Old Town Chiang Mai Walking Tour:
Location: Chiang Mai’s Old City
Start: 3 Kings Monument
End: Rose Bar & Restaurant
Distance: 3.5 Miles Walking (1.5 miles in TukTuk rides)
Time: 90 Minutes of Walking (5 Hours with sights)
Can’t Miss Stops: 1b, 7, 8, 11, 14, 15, 18, 23
Fun Scale: 9 out of 10
In stark contrast with the skyscrapers of urban Bangkok, historic Old Town Chiang Mai will give you a feel for the real Thailand. Old Town is gritty, it is rough around the edges, it is enchanting, and it is absolutely beautiful. A square, Medieval wall lays the boarders for Old Town Chiang Mai which is packed full of amazing sites. You encounter ancient temples, great food, and tons of Buddhist monks. If you wish you can even join a monk chat round table with the younger monks (learn more). Hope you enjoy our free Old Town Chiang Mai walking tour!
Prioritizing Your Time:
There are over 120 different Wats or Temples in Chiang Mia, so narrowing down what to see can be difficult. The can’t miss stops are listed above with 1B happening only in the early morning and 23-27 only in the evening. If you want to see everything we recommend starting early and seeing stops 1-22 in the morning, take a break for lunch, head up to Tiger Kingdom in the early afternoon and finish stops 23-27 in the evening. We hope you enjoy our Old Town Chiang Mai free walking tour!
Old Town Chiang Mai Walking Tour:
1a. Three Kings Monument: Sitting in the middle of a large courtyard, the Three Kings Monument has a large bronze statue of King Mengrai (the founder of Chiang Mai) and his two friends, King Ramkamhaeng of Sukothai and King Ngam Muang of Payao. The three of them worked together in the late 1200’s to design and build Chiang Mai. Residents treat the Monument as a shrine for the three men and replicas of it can be found throughout the city. You’ll often see locals giving flowers, incense and candles at the Statue as offering to get blessing from these three revered men. As the tourist the main reason to visit the Monument is to give early morning Alms to the Monks described below.
1b. Giving Monks Morning Alms: The courtyard around the 3 Kings Monument is the best place to give early morning Alms to the Monks in Central Chiang Mai. Although Alms are a daily common place in Buddhist life, for a tourist it can be a life changing experience. The young monks, mainly 8-20 years old, walk through with brass bowls collecting Alms as Merits that range from money, to fruits, and many other goods. Collecting the Alms as Merits is believed to lead to a better next life or to lessen the number of times the Monks must be reincarnated before reaching lightened nirvana.
Giving of Alms happens daily anywhere between Dawn and 8am when the Monks go back to either school or mediation. Because it’s so early we suggest buying your Alms the night before, which can be anything from money, to fruit, to stick rice, to toothpaste & toiletries. Anything is welcome and some shops even have pre-bundled packages for you which are easy but often overpriced. We suggest giving fruit or prepackaged snacks and recommend asking your hotel for tips in preparing the night before. Your hotel can also give you guidance on what time to head over for Alms. Keep in mind that this chore of gaining Merits is part of the Monks spiritual journey and you really should be respectful. Many tourists are too focused on getting the right photo and pushing in front of blasting their camera flash in the Monks faces; don’t be that guy. Take your photos and videos for sure, but you’ll enjoy the experience much more and take it in better if you act like a local.
If you miss the morning public Alms giving, the monks at many Temples also take Noon Alms but you must go to the temple to give. Don’t use Noon Alms as an excuse to miss the morning ones though. If you have gone through all the trouble of traveling to Chiang Mai, surly you get out of bed early one day to witness this magical event.
2. Yuparaj Wittayalai Prep School: If you didn’t get to the 3 Kings Statue early enough to give offerings to the Monks you can still see young Monks in large numbers during the mid-morning hours at the prep school Yuparaj Wittayalai. The school is a great avenue for young Buddhist Monks to get a full education, especially those who come from poorer rural communities. The gates on the the Southside and Westside of the school are typically open during the day as a through road goes right in the middle of it. We’ve walked through a number of times and never felt like we out of place so as long as you’re respectful you’ll be fine. School Website: (HERE).
3. The Temple of the Fortified City (Wat Chiang Man): This temple is the oldest in Chiang Mai and was built shortly after the city’s founding in 1296. Although not very photogenic, the Temple has a rich history as it was built on the same spot King Mengrai lived while he had Chiang Mai built. Wat Chiang Man also house two very important Buddha images the marble Phra Sila and the crystal Phra Satang Man both said to be 2,000 years old.
