SONGKRAN, the Thai Water Festival, has become an international event as it attracts hundreds of thousands of tourists from all over the world. During Songkran, Thai people splash water on each other as a symbol of good luck and a celebration of new beginnings. Tourists are hardly exempt from the wet antics and in fact it’s often the reason people travel to Thailand during mid-April.
The most culturally significant old city in northern Thailand, Chiang Mai, has become one of the most popular locations to visit for this festival. A variety of religious and fun-related activities take place each year, along with parades and the Miss Songkran beauty competition.
Chiang Mai, the cultural capital of Thailand, which is 700km north from Bangkok is a place where the festival extends beyond the usual three-day festivities. From April. 13 onwards, the public go to the streets with hoses, buckets, and water guns as they prepare to partake in the nation-wide water fight. It doesn’t matter if you’re on the sidewalk or in the middle of the street; you’re going to get soaked. Really though, that’s what Songkran is all about.
Chiang Mai has become an increasingly modern city and has been attracting over 5 million visitors each year, of which between 1.4 million and 2 million are foreign tourists. “Chiang Mai is one of the most interesting cultural and historical cities in the world,” says Wisoot Buachoom, northern region director of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), who have settled in Chiang Mai have bestowed upon the city the title UNESCOThe large population of artists, writers, and creative types, both Thai and foreign
Creative City. The ambience and pace of life in Chiang Mai is far slower and more relaxed than that of Bangkok. “Chiang Mai attracts nearly 2 million foreign tourists a year,” Wisoot added.
In addition to water festival, Chiang Mai Flower Festival is also well known to tourists. The three-day event is held during the first weekend in February each year, and coincides with the season in which Chiang Mai’s temperate and tropical flowers are in full bloom.
Chiang Mai has a number of attractions like elephant rides, a tiger kingdom, elephant camps, the Rajpruk Park, the Wachirathan Waterfall, a spicy Thai cuisine and a bargain shopping center.
Attractions range from ruins of ancient settlements and Buddhist shrines to magnificent mountain scenery and hill tribe villages. In addition, the city boasts diverse ethnic tribes, many cooking and massage schools, numerous outdoor activities, a variety of handicrafts workshops, various cultural performances, and exotic wildlife and yoga centers.
Chiang Mai Attractions
Trekking and visiting hill tribe villages are popular activities to do in Chiang Mai; treks into the mountains can range from easy, one-night trips to longer adventures.
The Royal Park Rajapruek located in the Hang Dong district has millions of plants from different species. The garden is a symbol of beauty and is a great place to calm your mind. If you extend the trip a bit further, you can enjoy the beauty of Wachirathan Waterfall on the way to Doi Inthanon summit. Relax here and inhale the fresh aroma of nature. The scenery will render you speechless, as a unique landscape enfolds right before you with lush greenery and a cascading waterfall.
A night safari will be another life-long memory. Chiang Mai night safari is 10 kilometers away from the city. It is the largest night zoo in the world with over 300 acres of natural land, offering an exciting chance to interact with wild animals. The safari offers tours featuring rhinoceros, giraffes, zebras and deer, co-existing in the open plains, watched closely by a pride legion of lions. In addition, the safari offers a series of trails over three main zones.
Maesa Elephant camp, home to one of the largest assemblies of elephants in the north of Thailand, is another attraction. In this center, elephants show off their many amusing skills, such as playing football and even painting in this center.
In addition to Maesa Elephant camp, Patara Elephant Farm is another attraction. The farm provides a hands-on experience on how to nurture and take care of elephants. Another place for elephant lovers is the Elephant Nature Park, a unique conservation project established with the aim of providing a sanctuary and rescue center for these creatures. Tiger Kingdom also located in the Mae Sa Valley, has a number of tigers and visitors are given the opportunity to play with cubs. You can also pose for a photo with tigers.
While going back from Chiang Mai, don’t forget to make a stopover in Bangkok for a shopping experience like no other. Assign a special day to enjoy the traditional Floating Market.
Chiang Mai Accommodation
The Siripanna Villa Resort & Spa, is a special resort in the midst of the city, where more than 200 seedlings and 20,000 trees are well nurtured. Located 10 minutes away from railway station and 15 minutes away from Chiang Mai International Airport, the hotel is listed amongst the top three hotels in Thailand. Apart from the beautiful scenery and serene ambience, the hotel provides modern facilities and a special package for golf lovers and honeymooners.
Accommodation in Bangkok
The Oriental Residence in Bangkok is in a strategic diplomatic area, fortified with high security and takes pride in being family friendly. The property consists of 41 executive deluxe rooms, 70 one-bedroom suites, 30 two-bedroom suites and 4 three-bed room suites. The facilities are all five star graded. Boasting an enviable position on Wireless Road, in one of Bangkok’s most preserved and green areas, every aspect of Oriental Residence Bangkok speaks of style: from the unrivalled views over expansive gardens to the chic modernist interiors. Residents enjoy convenient access to the heart of Bangkok’s bustling central business district with a selection of exclusive shopping venues and the efficient Bangkok Transit System (BTS Skytrain) all close by. Sample the elegance for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Café Claire <http://www.oriental-residence.com/cafeclaire/> offers a welcome respite in the heart of Bangkok, serving gourmet comfort food – the relaxed atmosphere exudes sophistication within the opulent surroundings. Oriental Residence is offering a selection of special promotions featured on www.oriental-residence.com
Restaurants in Chiang Mai
Khum Khantoke, which is known as the reception room of Chiang Mai province, offers the traditional Thai lifestyle, atmosphere and food. If you want to enjoy a panoramic view, delicious food and lively music visit Palaad Tawan Restaurant on the hilltop.
For those of you craving Middle Eastern food go to Sahara restaurant on Nimahemin Road.
Restaurants in Bangkok
The Asiatqu River Front and Sampran Riverside both offer authentic Thai cuisine in the heart of the city. Asiatique has successfully combined two of the most popular shopping experiences in the city: a night bazaar and a mall. Ten minutes downriver from Saphan Taksin BTS station this once-bustling international trade port has been transformed, with over 1,500 boutiques and 40 restaurants housed under a huge replica warehouse complex. Open from 17:00, spending an evening here is no problem: you’ll have good fun browsing the boutiques, picking up gifts or something for yourself; you are guaranteed to find something you would like to eat and if this isn’t enough entertainment, shows are performed nightly: Calypso ladyboy cabaret and soon, a classic Thai puppets performance
During the night time, dine on a luxurious cruise with a superb view of the historical landmarks on a river cruise along the Chao Phraya River. Dinner starts at 7.30 p.m. and ends at 9.30pm.
Chaophraya River was the origin of Thai civilization that passed down a long lasting history well known to all until today. This river of memory is the blood vessel that runs through the heart of the Thai Kingdom. Experience this history imprinted on the two sides of the river on the Chaophraya Princess Cruise. The Chao Phraya River is the bloodline of the people in our kingdom. The river reflects the long origin of Thai legacy and civilization. Today, the Chao Phraya is respected and known to be “The River of Reign.