Thailand’s second city and a bastion of Lanna culture, Chiang Mai manages to embrace modern dynamism with a down-to-earth charm and a heart that has been so characteristic of this northern hub. HAPPYCAR is here to help you find the best car hire Chiang Mai has to offer so you can take full advantage of this ancient city, with a car hire from Chiang Mai Airport also available. We check the prices of international and local providers so that you don’t have to check each website to provide you with the best deals to make your money go further on a rental car that fits your specific vacation needs.
Comparisons with Bangkok are inevitable and stark. The hurried flurry of the capital is nowhere to be seen here, as if the city’s quiet leafy gardens and modest wooden houses are reflected into how they live their life. Chiang Mai was the capital of Lanna in 1296 and was the reason for the abundance of temples in the city and fortunately they exist still today. They’re not stuffy museums, they remain as living community centers. Chiang Mai is seen as one of the most livable cities in Southeast Asia and is also a great place to spend some quality time in a spa or health resort.
The night bazaars around the Ping River are a great hub for nightlife in Chiang Mai, where you can whittle away your entire vacation, or you could head to the Botanic Garden to breathe in the delicate Thai orchids. The trekking opportunities around the city are many, and you’ll be riddled with choice between all the natural attractions dotting the north of Thailand. There is a wide range of festivals in Chiang Mai to get caught up in, and is one of the most popular places in the country to see in the New Year. In November, the Loy Krathong Full Moon Festival sends thousands of candles floating down the Ping River in lotus-leaf boats.
The temples in Chiang Mai are a real treat to walk around, exhibiting architectural styles from Thailand, Burma and Sri Lanka, and many are within walking distance of each other. Wat Suthep is one of north Thailand’s most sacred temples and most certainly worth the challenging 300 steps to view the beautiful gilded stupas that were built in 1383 during the Lanna period and an unrivaled view of the city. Around the Wat Suthep are the Bhuping Royal Palace Gardens and a hill-tribe village that sells many local handicrafts. Another great opportunity is to visit elephant parks, to enjoy bathing and feeding elephants, but check out the elephant tours before you go. Baanchang Elephant Park treats their animals very well and is also relatively cheap.
Food on offer in Chiang Mai is second only to Bangkok, with its particular specialty dishes on offer that perfectly represents northern cuisine. Try Khao Soi Kai, yellow wheat noodles in a curry broth, or Lanna-style pork curry. There is also a wide selection of international cuisine, from British and French to Spanish and Mexican. For some really authentic Thai food experiences, try one of the many roadside stalls set up in the evening or outdoor food markets for some great atmosphere.
You’ll never feel cooped up in Chiang Mai, as the surrounding countryside is dotted with day-trip options in all directions, something for which a Chiang Mai car rental is perfect. Doi Suthep and its eagle’s-nest temple are perhaps the best quick trip you can make in the area with a car hire in Chiang Mai, and a wander around the pastoral ruins of Wiang Kum Kam on the southern periphery is a memorable experience. Much further south, the quiet town of Lamphun offers classic sightseeing, and is best arrived at with a car rental Chiang Mai, as buses are unreliable. There are also some good options for longer jaunts, notably to Bangkok in the south and the relaxing island of Phuket even further down.