Your plane will swoop across the mountains and the jungle as the city of Chiang Mai slowly comes into view. Surrounded by green and tucked between mountain folds, this old city was cut off from the world for most of its history. Only by elephant back or tortuous upriver cruising could you reach it, meaning Chiang Mai was saved from the Burmese and Angkor raids that devastated cities like Sukhothai and Ayutthaya. It was only in the 1920s that Europeans made it here, but small hill tribes have always used Chiang Mai as a trading post, giving the city an ethnically diverse flavor. You will see many different faces and clothes along the streets, a testament to Chiang Mai’s continued domain as Thailand’s cultural hub.
You will be greeted at the airport and transferred to your hotel that is within the old city walls. Most of the surrounding area is pedestrianized, characterized by narrow cobblestone lanes, small shops and cafes, and the odd, intriguing temple. The city is a quiet place for easing into the Thai experience, with monks on the streets and many cafe corners for watching the world go by. Your guide will take you to Doi Suthep this evening. Walk up a few hundred steps, see the spinning prayer wheels and listen to chiming bells as you go. Sunset is magical up here, especially as pilgrims help create a spiritual atmosphere.