LANNA TEMPLES & LIVELY NIGHT MARKETS
One-time capital of Northern Thailand’s Lanna Kingdom, easy-going CHIANG MAI is a great place to hole up for a couple of days, exploring the Old City, feasting on some of the tastiest Thai food in the country and maybe venturing into the surrounding hills for a bit of trekking. The overnight sleeper train from Ayutthaya pulls into Chiang Mai Station in the early morning; sit on the left-hand side of the train to watch the sun rise over the paddy fields outside the city, silhouetting the water buffalo that wade knee deep amongst the rice. At the station, take one of the city’s red songthaews (shared taxi trucks) to your hotel for breakfast and to freshen up.
The rocking motion of the train lulls most kids into a good night’s sleep, but you’ll still probably want to take it easy this morning. After lunch, get out for a wander around the compact Old City, making a beeline for WAT PHRA SINGH, on Samlorn Road. The temple has played an important part in Chiang Mai life for over 700 years, and there are some beautiful buildings here, particularly the dazzling gold chedi and the wooden viharn (hall) in the far corner, whose interior is covered in mythical murals. Wizened, orange-robed monks await cross-legged inside several of the buildings/viharns/bots, managing to remain so still that young children can (apparently) mistake them for statues…!
Walk down the road opposite Wat Phra Singh and take the sixth turning on your right, Pra Pokklo Road, and you’ll come to WAT CHEDI LUANG [daily 8am–5pm | ฿40, ฿20 for children shorter than 135cm]. The crumbling fifteenth-century chedi, shorn off at an angle by an earthquake but still massive, is at the exact centre of Chiang Mai – the city’s foundation pillar is kept in a building here as a result. Inquisitive kids will jump at the chance to chat with a monk (look for signs for “Monk Chat” on the left-hand side of the chedi, as you’re heading towards the exit); the monks are friendly and happy to talk about Buddhism, their daily lives at the temple and any other questions that young minds might have.
In the evening, head for the NIGHT BAZAAR, about 500m east of the Old City, on Chang Klan Road, where you can shop for all kinds of traditional handicrafts and try all sorts of street food from the pushcart stalls that set up shop along here. You’ll need to come early if you want to avoid the crowds (stalls open from around 5pm), although they are part of the experience, of course.
TOP TIP If you’re in Chiang Mai over the weekend, a great alternative to the Night Bazaar are the “WALKING STREET MARKETS” that take up every inch of space on Wualai Road, just across the moat to the south of the Old City (Saturday), and along Rachadamnoen Road, opposite Wat Phra Singh (Sunday). These also start around 5pm, with stalls selling everything from paper lanterns and tribal friendship bracelets to coconut ice cream and grilled squid on a stick.
WHERE TO STAY
THE LIJOMA LOWDOWN
Delve deeper with our tips on what to read and watch before you go, foods and drinks your kids must try, and some key cultural advice
From jungle treehouses to floating bungalows – our pick of the most memorable places for families to stay in Thailand
NEED TO KNOW
A handy overview of Thailand’s weather and climate throughout the year, with recommendations for the best time to visit
Pre-trip practicalities, including getting there, visas and passports, health and safety and how to get around
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