Out in the Country
Draws for the outdoors crowd
Doi Suthep is visible most places you go in the city, a reminder that despite the buildings and glitz nature is never very far away. It's easy to get to mountains, forests and waterfalls - one reason why Chiang Mai is a popular spot for cyclists, motor-cyclists, walkers and outdoors people.
Right on the doorstep and easily accessible. Once you've made the obligatory trip to the temple do start exploring further. For mountain bikers there are numerous trails, including some excellent dowhill exiting in the Mae Sa Valley or at Huay Tung Tao reservoir.
Mae Sa Valley / Samoeng Loop
Mae Sa Vallery is the usual destination for the day-trips which take in orchids, snakes, elephants, etc. Some of these attractions are certainly worth a trip, but the area has many more treasures - not least of which is the stunning scenery. The loop from Chiang Mai via Maerim and Samoeng back into Hang Dong makes a great day out, in a car or on a bike. Don't miss the Sirikit Botanic Gardens along the way, and the many lush resorts.
Mae Ngat Dam
About an hour north of town, this lake is a favourite getaway from the city. You can overnight here - once you arrive, charter a boat to the boat-houses at the far end of the valley, accessible only by water. The accommodation is fine, and most of the owners provide tasty food and plenty of drinks to wash it down with. In the morning jump in the lake to freshen up.
If you're looking for a convenient and fun way to explore the countryside, you might be interesting in Hiring a minivan and driver in Chiang Mai at GetVanGo.com. It's a flexible, fun and cost-effective way of getting around.