The entire complex is a great example of Lanna architecture, which is the Kingdom that Chiang Mai served as the capital of. The oldest building in the complex is the Sri Lankian style Chedi called Chang Lom Chedi which literally translates to tower “Surrounded by Elephants”. This Pagan inspired tower is supported by 15 elephant statue which represent a sea of unformed matter and the Chedi floating on top represents the cosmos. Although the elephants states could definitely use a whitewashing, they are still really cool.
The Buddha statue inside the Temple’s Ordination Hall is said to be the oldest intact Buddha in Chiang Mai dating back to 1465. Even cooler than the Buddha statue are the beautiful red and gold murals depicting the life of Buddha inside the Hall. The outside shutters of Hall’s side windows are painted in a similar red and gold fashion to the murals. The large garden-like ground surround the Hall make for a beautiful backdrop. If you are more interested in the early days of Chiang Mai, feel free to take a detour to nearby Wat Lam Chang meaning “shackled elephants”. During the building of Chiang Mai King Mengrai stored his white elephants in the wooden area here.
4. Wat Hua Kuang (Wat Saen Muang Ma Luang): As you walk down the bush lined walkway to the Wat Hua Kuang Temple, its roof really stands out. The 4 tiered roof is covered in jagged, golden tooth-like trim which is very beautiful. Overall this Temple is skippable outside of the roof if you are in a hurry, but we also really like the elephants statues flanking the Temple’s newer Ordination Hall. Although they have the typical royal dress, these elephant statues are common grey elephants instead of the royal white elephants normally on display at Thai temples. 360 Degree Photo: (HERE).
5. White Elephant Gate (Chang Puak): Welcome to the North Gate, called the White Elephant Gate, and your first glimpse at Chiang Mai’s Medieval wall. The wall was built to protect the 1 square mile city center shortly after it became the new capital of the Lanna empire in 1296AD. Over the years the wall was further fortified, gated and moated for added protection. The North Gate was originally called Head Fortified Gate (Hua Vieng) before being changed to the White Elephant Gate (Chang Puak) around 1400 A.D. We’ve found a bunch of stories on why this happened but we’ll spare you as they are all kind of drawn out stories and there is no consensus on which is true. Either way it’s impressive that a mere 15 foot tall wall protected the city of Chiang Mai for hundreds of years. Part of the reason the wall was so successful is that its gates were locked every night from the 1300s into the 1900s.
To be clear, the portions of the wall and gates you see today are all replicas as the Japanese torn down the original Medieval wall to re-purpose the bricks during a WWII occupation. Thankfully, in the late 1970’s, Chiang Mai decided to rebuild 5 of the original city gates plus all four corners of the square shaped wall. To add authenticity, the City rebuilt the wall sections exactly how they appeared in a series of photos from 1899 and they did a great job.
*Heading west notice the silver mirrored wall with golden genie bottles on it which marks the courtyard of Wat Mo Kham Tuang. The temple behind it isn’t very cool, but the wall is beautifully strange…
6. Horse Temple (Wat Kun Kha Ma): It’s impossible to miss the odd wall surrounded by golden horse statues surrounding Wat Kun Kha Ma. About 50 Statues in all run the entire length of the fence and vary quite a bit in size. On the inside of the wall are statues of different animals for the Symbols of Everybody which are similar to the symbols for each year in the Chinese calendar such as the rat, cow and snake to name a few. This Temple is not to be confused with the Golden Horse Monastery near Chiang Rai which houses Monks that study Muay Thai for defense.
*Just past the horse temple on the left is a shack of a restaurant under a small pavilion called Grandma’s Restaurant (Khao Soi Khun Yai) popular with locals for its northern-style noodles…
7. Dragon Temple (Wat Ratchamontian): Wat Ratchamontian probably has the best curbside appeal out of all the temples in Chiang Mai’s Old City. It starts with the large red spires sticking out of the wall surrounding the temple and continues as you approach Wat Ratchamontian’s steps. Large, colorful dragons guard the entrance to the steep steps along with some help from chubby black farang statues. As you climb to the maroon doors of the Temple you’re struck by the huge seated Buddha statue on a raised platform to your left. The inside the upper level of the main Temple resembles a grand hall of a palace with open spaces, large red pillars, and an imposing Buddha statue with ornamented clothes and head dress.
