Thailand’s most-awaited holiday- Songkran- is approaching! This nationwide holiday celebrating the Thai new year provides us with an opportunity to have our much-deserved break while making memories with our loved ones. Songkran means “to move forward” in Sanskrit. Where do you want to leap forward to the Thai new year? Why not welcome the new year in Chaing Mai, The Rose of the North?
Songkran is internationally known for the nationwide water war, where people playfully splash water at each other. Chiang Mai has always been a famous destination to make the most of the water festival. However, authorities have recently announced this year’s Songkran to be ‘dry’, with exceptions for some organizers to host the Songkran water splashing event with strict COVID-19 restrictions. But whether Songkran is really going to be ‘dry’ still remains unclear. Nonetheless, even with the omittance of the water scene, we will tell you why you should spend your Songkran in Chiang Mai.
1. More than 300 temples.
One of Songkran’s traditions is to gain merit by gently pouring scented water on Buddha statues at home or temples. Hence, visiting the temples should be on your Songkran agenda! Chiang Mai is home to more than 300 wats (places of worship). The history of these temples dates back to the 13th and 18th centuries when Chiang Mai was the capital city of The Lanna Kingdom, one of the capitals of Buddhism in Southeast Asia.
Visiting these temples is a must to immerse yourself in Thai culture. But which temples do you visit? We’ve got you covered! Wat Doi Suthep, the most highly revered temple in Chiangmai, is located on the Doi Suthep hill. The journey to the temple is quite a fun adventure itself. Consider getting on the songtaew or renting a scooter as you go up the hill overlooking Chiangmai. Additionally, visit another highly respected temple, Wat Chedi Luang, in the middle of Old City Chiang Mai. Dating back to 1385, the 80 metres tall main chedi is a mesmerizing view to the eyes of the visitors.
2. Delicious Northern Thai Food.
Of course, an ideal Songkran holiday has to come with great food. If you think you’ve truly experienced Thai food by having Som Tam and Pad Kaprao, you haven’t tried Northern Thai food (also known as Lanna food). Chiangmai is the best destination to indulge in authentic Northern Thai dishes. Let us introduce you to the must-try foods which will bless your taste buds!
You haven’t tried Northern Thai food if you haven’t tried Khao Soi. Khao Soi is no ordinary noodle soup- it is a hearty coconut milk base soup with a touch of fragrant red curry. Another most iconic dish is Gaeng Hung Lay, the Northern Pork Belly curry. The tender, fatty pieces of pork met with rich aromatic sauce go well with a warm white rice plate.
3. Vegan and vegetarian paradise.
Vegans and vegetarians, rejoice! You’ve come to Chiang Mai, the vegan capital of Asia. You will find the red and yellow vegan sign with Thai words pronounced ‘jay’ as you travel around the city. Not only you’ll find delicious vegan Thai food, but there are also a wide variety of cuisines to pick from- Western, Chinese, Japanese, Mexican, Israeli, Burmese and more! Try vegetarian/vegan menus in Chiang Mai to your heart’s content; we can assure you that you will not run out of dishes to try.
4. Elephant Sanctuaries.
How does spending your Songkran bathing elephants sound to you? Yes, you can get close and pour water on these friendly and magnificent mammals. Chiang Mai is home to the majority of Elephant Sanctuaries in Thailand. And, of course, it is essential to choose ethical elephant sanctuaries!
Let us suggest some of the best elephant sanctuaries in Chiang Mai. Feed and bathe with elephants at the Elephant Freedom Project at 2,500 Baht for adults and 1,250 Baht for children. Otherwise, you can also visit the Karen Elephant Retreat, less than an hour’s drive from Chiang Mai. The elephant’s caretakers are local Karen people, so learn their tradition and culture as you can get dressed in traditional Karen clothes. What’s more, you get to observe elephants enjoying mud baths and even join them in the mud pit!
5. Water activities.
It’s Songkran, so you should not miss out on the water fun. Chiang Mai has it all! White water rafting? Tick. Climbing (yes, climbing) a waterfall? Tick.
Join a full-day rafting adventure in Chiang Mai and tackle some of Thailand’s best white water rapids! But rest assured, expert guides secure your safety. Have you ever climbed a ‘sticky’ waterfall? With nature’s magic, the stones have so much grip it’s easy to climb up the waterfall. The Nam Toki Bua Tong (Sticky Waterfall) is an hour and a half away drive away from Chiang Mai, and it will give you a one-of-a-kind experience.
6. An escape to the flower field.
Your escape to the magical flower land is only 40 minutes away from Chiang Mai! Snap fairytale-like pictures or immerse yourself in the beauty and fragrance of the purple Marguerite at Mon Jam. There are numerous flowers and beautiful areas to explore, including a nice alcove under the Sakura tree, a little cottage, many photo booths, and a viewpoint from the high tower. Plus, the entrance fee is only 50 baht!
7. The highest point in Thailand.
Celebrate the Thai new year from the highest point in Thailand! During Songkran, the heat can be unbearable, even rising to 40 degrees Celsius. The climate in Doi Inthanon National Park is substantially cooler than in other parts of Thailand due to its high altitude. The 482-square-kilometre park is known for its beautiful nature paths, dense rainforests, gorgeous vistas, rushing waterfalls, and the breathtaking twin pagodas at the peak.
There is no better destination to indulge in nature than the Doi Inthanon National Park because the National Park has so much to offer. Take the beautiful nature trails and hike up the mountain as you stop to take short breaks and peek into the wildlife. Also, the National Park is home to more than 500 animal species!
Click HERE to read our guide article for your Doi Inthanon National Park trip.
8. Don’t cut your trip short- travel to Pai and Chiang Rai.
If you can extend your Songkran vacation with little to no consequences, we highly advise you to travel to Pai and Chiang Rai!
Chiang Rai, a three-hour drive away from Chiang Mai, was formerly the bustling capital of Thailand. From one place along the Mekong River in Chiang Rai, you can feast on the view of Thailand, Myanmar, and Laos all at once. On the other hand, Pai is a four-hour drive away from Chiang Mai. This small cosy town is known for its laid-back ambience and lovely hippy vibes. These two locations should be your next destination
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