Known as “the Rose of the North” for its lush landscapes and its rich culture, Chiang Mai, Thailand, will inspire you with its ancient walls and abundant temples, its lively art and gallery scene, and the surrounding countryside of rice paddies and forest-covered mountains. We asked Nonpavidh Tosivutsilavut, Chef Concierge at Four Seasons Resort Chiang Mai, to gather the savviest sight-seeing suggestions he could find—from sacred temples to local cuisine to shopping for souvenirs—to help you make the most of your stay in Thailand.
Shopping in Chiang Mai
Although Chiang Mai’s Night Bazaar is well-known, much better shopping can be found along Nimmanhaemin Road, where stunning contemporary textiles are on offer at Studio Kachama, along with other galleries, shops and coffee houses. On Charoenrat Road, shops such as Vila Cini offer sophisticated silks and furnishings based on traditional northern Thai designs. Last-minute shoppers can stop at the Central Airport Plaza, where vendors offer tasteful mementos whose proceeds benefit local hill tribes.
Experience Northern Thailand’s natural beauty
Even without leaving the Resort, you can try rice planting, mountain biking, spa treatments and much more. Farther afield, there’s hiking to waterfalls, visits to organic farms and a favourite among guests: a visit to the Queen Sirikit Botanic Garden. Laced with streams on the side of a mountain, the garden is a wonderland of rare orchids, palms and ferns. Four Seasons will pack a lunch for you to ensure a perfect picnic.
Chiang Mai by bicycle
Want to explore the lush green landscapes around Chiang Mai and get some exercise in the process? The Resort has mountain bikes available for guests, along with route suggestions, and the Concierge desk can steer you to organized bike tours into the countryside as well. If you’d prefer to use horsepower, the Pack Squadron Riding Club, a mere 15-minute drive from the Resort, offers horseback riding; experienced instructors and various outings are available (basic horseback riding experience required).
Chiang Mai’s best restaurant
Chiang Mai has a booming restaurant scene, and one place not to miss is The House. Set in a beautifully restored old home, it’s an Indo-Chinese mix of antiques, silks, candlelight and a terrace lounge right out of Scheherazade. The cooking is a careful mix of international styles, including dishes such as pan-fried duck, salmon tartare and lamb kebabs. There’s a more casual tapas bar here, too, along with a sophisticated clothing and home décor boutique called Ginger.
Learn to cook in Chiang Mai
Northern Thai food is distinctly different from what you’ll taste in Bangkok or the southern beach resorts. At the Cooking School, you can learn to make the authentic dishes featured at the Resort’s Sala Mae Rim restaurant, such as khao soi noodles in a curry broth, or pad thai, a wok-fried rice noodle dish with prawns
Celebrate the Festival of Lights
Every year in November, northern Thais celebrate Yi Peng, a Buddhist festival focused on merit-making and celebrated by the release of floating khom loy lanterns into the sky to carry wishes and dreams up towards the heavens. The best place to experience this beautiful celebration is Chiang Mai, where thousands of lanterns are released simultaneously, resulting in an unforgettable spectacle as they light up the entire night sky. Join the large celebrations in the city, or enjoy a small, intimate celebration at the Resort, where guests are able to release their own khom loy on the edge of the lake.
Explore ancient temples
A walk around Chiang Mai’s 700-year-old central core—set within ancient walls and a moat—is a must. Dozens of temples dot the area, including Wat Chiang Man, the city’s oldest, and Wat Chedi Luang, with its ancient stone stupa. The shady grounds of Wat Phra Singh are perfect for strolling or quiet contemplation. Saffron-robed monks are everywhere and are often willing, even eager, to practice their English with visitors. Ask the Concierge about the program called “Monk Chat.”
For the most panoramic view of the city, go to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, the gold-domed temple visible for miles around atop Doi Suthep Mountain. Among the lures here are a relic of the Buddha kept in a golden pagoda, and a 300-step staircase lined with serpentine sculptures. The best time to visit is in the early morning, around 7 am, when the monks are going about their daily activities.