Things to do in Chiang Mai
In this blog post, I want to share details of our 2 days in Chiang Mai and give you some ideas on what to do there. It’s a wonderful historic city with plenty to see and do. I wanted a mix of history, culture and just relaxing so that’s what this itinerary reflects.
Of course, 2 days in Chiang Mai really isn’t enough. This was part of a tour of Thailand and Malaysia so we only stayed in one place for a few days each. Although it’s a great way to get a taste of a country (or two) it does leave you wanting to come back. I think that’s a good thing but if you prefer to really immerse yourself in a place then you’ll find plenty to do in Chiang Mai.
2 Days in Chiang Mai Itinerary
Walking Tour of Chiang Mai Old City
Night Market Food Tour
Thai Cookery Course
Walking Tour of Chiang Mai
Firstly, we started our 2 days in Chiang with a walking tour of the old town. If you stay in a hotel within the old city walls of Chiang Mai then you can walk straight out of your hotel and explore this fascinating city. We stayed at the Pingviman Hotel which is an excellent location for discovering Chiang Mai. It’s near Saen Pung Gate in the south of the city. You can also check out my detailed hotel review in this blog post.
Wat Muen Ngen Kong
One of the things I like about exploring a new city is discovering somewhere new. Not something high on the tourist list but just somewhere that catches the eye and looks beautiful. As we set out on our walking tour of Chiang Mai we turned into a side street not far from the hotel and then discovered this amazing Buddhist temple.
As can be seen in the photo above, it’s surrounded by colourful, praying statues which are really quite striking. It was quite early when we arrived and it was deserted. Another bonus to exploring the city early in the morning.
Although the temple site is quite small compared to some of the headliner sights in Chiang Mai there are several buildings to explore. Don’t miss the huge reclining Buddha statue in the long building at the side. I’m sure you’ll agree it’s a pretty impressive sight for such a small temple. So well worth adding it to your 2 days in Chiang Mai itinerary.
It wasn’t easy to get a photo that did it justice as it’s so long. The statue stretches behind several open doors so you can get a great close up view when you visit.
Wat Phra Singh (Gold Temple)
Then, from a small temple to one of the big attractions in Chiang Mai. If you keep walking along Samlarn Road you’ll see Wat Phra Singh on your left. This is a much larger site which also has some fabulous buildings to explore.
I think it’s fairly obvious why they call Wat Phra Singh the gold temple. There’s gold everywhere! Additionally, this emerald Buddha statue is pretty impressive. It was established by King Phaya Payoo in AD1345 and is designated a 1st class royal temple.
Inside, the temple is ornately decorated. As you walk in, you will see this row of seated monks. I confess, even up close I thought they were real and tiptoed past them so as not to disturb them. In fact, they’re models and there is a similar row on the opposite side. Scarily, realistic though!
Wat Tung Yu
Keep walking and continue along the road opposite Wat Phra Singh and you’ll come to Wat Tung Yu. Also spelt as Wat Thung Yu. This temple is over 500 years old so it’s looking pretty good. I particularly like the green and gold serpents’ guarding the stairs into the Viharn or assembly hall.
Time for a break?
If you’re feeling weary after exploring these temples then there are some good places to stop for a coffee and a rest near here. We stopped in a lovely hotel bar at Baan Lungmi Guesthouse. Look for a colonial-style hotel with rattan furniture on the front terrace. It’s at 82 Rachadamnoen Road (the road you are walking on) and it will be on your left. Not only do they make excellent coffee and herbal teas but they have sparkling clean toilets too. If you’re hungry try their sticky mango with rice – delicious. There are lots of places along here to stop for a break but we came here twice and it’s really nice.
Three Kings Monument
Of course, there are still lots more temples to see in Chiang Mai if you haven’t had your fill yet. However, we decided to have a change and headed to the Three Kings Monument next. It’s really easy to find because it’s pretty much in the centre of the old city of Chiang Mai.
The three kings are King Mengrai, who founded Chiang Mai, together with King Ramkamhaeng of Sukothai and King Ngam Muang of Payao.
Art & Cultural Centre
Directly behind the Three Kings Monument is a lovely old building which houses the Chiang Mai Art & Cultural Centre. I think it’s worth going inside just to enjoy this wonderful building. Plus it is so cool inside that it provides a lovely respite from the heat outside.
However, there are some interesting exhibits and displays inside which are very worthwhile. You can learn more about the founding and buildings of Chiang Mai and also find out about life along the Ping River.
The exhibitions are laid out as a series of small rooms which gives an intimate feel to the museum. Since it was very uncrowded while we were there this worked really well.
You’ll find a good mix of artefacts and information and the signs and labels are also in English. Additionally, there are some recreations showing life in Chiang Mai.
Chiang Mai Art & Cultural Centre: Practical Information
Monday to Friday: 8.30 am to 4.30 pm
Closed on weekends
Admission: 90 Bhat (£2)
Official Website: https://cmocity.com/
If you have more time and want to learn more about the history of Chiang Mai then you can also visit the Chiang Mai Historical and Lanna Folk Museum. All of these are in the same central area and you can also buy a combined ticket with the Cultural Centre.
Chiang Mai Food Tour
After a rest at the hotel and a quick swim, we headed out into Chiang Mai once more to explore the local night markets. We took a small group tour although it turned out to be just us so more of a private tour really. I’ve written a separate blog post on the food tour so you can read all the details here.
Thai Cookery Class
There is so much to do in Chiang Mai that we could have stayed a lot longer and definitely not been bored. So it was a tough choice between all the great things to do when we only had 2 days in Chiang Mai. However, I kept reading that you must do a Thai cookery class at some point during your visit to Thailand and there are some great ones on offer in Chiang Mai. So I decided to do a cookery class for our second day here.
Because I’ve got loads of photos and so much to say about our fabulous cookery class, I’ve given it a whole blog post to itself. You can read all about it via this link.
Relaxing by the Pool
The cookery class took all day and we ate so much food that by the time we returned to the hotel we just wanted to relax, swim and generally do nothing. So we spent a wonderful few hours enjoying the Pingviman Hotel Pool area.
Much later, we headed out into the walled city once more and spent some time strolling along the moat which circles the city. The famous walking street is a great place for a few beers and snacks although we were still quite full from earlier. It’s a good atmosphere though and the city looks quite different at night.
Summary of 2 days in Chiang Mai
I think we packed quite a bit in during our 2 days in Chiang Mai. A few temples, a museum, plenty of food and lots of walking. If you read my blog regularly then you’ll know that we like to walk wherever possible in order to take in the sights and the atmosphere. It’s not just the headliner attractions that are worth seeing when you visit a new city. Sometimes, it’s the small discoveries or the chance encounter that really make a trip memorable.
I definitely recommend the just get out there, wander around and discover approach to travelling. But don’t be afraid to join the odd group tour, especially for food sampling and cooking. We really enjoyed these additions to our 2 days in Chiang Mai and we also met some great people through them.