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Having a hard time narrowing it down...

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Milwaukee, Wisconsin
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Having a hard time narrowing it down...

First timers in Thailand - we'll be in Chiang Mai for four nights in July. I'm having a really hard time deciding what we should be doing while we're here. We're young, active, interested in culture and mainly non-touristy experiences. We enjoy hiking, nature, checking out markets, and eating great food. We will be spending one day at ENP, probably on the Pamper a Pachyderm experience. What are the other must-dos for us? I've looked into hill tribes (can't seem to find something non-touristy around CM), treks, tours to temples... but it's too overwhelming. Should we break our time up between CM and Chiang Rai to experience more culture? Should we spend a night or two on a trek (worry about the weather)? I'm worried that we'll be spending too much time traveling and not enough time experiencing. What would you suggest?

Windsor, United...
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1. Re: Having a hard time narrowing it down...


For a countryside experience you could check out Chiang Dao which can be reached by bus from Chiang Mai. While there are mountains in Chiang Dao it is not the time of the year for hiking/trekking. Nevertheless, it is worth a visit.

Brisbane, Australia
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2. Re: Having a hard time narrowing it down...

This link may help with some ideas. Heaps and heaps of great ideas in the post and especially in the comments.


Four days is not a long time for Chiang Mai. As you have one day out for the elephant camp - that only leaves three. I think you will easily fill your time in and around Chiang Mai. Chiang Mai is very historic - it has the old city (which is 1.5 kms square) and is surrounded by a moat and in some places crumbling old city walls. The old city is great for walking around exploring - so you should allow a half day to do this. There are over 300 temples in Chiang Mai and you can wander in and out - many are in the old city. Also lots of great little bars, restaurants, coffee shops, book shops and some residential areas. It has a lot of charm.

If you are interested in a cooking school - Chiang Mai is a great place to do this. There are many many options - including half day programs where you finish with lunch.

The local markets are colorful and also worth a few hours to wander around - see Warorot Market area.

Out of town there are many arts and craft villages all specializing in a different thing - from wood carving to silk weaving to making the famous Thai umbrellas. You can cover quite a few of these in a half day.

Wat Phra Doi Suthep is the stunning temple on the mountain over looking Chiang Mai - only about 20 minutes away and great views back over Chiang Mai.

If you are there on a Sunday Night the Sunday Walking Street Market is a must do. It runs right down the middle of the old city and has the flavor of a street festival. Fabulous local food, artists at work, musicians etc. There is a smaller version of this market on a Saturday night just outside the old city to the South.

I'm sure you won't have any problem at all filling the time - make sure you eat your way around the city at some of the wonderful restaurants as well.


Sydney, Australia
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3. Re: Having a hard time narrowing it down...

I think with only four days to play with, Caroline's advice is (as always) spot on - stay around Chiang Mai and enjoy a sample of what it has to offer. There is so much wandering to be done around the lanes of the old city, dropping in for coffee or to browse small shops or visit temples that you could easily spend a day just doing that. You might be able to plan another trip (and I think most people want to come back) to do some of the trekking activities that you mention. If you travel a few hours out to either Chiang Rai or to Soppong/Mae Hong Son you will get some wonderful trekking and hill tribe experiences, but with only four days I'd leave that for another time.

Sydney, Australia
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4. Re: Having a hard time narrowing it down...

Given your interests and wish to avoid touristy things I'd say try and find an overnight trek (weather? I've trekked in the mud and rain in Vietnam, people say don't do it, but I loved it)

I found the old city mega touristy - don't 'budget' too much time to aimless wandering as you only have a few days.

I felt Doi Suthep was a waste of my time.

For markets I'd suggest Warorot and Anasurn markets.

Have fun :)

Edited: 23 February 2014, 01:10
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5. Re: Having a hard time narrowing it down...

Hello, we went last year for 4 nights (no, not enough time) and we are also similar (don't like touristy things etc). We had a guide for a day who took us to Doi Suthep (yes, touristy but good to see I think) and a waterfall, hilltribes and tiger kingdom - we loved all that!

We spent the other two days wandering around the city exploring, popping into craft shops, 2ndhand bookshops and cafes, taking in everything (eg watching local school children rehearsing a musical event, people watching, all the different signs), going to all the markets and eating! (with our 2 children aged 10 and 8 following).

I did contemplate doing a bicycle tour which might be something you'd be interested in, or doing your own.

All the best with your planning!

6. Re: Having a hard time narrowing it down...

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