Chiang Mai is located inland in northern Thailand. It’s a very touristic city that has a lot to offer from adventure tours, a National Park, culinary courses, markets, culture, and beautiful temples. You’ll find different parks and destinations to explore within a day’s range. Here are some of my favorite destinations for photography.
Chiang Mai Old City Temples
There are many spectacular temples to visit in the old city. You can walk around in any direction inside the old city walls and find a temple to visit. Make sure to bring long pants and cover your shoulders so you don’t have to spend extra money to meet the proper dress code. You should definitely visit the Wat Chedi Luang. It’s the old temple known for it’s ruined chedi.
Chiang Mai Saturday Night and Sunday Market
The Saturday night market is south of the old city wall on Wua Lai road. It covers several blocks and you’ll be able to find a wide range of things to buy including delicious food. The Sunday market is situated in the middle of the old city and also covers a few blocks. I recommend visiting at least one or both if you have time. There is so much to look at and you’ll find some great deals on unique pieces of art. I loved the food and enjoyed capturing the food stands and the market in general.
Trip to Chiang Rai. The Blue and White Temples and Baandam Museum.
I highly recommend booking a tour to go visit the beautiful Blue and White temples near Chiang Rai. You don’t need to have a tour guide to visit them but booking a tour will bring you there early enough to beat the crowd. The Blue temple, Wat Rong Suea Ten, distinguished by its vivid blue coloring & elaborate carvings is a small site and it’s an absolutely stunning building. The visit doesn’t take long as there isn’t much else than the temple to photograph. Be sure to go around and look at all of the great details.
The White Temple, Wat Rong Khun, is a contemporary, unconventional, privately-owned art exhibit in the style of a Buddhist temple. It is absolutely stunning and has lots to offer. The sad part is that you are not allowed to take photos inside the temple. There are murals with super heroes painted on the walls making this temple unique. The rest of the site is also very interesting with the wishing well and wishing trees, beautiful buildings, and super heroe’s heads hanging from some of the trees.
The Baandam Museum, also known as the Black House, is the former residence of the famous Thai artist Thawan Duchanee. He liked black because all colours mixed create black. So you guessed it, this is why every building is black. Also, there are lots of great artifacts, furniture and carvings to photograph. Make sure to take your time during your visit. A good tip is to ask how much time you’ll spend at each stop when booking tours.
Doi Inthanon National Park
Doi Inthanon National Park nicknamed “the roof of Thailand” is the tallest peak in the country. There is a lot to visit including the King’s and Queen’s Pagodas near the summit, great waterfalls, the Karen village, and a varied climatic ecosystem. Some of the villages are very interesting to visit and you can find some nice handmade scarfs or clothing to buy. Make sure to take your time when visiting the park. I booked a tour and was rushed at every stop. Renting a car/bike or hiring a driver might be a better alternative. Bring your tripod, telephoto and wide angle lens to the park.
The Elephant Nature Park
There is no better way to responsibly photograph elephants than visiting the Elephant Nature Park. The park take elephants that were in the tourism industry, logging industry, or were abandoned and or wounded. Each elephant is paired with a local Mahout, a worker that is assigned to a specific elephant and who remains with them for life in most cases. I stayed over night at the park and was able to enjoy my time with these magnificent animals. It was a feel good visit and I left with tons of very great photographs. There is a number of these types of parks around Chiang Mai- just make sure to do your research before booking a tour to make sure they are truly about conservation and what is best for the animals.
The Final Word
Chiang Mai is a great city surrounded by mountains and rivers. There is so much to do and for most of us, so little time. I would suggest making Chiang Mai a hub for day or overnight trips. It is an affordable place to stay and there is no shortage of tour companies. You’ll want to take in some Thai cuisine lessons as well. There is nothing like learning about the exotic ingredients and learning how to cook and get to eat some of the best Thai food you will ever have. Chiang Mai is one of my favorite cities in the world and I will visit again one day for sure.