Visiting Chiang Mai is easier than ever, thanks to Air Asia’s new service from Hua Hin airport.
As the cooler months approach following a particularly wet rainy season, many are thinking of the ancient northern city of Chiang Mai. Celebrating Christmas and New Year there will definitely be a change from the beaches and sea breeze of Hua Hin.
With Air Asia now operating biweekly flights from Hua Hin to Chiang Mai every Friday and Sunday, travelling to the ‘Rose of the North’ has never been more convenient. At the airport for your flight, you will cross paths with travellers disembarking from their flight from Udon Thani – also operated by Air Asia – all wide-eyed and ready to explore Hua Hin’s famous seaside charms. You will also notice that the airline has provided very well for Covid-safety.
Fellow passengers wear masks and sit well-spaced from each other in compliance with social distancing protocol both on the ground and onboard the aircraft. Everyone follows airline staff’s directions and board and disembark in orderly small groups.
The flight is short and pleasant, offering window views of the brilliant blue gulf, the seemingly endless green rice fields of the Central Region, and the northern mountains rising beneath you, including Doi Inthanon, Thailand’s highest peak. Gliding in very low over the roof of a shopping mall, the aircraft lands at the quiet Chiang Mai Airport a mere 80 minutes after take-off.
Chiang Mai is a city of over 1 million people. The airport is located a convenient 20 minutes by taxi or tuk-tuk from the Old Town, which is small, perfectly square and surrounded by a wide moat with flowering water lilies and fountains. Doi Suthep Mountain rises, steep and blue, right next to the town.
If you are new to Chiang Mai, the friendly and relaxing Old Town, with its maze-like narrow streets, is the best place to stay. You can walk or cycle around at leisure. This is also the best way to explore the neighbourhood’s temples, which are among the best you will find in Thailand. These ornate architectural gems are built in teakwood and beautifully carved with a level of skill that is now very rare.
If possible, make sure that you are there on a Sunday, when the whole centre of the Old Town becomes a big walking street from afternoon to night. A cornucopia of delicious street food awaits your sampling as a wide range of local and hilltribe craft products beckon from every corner and musicians – from blind student musicians to traditional musical groups – busk away. It’s worth hopping on a song-thaew mini bus to visit Doi Suthep Temple some 10 kilometres away. Located at the very top of the mountain, the temple offers great panoramic views of the city.
On the way back down, call in at Bhubing Palace, the favourite winter hideaway of the late King Rama IX and his family. There you can stroll among the roses, temperate flowers and plants set around a lake and admire the royal chalets, which will make you feel as if you had just landed in Europe.
Chiang Mai is home to myriad crafts. A visit to San Kamphaeng’s famous silk and umbrella village, just 10 km from the city centre, and Ban Tawai woodcarving village in Hang Dong District, 18 km from city centre, will show you how local artisans work their craft – and offer lots of souvenir-shopping opportunities as well.
by Norachai Thavisin, Hua Hin Today