Chiang Mai—The Zen-Like Counterpart to Bangkok’s Bustle
Let’s take a visit to the Rose of the North—a place where you can mingle with rescued elephants, enjoy delicious Thai food, and take in the beauty of a tropical jungle. This week, we’re featuring Chiang Mai, Thailand. Admire the colorful flowers of Northern Thailand, enjoy traditional cultural festivals, and learn about the history of Chiang Mai on this once-in-a-lifetime travel experience. Why choose Chiang Mai over the better-known Bangkok? Chiang Mai has a myriad of breathtaking sights and unique experiences to immerse you in authentic Thai culture, not the saturated tourist-view you’ll likely experience in Bangkok. Beyond that, it’s the perfect starting point for your Thailand vacation.
Chiang Mai is located in Northern Thailand, a little more than 400 miles north of the capitol. Chiang Mai offers a humid, tropical climate with temperatures ranging from 59 degrees fahrenheit to 97 degrees fahrenheit. The rainy season is May through October, and the most humid month is September. The driest months span from December to March. Although most of the year is pretty mild when it comes to allergens (Chiang Mai received a rating of 5 out of 10 on the Pasha Allergy Scale), there are a few months when smog takes over and makes for unpleasant travel conditions. We’ll break down everything you need to know about smog in Thailand so you can get the most out of your visit to Chiang Mai.
Smog—Chiang Mai’s Allergen and What to Do About It
For most of the year, the allergens in Chiang Mai should be fairly manageable. Bring along your typical allergy medication and you should be just fine. However, it is highly recommended that you avoid traveling to Chiang Mai from February to April because of the smoky season. This season is especially bad in March. During the smoky season, the air in Chiang Mai becomes extremely hazy for a number of reasons. The local farmers burn fields and brush, and that smoke, coupled with the smog from vehicle exhaust pipes, becomes trapped in the valley. This is also the dry season, and because there aren’t frequent rains to cleanse the air, the air becomes excessively dry and dusty.
If, for some reason, you’re unable to travel to Chiang Mai during another season, plan for mostly indoor activities and invest in a heavy-duty face mask. Many of the locals wear face masks during this time period, so you won’t stick out like a sore thumb.
Now That Your Allergies Are Under Control, Let’s Have Some Fun
Unless you’re a zookeeper, it’s pretty likely that you don’t get to interact with elephants everyday. In Chiang Mai, visit the Elephant Nature Park for an unforgettable experience. This park is a rescue and rehabilitation center dedicated to providing homes for endangered species and creating a sanctuary for distressed elephants. Visit for a few hours or enjoy a sleepover with the elephants. At this park, you can observe, bathe, and feed elephants, and you can even go on a jungle hike with them! Sounds like the perfect day to us.
Soar through the jungle on a zipline! With this attraction, you’ve got a front row seat to enjoy all of the flora and fauna Northern Thailand has to offer. Keep your eyes peeled for wild animals and enjoy the view.
While you’re there, learn how to cook traditional Thai food! Take a cooking class while you’re visiting Chiang Mai, and you’ll be able to enjoy the delicious taste of authentic laab (also known as laap) long after you’ve returned home. The food in Northern Thailand is much different than what you’ll find anywhere else in the country. This region boasts herbaceous flavors, sticky rice, and steamed dishes. Talk about a lasting (and delicious) souvenir!
Learn about Chiang Mai’s history, from its very beginning up to present-day at the Chiang Mai Art and Culture Center. This museum is the perfect activity for a day when your allergies are really acting up. Although, it is important to note that the center is closed on Mondays.
As we mentioned earlier, Chiang Mai is the perfect starting point for your dream Thailand vacation. You’ll definitely want to spend time exploring Chiang Mai itself, but you should also schedule time for a few day trips. From Chiang Mai, you can take a three-hour bus ride to Chiang Rai, where you can admire the famous White Temple (Wat Rong Khun), eat some authentic Burmese-inspired khao soi, and visit the Hilltribe Museum and Education Center. You might also consider visiting Pai and Mae Hong Son—very popular destinations for vacationing Thais.
What to Know Before You Go—A Guide to Medications in Chiang Mai
Before you escape to your Chiang Mai getaway, here’s what you need to know about medications in Thailand:
- Many medications are available over-the-counter in Thailand, but bring your own medication just in case.
- Bring with you a list of the brand and generic names of your medications, as well as the active ingredients in case you are unable to find medicine under the name that you’re used to.
With our travel and allergy tips in hand, you’ll be ready to experience the cultural trip of a lifetime. Enjoy Chiang Mai! (Just don’t forget your face mask if you visit from February to April.) เดินทางโดยสวัสดิภาพ!
Be sure to check out the Pasha Travel Guide to see this year’s top 12 travel destinations, and learn tips for traveling allergy-free. Next week, we’re featuring Vail, Colorado, and covering allergens to watch out for, fun activities to do while you’re there, and important medicine restrictions for travelers. Stay tuned later this week to learn what allergy essentials to bring on your trip. Follow us on Facebook and Pinterest for more updates!