Chiang Mai is the most visited city in Northern Thailand with a favorable climate and plenty of attractions. However, it’s easy to get caught in the tourist rush at times and end up in the very same places as the hordes of tourists who come to see the temples.
Most tourists attractions tend to be busy in Chiang Mai and this is certainly true during the busy peak season.
But how can you avoid these crowds and seek out some hidden alternatives in Chiang Mai?
In this post, we take a look at six hidden alternatives to Chiang Mai’s top tourist attractions:
Bua Tong Waterfall – For an Alternative to Huay Tung Tao Lake
I really love Huay Tung Tao Lake and highly recommend that you visit but at the same time, most visitors are familiar with this lake and want something slightly different. With this in mind, Bua Tong Waterfall is a stunning hideaway where a cascading waterfall is surrounded by tropical vegetation.
One of the nicest things about Bua Tong is that most tourists are completely unaware that the waterfall exists. For this reason, you might bump into some locals as you walk to the waterfall but otherwise, you should have this place to yourself.
Whatever happens, you can expect to avoid the crowds and there certainly won’t be any tour groups present.
Wat Umong – For an Alternative to Busy Temples in the Old Town
I’m sure you already know about Wat Chedi Luang but Wat Umong is just as interesting and a great alternative to the many busy temples of the old town.
Wat Umong is surrounded by beautiful gardens and has plenty of space to relax but the tunnels are mostly defintely the highlight. You will often find young monks in the middle of prayer.
The tunnels of the temple feel like a tiny hideaways from the bustling streets outside. Interestingly, this is also a meditation retreat and visitors are encouraged to proactive meditation in the quiet, serene gardens.
Mae Kampong Village – For an Alternative to Pai
While most visitors are enrotue to Pai or one of the many elephant sanctuaries, Mae Kampong Village can feel like a much more genuine encounter.
Situated high up in the mountains, this idyllic village is surrounded by green scenery and offers a unique insight into the local culture and traditions. Tea and coffee are also grown in the nearby plantations and when it comes to getting outdoors, there are many hiking trails with spectacular views and lots of local children to meet along the way!
Siriwattana Market – For an Alternative to the Night Bazaar
As you know, the Night Bazaar in Chiang Mai is rather busy and you can barely move at the Sunday Night Market. For this reasons, I always recommend Siriwattana Market where you can feel like less of a tourist and meet some locals without the frantic crowds.
Siritwattana Market also appears to be much more authentic, for this is where locals come to buy their produce and indulge in the fresh fruit and vegetable stalls. You can also enjoy a meal here but either way, the market is a much quieter and intimate experience compared to the busy markets in Chiang Mai.
Wat Pha Lat — For an Alternative to Wat Doi Suthep
I wrote a recent post about chatting with monks and hiking the Monk Trail. Wat Pha Lat was the destination for these activities.
Wat Pha Lat is located in the middle of a jungle and mostly ignored by visiting tourists. Featuring a beautiful waterfall and luscious canopies, the surroundings are even more impressive than Doi Suthep and the opportunity to talk to monks in a quiet environment is priceless.
Just so you know, Wat Pha Lat is just as easy to reach as any other temple in the area and you can even take a songthaew to Chiang Mai Zoo and hike to this temple via the beautiful Monk Trail.
Chiang Mai Women’s Correctional Institution – For an Alternative to Your Everyday Massage
Yes, you read that right, you can get a wonderful massage from a female inmate in Chiang Mai and to be honest, this might even be the best massage that you ever have in Thailand.
It may sound like an odd suggestion but the Women’s Correctional Institution has a program to train inmates for their return to the outside world. For this reason, you can get a massage at the institution and whatever you pay goes directly to the savings fund of each inmate.
Most of these women have been imprisoned for very minor crimes. They are highly trained in massage and take their work seriously so you are more likely to receive a higher standard of massage from these ladies than any other massage shop in Chiang Mai.
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