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Naomi Duguid: The Charms Of Chiang Mai


by Justinn Schmidt



Welcome to the enchanting city of Chiang Mai, nestled in the lush mountains of northern Thailand. Known for its rich cultural heritage, vibrant markets, and delectable cuisine, Chiang Mai is a food traveler’s dream destination. This charming city offers an array of culinary delights that will tantalize your taste buds and leave you craving for more.


Chiang Mai is a city that effortlessly blends tradition with modernity. Its ancient temples, intricate architecture, and fascinating history make it a haven for cultural enthusiasts. While exploring the city, you’ll find yourself immersed in a tapestry of sights, sounds, and smells that will awaken your senses and ignite your curiosity.


One of the highlights of Chiang Mai is its bustling markets. From the famous Night Bazaar to the Sunday Walking Street, these markets offer a treasure trove of local handicrafts, textiles, and, of course, mouthwatering street food. The aroma of sizzling satay, steaming noodle soups, and freshly grilled seafood fills the air, beckoning you to indulge in the flavors of Thailand.


But Chiang Mai’s food scene is not just limited to street food. The city boasts a wide range of traditional dishes that are bursting with intricate flavors and local ingredients. From the iconic Khao Soi, a creamy and fragrant curry noodle soup, to the savory Khanom Jeen Nam Ngiao, a spicy rice noodle dish, each bite is a culinary journey that showcases the unique blend of spices and herbs that define Thai cuisine.


While the food alone is reason enough to visit Chiang Mai, the city has so much more to offer. Its rich history can be seen in the ancient temples that dot the cityscape, such as Wat Phra That Doi Suthep and Wat Chedi Luang. These architectural marvels are not only stunning to behold but also provide a glimpse into the spiritual beliefs of the Thai people.


Exploring the Markets of Chiang Mai

When it comes to food travel, one cannot miss the vibrant markets of Chiang Mai. These bustling hubs of activity are where you can truly immerse yourself in the local food culture and discover unique flavors that will leave a lasting impression.


One of the must-visit markets in Chiang Mai is the Night Bazaar. As the sun sets, the streets come alive with stalls selling a wide variety of goods, from clothing and accessories to handicrafts and souvenirs. But it’s the food section that steals the show. Here, you can feast on an array of street food options, including grilled meats, noodle dishes, fresh fruits, and delectable desserts. The vibrant atmosphere, aromatic scents, and endless choices make the Night Bazaar a food lover’s paradise.


Another market that shouldn’t be missed is the Sunday Walking Street. Every Sunday evening, the main road of the Old City is transformed into a pedestrian-only market, offering an incredible array of local food and handcrafted goodies. From savory snacks like sai ua (northern Thai sausage) and kanom krok (coconut rice pancakes) to sweet treats like mango sticky rice and coconut ice cream, you’ll find yourself spoilt for choice. Don’t forget to stroll through the arts and crafts section, where local artisans display their talents through intricate wood carvings, handmade textiles, and more.


For a taste of authenticity, head to Warorot Market, also known as Kad Luang. This bustling market is frequented by locals and is a great place to experience the vibrant energy of Chiang Mai’s food scene. Explore the endless rows of food stalls offering an extensive range of fresh produce, spices, and local delicacies. Grab a bowl of khao kha moo (braised pork leg rice), a popular local dish, or indulge in a plate of khao soi, a specialty of Chiang Mai that combines egg noodles with rich curry broth and crispy fried noodles on top. The sights, sounds, and flavors of Warorot Market encapsulate the essence of Chiang Mai’s culinary heritage.


Whether you’re exploring the buzzing Night Bazaar, strolling through the Sunday Walking Street, or delving into the local flavors at Warorot Market, Chiang Mai’s markets offer an abundance of culinary delights that are sure to satisfy your cravings and create unforgettable food memories.


Sampling Traditional Chiang Mai Cuisine

When it comes to traditional cuisine, Chiang Mai has a rich and diverse culinary heritage that reflects the flavors and influences of northern Thailand. Sampling the local dishes is an essential part of any food traveler’s experience in this vibrant city.


One iconic dish that is synonymous with Chiang Mai is Khao Soi. This golden-yellow curry noodle soup is made with a rich and creamy coconut milk base, fragrant spices, and tender chunks of meat or tofu. Topped with crispy fried noodles and served with a side of pickled cabbage and fresh lime, Khao Soi is a flavor explosion that combines creamy, spicy, and tangy elements in perfect harmony.


