Backpacking in Thailand can be one of the most incredible experiences in life, but it can also drain your wallet of precious Baht. One of the best cities in Thailand to keep busy, explore the town and give your budget a break is Chiang Mai where you can find various free activities if you are creative.
Here are 9 nearly free things to do in Chiang Mai:
1. Get lost – Wandering aimlessly is perhaps the best way to truly get to know Chiang Mai and immerse yourself in the local culture as you stroll through neighbourhoods off the tourist track. Begin by popping through one of the four gates leading in to this rectangular city and letting your sense of adventure guide you along. Allow for approx. 2-3 hours to get through the town with plenty of free time to stop and snack, shop or sit down and watch the world go by. You’ll find that your favourite places will be found on accident.
2. Wat Phra That Doi Suthep – Go back in time to learn about the intriguing history of Buddhism in Thailand at the holy temple of Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. Climb up the 300-step serpent staircase and let yourself be amazed by the temple’s striking golden spire as you catch your breath at the top. Awe at the White Elephant shrine and numerous murals. If you are lucky, you might have the chance to be blessed by a Buddhist monk during your visit, a priceless experience!
3. Swim in Huay Tung Tao Lake – Escape the heat and noisy crowds by spending a peaceful afternoon swimming in the Huay Tun Tao Lake or simply relaxing and having lunch at one of the bamboo huts lining the shore.
4. Night Walk – Southeast Asia is known for its vibrant and bustling night markets where you can find anything from fruit to flowers or jewellery and pirated electronics. Plan a night out on the town by wandering through a night market and tasting local delicacies from a street stand if you dare at Chiang Mai’s largest Night Bazaar.
5. Thai-style Cabaret – Warm up your vocal chords, grab your craziest costume and strap on your dancing shoes for a night out at the Cabaret, located in the Night Bazaar. Dance and sing alongside locals at this fun lip-sync Cabaret party.
6. Waterfall Walk – Chiang Mai’s Bua Tong “Sticky Waterfalls” are an incredible phenomena. Walk safely along the limestone surface of these waterfalls that resemble a hardened sponge and spend all afternoon splashing in the water like a child.
7. Nature Hikes – Hike into the countryside around Chiang Mai in search of distant waterfalls or beautiful scenic mountaintops with panoramic views surrounded by breathtaking landscapes. Bring a snack lunch and spend the day immersed in nature and fresh mountain air.
8. Listen to Jazz – Spend the evening at the Old City Northgate Jazz Co-op where you can listen to the soothing sounds and rhythms of this relaxing music, with the occasional song in English. There is no cover fee and you can stay as long as you like!
9. Visit Wats – Choose a few of the over 200 wats to explore on your own and learn about the interesting Thai culture and traditions found in Chiang Mai. Meditate at Wat Umong or go pet a resident dog at Wat Chedi Luang, the choices are virtually unlimited!
At 316 meters above sea level, Chiang Mai is much cooler, greener and quieter than the capital. It’s a great place to relax and learn about the rich Thai culture and Lanna heritage by taking a Thai language, cooking, meditation and massage course. Blessed with surrounding hills and lush vegetation, it is also renowned for its outdoor activities.