Chiang Mai


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Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai is popular amongst young backpackers through to pensioner and tour groups with its variety of interesting site's and original architecture. Accommodation consists of a good selection of international-quality hotels, along with a wide selection of guesthouses, which offer anything from very basic home stays to upmarket accommodation with en-suite facilities. Most are within the limits of the main city, but some of the more interesting options are in the surrounding hills. Shoppers are greeted with a variety of local handicrafts and silk are main specialities, along with some quality antique dealers, but caution is required as fakes and inferior products are prevalent. The night markets have lots of fake designer items, souvenirs and trinkets, and although prices are low and some bargains are to be had, the old adage about getting what you pay for usually applies here as well. Entertainment and activities centre around: numerous temples; a few museums. Just out of the city are more temples (including the hilltop Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, which is a must on most schedules), zoo, tribal research institute and other rural development projects. Numerous short courses in Thai massage (the therapeutic version), cooking or crafts. Several golf courses in the general vicinity.
Nightlife consists of the night market, bars and discos. The seedier side of nightlife has spread from Bangkok, but the "go-go" bars and adult shows are well diluted, with no single centre of such activities. Most hotels provide live music and shows a couple of times per week. For gastronomy there is everything from street stalls and local eateries to quality restaurants offering Thai and Western cuisines. Getting around the area provides numerous options. Motorised rickshaws (tuk-tuks) and motorcycle taxis are readily available around the city, but require fares to be negotiated beforehand. Standard saloon car taxis are also available by arrangement, usually operating from hotels, the airport, etc, with standard fares but no meter. Air-conditioned minibuses run to most centres in the northern provinces, but service can be erratic. Rickety buses and smart modern coaches offer a two-tier system to more distant destinations as far away as Bangkok. Numerous tour companies bolt together 1- to 3-day itineraries for such diversions as treks to hill-tribe villages, elephant rides, bamboo-raft trips, scenic tours of the Golden Triangle and boat trips or visits to hot springs, orchid farms, craft centres, temples, waterfalls and national parks. Single groups may set their own itineraries for a price, but there are plenty of less professional operations promising the earth at bargain prices with disappointing results. Plenty of research is needed and lots of questions need to be asked before you commit yourself and part with hard cash. You also need to ensure you are well-prepared before setting out to spend a few days well away from civilisation.