8. Wat Lok Molee: Wat Lok Molee, built in the mid-1300’s, is one of our favorite Temples in Chiang Mai. The grounds were originally used as a Royal Palace until 1397 when King Guna turned it into a place to house 10 visiting Monks from Burma he brought in to further spread the word of Buddhism. The grounds remained largely untouched 1527 when King Phra Muang Kaew started erecting the temple’s current buildings. First came the giant three-tiered brick Chedi and was followed by the large Ordination Hall (ubosot). When the King was assassinated in 1545 his ashes were buried here and his wife Queen Wissuthidhevee took over the rule of Chiang Mai. Sadly just 11 years later the Burmese overtook Chiang Mai on the start of a 224 year occupation, but they left the grounds largely untouched and even buried the Queen here with a large ceremony when she died in 1578.
In 2003 the Temple got a huge renovation which included rebuilding of the main Hall building (the original brick foundation is still visible) and new Ubosot outcrop buildings for the Monks on the Westside of the grounds. In front of the the main Hall are two really cool White Elephant statues (symbols of the King) and two red Yaksha Demon Warriors guarding the front Temple from evil. Maybe even more interesting are the details around the Ubosot buildings such as a pond with Hindu Deities and a series of slot machine-like offering areas around a holy tree. Gambling is not allowed in Buddhism which makes these flashy lit machines very strange.
The small buildings across the road to the East of the temple house not only a cool Hindu Shrine but also a small workshop where they make excellent wood carvings and cast Buddha statues. The last time we visited the workshop we were allowed to get dress in a rob and help the Monks move plaster for their statue making.
9. Janghuarinnakorn House: As you approach the Northwest corner of the old city you’ll for sure notice the whitewashed, 3 story, European-style mansion on your left called the Janghuarinnakorn House. While it is rare to see an actual house in Old Town, especially one so big, it’s the the giant ornate mansion behind the Janghuarinnakorn House that is the real treat. To find the hidden Mansion, take the walkway on the Westside of Janghuarinnakorn House just far enough to be able to peak behind it. Wow! This mansion with its huge marble columns and multi-colored stone accents belongs more on the grounds of an Italian palace than a Chiang Mai side alley. You may feel like a bug attracted to a bright light with how beautiful the mansion is, but remember it is a private home and yard so refrain from imposing or trespassing. Even the glimpse from a ways away will stick with you for a long time. Also make sure to check on the rows of white statues up the entire side of the 3 story Janghuarinnakorn House before moving on.
10. Hualin Corner Wall Section: The recreated section of Chiang Mai’s Medieval wall near Hualin Corner is a very cool. It is the perfect place to walk on top of the wall and inspect its worn appearance which makes it look much older than it is. The original wall was started in the after Chaing Mai became the capital in of the Lanna Empire in 1296 AD before being fortified and moated over the years. During a Japanese occupation in WWII the wall was taken down to re-purposed purpose the bricks. In the 1970’s the wall was reconstructed by the City based on how it appeared in a series of photos from 1899. When you get to the corner of the wall you’ll notice an interesting curved outcrop where a watch tower once stood.
*If you are short on time or just want to cut some walking out take a quick TukTuk to the next stop, it will only cost about 50 Baht. If you are fine with walking the half mile between stops you’ll find many local makeshift restaurants which are perfect to grab a soda or quick snack to keep your energy up…
11. Temple of the Lion Buddha (Wat Phra Singh): Wat Phra Singh was built in 1345 by King Phayu as a Temple to house the ashes of his father King Kham Fu. 22 years later they brought in the lion-style Buddha statue that now sits in the Sermon Hall. The statue is said to be the holiest in Chiang Mai as it came from the Mahabodhi Temple in Bodhgaya, India where Buddha gained enlightenment. It is up for debate on whether the statue is really an original or a replica, but local find it important either way. Don’t let the phrase lion-style get you too pumped up, as to us it looks pretty much like a standard Buddha statue.
The real draw is the difference in architecture between the buildings with the large Sermon Hall with the Lion Buddha being the focus, but with side buildings that are interesting. Our favorite building is the Ho Trai Library which sits on North side of the courtyard in front of the Sermon Hall. Ho Trai is small but full of Buddhist scriptures and very impressive with it’s red roof all sitting on a raised white platform.
