Off Beat Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai isn’t exactly unseen or hidden away, considering the number of tourists that flood the city and province each year.
But we think there are still a few Off Beat Chiang Mai places which are a bit off the tourist track that you might enjoy hearing about.
Kong of the Lake
Huay Tung Tao Reservoir is a popular destination for locals just a short drive from Chiang Mai city.
This beautiful lake is a tranquil spot away from the hustle and bustle, surrounded by forested hills. (See the photo at the top of the page)
It’s a great place to relax in one of the bamboo huts on the waters edge, soak up the view, have a picnic, buy freshly cooked local food, and take to the water for a little fun.
Close by, enterprising farmers (with help from the local tourist office) have turned their rice fields into a kind of safari park, the star of which is an 8 meter tall King Kong.
Full sized, and larger than life sized, animals crafted out of waste rice straw are dotted about several fields, and are a fun place for some unusual Instagram snaps.
There is a small admission fee to the lake area.
The lake isn’t unknown but doesn’t get many foreign visitors. It’s a lovely way to waste a day in peace!
Getting there: From the center of Chiang Mai city travel west on Huay Kaew Road and then turn right onto Highway 127. Follow the road north for about 4km. You’ll see a sign for the lake on the left.
If felines are your thing you’ll enjoy a coffee break at Catmosphere, where a variety of friendly moggies of all ages and types interact with the customers.
Of course, cats being cats, they may ignore you, sip your tasty drink, nibble your cake, enjoy a cuddle, or fall asleep on your lap.
They say that interacting with cats can reduce stress levels, which combined with a hot coffee or an ice cold fruit punch is an ideal way to pass a couple of hours!
Their website is here
Getting there: Catmosphere is at 233/5 Huay Kaew Road, Chiang Mai city, near Chiang Mai University.
A bit outside the city you could have a fun day out at Pongyang zip line and jungle coaster, which we covered in detail here
There is one unusual way to relax in the heart of off beat Chiang Mai – get a massage from a woman prisoner!
A program run by Chiang Mai Women’s Prison aims to help some of the inmates rehabilitate by learning the skills of Thai massage.
These lucky ladies are properly trained over several months in the art, and have to fully qualify before being allowed to practice on paying customers.
On being discharged, they are given jobs in one of the very many traditional Thai massage shops in the city.
If you want to try the service you need to turn up early as a queue of customers can build up quickly.
Female guards are on hand all the time but remain low key.
While you’re waiting, or after you’ve had your bones cracked (joking!) you can enjoy a hot or cold drink and home cooked food in their little eatery.
The food is cooked by the massage ladies and prices are very reasonable. You can eat in the open air or in an air conditioned room.
Getting there:The Chiang Mai Womens Correctional Training Center massage & restaurant is at 100 Rachawithi Road, behind the Three Kings Monument.
Opening hours are 0800-16.30 Monday to Friday, while on Saturday and Sunday they open one hour later.
Wat Umong is a forest temple with a difference, set in a serene location in the lush western outskirts of the city.
It must be the least visited of the many hundreds of temples in the area, but is unique due to its ancient tunnels which house numerous statues of the Buddha.
Legend says the complex was built by King Mengrai in the 13th century to house monks who found the city too distracting, and who preferred to meditate underground.
The temple has a large group of monks on site who spend much of their time meditating and teaching.
The compound includes a garden scattered with damaged ancient Buddhas, a pretty lake, a small museum, and a Buddhist information center.
Every Sunday afternoon, Dhamma talks are held by the monks in English at the pavilion by the lake.
Every month on days to be announced, there is a public mass offering of food to the monks, followed by prayers and sermons.
Wat Umong is a bit outside the city but the small effort to get there is very rewarding.
Getting there: You’ll need your own transport to get there and back, so you could hire a car or motorbike, or find a driver who will wait there until you’re ready to go back to Chiang Mai.
From Chiang Mai city take Highway 121 south and watch for the turning to the temple on your right, going towards Doi Suthep National Park.
Poopoo Paper Park
This is without doubt one of the most bizarre places in Chiang Mai province, where they produce paper from elephant droppings.
The eco-friendly process is fairly straight forward. The elephants take a dump; the workers scoop it up and cook it; after it’s cooked they separate the fibres out; the fibres are washed and mixed to create sheets of whiff-free paper.
Visitors are encouraged to get their hands dirty and take part in making the paper.
We are not sure what the commercial aspects to this are, but we do know they’ll never go short of the basic raw materials!
You can learn a lot more on their website.
Getting there: The Poopoo park is about 10km from Chiang Mai city, in Mae Rim district on the Mae Rim-Samoeng Road.
The Erotic Garden is also pretty bizarre, but also very pretty.
To see what we mean take a look at this post we made recently!
If you’re into Cafe Culture take a look at our review of the scene in Chiang Mai here
That’s our fun selection of a few weird and wonderful place to check out in Chiang Mai. We hope it made you smile!
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