Are you staying longer in Chiang Mai and plan to visit its surrounding areas? You don’t know where to go? We compiled a list of 5 great spots that are easy to reach and guaranteed worth a visit:
Lamphun, the capital of the former Hariphunchai kingdom, a short 30-minutes ride away from Chiang Mai. The city isn’t a tourist hot spot, the life is quite laid-back here and many locals don’t speaking English. Apart from a few shops and the occasional 7-Eleven, Lamphun has no further shopping centres. Here is a list of things you can see & do in Lamphun:
Wat Phra That Hariphunchai:
This temple was built in the 12th century, just before King Mengrai of Lanna overrun the kingdom and took control over it. Its centrepiece is a huge golden chedi that looks pretty similar to the one at Wat Doi Suthep in Chiang Mai. You can find as well a library and museum on the grounds here.
Location: Inthayongat Road Open: Tuesdays to Sundays, 06:00-18:00 Entry: Free
Hariphunchai National Museum:
Located on the opposite of the above mentioned Wat Phra That Hariphunchai, this modern museum exhibits several artefacts from the ancient Hariphunchai kingdom. It takes not more than 45 minutes to see everything.
Location: Intersection Inthayongat Road Open: daily, 08:30-16:00 Entry: 100 THB
Terracotta Art Garden:
If you have been to Terracotta Art Garden & Café in Chiang Mai, you will definitely love the Terracotta Art Garden in Lamphun, which, by the way, is the headquarter of the clay production in the region. The café in Chiang Mai is part of the company.
Location: take road 1015 and turn right onto road 1030, just before the bridge. Its huge entrance on the right side after a few hundred metres can’t be missed. Open: 09:00-18:00 Entry: Free
Wat Chama Devi:
Built in 755, it’s one of Thailand’s oldest remaining temples. The chedi is pyramid shaped and features 60 images from Buddha.
Location: Chamadevi Road Open: 06:00-18:00 Entry: Free
- Chiang Dao Caves
Chiang Dao is easy to reach, although it takes about 70-90 minutes: just exit the Old Town in the north towards Mae Rim and drive the very same route straight on and follow the signs that lead to Chiang Dao. Once you reach the city, follow the signs leading to the caves, it’s really easy to find.
This underground limestone complex consists of over 100 caves, however, only a small number is open to public and safe to explore. The caves are beneath Doi Chiang Dao, Thailand’s third largest mountain at 2175m.
Though you can see lots of stalagmites and stalactites here, the caves are not very spectacular. If you have never been to a cave before or plan to bring your kids here, it’s definitely worth, but otherwise you may be disappointed. A great alternative would be wandering around the beautiful scenery in Chiang Dao, absolutely worth to check it out.
Open: daily, 07:00-17:00 Entry: 40 THB + 100 THB for a guide + tips
- Chiang Rai
Chiang Rai is a 3 hours ride away from Chiang Mai and especially famous for its White Temple and the Black House, which is often but wrongly described as Black Temple and the opponent of the White Temple. In fact, both temples were created by two of Thailand’s finest designers and artists.
The White Temple:
Locally known as Wat Rong Khun, this majestic creation has been designed, constructed and largely financed by Mr. Chalermachai Kositpipat. He envisions that the temple will serve as a leading institute for teaching Buddhism and ethics while the finalization of the whole complex is estimated for 2070. Bizarre: unlike any other temple, this one has murals of superheros and famous comic characters like Harry Potter, Star Wars and Doraemon.
Location: about 30 minutes before Chiang Rai, inform the bus driver upon departure in Chiang Mai to stop there. Open: daily, 08:00-12:00 and 13:00-17:00 Entry: currently free, as of October 2016, 50 THB.
The Black House:
Baan Dam, which translates to ‘Black House’ is about 30 minutes away from the White Temple. Created by Mr. Thawan Duchanee, this amazing estate consists of more than 40 buildings in different sizes, all kept in black. The house was used by its creator primarily as art studio and in later years, also as his home. Bizarre: several black skins of crocodiles and snakes lay around tables and shelves.
Location: about 30 minutes from the White Temple (by car) or one hour by public transport. First take a blue minibus to Chiang Rai bus terminal, about 30 min, and from there a bus from platform 5 or 6 (tell the driver that you want to visit the Black House, he will stop for you near it). Open: daily, 09:00-12:00 & 13:00-17:00 Entry: Free
- Doi Inthanon
Thailand’s highest mountain (2565m) is part of the same named national park and home to a large biodiversity of plants and birds. Among locals referred to as “The Roof of Thailand”, Doi Inthanon makes up a great day trip and is especially worth it, if you love hiking in unspoiled nature. Furthermore, the area is home to hilltribes of the Hmong and Karen ethnicity. As it’s very difficult to reach via scheduled transportation, it’s recommendable to either hire a red minibus for about 2000 THB or book a trip via a local tour operator.
Location: Chom Thong District, around 60km southwest of Chiang Mai
- Mae Kampong Village
If you’re looking for a laid-back Thai village where life seems to stand still, look no further! Baan Mae Kampong is nestled within the beautiful green mountainous countryside and is a wonderful hideaway for those seeking tranquillity and nature vicinity. The village is not any type of ‘artificial’ village, only made for tourism purposes; the villagers’ main source of income comes primarily through tea and coffee cultivation and some occasional tourists. Some villagers opened homestays in recent years to accommodate visitors that plan to stay for 2-3 days. There are plenty of great trails around the village that invite for hiking and mountain-biking (if you fancy bringing your own) plus Flight of the Gibbon, the zipline-adventure park, operates here.
In order to get there, rent a red minibus for about 2000 THB a day or if driving motorbike suits you better, follow San Kamphaeng Road past San Kamphaeng hot springs.