How to spend 48 hours in Chiang Mai

by Travelbag on 20 July 2015, 10:07AM

Located in northern Thailand, the ancient city of Chiang Mai offers picturesque landscapes, stunning architecture, a multitude of temples boasting sacred monuments and a huge selection of restaurants and bars offering traditional, local cuisine. With so much to experience in this vibrant city, a 48-hour itinerary is a difficult feat, but with careful planning visitors can see the best of Chiang Mai in a very short space of time.

Day 1:

Visit the old city and experience traditional Thai culture

With over 200 temples (Wats) to visit in Chiang Mai, an early morning visit to the oldest Wat in the city is an experience not to be missed. Stroll through the old city and head down Ratpakinai Road to Wat Chiang Man. Dating back to 1297, this Wat is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Chiang Mai. Be sure to stop and give alms to the monks who reside here. A short walk from this ancient temple will bring you to the ruins of Wat Chedi Luang. This temple once housed the Emerald Buddha, which can now be found in Bangkok, and leaves visitors feeling relaxed and refreshed. If the day starts to heat up by this point, indulge yourself by trying the fresh shakes that are sold by many street vendors along the way.


Relax on the Ping River and enjoy some authentic Thai cuisine

With several riverside restaurants offering a wonderful combination of great food at even greater prices, stunning views and a variety of live musical performances, this is the perfect way to end a busy day. With cuisines ranging from traditional Thai dishes to Mexican, Japanese and French specialities, there are some fantastic restaurants to choose from. Deck 1, Le Crystal, The Gallery and The Puri Punn are amongst the best, but it’s best just to take a stroll around the areas and see what looks good. Top tip: If you see lots of locals dining inside, it’s probably a great choice!


Head out for an unforgettable evening

Grab a tuk-tuk (which is an experience in its own right) and head to the east side of the old city to visit Chiang Mai’s night bazaar. With over a hundred stalls selling everything from handmade souvenirs, local arts and crafts, handbags, jewellery, and clothing to some seriously gastronomic street food. Visitors can barter with the locals and soak up the vibrant atmosphere. Be sure to try the ‘khao so’, which is a fantastic curried noodle dish, and the popular ’banana roti’. Open every day from dusk until midnight, this huge market is awash with music, lights and aromatic smells that will have you mesmerised.


Day 2:

Start with a unique Thai breakfast

There is no better way to start your day in Chiang Mai than by trying the local breakfast known as ‘jok’. This wonderful yet simple rice dish, mixed with pork balls, ginger, spring onions and cilantro can be bought from most street vendors and is usually accompanied by ‘patongkoh’, which is a delicious fried dough ball dipped in condensed milk. After a hearty breakfast such as this, it is easy to face another action-packed day.

Head up into the mountains for a religious experience unlike any other

Only 15 kilometres from the city, on the mountainside of Doi Suthep, is Wat Prathat Doi Suthep. By visiting early in the morning when temperatures are somewhat cooler, you can beat the crowds and wander around this breath-taking house of worship with relative ease.


This popular pilgrimage site dates back to 1383 and houses not only a shrine to the White Elephant and a copy of the famous Emerald Buddha, but also boasts ornate architecture that is simply wonderful to behold. Hiring a songthaew for the day will only set you back around 400 baht or you could be a little more adventurous and hire a scooter, although this requires a lot more determination.

After climbing the 300-step staircase to the temple’s entrance, which can also be reached by tram for a mere 30 baht, visitors can relax and soak up the atmosphere of this spectacular place. If time allows, head further up the hillside to Phuping Palace and wander around the beautiful gardens that surround this royal residence. Make sure you stop on your way back down the mountainside to admire the views of the city below. Stopping to take in the spectacular landscapes offers some great photo opportunities.

Finish with a traditional Thai massage

No trip to Chiang Mai would be complete without a satisfying massage to relieve the stress of the last 48 hours. With several spas and parlours dotted around the city, it is easy to finish your trip with a relaxing Thai massage. There are many therapies and treatments available at some outstandingly affordable prices. Try the fish pedicure for a unique and refreshing experience.


 Click here to read more about Chiang Mai.

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