Thailand // The north //

Around Chiang Mai

You’ll never feel cooped up in Chiang Mai, as the surrounding countryside is dotted with day-trip options in all directions. Dominating the skyline to the west, Doi Suthep and its eagle’s-nest temple are hard to ignore, and a wander around the pastoral ruins of Wiang Kum Kam on the southern periphery has the feel of fresh exploration. Much further south, the quiet town of Lamphun offers classic sightseeing in the form of historically and religiously significant temples and a museum. To the north, the Mae Sa valley may be full of tour buses, but its highlight, the Queen Sirikit Botanic Gardens, as well as the nearby lake of Huay Tung Tao and Darapirom Palace, merit an independent jaunt. Distinctly missable, however, is the recently opened Chiang Mai Night Safari to the southwest of the city, which has encroached on land belonging to Doi Suthep National Park, and even announced as an opening promotion that the meat of all the animals on display would also be available in its restaurant (though the offer has now been withdrawn) – much better to spend your money at Chiang Mai Zoo. All the excursions described here can be done in half a day; not all of them are covered by public transport, but a car with driver arranged through a Chiang Mai guesthouse should cost you around B600 for a half-day local trip. There are also some good options for longer jaunts, notably to Doi Inthanon National Park, to Lampang and the Thai Elephant Conservation Centre and to the Elephant Nature Park.

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