10 things you haven't seen in Chiang Mai

10 things you haven't seen in Chiang Mai

There's more to Thailand's second-largest city than Doi Suthep and the Night Bazaar. Check out these less-traveled Chiang Mai attractions, shops and cafes

Chiang Mai, Thailand's second largest city, has its major tourist attractions that every tourist feels a nagging obligation to hit. There're Doi Suthep mountain, the Night Safari, the Night Bazaar, Lanna art exhibits and the Elephant Nature Park, to name a few.

Here are 10 stops for those who have been there and done all that. 

1.  The Lake

A military property, Chiang Mai's Rama 9 Park on Route 107 has horse stables, gun firing ranges and, more randomly, a hill tribe museum. 

But the lake is the main attraction, with every inch of it's circumference taken over by restaurants. 

Popular amongst Thai youngsters looking for a place to grab a few drinks and eat reasonably priced Thai food, it's a great way to experience the north's fantastic cuisine and escape the over-trodden tourist track. 

2. École Française d'Extrême-Orient 

Amidst the rapidly growing city lies the lovely French School of Asian Studies on Charoen Prathet Road. 

Situated on the banks of the river, it was taken over in 1975 by Francois Bizot. Along with his friend Chai Inchantawho, Bizot personally expanded this property with his own hands using sturdy antique wood -- difficult to come across these days. 

This beautiful property is also surrounded by some of Chiang Mai's oldest trees, dating back 600 years.

3. The offbeat art scene

Chiang Mai is filled with quirky shophouses and thoughtful graffiti, particularly on trendy Nimmanhemin Road,  as part of the city's rising alternative art scene.

Here are a few gallery cafes worth exploring that exhibit unusual paintings, installations, sculptures and photographs periodically.  

Chan Neung Cafe and Beds, Nimmanhemin soi 1: Exhibition space, guest house and excellent hot chocolate.

Minimal Art Gallery, Nimmanhemin soi 13: Cafe and exhibition space with a reading area on the top floor.

See Scape, Nimmanhemin soi 17: A small enclosure with a product design shop, gallery space, bakery and artist's residence.

Chiang Mai University Art Centre, 239 Nimmanhemin: Art installations and exhibitions. There is also a dance school onsite that puts on regular shows.

4. 'Rubber Tree Road'

While Southern Thailand gets all the fame for rubber plantations, the road from Chiang Mai to Lamphun is in fact lined with the longest and oldest row of rubber trees in Thailand, stretching 30 kilometers.  

5. Hmong Lane

In Kad Luang, Chiang Mai's 100-year-old market next to the Ping River, a tiny area where hill tribes congregate and sell their crafts has been dubbed "Hmong Lane" by the locals.

From bags to clothes, prices are reasonable but best of all you don't get the tourist trap feel of the Night Bazaar, with is mass produced goods. 

6. Old-school toys

There's more to Chiang Mai car rental shop Vhiang Ping Pa Plern than just rides. At the front of the business is a fantastic little shop selling retro wind up toys, posters of beauty queens from the 1950s and various other vintage radios, cameras, bikes and kettles. 

48 Charoen Prathet Road

7. Baan Din Dee

This mud hut cafe is on the grounds of Chiang Mai University's Art Centre. Quiet and self-sustainable, Baan Din Dee is a great place to cool off with a glass of iced coffee after an afternoon of shopping on Nimmanhemin or checking out the uni's arts scene.   

239 Nimmanhemin Road

8. Chiang Mai Philatelic Museum

Yes, we're suggesting you visit a stamp museum. But hear us out.

Beautifully preserved inside and out, this 100-year-old colonial building just a short walk from the Kad Luang flower market used to be the Mae Ping Post Office.

It now serves as a museum displaying old scales, Thai and international stamps and other philatelic paraphernalia. At times, it is also used as an exhibition space. 

9. Umong Temple

Literally translated as "tunnel temple," Wat Umong is not just another sacred monument. Within walking distance of the University of Chiang Mai, it's located in a dense jungle, where most of its trees have been blessed with orange cloths by the monks themselves. 

The highlight on the grounds is of course the set of tunnels below the chedi, built 100 years ago for Phra Maha Terajan, a monk with great expertise in Buddhist scriptures.

In spite of its close proximity to the city, Wat Umong is incredibly quiet and peaceful as few tourists bother to venture in.    

10.  Koland

Decorated with Chinese-themed collectibles, Koland's (Nimmanhemin soi 1) funky interior is mixed up with statues of Mao Zedong and clothing dummies with lantern heads.

Perfect for shoppers who detest blending in with the crowd, the quirky Koland is bound to leave a lasting impression.  

Cattleya Jaruthavee is a freelance photographer and writer. She is particularly interested in socio-economic/political disparities in the world and has several ongoing projects.

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