas, hotels and resorts are never fully booked.
More than a few of the guest houses and hotels now offer heavily discounted monthly rates to attract the burgeoning number of international tourists who now spend months or even years here. At Pingnakorn operates two establishments, one off Huaykaew Road and the other on Nimmanhaemin Road Soi 12, which feature opulent accommodation and facilities for long-term tourists.
In the old city quarter, Frangipani Residences is another well-appointed option with special monthly rates for discerning visitors. Studio 99 on Thapae Road’s Soi 3 and Sakorn Residence in Watgate Sub-district are slightly more economical, yet offer similar tasteful rooms and suites.
At the opposite end of the luxury scale, ST Apartments is one of many Chiang Mai establishments offering traditional studio units for around 3,000-4,000 Baht a month. The studios at the complex on Nimmanhaemin Road Soi 13 are fully furnished and come with super-cold air-conditioners.
The 1Stop guide to renting property in Chiang Mai has more details and links to information about long stay accommodation here.
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It is the annual rainy season in Chiang Mai and Thailand. Although Chiang Mai is mainly a hub for adventure and outdoor pursuits there are plenty of places to while away a few hours until the rain stops. There are two large shopping and lifestyle malls close to the centre of the city. Central Airport Plaza is adjacent to a crossroads just down from the city’s international airport.
Abundant retail outlets selling all manner of products, a multi-screen cinema and a diverse selection of dining venues ensure that visitors could spend the whole day at Central Airport if they so wished. Robinson Department Store occupies the east end of the building and has different floors and sections dedicated to products such as womenswear, menswear, toys and sports equipment. Wrangler and Guy Laroche are among genuine brands sold at booths in Robinson.
Other stores in the building sell quality clothing and footwear as well as the latest mobile phones, technology items and DVDS. At the west end of the building several floors are a celebration of traditional locally produced articles. In the basement of this part of the building dishes including kao soi curry noodle soup are served up in the food court.
Those with a craving for international delights will find KFC, Pizza Hut and Dairy Queen more than suffice. The Major Cineplex is on the upper levels and shows the latest releases from Hollywood and Asia. Our 1Stop guide to shopping in Chiang Mai provides additional details about where to go for a spot of retail therapy.
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Mae Sa Valley is located just 18kms north of Chiang Mai and boasts a wealth of attractions and activities suitable for people from the ages of 8 to 80. The entrance to the valley is Route 1096 which is signposted just to the north of Maerim. This road also marks one end of the perennially popular Samoeng Motorcycle Loop Tour.
After turning onto the 1096, the first major attractions are the Mae Sa Snake Farm and the Monkey Centre. The snake farm houses a varied collection of snakes which handlers seem to treat as life-long buddies during daily shows. Macaques and other simians are the attractions at the monkey facility. Shows are staged regularly here during the daytime.
The Chiang Mai X-Centre is nearby and a real mecca for adrenalin junkies. A 50-metre bungy-jump, off-road buggy and motorcycle trips, paintballing and a xorb ball are the draws here. The route up to the multi-tiered Mae Sa Waterfall is a little farther along. Food vendors at kiosks at the foot of the waterfall sell a range of Thai delicacies as well as renting out picnic-mats. The valley’s legendary orchid farm is close to the waterfall access road.
Continuing in the direction of Samoeng, Queen Sirikit Botanical Gardens and the Elephant Nature Park are the two remaining highlights. The gardens contain a dizzying array of colourful species which are housed in both greenhouses and outdoor plots. The elephant park is a rehabilitation centre and visitors are able to interact with these magnificent beasts.
Our dedicated 1Stop guide to Mae Sa has more details about the attractions in the valley.
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Venues for a meal out in Chiang Mai are plentiful with everything from street-side stalls serving simple Thai food to gourmet meals at Le Crystal Restaurant, the home of French culinary excellence, on offer. A fairly recent addition to the city’s Italian restaurants was Billy’s. Billy’s proved so popular that just six months after it opened a move to larger premises became necessary.
Billy’s has moved less than 100 metres along Kampaeng Din Road from its original location. Friends say signs indicating where the restaurant is are not much better than before, but the tantalising aromas of Italian cooking are a dead giveaway. Although the proprietor is Burmese-born, he honed his skills working under master chefs at some of the finest Italian eateries in Northern Thailand.
Billy’s is an atmospheric spot made all the more pleasant by the bonhomie of the owner. Eclectic menu items are economically priced and come in large portions. Billy’s bruschettas provide the perfect appetiser for patrons. Pizzas have slightly thicker bases than is the norm and come with generous amounts of topping. The pasta collection is varied with savoury salmon one of the more popular orders.
Billy’s is open every day from 12:00 to 23:00. The 1Stop guide to Chiang Mai restaurants gives a taste of the diversity of the dining venues in the city.
