Songkran, the Thai Water Festival, has become an international event as it attracts hundreds of thousands of tourists from all over the world. During Songkran, Thai people splash water on each other as a symbol of good luck and a celebration of new beginnings. Tourists are hardly exempt from the wet antics and in fact it’s often the reason people travel to Thailand during mid-April.
The most culturally significant old city in northern Thailand, Chiang Mai, has become one of the most popular locations to visit for this festival. A variety of religious and fun-related activities take place each year, along with parades and the Miss Songkran beauty competition.
Chiang Mai, the cultural capital of Thailand, which is 700km north from Bangkok is a place where the festival extends beyond the usual three-day festivities.
From April. 13 onwards, the public go to the streets with hoses, buckets, and water guns as they prepare to partake in the nation-wide water fight. It doesn’t matter if you’re on the sidewalk or in the middle of the street; you’re going to get soaked. Really though, that’s what Songkran is all about.
Chiang Mai has become an increasingly modern city and has been attracting over 5 million visitors each year, of which between 1.4 million and 2 million are foreign tourists.
“Chiang Mai is one of the most interesting cultural and historical cities in the world,” Wisoot Buachoom, northern region director of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) told Arab News.
The large population of artists, writers, and creative types, both Thai and foreign, who have settled in Chiang Mai have bestowed upon the city the title UNESCO Creative City. The ambience and pace of life in Chiang Mai is far slower and more relaxed than that of Bangkok.
“Chiang Mai attracts nearly 2 million foreign tourists a year,” Wisoot added.
In addition to water festival, Chiang Mai Flower Festival is also well known to tourists. The three-day event is held during the first weekend in February each year, and coincides with the season in which Chiang Mai’s temperate and tropical flowers are in full bloom.
Chiang Mai has a number of attractions like elephant rides, a tiger kingdom, elephant camps, the Rajpruk Park, the Wachirathan Waterfall, a spicy Thai cuisine and a bargain shopping center.
Attractions range from ruins of ancient settlements and Buddhist shrines to magnificent mountain scenery and hill tribe villages. In addition, the city boasts diverse ethnic tribes, many cooking and massage schools, numerous outdoor activities, a variety of handicrafts workshops, various cultural performances, and exotic wildlife and yoga centers.
Chiang Mai Attractions
Trekking and visiting hill tribe villages are popular activities to do in Chiang Mai; treks into the mountains can range from easy, one-night trips to longer adventures.
The Royal Park Rajapruek located in the Hang Dong district has millions of plants from different species. The garden is a symbol of beauty and is a great place to calm your mind. If you extend the trip a bit further, you can enjoy the beauty of Wachirathan Waterfall on the way to Doi Inthanon summit. Relax here and inhale the fresh aroma of nature. The scenery will render you speechless, as a unique landscape enfolds right before you with lush greenery and a cascading waterfall.
A night safari will be another life-long memory. Chiang Mai night safari is 10 kilometers away from the city. It is the largest night zoo in the world with over 300 acres of natural land, offering an exciting chance to interact with wild animals. The safari offers tours featuring rhinoceros, giraffes, zebras and deer, co-existing in the open plains, watched closely by a pride legion of lions. In addition, the safari offers a series of trails over three main zones.
Maesa Elephant camp, home to one of the largest assemblies of elephants in the north of Thailand, is another attraction. In this center, elephants show off their many amusing skills, such as playing football and even painting in this center.
In addition to Maesa Elephant camp, Patara Elephant Farm is another attraction. The farm provides a hands-on experience on how to nurture and take care of elephants.
Another place for elephant lovers is the Elephant Nature Park, a unique conservation project established with the aim of providing a sanctuary and rescue center for these creatures.
Tiger Kingdom also located in the Mae Sa Valley, has a number of tigers and visitors are given the opportunity to play with cubs. You can also pose for a photo with tigers.
While going back from Chiang Mai, don’t forget to make a stopover in Bangkok for a shopping experience like no other. Assign a special day to enjoy the traditional Floating Market.
Chiang Mai Accommodation
The Siripanna Villa Resort & Spa, is a special resort in the midst of the city, where more than 200 seedlings and 20,000 trees are well nurtured. Located 10 minutes away from railway station and 15 minutes away from Chiang Mai International Airport, the hotel is listed amongst the top three hotels in Thailand. Apart from the beautiful scenery and serene ambience, the hotel provides modern facilities and a special package for golf lovers and honeymooners.
Accommodation in Bangkok
The Oriental Residence in Bangkok is in a strategic diplomatic area, fortified with high security and takes pride in being family friendly. The property consists of 41 executive deluxe rooms, 70 one-bedroom suites, 30 two-bedroom suites and 4 three-bed room suites. The facilities are all five star graded.
Restaurants in Chiang Mai
Khum Khantoke, which is known as the reception room of Chiang Mai province, offers the traditional Thai lifestyle, atmosphere and food. If you want to enjoy a panoramic view, delicious food and lively music visit Palaad Tawan Restaurant on the hilltop.
For those of you craving Middle Eastern food go to Sahara restaurant on Nimahemin Road.
Restaurants in Bangkok
The Asiatic River Front and Sampran Riverside both offer authentic Thai cuisine in the heart of the city.
During the night time, dine on a luxurious cruise with a superb view of the historical landmarks on a river cruise along the Chao Phraya River. Dinner starts at 7.30 p.m. and ends at 9.30pm.