Another must-try dish is Khanom Jeen Nam Ngiao, a spicy and flavorful rice noodle dish that is popular among the locals. The dish features a tangy tomato-based broth with tender pork or beef, fresh herbs, and a variety of vegetables. It’s typically served with an assortment of fresh herbs, bean sprouts, and lime wedges, allowing you to customize the flavors to your liking.


If you’re feeling adventurous, be sure to try Sai Oua, a unique northern Thai sausage that is bursting with flavors. Made from a combination of coarsely ground pork, Thai herbs, spices, and a touch of red curry paste, Sai Oua is grilled to perfection, resulting in a juicy and aromatic sausage that packs a punch. It’s often served with sticky rice and a side of fresh vegetables, creating a delightful balance of textures and flavors.


To cool down from the heat, indulge in a bowl of Khao Yam, a refreshing rice salad that combines fragrant jasmine rice with an assortment of fresh herbs and vegetables. Tossed in a tangy and spicy dressing made with shrimp paste, lime juice, and chili, Khao Yam is a light and zesty dish that is both satisfying and healthy.


No visit to Chiang Mai would be complete without trying the sweet treats that the city has to offer. Kanom Krok, small coconut rice pancakes, are a popular snack that can be found at the markets. These bite-sized delights are crispy on the outside and soft and fluffy on the inside, with a hint of sweetness from the coconut. They are usually served fresh from the griddle and are a perfect treat to satisfy your cravings.


Sampling traditional Chiang Mai cuisine is like taking a journey through the flavors and traditions of this vibrant region. From the robust and aromatic curries to the tangy and refreshing salads, each dish tells a story and offers a glimpse into the cultural heritage of Chiang Mai.


Discovering the Rich History and Culture of Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai, with its rich history and vibrant culture, is a city that offers a captivating blend of past and present. As you explore this enchanting destination, you’ll discover a tapestry of ancient temples, intricate architecture, and fascinating traditions that showcase the deep-rooted history and cultural heritage of the region.


One of the most iconic landmarks in Chiang Mai is Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, a stunning temple located atop Doi Suthep mountain. To reach the temple, you can climb the 309 steps of the Naga staircase, each adorned with intricate serpent sculptures, or take a scenic cable car ride. Once at the top, you will be rewarded with breathtaking views of the city, as well as the opportunity to explore the ornate pagodas, golden statues, and tranquil meditation halls. The spiritual ambiance and the impressive architecture of Wat Phra That Doi Suthep make it an unmissable attraction for history and culture enthusiasts.


Another significant temple in Chiang Mai is Wat Chedi Luang, known for its towering pagoda that dates back to the 15th century. This historic site offers a fascinating glimpse into the city’s ancient past, with its crumbling ruins and intricately designed stucco reliefs. You can also visit the nearby monastic school, where young monks receive their education and participate in daily rituals. The serene atmosphere and the historical significance of Wat Chedi Luang make it a must-visit destination.


For a glimpse into Chiang Mai’s artistic heritage, head to the Old City, which is surrounded by ancient walls and moats. The narrow streets are lined with beautiful teakwood houses, boutique shops, and art galleries. You can spend hours exploring the vibrant art scene, browsing through unique handicrafts, and admiring contemporary paintings. Don’t forget to visit the Chiang Mai City Arts and Cultural Centre, where you can learn about the city’s history through interactive displays and exhibits.


To delve deeper into the cultural traditions of Chiang Mai, consider participating in a local ceremony or festival. The city is known for its vibrant festivals, such as the Yi Peng Lantern Festival and Songkran, the Thai New Year water festival. These celebrations offer a glimpse into the local customs, traditions, and spiritual beliefs of the Thai people. From releasing lanterns into the night sky to engaging in friendly water fights, these festivities create a sense of unity and joy that is truly unforgettable.


As you discover the rich history and culture of Chiang Mai, you’ll come to appreciate the city’s deep connection to its past and its vibrant traditions. From the majestic temples to the art-filled streets, each corner of Chiang Mai offers a treasure trove of experiences that will leave a lasting impression.


Experiencing the Natural Beauty of Chiang Mai

Beyond its cultural heritage and culinary delights, Chiang Mai also offers an abundance of natural beauty that is just waiting to be explored. From lush mountains and cascading waterfalls to serene gardens and picturesque landscapes, Chiang Mai is a paradise for nature lovers.