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There are around 20 clubs in Chiang Mai in which nightlife aficionados are able to dance in a convivial atmosphere and enjoy a selection of beverages. The Hot Shot Nightclub in the basement of the Pornping Hotel is probably the longest established of the clubs.
Due to its proximity to the Night Bazaar and some of the major tourist hotels, Hot Shot attracts a mixed clientele of Thais and foreigners. There is an entry fee which covers the cost of the first drink. Each subsequent drink costs the same as the admission charge. The music is so-so and is a fusion of Thai and English tunes.
The Warm Up Cafe is popular with the younger crowd and is located on Nimmanhaemin Road. The cafe is said to have the best music selection of any of the Chiang Mai clubs. It gets very busy on weekend nights. A dining area outside the club allows visitors to combine an evening of dinner and dance.
Infinity Nightclub is another club which sees more than a few farang (foreign) tourists and expats. Bands play live and cover mostly Thai numbers with the odd English one thrown in. Resident DJs spin a pleasing mix of dance and hip hop. Infinity is spacious, contemporary and imbued with a vibrant party atmosphere. It is on Nimmanhaemin’s Soi 6.
The 1Stop pages on nightlife in Chiang Mai list other options for a night out.
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Chiang Mai boasts around 300 Buddhist temples which Thais call wats. With so many to choose from it takes a special beauty or landmark attraction to stand out from the crowd. Wat Chedi Luang manages to do this in more ways than one. The focal part of the large temple complex off Phrapokklao Road contains the 60–metre-high Chedi Luang (Great Pagoda).
A chunk of the ancient pagoda was toppled by an earthquake in the mid-1500s yet there is plenty left to remind visitors of the grandeur of this monument. Stone naga and elephant statues guard stairways on the pagoda. A niche high on the east side used to contain the legendary Emerald Buddha Statue. A copy of the statue was enshrined in the niche in 1996 while the original now resides in a temple on the grounds of Bangkok’s Grand Palace.
Lak muang translates into English as city pillar. Chiang Mai residents believe the prosperity of their city hinges on the spiritual happiness of the pillar and it is housed in its own pavilion at the temple. The pavilion has two statues of fierce giants and three gigantic rubber trees standing guard around it. Lak muang even has a festival, Inthakin, dedicated to it.
Wat Chedi Luang’s grounds also feature an abundance of ornate pavilions and Buddha statues. The recently revamped viharn (prayer hall) is easily the most grandiose of these and, as it faces the temple’s main gate, is most visitors’ first impression of this Chiang Mai landmark. Our 1Stop guide to sightseeing in the city details the charms of this temple and the other main draws in the locality.
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When Chiang Mai first made its way onto the international travellers circuit the principal activities for visitors were jungle-trekking, bamboo-rafting and elephant-rides. As the years have passed the choice of activities has kept pace and tourists are now able to choose from a dazzling array covering the whole spectrum from yoga-training to whizzing through the treetops on a gravity defying zipline.
Several elephant centres in the hills surrounding the city now offer courses in taking care of and riding elephants. Mahout courses at Woody Elephant Training in Mae Tang constantly receive glowing reviews. Woody’s courses are available as half-day, one day or two days and the longer the time spent with the pachyderms the greater the rapport.
The tuition provides basic instructions for budding mahouts to give their charges such as left, right and forward. Then comes the opportunity of assisting with feeding before climbing up for a ride around this pristine part of Chiang Mai Province. The courses also include bathing and cleaning the elephants. The actual level of interaction depends on the particular length of course chosen.
People taking the two-day option spend the night in rustic accommodation onsite and help with the preparation of traditional Thai delicacies. The price of the courses includes round-trip transportation from Chiang Mai. The 1Stop guide to courses in Chiang Mai lists the other main educational programmes available for visitors.
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There were several 10-pin bowling alleys in Chiang Mai a few years ago. The only one that still seems to be open, on a regular basis anyway, is Bully Bowl in the Kad Suan Kaew shopping and entertainment centre on Huay Kaew Road. The facility is on the upper floor of the centre and has more than enough lanes to cope with sudden rushes of customers.
Bully Bowl is open from 11:00 to 01:00 every day. Those looking for a bargain will find it is better to play in the daytime on weekdays when prices are lower. Offers change regularly but usually give either three or four games for 100 Baht. In the evening games are still only 70 Baht. The low cost of games coupled with shoe hire at 30 baht make playing here an attractive proposition when compared with Western countries.
It pays to bring your own socks because you will have to buy a pair if you don’t. During the daytime, the alley has normal lighting. At around 16:00 the format changes to disco lighting. The alley has a fully licensed bar which also serves snacks and light Thai meals. Other amusements onsite include a pool table and a dartboard.
Our 1Stop Chiang Mai activities pages offer details about what to do when on holiday in the locality.