If you are looking for more of an iconic view of Wat Phra Singh, walk around the South side of the Sermon Hall and head toward the back courtyard. As you round the the Sermon Hall you’ll see a large white Chedi flanked on each side by smaller halls. You’re bound to see photos of this view on postcards throughout Chiang Mai. To the left of the Chedi is a smaller Sermon Hall called Lai Kham which is built classic Lanna-style. To the Right of the Chedi is an Ordination Hall which houses a long reclining Buddha Statue. We really like how the dark buildings offer a wonderful contrast to the white Chedi.
As you leave the Temple grounds you’re bound to see a crazy lady or two with birds in woven nets trying to get you to “donate” to release one for good luck. It seems like everyone is always trying to get you to do something for good luck in Thailand, but don’t give these ladies any money or you’ll just be encouraging them to catch more birds.
12. Wat Tung Yu: As you approach Wat Tung Yu you’ll run into a pavilion with a bunch of wax Monk figures holding bowls you can make offerings to which seems a little strange. As part of giving an offering the Temple usually lets you add your name to one of the wooden shingles the temple makes to uses to re-shingle surrounding temples. If you look closely at the main Wihan behind you can see what the lacquered shingles look like after fit together. The Wihan itself has fairly beautiful Naga guardians and golden doors that can be closely inspected as there are most likely no other tourists to get in your way.
Just passed the main Wihan is a pretty cool statue grouping with a golden parasol in the middle flanked by a golden monk to the left and silver monk to the right. We’re not quite sure what it represents but it is pretty cool and unique. The grouping is cool enough that you don’t even notice you’ve just passed a meditating Buddha statue as you walked by. Behind the statues is a smaller golden Wihan building guarded by Nagas with a beautiful red and gold door featuring heavenly dancers on it.
Continuing on notice the gold statue to your right in front of the police station which was built in 1972. The statue depicts a police man holding a fallen child and another naked child pulling on his coat tails. The statue is a symbol of service and you’ll see it on bumper stickers all around Chiang Mai.
13. Wat Chaiprakiat: The Buddha image at Wat Chaiprakiat is a favorite among locals and is called Chai Phra Kiat. To us this Temple is pretty plain-jane, but it has an interesting set of images and trilingual inscriptions in Burmese, Mon and Thai speaking of the “Golden Age of the Lanna Kingdom”. You won’t feel like you missed anything if you only look at the Temple from the road and move on.
14. The Monastery of a Thousand Kilns (Wat Pan Tao): If there was ever a temple in Chiang Mai that made you feel like you were stepping into the past it’s Wat Pan Tao. The temple was built in the 1300’s as one of four temples Royal Stupa Complex next door. Stepping through a intricately carved red sandstone archway, a dirt pathway leads past a large wooden Sermon hall, small huts, tung banner flags, a tulip pond, all the way to the Monk’s outdoor laundry mat. Don’t be surprised if you see chickens or other animals roaming the grounds of the as you take in the sounds of both chanting and bells. The temple is called The Monastery of a Thousand Kilns because it was once used as a factory of sorts where monks would produce hand made Buddha Statues for other temples.
The large teak wood Sermon Hall is the main attraction and was moved here 1875 by King Inthawichayanon. The building, which is one of the only remaining all wood temple buildings in Chiang Mai, had been part of the Royal Residence of the King prior to King Inthawichayanon. In Lanna tradition each new King would built a new palace and re-purposed the one of the prior King. The dark teak is beautiful and really helps the golden peacock embellishment above the front door stand out, which is a symbol for the King. Inside of the Sermon Hall is a beautiful Dhamma Casket which holds ancient Buddhist scriptures written on dried palm leaves. Before the printing press this was a common way of writing down and copying books in Asia.
Hours: From Dawn to Dusk, but is pretty empty during early morning Alms and the Sermon Hall is closed during mid-morning mediation. 360 Degree Photos: (Inside Main Wihan). Loy Krathong Festival: During the Loy Krathong Festival which takes place each year on the full moon of the 12th month of the Thai Lunar Calendar (typically November), Monks at the temple light and release floating balloons made of paper at night.
15a. Temple of the Great Stupa (Wat Chedi Luang): As you walk around Old Town Chiang Mai you are naturally drawn to the large brick mountain housed at Wat Chedi Luang and you won’t be disappointed. Entering the Temple you first come across the the large Sermon Hall covered in gold gilding with blue and green, peacock-like ascents. The interior of the Hall is supported by large black columns covered in gold patterns that lead you to a huge standing Buddha statue viewed as being very holy called Phra Chao Attarot. The size of the Buddha looking down on you with a blessing pose may make it easy to overlook the dozens of smaller Buddha statues gathered around the alter.
