Thailand is a country with so many delights to offer, from bustling cities and cultural activities to lush rainforest and drinking cocktails on the beach. Both Bangkok and Chiang Mai have a lot to offer in terms of fascinating culture, delicious food and exciting activities, but if you’re going for a short trip the question is, which Thai destination is more your style? This guide will take you through a list of attractions people typically look for in a Thai holiday, you will then arrive at your answer – Bangkok or Chiang Mai.
With a population of almost 8 million people, exciting nightlife and boutique shops galore, Bangkok is the clear winner in this category. Thailand’s capital holds all of the conveniences one would hope for, high-end shopping and restaurants, theatre and cultural shows, museums and galleries, a well-connected public transport system and a thriving nightlife. From Michelin star restaurants to street eats, from designer labels to market bargains, and from rooftop bars to roadside beers, this bustling city can provide an exciting and memorable stay for people of every budget.
If you’re looking for a more natural escape, Chiang Mai is the place for you. While Chiang Mai itself is the second-largest city in Thailand with a population of almost 1 million people, this northern city is just a short drive from many natural delights. Boasting easy access to lush jungle treks, white water rafting, hot springs and multiple ethical elephant sanctuaries – Elephant Nature Park, Elephant Valley, Burm and Emily’s Elephant Sanctuary, Maerim Elephant Sanctuary, Mahouts Elephant Foundation – Chiang Mai is an ideal spot for nature lovers and adventurers alike.
Night markets, Thai food, tuk-tuk rides and massages are four things that are iconic in Thai holidays. You will find all of these things in both Bangkok and Chiang Mai. In Bangkok, visit the vibrant Neon Night Market in Pratunam or to eat tasty street food and enjoy a foot massage while looking out over all of the market stalls. In Chiang Mai, try the amazing food at the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar night markets, then take a cooking class to learn how to bring those flavours to your home kitchen!
While Bangkok is the home of Wat Arun, the reclining Buddha at Wat Phao and many other iconic Buddhist sights, Chiang Mai is your best destination for a true experience of Buddhist culture. The Chiang Mai area is home to around 300 temples, including the famous Wat Phra That Doi Suthep which dates back to 1383. While visiting some temples in Chiang Mai you can take part in ‘Monk Chats’, where you can sit down with a designated monk and ask them all about their life. Chiang Mai is a wonderful place to book yourself into a meditation retreat, a yoga course or simply visit the temples and appreciate their magnificence.
So, if your style is high-end shopping, rooftop bars, cultural shows, and a thriving party scene in a city that truly never sleeps, bustling Bangkok is the place for you. This incredible city will charm you with its diversity, and you can spend days exploring all of the facets it has to offer. However, if experiencing Buddhist culture, soaking in the lush tropical surroundings and taking a cooking class or meditation course is more your style, then Chiang Mai is your place. With easy access to mountains, rainforests and hot springs, this city – equipped with all modern conveniences – will leave you enriched and inspired. Whichever city you choose, you’re sure to have an incredible stay during your time in Thailand!
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