Thailand is a really popular destination for holidays – especially if you’re seeking sun and sand. While its beautiful islands may be idyllic, I think I actually prefer heading to the north of the country and soaking up the culture – and, in my opinion, there’s no better place to do this than in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
A brief intro to Chiang Mai
Nestled in the north of Thailand, Chiang Mai is one of those places that’s considered to be a treasure trove when it comes to culture. Once upon a time, its main function among tourists was to act as a gateway for treks into the hills, but these days it has become more of an attraction in its own right – and deservedly so, I think.
For instance, it has temples that rival those in Bangkok, amazing markets and some stunning natural attractions – indeed, it’s an absolutely brilliant place to come if you fancy seeing some animals.
The only problem is that a lot of the attractions in and around Chiang Mai each take several days to explore – so what do you do if you only have 48 hours to spare here?
Chiang Mai Zoo
There are a number of places in Chiang Mai where you can spend the day caring for elephants – but, since this takes a whole day, I don’t think it’s a feasible option if you’ve only got 24 hours. So, this is the first of two animal-based attractions I suggest you visit instead.
Chiang Mai Zoo is located on the lower slopes of Doi Suthep Mountain, and it’s home to more than 200 animals, including birds and African and Asian mammals. Two things are particularly worth seeing here – the pandas and the aquarium, which is home to the longest underwater tunnel in Asia.
In the evening, you should definitely check out the famous Night Bazaar – or Th Chang Khlan Night Bazaar, to use its full name. You’ll find it in the area between Th Si Donchai and Th Tha Phae, spanning several blocks.
There’s a lot to see here, especially as the market includes a mix of normal shops and stalls, but I think the real highlight is the chance to buy some hill tribe crafts. You see, many tribes run their own stalls here, so it’s a fantastic spot to pick up something authentic.
Wat Chiang Man
The next day, you should visit some temples. There are loads to see, but Wat Chiang Man should definitely be on your list, since it’s the oldest in Chiang Mai (built back in 1296).
This temple is famous for two things in particular – the first is Phra Kaeo Khao, which is an invaluable Buddha image. The second is its elephant-shaped buttresses.
Wat Phra Sing
Another temple well worth visiting is Wat Phra Sing, which is on Sam Lan Road. Come here and you can visit the lovely Viharn Lai Kham, which features some incredible murals and woodcarvings, as well as acting as a shrine to the Phra Phutthasihing Buddha – a sacred Buddha image.
Chiang Mai Night Safari
For your final evening here, head to Chiang Mai Night Safari, which is located in Doi Suthep-Pui National Park. Here, you can either go on a short trek or travel by open-air tram to see animals like giraffes, elephants, tigers and Asiatic black bears – a really memorable experience.