Northern Thailand’s largest city has struck a fine balance between the traditional and the contemporary, and offers unique cuisine, affordable stays and must-do treks
• Chiang Mai food paradise: ‘the best I’ve ever eaten’
With long, leafy boulevards, Chiang Mai presents an alluring alternative to the Thai capital, Bangkok. Instead of traffic-choked urban sprawl, travellers find a picturesque downtown easily navigated on foot, where the air is clean and the climate mercifully cool. A short bike or scooter ride out of the town leads to a densely rainforested countryside interspersed with waterfalls. Since the local airport received an upgrade in 2014, more regional flights have been heading to this serene city, making it cheaper and easier to reach.
The old town, inside its moat, is an extraordinary vision. Here amid the 30-odd temple spires, barefoot monks in flame-coloured robes collect alms in the morning and street vendors sell their wares by night.