Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai is an alluring alternative to Bangkok, as it boasts long, leafy boulevards. Instead of plumes of traffic, holiday makers will find a picturesque downtown area where the air is clean and the climate is cool. This is the ideal place to relax and recharge your batteries with fabulous food and leisurely wandering. In fact, if you stroll around the backstreets, you will discover that it is a city that is still firmly Thai in its atmosphere, and attitude. Try to time your visit to coincide with its famous Saturday Walking Street, which takes over Th Wualai, running southwest from Pratu Chiang Mai at the southern entrance to the old city. There is barely space to move as locals and tourists from across the world haggle vigorously for carved soaps, novelty dog collars, woodcarvings, Buddha paintings, paper lanterns, silver jewellery and herbal remedies. The old town, inside its moat, is an extraordinary vision.  Here amid the 30-odd temple spires, barefoot monks in flame-coloured robes collect alms in the morning and street vendors sell their wares by night. There are a lot of sights to see. Culture vultures can explore its countless temples. The top attraction is the Wat Phra That Doi Suthep temple. It is a beautiful example of northern Thai architecture. Visitors have to climb a 306-step staircase, which is flanked by colourful statues of naga serpents. The climb is intended to help devotees accrue Buddhist merit. For a less strenuous activity, you can enjoy a tranquil moment when you come face to face with an elephant inside the city’s numerous animals sanctuaries. A short bike or taxi ride out of the town leads to a densely rain forested countryside interspersed with beautiful waterfalls.  The local airport received an upgrade in 2014, which has meant more regional flights have been heading to this serene city - making it cheaper and easier to explore. But despite the constant arrival of planes and trains full of sightseers, the former seat of the Lanna kingdom is still blissfully calm and laid-back.

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