One of the best ways to appreciate the natural beauty of Chiang Mai is by exploring its national parks. Doi Inthanon National Park, often referred to as the “roof of Thailand,” is home to the highest peak in the country. Hiking trails wind through pristine forests, leading to stunning vistas and breathtaking waterfalls, such as the majestic Wachirathan Falls and the picturesque Mae Ya Falls. The park is also renowned for its vibrant birdwatching opportunities, making it a haven for nature enthusiasts.


For a more serene experience, head to the Royal Park Rajapruek, a sprawling botanical garden that showcases the beauty of Thai flora and fauna. You can stroll through the meticulously landscaped gardens, admire the colorful orchids, and relax in the tranquil surroundings. The park also hosts cultural events and exhibitions throughout the year, allowing visitors to immerse themselves in the local traditions and customs.


Chiang Mai is also known for its stunning gardens and flower fields. The Queen Sirikit Botanic Garden is a botanical oasis that features various plant collections, including a rock garden, a Thai orchid nursery, and a tropical rainforest display. The vibrant colors and intoxicating scents create a sensory delight for visitors. Additionally, the Mae Sa Valley is famous for its scenic flower farms, where you can witness vast fields of blooming flowers, such as roses, sunflowers, and marigolds.


If you’re seeking an adventure in nature, consider exploring the Doi Pui Hmong Hill Tribe Village. Located near Doi Suthep, this traditional hill tribe village offers a glimpse into the unique culture and way of life of the Hmong people. You can trek through the lush forest, visit the village’s local market, and interact with the friendly residents. Along the way, you’ll be treated to panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and valleys.


Chiang Mai’s natural beauty extends beyond the city limits to the nearby countryside, where rolling hills, expansive rice paddies, and serene rivers enchant visitors. Rent a bicycle and cycle through the countryside, stopping to take in the picturesque landscapes and visit local villages. You can also embark on a bamboo rafting adventure along the Mae Ping River, immersing yourself in the tranquility of nature.


Experiencing the natural beauty of Chiang Mai is an essential part of any visit to this enchanting city. Whether you’re exploring national parks, strolling through botanical gardens, or venturing into the countryside, you’ll be captivated by the awe-inspiring landscapes and serene surroundings that Chiang Mai offers.


Participating in Festivals and Celebrations in Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai is a city that knows how to celebrate, and its vibrant festivals and cultural events offer a unique opportunity to engage with the local customs, traditions, and community spirit. From ancient religious ceremonies to lively street parades, these festivities showcase the rich cultural heritage of the region and offer a truly immersive experience.


One of the most iconic festivals in Chiang Mai is the Yi Peng Lantern Festival, also known as the Lantern Release Festival. This annual event takes place on the full moon of the twelfth lunar month, usually in November. Thousands of glowing lanterns are released into the night sky, creating a mesmerizing sight as they float gracefully into the heavens. The festival is accompanied by traditional music, dance performances, and fireworks, making for a truly magical experience.


Another popular festival in Chiang Mai is Songkran, the Thai New Year water festival. Celebrated in mid-April, this lively festival is known for its joyous water fights and cleansing rituals. Locals and visitors alike take to the streets armed with water guns and buckets, engaging in friendly water battles to mark the beginning of the new year. It’s a fun-filled and refreshing way to beat the summer heat and immerse yourself in the festive atmosphere.


For those interested in Buddhist culture, the Visakha Bucha Day is a significant event to witness. Celebrated on the full moon of the sixth lunar month, this day commemorates the birth, enlightenment, and passing of Lord Buddha. Temples across the city are adorned with colorful flags and lanterns, and devotees partake in candlelit processions and acts of merit, such as offering food to monks. It’s a time for reflection, spirituality, and community unity.


Chiang Mai also hosts the Flower Festival, a vibrant celebration of blooming flowers and ornamental plants. The streets are decorated with elaborate floral displays, and the floral parade featuring intricately designed floats adorned with thousands of colorful flowers is a highlight of the festival. Visitors can enjoy live music performances, traditional dance shows, and admire the beauty of nature brought to life through the art of floral arrangement.


Throughout the year, Chiang Mai is also home to various cultural events and markets showcasing local crafts, traditional dances, and culinary delights. The Kad Luang Market, also known as Warorot Market, offers a glimpse into the everyday lives of local residents and is a fantastic place to sample authentic cuisine and shop for unique souvenirs.


Participating in festivals and celebrations in Chiang Mai allows you to not only witness the vibrant cultural traditions but also connect with the local community and experience the warmth and hospitality of the Thai people. It’s an opportunity to celebrate alongside the locals, create lasting memories, and gain a deeper appreciation for the rich cultural tapestry of Chiang Mai.