Heading back outside make sure to checkout the gigantic Gum Tree to in the Southeast corner of the complex. The Gum Tree seams to stand 4 times taller than any surrounding buildings and it’s said as long as the gum tree stands the city will have good fortune. The small White Chapel near the base of the Gum Tree houses a log from the original Chiang Mai City Pillar (Inthakin) which is believed to protect the city and is home the the Inthakin Festival in May. Before being moved to this cross shaped chapel, the Pillar was originally erected in the center of Chiang Mai by King Mengrai who built the city. The Pillar was dedicated to the spirit of the city and is said to protect Chiang Mai from evil and disaster.
Now it’s time for the main attraction, the huge brick pagoda known as the Great Stupa. When the pyramid-like Stupa was first built in 1391 it was King Saen Muang Ma built it to house the ashes of is father Ku Na. Over the next 84 years other Kings added onto the Stupa including surrounding it with 3 silver plated walls and topping it with a large spire to house the famed Emerald Buddha Statue which was moved here from Lampang in 1468. At its grandest, the Stupa was 275 feet tall, 184 feet wide and was covered in both bronze plates and gold leaf. It must have bee quite a site indeed in all it’s glory. Unfortunately as the Stupa was at its highest point it was rocked by an earthquake in 1545 which brought down the Spire huge part of the Stupa’s side and made it unstable. The Stupa was reduced to its current 197 feet, which is still huge, and the Emerald Buddha only remained in Chiang Mai another 7 years before being moved to Laos to avoid Burmese invasions that ended up overtaking the city in 1556. Today the Emerald Buddha can be seen at the Grand Palace in Bangkok.
With the Stupa unusable, not much was done with it until renovations in the 1990s. During the renovations, the current steps were added and Buddha statues were placed in the four niches on each side of the Pagoda. In the niche on the far eastern side of the Stupa is a black jade oversized replica of the Emerald Buddha. The Southeastern corner has the best viewing as you can really see the part that broke off in the earthquake, a great row of elephants statues are on display halfway up, and the light is usually excellent for photos. To this day the partially renovated Stupa remains the tallest structure in Chiang Mai’s Old City and is by far the main attraction. Hours: Dawn to Dusk
15b. Monk Chat: On the North side of the temple complex is a great way to interact with young Monks looking to practice English with the Monk Chat program. Monk Chats are informal discussions where you sit at a round table and talk with prep school aged monks who are usually accompanied by their teacher. Location: Outdoor tables on the Northside of Wat Chedi Luang. Hours: Available Daily 9am-6pm, most abundant on Saturday & Sunday Mornings. Cost: Free, but we suggest leaving a donations. Read More: (HERE).
16. Stop for Food: You have to eat sometime and this food court like park has a number of different options for either a sit down lunch or dinner. Their is a great Thai place, an Italian place and the most picturesque is the Chinese restaurant call Hot Chilli. The atmosphere of Hot Chilli is great with hanging draperies on the ceiling, lots of paper lanterns, flowers every, and many of the table have suspended bamboo swings as their seating. There isn’t much grab-and-go food and most places are going to be seat down. If you are looking for American-style fast food, you’ll have to wait until you get near stop 23 as there really aren’t any chains in Old Town.
17. Wat Phan On: First built in 1501 while Lanna was flourishing with arts and culture, Wat Phan On has a beautiful Golden Chedi with big gold parasols on all four corners. If you’ve been up to the Temple at Wat Doi Suthep just outside of town, this Wat Phan On is sure to remind you of a mini version of it. No matter how young or old you are, it’s really hard to resist the temptation to ring the giant gong in front of the Wat Phan On’s golden Chedi.
18. Harbor of Floating Houses Gate (Tha Pae): In the heyday of Lanna Kingdom, the Tha Pae Gate was the main entrance into the city as it faced the Mae Ping River and therefore the trade routes. It was originally call the “Chiang Ruak Gate”, after the neighborhood outside the wall, but when an river embankment was removed in the 1800’s to expanded the harbor they changed the Gate’s name to Tha Pae meaning “Harbor of the Floating House”. The floating house was very common among river traders and fisherman and can still be found throughout SE Asia.
