Chiang Mai has lots to offer that Bangkok doesn’t – rolling green hills, temples aplenty, and stunning Lanna artchitecture. Most of all, the laid-back local charm makes you feel like you’re in a local village and not Thailand’s second largest city. Lonely Planet will tell you all about Doi Suithep, the Old Quarter and other must-see sights, but let our travel gurus, Lightfoot Travel take you off the beaten path.
What to do, what to see
Peppered with temples, it goes without saying that religious sites are must-visits whilst in Chiang Mai. Make the experience more pleasurable (and physical!) by discovering the Lost City of Wiang Kum Kan by bicycle. During your half day bike excursion, you will learn more about these ruins as you explore the various temples: Wat Chedi Liam, Wat Phraya Meng Rai, and Wat Kan Thom, to name a few.
Next on the agenda? Why, getting your Mahout certification, of course! Thailand is known for its love of elephants, and there’s nowhere else in the world more devoted to the gentle giants than Chiang Mai. Your mahout training takes place in the pretty Mae Sa Valley, where elephants live side by side with their caretakers. The course covers elephant health, biology and body language, as well as riding (harness-free!) and handling the big creatures.
Thailand has cooking schools by the hundreds, but most lack the authenticity of typical home-cooked Thai food. Try spending a day with a family who’s opened up their home and lifestyle for guests instead to pick up tasty recipes. Don fisherman’s pants and live like a local: stroll through the neighbourhood, have a go at basket weaving, and learn about the origins of Thai flavours.
Where to stay
For a romantic getaway, we recommend Anantara Chiang Mai, tucked away on the quiet shores of the Mae Ping River. This riverside sanctuary merges traditional Thai and colonial elements to a striking contemporary result. The spa is an absolute delight – and a necessary respite after biking through fields of temples – as is the pool, perfect for a plunge and some casual poolside reading while listening to the sounds of nature.
Anantara Chiang Mai
Travelling with the kids? The Four Seasons Resort Chiang Mai has private residences, ranging from one to four bedrooms, catering specifically to families. Each of the units are individually decorated, giving a home-away-from-home vibe with fully furnished kitchen, living and dining rooms. This is a great option if you’ll like to do stay in and cook rather than eating out at every meal. There’s a spare bedroom for kids, and enough space to bring along your helper.
Where to eat
Anantara Chiang Mai and Four Seasons Resort Chiang Mai have great restaurants within the properties, but if you want a break from hotel food, head to Deck 1, our go-to eatery in the region. A fashionable dining destination in a splendid riverside setting, the restaurant boasts wonderfully creative Asian fusion dishes. The live jazz band and impeccable service make the dining experience extra special.
Four Seasons Resort Chiang Mai
Have a little more time on your hands and want to further explore the region? Head up north to the Golden Triangle, and book in at one of these amazing properties for unparalleled one-on-one time with Thailand’s elephants:
At Anantara Golden Triangle Resort, the mahouts take the little elephants out every morning, much to the delight for all guests. Take part in activities such as elephant yoga, multi-day mahout training, and elephant picnics. These gentle giants will soon become your best mates in no time.
Four Seasons Tented Camp
Overlooking the Mekong River, the Four Seasons Tented Camp is the epitome of camping in style – or glamping. Accessible only by boat, the property features only 15 tented suites separated from each other by a walkway, which makes it truly private. Each tent comes with its own balcony overlooking the lush jungle. Service and cuisine are unfailingly excellent – no mean feat considering the remote location. The Four Seasons also tailors elephant interaction, sightseeing and plain relaxing to each guest’s specific needs. Check us in already!
Top image: Anantara Golden Triangle
This article was brought to you by Lightfoot Travel, a Singapore-based luxury tour operator offering expert travel advice and inspiration, tailor-made itineraries and full booking services.