We arrived on Air Asia from Singapore via Bangkok. Unlike low cost airlines in the UK our luggage was booked straight through so all we had to worry about was getting our entry visa stamp and getting to the gate on time. This was really easy and transfer from International to Domestic at Don Meuang was easy too. It is worth remembering as we discovered that even if you arrive on a domestic flight from Bangkok, if your origin is outside Thailand your luggage will arrive at the International Terminal and that is where you should arrange for your driver to be. Once we had run around Chiang Mai airport twice, luckily it is small, we located our driver and within 10 minutes or so we were in our hotel.
Once you get your bearings in Chiang Mai it is quite easy to find your way around on foot but it is worth bearing in mind that some of the main roads are very difficult to cross, zebra crossings are barely visible and drivers ignore them anyway. My advice, follow a local and preferably a buddhist monk if you can find one.
Chiang Mai was originally a walled city, and even new maps indicate the walls, but very little of the actual wall remains, some of it was rebuilt to get an idea of what the original wall would have been like so consequently there isn’t much of a distinction between inside and out, there are a couple of beautiful temples inside the walls. Thai temples, nearly all Buddhist, are very distinctive, encrusted with gold, and uniquely Thai.
I was surprised how many Europeans are living in Chiang Mai, mainly British but other nationalities too so the bars and restaurants tend to cater for Western as well as Thai food.
The night market is absolutely massive and many bargains to be had and prices are amazing. You can haggle a little but it is pretty much hassle free, they generally don’t pester you or run after you and when I bought a dress that was the wrong size they were happy to change it
We booked two tours from Chiang Mai, the City and Temples tour and also the Doi Inthonan National Park. We had a driver and a guide all to ourselves so the tours with Tour East were excellent value and one of them included lunch and they were happy to go along with what we wanted. We were not forced to visit the Jade Factory but we were given the choice if we wanted to. I would definitely recommend both these tours to get a small taste of Northern Thailand
Thai people are so polite and eager to please and I would like to return some day, maybe to one of the beach destinations. It is a little sad that even a non beach destination like Chiang Mai caters so much for tourists and there were so many English bars everywhere playing mostly sixties music but it is also a great destination for shopping and to relax for a few days