High Tourist Season
October to February is the high travel season
for those that visit Chiang Mai from abroad. Almost 25% of Chiang
than 2 million yearly visitors, however, come from within Thailand
all throughout the year. Locals call Chiang Mai 'the Rose of
the North' ~ a reference to its natural beauty and plentiful surrounding
Just about any time is a good time to visit with regard to activities
and weather. March and April represent the hottest and most dry
period so fewer people are around until the beginning of the big
festival in mid-April.
Chiang Mai's Biggest Festivals and Holidays
Holidays are one of the best ways to experience Thai culture,
meet people and enjoy Chiang Mai. A city-wide festival means that
you pay for food and locally made goods is the same as for locals.
Your tourist dollar will go further than any other time in Thailand
even if you have to spend a little more on your hotel.
Northern Thailand's 3 Biggest Festivals (in
order of popularity)
Songkran: Street Fair and Water
Starts 2nd week in April for 3 - 5 days
Chiang Mai's central city area is surrounded by a 2km x 2km
water-filled moat. This 700 year old water feature is
of the original design as a fortified city. During the most
dry season of the year, people gather around the moat and use
their most precious seasonal resource, water, for
fun (sanuk in Thai) and games.
Picture 200,000 people partaking in the largest water fight
you can imagine. Kid-filled cars, trucks and flatbeds circle
around the moat for hours and hours. Everyone is armed with a
water gun, water hose or bucket to douse the nearest stranger.
smiles and fun and lasts from sun-up to sun-down.
Tourist are warned well in advance: stay out of the city for an
entire week unless you are wearing your fastest drying clothing,
have your camera tucked away in a water-proof bag and carry a loaded
Each evening, everyone dries off and makes their way to the
main city gate for a street fair with food, music, beauty contests
Our personal experience with Songkran is one of complete
awe for the culture of Thailand. As westerners, we could never
imagine 200,000 partying people of our own countries staying
calm, cool and happy through a 5 day water fight.
Krathong: Festival of Lights on the Water and Parade
3 days of the Full-moon day of the twelve lunar month (November)
Mai was founded near the banks of the Mai Ping river. On the
3 nights of the Loy Krathong festival, 10,000's of people
gather at the riverside to pay homage to the goddess of the
waters by releasing handmade floats (Krathongs) of banana leaf,
flowers, incense, candles and
One bank of the river is lined with restaurants that make
a great viewing area of the release of the 20,000 Krathongs
and fireworks. Book reservations early as places fill up in
advance. You may also talk a stroll through the inner city to
see temples and homes lit with earthen lamps, candles and
festivities, also called Yi Peng, may have evolved from Brahmanic
rites to honor the dead as well as local rites to bring an
monsoon rains. Activities include a nightly parade
made up of back-lit floats (like the one shown on the right),
bands and beautiful maidens in traditional
Join kids and gown-up kids at Thae Pae gate to release
flame fed hot-air balloon-like latterns into the sky. This
is one of our favorite Chiang Mai activities. When you look
sky and see all the floating latterns, you'll be sure we're
being visited by friends from the stars.
Flower Parade and Carnival
1st weekend of February - 2 days, early morning to evening
personal favorite holiday is the Saturday morning of the
Flower Parade. Crowds are much smaller than the festivals
wonderful things to see and experience are numerous. Thai
people are very talented at creating works of beauty and
festival is just the ticket for them to really shine.
20 Floats are created and paraded around the city. Picture
the Rose Parade in Pasadena, California but you are
close enough to smell the flowers or reach out and touch
them. There is a contest for the most beautiful species for
Thai flower, decorative plant, orchid and float.
The flower floats on parade end their journey at Chiang Mai's
most wonderful inner-city nature location (a great place for
Thai Chi, Chi Kung and Yoga in the early morning), Buag Haad
City Park and Playground. Local food vendors, plant growers
are present with one of the best collections of local goods
that Chiang Mai has to offer.
See our personal photos of the 2003 Flower Festival here and here.
Chiang Mai's Weather: Rainfall and Temperature
Seasonal changes in Northern Thailand are reflected in the the
Note that March and April are dry and hot. Things
the rain shows up in May and everything becomes really green
By September, monsoon should be in full swing. Note that
this is not necessarily a float-through-the-streets monsoon
like in Bangladesh and other parts of Asia. Usually there will
be some sun
October through January sees the rain taper off and the average
temperature drop a couple of degrees. Evenings become cool so
a jacket if you are on a motor scooter (popular mode of transport)
or travel up into the hills around the city after sunset.
Click this picture to see a larger image.
Chiang Mai Visit: What to Do.
Goto this website http://www.tourismthailand.org
and select Chiang Mai for things of interest in and around Chiang
Mai. For news about tourism related topics visit http://www.tatnews.org
Elephant riding and bamboo raft safari are two of the most famous
adventurous activities for tourists visiting Northern Thailand.