Set in the northern province of the same name, Chiang Mai is Thailand's 5th most populous city and is known as the 'Rose of the North'. Surrounded by mountains and beautiful countryside, Chiang Mai is much greener and significantly quieter than the capital Bangkok and attracts over 5 million visitors each year.
Both the largest and most culturally significant city in Northern Thailand, Chiang Mai was at one time the capital of the ancient Lanna Kingdom. Meaning literally 'Kingdom of Million Rice Fields' The Kingdom of Lanna was centred in modern day Thailand between the 13th and 18th centuries and Chiang Mai was founded and built in 1296 AD to succeed Chiang Rai as its capital.
Until fairly recently, the 1920's, it was accessible only by elephant trek or an arduous river journey meaning that much of it's distinctive charm was kept intact.
In 2012 Chiang Mai was listed as one of TripAdvisor's 25 Best Destinations in the World, the only Thai location to make the list.
What to do/see:
Chiang Mai is a stunning city full of temples, gardens and museums so it's an ideal city for just walking around and seeing what you come across. The city centre known as the historical centre is still surrounded by a moat and some sections of the old city wall still remain.
With over 300 Buddhist Temples ('Wat' in Thai) there are far to many to mention here but perhaps the most famous is Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep which dates back to 1383 and is depicted in the cities emblem. Of the more central temples Wat Phra Singh in the historical centre is perhaps the most well known and is well worth a visit.
If you're looking to buy local crafts Ratchadamneon Rd hosts the main night street market every Sunday.
Chiang Mai also offers courses on a wide range of activities and courses from Thai cooking to Muay Thai to Buddhism.
Thai massages are of course very popular and there is an abundance of spa's throughout the city including one run by the Women's Correctional Institute aimed at rehabilitating offenders back into the community by giving them jobs and teaching them new skills.
Much like Bangkok there is a large range of food but with some off its own specialties. Khao soi is a northern Thai dish consisting of dry yellow wheat noodles on top of a curry broth, highly recommended.
If you're hankering for some home comforts Chiang Mai boosts a wide range of international restaurants offering dishes from round the world.
As you would expect for northern Thailand, Chiang Mai has a tropical wet dry climate more temperate than the south. The weather is warm to hot year round normally peaking March to June before the wet season comes (July to Oct) and the cool season Nov to Feb.
Citizens of most countries can enter Thailand by air without a visa for a visit of up to 30 days, land crossings for up to 15.
To arrange longer stays, travel, tours or to book accommodation use a cheap calls to Thailand service to save yourself money prior to your Journey.
Chiang Mai International Airport handles both domestic and International flights. Various airlines run multiple daily flights to and from Bangkok including budget airline Air Asia.