Chiang Mai would have been a nice town to be in about 50 years ago. Now, it’s become the tourist Mecca of Northern Thailand, full of bars, restaurants and travel agencies offering tours to visit “hill tribes.” It’s still a nice enough place to hang around for awhile, but the charm of the place has been lost to development.
Narrow streets weave through the town, and there is scarcely anywhere in the city where a traveler won’t see white faces. There is a party nearly every night and a wide variety of western food, which might be quite welcome for those who can’t stomach any more rice. There are quite a few universities in the city and plenty of young Thais at the bars and clubs at night, so it can be a fun place to hang out.
Many travelers come to Chiang Mai with the intent of going trekking. Organized groups leave daily and allow tourists to see the high altitude jungle in the region and stop for a home-stay with a hill tribe. Almost all of these tribes are extremely used to foreigners, and many now have television and electricity. There are two ways to have a more authentic experience of the mountains: go hiking independently or base your trek from a different place, such as Mai Hong Son.
Another activity in the area includes bungee jumping off of local bridges. Local agencies are able to organize a tour, but be certain that you have a good guide. It’s a tradition that backpackers jump in the nude…