Immersing in the Spiritual Side of Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai, with its countless temples and deep-rooted Buddhist traditions, offers a unique opportunity for visitors to immerse themselves in the spiritual essence of the city. From tranquil meditation retreats to witnessing enchanting rituals, exploring the spiritual side of Chiang Mai can be a transformative experience.


One of the most sacred temples in Chiang Mai is Wat Umong, known for its serene forest surroundings and ancient tunnels. Here, you can join meditation sessions led by experienced monks, where you can learn the art of mindfulness and find inner peace. The temple’s peaceful atmosphere, lush gardens, and hidden corners for contemplation make it an ideal place for those seeking a spiritual retreat.


For a deeper understanding of Buddhism and the monk’s way of life, consider participating in a Monk Chat session at one of the temples in Chiang Mai. These sessions provide an opportunity to engage in meaningful conversations with the monks, learn about their spiritual practices, and gain insights into their daily routines. The exchange of knowledge and perspectives can be enlightening and foster a deeper appreciation for the Buddhist teachings.


Witnessing the ritual of Tak Bat, the giving of alms to monks, is another spiritual experience that should not be missed. Early in the morning, monks in saffron robes make their way through the streets, collecting food offerings from devotees. You can join the local community in offering food and giving merit, symbolizing generosity and kindness. This act of giving allows you to connect with the Buddhist principles of compassion and selflessness.


Chiang Mai is also home to various Buddhist retreat centers where you can embark on a journey of self-discovery and spiritual growth. These retreats offer meditation workshops, teachings on Buddhist philosophy, and an opportunity to detach from the distractions of everyday life. Whether it’s a short retreat or a longer stay, the tranquility and serene surroundings of these centers provide a nurturing environment for introspection and self-reflection.


Exploring the ancient temples of Chiang Mai is another way to experience the spiritual side of the city. Wat Chedi Luang, one of the most significant temples, houses the revered Emerald Buddha and offers a glimpse into the city’s architectural and religious heritage. Wat Phra Singh, with its intricate Lanna-style architecture and stunning murals, is another temple worth visiting to immerse yourself in the spiritual artistry of Chiang Mai.


Beyond temples and retreats, Chiang Mai also offers opportunities to experience spiritual practices such as traditional Thai massage and yoga. These practices promote physical and mental well-being while connecting the body and mind. You can participate in yoga classes, indulge in rejuvenating spa treatments, or seek the guidance of experienced practitioners to enhance your spiritual journey.


Immersing yourself in the spiritual side of Chiang Mai allows for introspection, self-discovery, and a deeper appreciation for the Buddhist traditions and practices. It is a chance to find harmony within oneself and connect with the profound spirituality that permeates every corner of this captivating city.



Chiang Mai is a destination that captivates the hearts and palates of food travelers while offering a myriad of cultural, natural and spiritual experiences. The vibrant markets of Chiang Mai are a sensory delight, where you can indulge in mouthwatering street food and immerse yourself in the lively atmosphere. Sampling traditional Chiang Mai cuisine allows you to savor the unique flavors and ingredients that define Northern Thai gastronomy.


But Chiang Mai is not just about food. The city’s rich history and cultural heritage are evident in its ancient temples, intricate architecture, and vibrant festivals. Discovering the historical landmarks and participating in celebrations allows you to connect with the deep-rooted traditions and immerse yourself in the local way of life.


Chiang Mai’s natural beauty is awe-inspiring, with national parks, botanical gardens, and picturesque landscapes waiting to be explored. The lush mountains, cascading waterfalls, and vibrant flower fields provide a serene backdrop for outdoor adventures and moments of tranquility.


Moreover, the spiritual side of Chiang Mai offers a chance to find inner peace and connect with Buddhist traditions. From meditation retreats and monk chats to witnessing sacred rituals, you can delve into the spiritual essence of the city and gain a deeper understanding of mindfulness and compassion.


In conclusion, Chiang Mai is a destination that satisfies both the culinary and cultural senses. Whether you’re exploring the bustling markets, sampling traditional dishes, discovering the rich history and culture, experiencing the natural beauty, or immersing in the spiritual side, Chiang Mai offers an unforgettable journey that combines flavors, traditions, and enlightenment. The city’s charm and allure will leave a lasting imprint on your heart, making it a must-visit destination for food travelers and seekers of cultural and spiritual enrichment.