Chiang Mai has so many things to offer, from beautiful temples over colourful markets to action packed adventures, bars, restaurants and coffee shops. Many visitors are just too busy following their guide books and often miss out the real gems. , Chiang Mai has numerous hidden spots which most of the people, even expats, don’t know about. Here are 6 hidden places in Chiang Mai:
Wat Umong, also known as ‘Tunnel Temple’ or ‘Forest Monastery’, is a fascinating temple with lots of beautiful artefacts. The temple serves as well as meditation retreat where everyone is invited to learn and practice Vipassana meditation. If your time doesn’t allow staying for a few days, just soak into the beautiful natural setting and watch the world pass by or explore the magnificent underground temples.
Location: near Suthep Road, 1km south of Chiang Mai University. Open: daily, 06:00-17:00 Entrance: Free
Located about 10km outside the old city, lays this idyllic reservoir. Huay Tung Tao Lake is a popular place among locals and expats who are mainly spending their afternoons and weekends over chilled beer and BBQ here. You can see barely any tourists around which makes this place a lovely tranquil spot to chill and relax, set to the beautiful backdrop of Doi Suthep. The lake is surrounded by a 3.7km paved road which is excellent for running (almost no cars around). You can also do a fascinating 7km hike around the mountain, starting from the golden Buddha image on the west side of the lake, which takes you along lush forests and waterfalls. If you’re seeking for more action, look for the place near the entrance which offers ATV tours. Several eateries can be found around the lake, offering mainly typical Thai dishes.
Open: daily, 08:00-18:00 Entrance: 20 THB / person
Most visitors know the market which takes places from 17:00 until midnight, predominantly occupied by dozens of food stalls. What many people don’t know is the daily morning market which takes mainly place in the semi-open market hall and starts about 04:00 am. Sure, you have to wake up early to see the vibrant market where monks collecting their alms and locals buy fruits, vegetables, spices and herbs as well as clothes and flowers, but you’ll be rewarded with a unique experience not many people can talk about plus dozens of fantastic photo opportunities.
Open: daily, 04:00-12:30. Best time to visit: before 08:00 am.
Although not located in close distance to Chiang Mai, a trip to Mae Kampong makes up a great day trip. This beautiful village is situated 1300m above the sea-level, nestled with the amazing greenery of northern Thailand’s mountain terrain. Villagers mainly grow coffee and tea here while the surrounding area features several great trails for hiking. There are numerous homestays if you plan to stay for a night. Mae Kampong is easily reachable by motorbike, just follow the San Kamphaeng Road past San Kamphaeng, alternatively, hire a red Songthaew.
Sure, that’s not exactly a place, but this interesting festival is usually held in May or June, depending on the lunar calendar. The Inthakhin City Pillar Festival honours Chiang Mai’s city pillar (‘inthakhin’ is the word in Lanna language and means ‘pillar’) near Wat Chedi Luang. Pillars were created, whenever a new settlement happened somewhere in Thailand. Back in the day, people believed that the pillar was the main contributor for the fertility of the land and is considered sacred among the city’s residents.
The colourful festivity is accompanied with traditional Thai dance and music and draws every year tens of thousands of residents who pay respect to the pillar and make merit. The shrine is however only accessible for men while ladies are obliged to place their offerings outside the shrine.
When: May or June, depending on lunar calendar Location: city pillar shrine behind Wat Chedi Luang
Wat Pha Lat
Wat Pha Lat is a hidden jungle temple which can be only accessed through a trail from Wat Doi Suthep. It’s full of overgrown Buddha statues set to a surrounding of waterfalls and lush vegetation. The chances are high that you’ll be the only person there, except a couple of monks.
Location: near Wat Doi Suthep Open: always Entrance: Free.