Written by Victor Kang
Co-written by Dawn Pillay
Edited by Candice Neo
You are that person.
The kind of person who would show up in T-shirt and jeans when everyone is in their business jackets and long evening dresses.
The kind who would skip the touristy and conventional locations, in favour of retreating to a secluded beach where you can calmly watch the retreating sea waves – or relaxing in a lush green forest, away from the noises of civilisation.
Or, you’re the first to discover and adventure through hidden villages, and have a lot of respect for the local arts and culture. And apart from all the cute cafes and boutique guesthouses, Chiang Mai is exactly this sort of place, brimming with adventure, arts and culture.
So if we are speaking to you, heads up – put on your adventure hats because these 13 unique adventurous, cultural and artistic things in Chiang Mai will change your perception about this Thai province!
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1. Indulge in tea, scenery and more in this quaint little Chinese Village – Baan Rai Thai, Mae Hong Son
How would you like to be transported to a lovely Chinese village complete with a signature tea experience during your Chiang Mai trip?
Photo via phumpat_c
Baan Rai Thai is a small village with a population of just around 1,000 who are mainly Chinese-born or Thai-Chinese. With a heavy Chinese influence on its signboards, buildings, and even the local language, Baan Rai is now stealing travellers’ attention with its unique charm, cool weather, Chinese food and locally grown Oolong Tea.
Photo via iiceskate, ramai_kaew
Originated from China, the famous Oolong Tea is grown right in these plantations. You can learn all about its production and harvest, and enjoy a hot cuppa tea yourself, while taking in the tranquil and green surroundings.
Photo via phumpat_c
Photo via unicornjustinwolf, mamyow, folkap
The best time to visit Baan Rai is from October to February, especially in February when an annual Tea Tasting Festival takes place. In addition to a tea-licious holiday, you can also trek, cycle or do horse-riding around the scenic village, while staying at the most popular accommodation, Lee Wine Ruk Thai Resort, for that authentic Baan Rai experience you won’t get elsewhere in Thailand.
Photo via aneanee, Oat R
Photo via beebie_patarin, peamai_jen
Photo via Oat R
Imagine you are among a cluster of wooden huts scattered in a lush green landscape, with breathtaking views from the top, fresh air and chilly weather.
Here’s where you can experience the folk life of Thailand’s most mountainous region – Mong Nuea homestay, a perfect welcoming place only a few hours’ drive from Chiang Mai. As this place is not well known, you won’t find many tourists, so you can immerse in the local culture and enjoy the peace and quiet.
Meanwhile, tear yourself away from your gadgets, technology and social media. Mong Neua is about purely experiencing the simple lives that the people lead. Give your mind that much-needed rejuvenation!
3. Unprecedented location and the most breathtaking temples and pagodas in all of Thailand – Wat Chaloem Phra Kiat Phrachomklao Rachanusorn, Lampang
Also known by the names Wat Phabatpuphadang, Wat Phrabuddhabat or Wat Doi, these spectacular temples and pagodas are truly one of a kind. Clinging to the jagged cliff face at the top of a mountain, the temples overlook a sheer drop close to 1,000 meters below!
Photo Via Tomyudon
Photo Via Arthur_shooting
An hour’s drive from Lampang deposits you at the first level, where you can wander around the main temple, and meet the monks who live in this area.
Photo Via mira_chomph
The second level is farther up the mountain, and can be accessed by tuk-tuk or on foot. Here you will find the famous footsteps that are believed to belong to Buddha.
Leading to the final level of the temple complex are 800 extremely steep steps that bring you to the most magnificent mountain top in Thailand. This third tier is known as Doi Prat Bet – and here you’ll find the golden pagoda, prayer hall, and many white stupas scattered along the rocky surface of the mountain top.
Photo Via Apichat-pimsoda
The 360 degree views from the summit are incredible; the Thung valley below, the hills in the distance, and the temples surrounding you. Located in the Lampang province (112km from Chiang Mai), this magnificent, 3-level Buddhist tribute may be a little difficult to get to, but more than worth the journey.
Photo Via NeekrungChannel
Video by Jakapong Wattanajahree
4. Enjoy fresh local coffee at Thailand’s highest peak (with local tribes) ― Baan Mae Klang Luang
If you’re a coffee person, you’re gonna love this!
In the tiny village of Mae Klang Luang ― just below Thailand’s highest peak, Doi Inthanon National Park ― you’ll find a small and humble stall that brews and serves freshly brewed coffee.
The Arabica and Robusta coffee beans here are organically grown in these fertile lands. These coffee beans are then handpicked, cleaned and dried, before going through a manual and traditional way of roasting, which involves a lot of stirring over a hot pot and burning fire.
Once they are black enough, the beans are then placed into a wooden strainer and swung in the air. After that, the coffee beans will be ground into fine powder in a traditional grinding machine before finally being boiled and strained into tiny coffee cups.
There are very few things in life that are better than sipping freshly brewed coffee in the cool breeze and surrounded by lush greenery. It certainly beats the experience of being in a commercialised coffee shop!
If you have a hard time trying to part ways with the addictive smell and taste of the coffee, you can always some to take home with you.
Baan Mae Klang Luang is inhabited by the Karen tribe, an ethnic tribe that migrated from Myanmar to Thailand in the 18th Century.
Apart from enjoying the magnificent view of paddy fields and exploring the local flora and fauna, you can also learn about the local culture by venturing into the villages. Just remember to hire a local guide.
If you want a more immersive experience, why not try out homestay in the area too? It’s perfect if you want to escape from the city and spend a more time in this magical place, where you can smell the trees and watch the stars at night.
5. Ignite your artistic sense ― Baan Kang Wat artist village
If you love art, you’ve come to the right place!
Livened with various cafes and shophouses, and decorated much greenery, the hidden Baan Kang Wat artist village combines modern life with a country lifestyle. There’s even a small organic fruit-and-vegetable garden at the back of the village.
The teak and wood structures of these shops, coupled with the variety of plants, stimulate an artistic energy that is too potent to resist.
Many of the shops here sell good quality handmade products that are either organically made or sustainable, and the profits are redistributed to the community in one way or another. That’s not to mention that prices are quite reasonable too!
For instance, in Jibberish, a shop that sells “zakka” products (a Japanese trend that focuses on improving anything and everything about your life, including your home decor, lifestyle and appearance), you can find jewellery, postcards and ceramic items like teapots and cups.
There’s also Pachana ceramic studio, which organises workshops frequently, so you can get crafty and make some ceramic products for yourself and your loved ones!
Events and exhibitions are held here regularly too! Do check out their Facebook page for latest update before heading down!
6. Stay with the isolated Akha tribe ― Baan Huay Kee Lek
Do you love learning about local culture from Thailand’s hill tribes, but don’t want to visit overly commercialised villages?
Baan Huay Kee Lek is an isolated hill tribe that not many tourists know of, though it is one of the six hill tribes that are recognised by the Thai government.
When you are here, you will be introduced to their local traditions and lifestyle without disrupting their daily lives. You’ll see women drying beans under the sun, agricultural crops such as rice and vegetables, and livestock such as pigs, cattles and chickens.
Generally, in Thailand, almost every tribe has its own unique traditional clothes that distinguishes one tribe from another. Akha women are dressed in black clothing with long broad sleeves and caps decorated with silver coins.
If you want a truly immersive experience, you can even do a homestay with the locals!
7. Majestic silver temple only for the men ― Wat Sri Suphan
Have you ever seen a shiny and glimmering temple, constructed almost entirely out of silver?
Situated in the famous silver-making Wualai district of Chiang Mai, it is difficult to miss the gleaming Wat Sri Suphan.