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Where to Go, What to Do in Chiang Mai, Thailand

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Sunday, August 23, 2009

GETTING THERE

Airlines service Chiang Mai from Bangkok; Singapore; Taipei, Taiwan; and other major Asian cities. Carriers include AirAsia, Bangkok Airways, Thai Airways, Korean Air and more. Round-trip flights from Bangkok start at about $79; round-trip flights from Washington to Chiang Mai start at about $1,125. Chiang Mai also can be reached by train or bus from Bangkok, but prepare for a long ride.

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WHERE TO STAY

Le Meridien Chiang Mai, 108 Chang Klan Rd., 011-66-53-253-666, http://www.starwoodhotels.com/lemeridien. One of Chiang Mai's most lavish hotels, right in the thick of the famed Night Bazaar. Nightly rates from $99.

Eagle House, 16 Chang Moi Kao Rd., 011-66-53-874-126, http://www.eaglehouse.com. Recommended by backpackers, this lodging also operates an eco-friendly tour company (see below). Rooms start at about $5, and even less for a dormitory.

The Chedi

123 Charoen Prathet Rd., 011-66-53-253-333, http://www.ghmhotels.com. The most expensive hotel in Chiang Mai, but admirers say a luxurious stay here is not to be missed. Rates from $476.

WHERE TO EAT

Huen Phen, 112 Ratchamanka Rd., 011-66-53-814 548. The perfect place to try northern Thai food, such as Chiang Mai sausage, minced meat salad and Burmese-style pork curry. Entrees are $1 to $3.

Anusan Night Market, Between Chang Klan and Charoen Prathet roads, in the Night Bazaar. You can't come to Thailand and not try the street food. The adventurous can snack on almost every type of seafood and organ meat imaginable, while those playing it safe can stick to chicken, beef or pork on a stick. Sticks of meat cost about 30 cents each. You can eat a feast for $3. Open until midnight.

WHAT TO DO

Hill Tribe Trekking. You can find trekking agencies once you arrive, but some of the recommended companies include:

Eagle House Eco-sensitive Tours (http://www.eaglehouse.com), Natural Focus Ecotours (29/1 Soi 4 Pah-Ngiew Rd., Chiang Rai, 011-66-53-758-658, Ext. 104, http://www.naturalfocus-cbt.com) and Active Thailand (420/3 Changklan Rd., http://www.activethailand.com), the company I used. My guide, Jakrapan Saengpayom, also gives private tours and can be reached at jackguide@hotmail.com.

Outings range from more than $200 for a two-day customized trek for one person to as low as $45 for a preset group tour that individuals can join.

Chiang Mai Thai Cookery School, 47/2 Moon Muang Rd., 011-66-53-206-388, http://www.thaicookeryschool.com. Spend a day or two learning how to cook traditional Thai food. One-day course is $29, which includes food, recipes, transportation and drinks.

Night Bazaar, Chang Klan Road. Even if you don't want to shop, you'll want to experience the spectacle. Stalls are filled with knickknacks of every conceivable variety: DVDs, purses, jewelry, textiles, hill-tribe souvenirs and much more. Don't be surprised to see a Thai T-shirt vendor haggling in passable Hebrew with an Israeli tourist as whole pig heads wait to be sold at the food market next door.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

Tourism Authority of Thailand, 212-432-0433, http://www.tourismthailand.org.

-- A.R.P.


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