Like the rest of the wall, this section was tore down by the Japanese in WWII then rebuilt in the 1970’s based on 1899 photos. The City wasn’t quite happy with how this gate turned out and decided to fix it up even more in 1985. To us the end result looks almost a little too new, but it is still tons of fun to climb up. On either side of the Gate’s opening you’ll find a set of steps that let you climb to the top of the wall and look out onto the moat below. Although quite safe, there is no handrail so be careful.
*As you stroll East on Tha Pae Road the next few stops are typically missed by tourist temples that are favorites among photographers…
19. Wat Mahawan: The creatures guarding the doors to Wat Mahawan’s golden Sermon Hall are awesome. One side is guarded by five headed serpents and we absolutely love the half dog, half dragon guards sheltering multicolored warriors on the other side. Inspecting the golden Sermon Hall closer you’ll be impressed by the ornately carved doors on the beautiful building’s golden exterior. The reliefs on the doors depict Buddha meditating while surrounded by nature scenes such as elephants. The raised 3D-style embellishments are pretty unique for Chiang Mai Temples and you can definitely appreciate the craftsmanship involved in their carving.
Right next to the golden Sermon Hall is a small whitewashed Chapel. The Chapel’s lack of color helps the red and gold of its carved doors really stand out. On the other side of the Chapel is a neat darkwood Meditation Hall with many random sprinkles of brightly colored ceramic pieces. The stone frown-faced salamander guards in front of the Meditation Hall are pretty sweet but don’t overlook the Asian girl figures topping the fence out front. Behind the three tightly grouped Temple buildings is a very beautifully whitewashed Burmese-style Chedi topped by a gilded spire.
20. Wat Chetawan: Guarding the golden Main Hall of Wat Chetawan are a pair of red and yellow dog-like dragon statues that are a favorite of photographers. Because of the placement of nearby Chedis mounds you can get great photos with the guardians heads in the foreground the a Chedi in the background which end up being pretty cool. In total there are three large Chedis with our favorite one having gold and ceramic tiles on its top that shimmer in the sunlight. Two of the three Chedis are also quite different from others around Chiang Mai as they are heavily decorated in creatures from Hindu mythology.
21. Wat Bupparam: In 1496, King Phra Muang Kaeo tore down the Palace of a prior King that stood on this lot and started building a Temple. This is a tradition with Thai Kings to either build a Temple on the prior Palace then build their own. start building a temple on this lot. Wat Bupparam is important to the people of Chiang Mai as it is where King Chao Kawila took back the city of Chiang Mai after 200 years of Burmese occupation in 1797.
Since 1797, numerous other Kings have added onto Wat Bupparam turning it into an eclectic mix of elements. Many visitors people like the newer library building the most, but our favorite building is the small Sermon Hall with the lawn full of animal figures. It has everything from giraffes to zebras, elephants to rosters and even Donald Duck eating a bowl of noodle soup. The coolest figures, however, are the multi-headed snakes and evil salamander guarding the door. The large white Chedi is also pretty neat as unlike others around Chiang Mai, it has an embellished gold top. The Temple is also a favorite among tourists as the Monks here tend to give direct blessings and yellow yarn bracelets if you give them offerings or donations.
*From Wat Bupparam you only need to go right across the road to get to…
22. Wat Saen Fang: A narrow alley guarded by two serpents leads to a well kept garden holding Wat Saen Fang. The Temple itself isn’t that big holding just a number of buildings, but we love their central Chedi. The white Chedi is in Burmese-style and is topped with a rather large gold and silver spire. The spire has hints of turquoise mixed in for flair and the whole thing is surrounded by a wall topped with over 40 mini-Chedis.
Evening Walking Tour Stops:
The rest of the stops are way more fun dinner time on and the best after dark. If it’s still the middle of the day when you get to this point we suggest either some relaxing at your hotel or visiting the Tiger Kingdom just North of Chiang Mai until the evening hits. If you’ve made really good time and want to squeeze another nearby Temple in stop by Pung Tao Gong marked just Northeast of the stop 22. It is a some but really colorful Chinese Buddhist Temple that will make you feel like you are actually in China.
23. Night Market Bazaar: You really can’t come to Chiang Mai without hitting up their Night Bazaar. Night markets are a big part of the modern culture in most Thai cities and in Chiang Mai it’s really huge. The Bazaar may be the biggest Night Market in Thailand as it runs the down a very long stretch of Chang Klan Road.
