Northern Thailand is a great destination for families with something to offer all family members. It's array of soft adventure activities and opportunities for cultural exploration are an enriching experience for kids and adults and can often bond them together. This is something one of our previous clients experienced through doing a homestaywith a hilltribe family
"Our children and the children from the family we stayed with got on very well, and we think this is one ofthe most enjoyable and valuable experiences we have shared with our children. All in all, something we will remember for a very long time - a truly special experience." Simon & Lou Robinson (UK). For the full review click here
Most of the soft adventure activities can be found in Chiang Mai whilst excursions out of the city to Chiang Rai or Mae Hong Son are where you will find the nature, culture and local way of life.
Family Activities in Chiang Mai
Elephant Camp There are a few elephant camps in the area such as Mae Sa or Mae Taeng where you can watch an elephant show a famed performance of elephants playing football, painting and other surprising activities. You can purchase bananas to feed the elephants, take photos with them and then take an elephant ride in the surrounding forest. The camps are important breeding and conservation grounds for this dwindling species, and highly educational where you can learn about how elephants were used to work in the forests.
Snake and Monkey Centre Located in the Mae Sa valley, the snake centre is not for the fainthearted. Here you can walk around the enclosures of a variety of snakes and watch a daily man-teasing snake show. You are then invited to touch, hold and take pictures with the cobras and pythons. The monkey centre is fun too, feed the monkeys and watch the monkey show where they perform cute tricks such as riding bicycles and playing basketball
Chiang Mai Zoo
Set in a lush and hilly area on the road to Doi Suthep this is a fun trip for both adults and kids. There is a 1,442 square metre area designed especially for kids with animal exhibits, a cognitive development centre, playground, sand area and lotus pond. The zoo is huge with just about every creature you can imagine, you could easily spend a day here watching and feeding the animals. As it is so spread out there are free carts that can transport you from section to section. The zoo is now known for ‘Ling Ping’ the panda that was recently born here and who has become a fixture of national pride with Thai tourists flocking to the zoo just to see this cuddly creature.
Museum of World Insects and Natural Wonders Something for little boys and one of the more unusual attractions, this museum displays over 400 species of insects. The owner 'Manop' will personally guide you through the museum - a fascinating and educational experience for all.
Tiger Kingdom Here you can get up close to the tigers, stroke and have your picture taken with them. It is free to enter and walk around the park, but to enter the enclosures there are different prices and packages depending on if you want to see the baby, medium, adult tigers.
Buffalo Training Camp
One of the newer and lesser known tourist attractions, this buffalo training camp shows the pivotal role that the buffalo played in daily Thai farming life. There is a demonstration on how rice is farmed in Thailand and how buffaloes were used to plough the rice fields and grind sugar cane, followed by the chance to mount a buffalo and take pictures with them. Very educational and fun at the same time.
Scorpion Tailed River Cruises
Take a boat trip along the Mae Ping Rive that runs through the city. The Scorpion is a small family fun business they're a gentle and friendly bunch. They have 3 boats that are very distinct looking, as they are replicas of old boats that used to sail down the river in previous times. Along the way an English speaking guide will point out the main sights and tell you about the history of Chiang Mai. The ride ends up at Scorpion tailed guesthouse were there is a short tour of their garden and fruit trees. All rounded up by some complimentary mango sticky rice and lychee juice.
Doi Suthep Temple
There is a saying that goes 'if you never go to Doi Suthep, it's like you have never been to Chiang Mai'. This is because this highly revered temple is considered the symbol of Chiang Mai. Perched on the mountains side at the northern end it offers great views overlooking the city. The temple and its pagodas are exquisite, a great cultural and religious sight that is a joy to visit.
Sunday walking street market Held every Sunday from approx4pm-10pm Chiang Mai’s famous market held on the main walking street is a great place to pick up souvenirs and handicrafts. Hilltribe products, jewellery, a wide variety of handicrafts from handmade lamps to clothes can be bought here at bargain prices. Apart from the shopping it has many stalls selling a range of local snacks and food from Chiang Mai sausage to coconut desert delicacies
Transport and Travel - How to get around
For family transport in Northern Thailand you may want to considering hiring a car. This is the most convenient way to explore the area, and allows you to see and do only what you want to, compared to package or group tours where you are restricted to their schedule. Some families do travel by bus but it might not be easy to juggle bus schedules and the cost of tickets per person is often not that much cheaper than hiring your own car.
Note that if planning to drive in rural Northern Thailand the driver needs to feel comfortable navigating mountainous roads with steep uphill and downhill curves. Whilst driving in Chiang Mai city itself the danger lies in the hazardous traffic, motorbikes and pedestrians who all seem to follow their own rules. Otherwise why not hire a driver to take care of this so you can relax and enjoy the ride