Chiang Mai as a Wedding Destination
For those who’re searching for the real Thai cultural experience away from the Kingdom’s tourist-oriented beach party resorts, Chiang Mai is the perfect destination. Once the capital of the former Lanna Kingdom, the city lies some 700kms to the north of Bangkok and is surrounded by the far foothills of the Himalayan range. Its walled city heart and surrounding traditional villages attract history buffs and lovers of natural beauty. A Chiang Mai destination wedding is perfect for couples seeking a truly romantic wedding atmosphere.
Getting to Chiang Mai
From Bangkok takes an hour by air, either from Suvarnabhumi International Airport or the domestic air hub at Don Muang Airport. Air Asia, Bangkok Airways and Nok Air offer a selection of daily flights to Chiang Mai International Airport at seriously budget prices, and it’s also possible to take a direct flight from neighbouring countries’ capital cities including Kuala Lumpur, Vientaine, Kunming and Singapore. National carrier Thai Air links from its international flights directly to Chiang Mai International Airport via Suvarnabhumi without the need to travel to Don Muang’s domestic airport, but is the most expensive option.
Travel from Bangkok by air-conditioned bus takes from nine hours and allows a glimpse of rural Thailand along the way, unless you’re taking the overnight bus from Mo Chit terminal. The same route during the day takes 12 hours or more due to traffic, but offers many scenic moments. Buses leave hourly and arrive at the Arcade Bus Terminal on the edge of Chiang Mai city. Travelling by train from Bangkok’s Hualamphong rail station takes between 11 and 15 hours and provides an overnight sleeper train service for jet-lagged travellers.
Chiang Mai Itself
Once the glittering, golden capital of the ancient Lanna Kingdom, is a fascinating mix of old and ultra-modern with a huge selection of hotels, resorts and guest houses from luxury to economy. The choice of places to eat is even wider, encompassing everything from upscale Western-style restaurants through fine Thai cuisine to food courts and street food stalls. The delicious, traditional Lanna cuisine isn’t overwhelmingly spicy unless requested, and is best enjoyed in the little local eateries in the old city.
Nightlife in Chiang Mai is as varied as in many larger cities in Southeast Asia, ranging from friendly expat-style pubs to buzzing outdoor nightclubs and stylish bars in the city’s many luxury hotels. Attractions such as local festivals, traditional outdoor music and cultural events take place regularly, and the weekend walking streets and daily night market show a fascinating selection of local handicrafts, fashions and gifts as well as a plethora of food stalls, street massage stalls and other delights.
Things to Do and See
During its 700-year plus history, Chiang Mai has been the heart of Northern Thai Buddhism, with its hundreds of exquisite temples a major attraction for visitors. The peaceful lanes within the moated walls of the old city are home to the oldest temple of Wat Chiang Man, spectacular Wat Chedi Luang with its soaring, ruined chedi and many more. Wat Jed Yod, just outside the city walls, is unique in its design, and Chiang Mai’s most revered temple is found high on Doi Suthep mountain along with a royal palace. The forest monk retreat of Wat U Mong with its underground sanctuary lies in wooded grounds at the foot of the mountain and is the most peaceful of all the city’s temples.
Sightseeing in Chiang Mai isn’t just timeless temples, with the old city offering charming, traditional teakwood homes and quiet strolls along winding alleyways leading to the moat. For lovers of the great outdoors, there’s a choice between quaint rural villages outside the city and all kinds of activities in the nearby national park. A horse-drawn carriage ride around Wiang Khun Kam shows the even more ancient, now almost fully excavated, site of the original Chiang Mai city, abandoned due to devastating flooding from the Ping River.
Chiang Mai Night Safari and Chiang Mai Zoo with its huge aquarium are both well worth a visit for their selection of species, and the city’s museum is crammed with fine examples of the unique Buddhist art of the Lanna Kingdom. Lovers of tropical plants will appreciate the Queen Sirikit Botanical Garden, and no visit to Chiang Mai is complete without an up close and personal encounter with Thailand’s beloved elephants. If you’ve time, a visit to the Elephant Nature Park shows these magnificent creatures in their natural setting, and the more conventional Mae Sa Elephant Training Centre in lovely Mae Sa valley offers elephant shows and rides. For an ultimate elephant experience an hour’s drive or so from the city, the elephant camp at Lampang offers mahout training courses.