On the North side of the Night Bazaar is the Covered Market which is a labyrinth of store stalls, a central makeshift food court and even a second floor blues bar. The deals in the Covered Market are great, but because rent is slightly higher here than the open air stalls the product quality also seems to be a little better. They have souvenirs of course, but have more housewares and nicer clothes than other local markets.
On the Southside of the Night Bazaar is the far more popular Anusarn Open Air Market which is in true open air fashion. We love the Open Air Market which is centered on a huge open lot. The goods here cover a lot wider range of items from clothes, to knickknacks, great souvenirs, bamboo dishes, and of course counterfeit DVD’s, shoes, designer purses, backpacks, headphones, and electronics. The deals here are awesome and it’s a great time to work on your negotiating skills. Typically we’ve been able to get stuff 30-50% off especially when buying multiple items. Keep in the back of your mind that anything you like is going to have at least 5 more stands selling the exact same thing so if you don’t get a good deal right away shop around a little. The Anusarn Open Air Market is pretty easy to find sitting only about 300 feet to the East of Chang Klan Road off of Thanon Anusan Sunthon. If by chance you get turned around leaving the Covered Market just walk South toward McDonald’s and the Open Air Market won’t be very far past it. Walking by McDonald’s will give you a great chance to take a photo with Ronald McDonald as he does the Thai greeting called Wai.
24. Take A TukTuk Ride: If you have yet to take a ride in a TukTuk, this is the perfect time to do so and it’ll save you a bit of a walk back to Old Town. TukTuks are all over the place by the Night Bazaar so flagging one down will be easy. These 3 wheeled mini-taxis are a quick, cheap, and especially in Chiang Mai a really safe way to get around. TukTuks can be intimidating since they don’t have seat belts and drive a little crazy, but in Chiang Mai you going to be on streets that way smaller and less congested than cities like Bangkok. When in Rome, ride a TukTuk. You’ll be able to easily fit 2-3 people on any TukTuk and some will have a make shift seat for a 4th person up front. We’ve seen 6 people stacked in the back which probably wouldn’t be fun, but it’s Thailand where sometimes you’ll see 6 people on one moped. Expect to pay 100-150 Baht to get back to Old Town from the Bazaar.
25. Freedom Bar: A visit to Freedom Bar will make you feel as if you’ve left Thailand for Jamaica with its open layout and Rasta flair. We love pulling up to one of Freedom Bar’s colorful tables, jamming out to some Reggae music, and taking in the Bob Marley theme. The drinks are cheap and delicious, the people are friendly plus ambiance is hard to beat. The bathroom may be a bit of a dungeon, but the rickety second story deck is a great peaceful oasis. The Freedom will truly help you fall further in love with Chiang Mai and have you saying “No Worries Mon” in not time!
The Freedom Bar is also a big supporter of the Chiang Mai Reggae Festival that typically takes place in December. Free shuttles run from the Freedom Bar to the Festival and tickets are only 200 Baht.
26. Cocktail Car Bar: The Cocktail Car Bar is and experience and photo opt you won’t forget. The bar is made up of 2 converted mini-trucks and is literally in the middle of the street. The Cocktail Car Bar pretty much parks in the same place each evening and you just pull up a stool and start drinking. Most drinks are only 80 Baht which includes mojitos, margaritas, long islands. To get more top shelf booze instead of rail it only bumps you up to 120 Baht.
27. Rose Bar & Restaurant: During the day the Rose Bar is a pretty typical restaurant and bar, but at night it is often home to the Bongo Car Bar. Similar to the Cocktail Car Bar, the Bongo Bar is bright yellow converted mini-bus, but this one drives right inside the restaurant. Because the Bongo Bar drives right inside the Rose Bar it has more seating and access to the Rose Bar’s ice. During the day the Bongo Bar is often parked outside of the Cafe Del Sol near the night Bazaar. Drinks range from 90-120 Baht and include mojitos, margaritas, long islands, and much more.
Drinking & Ice Tips:
With all bars and restaurants in Thailand you really need to check the ice before getting a drink with ice in it to make sure it comes from the store and not from the tap water. The best way to check this is to see if it has holes in the middle from a commercial ice machine. If the ice is regular cubes stay away and if it is shaved it’s up to you. The reason you need to stay away from tap water ice is that you aren’t going to be used to the digesting local water and you probably get sick and literally be peeing out of your butt. Drinking tap water, eating tap water ice, or eating some food cooked or rinsed in tap water is a great way to ruin a couple days of your trip.