Sick of running with the crowds? Check out our list of alternative activities to do in Chiang Mai that will have you mingling and making friends with the locals.
Partake in a jewellery-making course
Chiang Mai is known for its skilled artisans and also its high-quality silver so why not take advantage of both those things and participate in a hands-on jewellery-making course? Nova offers one- to five-day silversmith courses where you learn how to make your own rings, earrings and necklaces. The skilled instructor has over 20 years of experience and patiently teaches you the different silversmith processes. This is also an ideal way to make a special handmade gift for a friend or loved one.
Eat at Khao Soi Mae Sai
Khao soi is a northern Thai speciality that many travellers yearn for once they leave. This delicious and creamy coconut noodle soup is available in many restaurants across the city. However, it pays to join the locals for lunch at Khao Soi Mae Sai, which has long been one of Chiang Mai‘s best-kept secrets and will have you coming back for more.
Spend the night at Mae Ngat dam
Mae Ngat dam is roughly a one-hour drive from Chiang Mai and is located in the Sri Lanna National Park. Take a long tail boat out into the beautiful lake and enjoy the stunning scenery. The lake is best experienced with an overnight stay at one of the floating houseboats. If you’re looking for something a little more comfortable, book into Mountain Float. Alternatively, if you are on a budget, then Eakachai ticks all the boxes. This is a favourite outing for expats and Thais from Chiang Mai, seeking a mini city break.
See a gig at Thapae East
If joining the other travellers at the Zoe bar complex (or Square of Disappear, as it is locally referred to) is not your thing, head to Thapae East, a creative arts, music and event venue frequented by Chiang Mai’s conscious and alternative crowd. Thapae East regularly host different charity events and musicians from Thailand and abroad. The bar has a selection of local craft beers and other tasty drinks – all at very reasonable prices.
Join a monk chat
Ever wanted to know more about Buddhism or just have a casual chat with some Thai monks? Chiang Mai is the perfect place to do just that! One of the top off-the-tourist-trail things to participate in is a monk chat at Wat Umong. Joining a monk chat is a great way to get to know more about the local culture, religion and way of life. Rather than just following the crowds, take time out and do something a little bit different – it will likely make for some great travel stories!
Wat Umong, Su Thep, Mueang Chiang Mai, Chiang Mai, Thailand, +66 85 033 3809
Shop at Warorot Market
Chiang Mai has a bunch of well-known and popular markets but have you heard of Warorot Market or Kad Luang, as it is locally called? Warorot is a bustling local Thai market where you can find everything from tribal textiles, fresh produce, wholesale fabrics, gold, electronics and much more. If you are in search of an authentic Thai experience then head to this market and enjoy getting lost in the moment.
Experience Chiang Mai from above
Little is known about Chiang Mai’s rooftop bar scene. However, the city actually has a pretty good selection of rooftop bars to check out. Rooftop bars range from hipster Thai student bars and laid-back hangout spots to plush cocktails joints. Keen to mingle with the local cool crowd? Then head to Yayee or Rise rooftop bars in the Nimmanheimen neighbourhood.
Chill at Huay Tung Tao Lake
A lazy afternoon at Huay Tung Tao Lake is the perfect way to enjoy Chiang Mai. Huay Tung Tao is roughly a 20-minute drive from the Old City and is not only stunningly beautiful, but also a great place to relax. Locals gather here with family and friends and set up camp in one of the bamboo huts built on stilts on the lake’s shores. For maximum enjoyment, order a few refreshing beverages and some delicious Thai food. The speciality is “jumping shrimp” – fair warning, these are not for the faint-hearted!
Volunteer your time
Travel with a purpose. Chiang Mai has hundreds of charities working in different areas such as children, women, environment, health and more! While you’re in town why not put your time (and skills) to good use and help out at a local charity? Volunteer options can range from simply eating at a charity-run cafe like Free Bird Cafe to signing up for a longer stint with Art Relief International.
Hike to Wat Pha Lat
Wat Pha Lat is a secret jungle temple nestled on the side of Doi Suthep mountain. This enchanting temple is reached by a 20-minute uphill hike and will literally take your breath away. It’s that magical! Check out the beautiful temple statues or sit and marvel at the view of Chiang Mai city below. For those who are keen for more adventure, you can continue up the steep track to the famous Wat Phra That Doi Suthep temple.