About Chiang MaiJuly 4, 2012
With a population of over 170,000, Chiang Mai is Thailand’s fifth largest city, but perhaps the most culturally significant. Situated on the Ping River, Chiang Mai means new city, although it was founded in the thirteenth century. Over 5 million tourists visit the city each year, making it a popular destination for foreigners. As such, Chiang Mai is an ideal place for a work experience placement because many of the locals are able to speak English and are well used to dealing with western visitors. Chiang Mai is also the ideal location to experience Thailand, as its metropolitan boundaries contains nearly everything this rich and diverse country has to offer.
Divided into the four wards of Nakhon Ping, Srivijaya, Mengrai, and Kawila, the city has perhaps the largest number of Buddhist temples than any other in Thailand, with over 300 within the city’s boundaries. The most famous, the Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep, dates back to 1383 and overlooks the city from the Doi Suthep, a hill to the north west. While warm throughout the year, Chiang Mai is situated in a mountainous area and has a cool season from November to February where the temperatures drop and offer a respite from the normal tropical heat.
Chiang Mai is easy to navigate your way around, as the city is full of the traditional Thai transport, the tuk-tuk. Tuk-tuk’s are three wheel motorized scooters that are inexpensive and the handiest way of navigating the ancient streets of Chiang Mai. The city has much to offer the western traveler too. The city has a thriving nightlife, with many bars, nightclubs and live music venues,.
For a more traditional taste of Thai culture, Chiang Mai has a Thai boxing ring that holds regular tournaments, while the local bazaar covers several city blocks and sells everything from local handicrafts to fruit and vegetables. The city also has plenty of traditional Thai massage parlors practicing ancient massage techniques, which is the perfect way to unwind after a hard day. Chiang Mai plays an important part in traditional Thai cuisine too. Famous for its cooking schools, the city has some of the finest restaurants and authentic food stalls in all of Thailand.
The city plays host to plenty of festivals throughout the year including the Loi Kratong, held in November, where the sight of thousands of banana-leaf boats containing candles floating down the river in worship of the Goddess of Water, is a remarkable sight. While the Songkran festival, held in April, is the one of the most popular and visited New Year festivals in all of Thailand.
There is plenty to see and do outside of the city too. Surrounded by national parks and Thailand’s highest mountain, Doi Inthanon, the local countryside is some of the most beautiful in Thailand and a perfect respite from the hustle and bustle of the city. Trekking and elephant safaris are a fun and fantastic way to spend a weekend, and often, local guides will take you to some traditional hill-tribe villages to see a people that haven’t changed their way of life in hundreds of years.