Our Chiang Mai Private Tours
We offer a wide range of day and multiple day Chiang Mai private tours on this website. We offer all kinds of trips: botanical garden tours, flower tours, cultural tours, samlor tours, temple tours, historical tours, culinary tours, trekking tours, hiking tours, family tours, heritage tours, festival tours, handicraft tours, tribal culture tours, Buddhism tours, national park tours, textile tours and special interest tours. In this article, we will give several suggestions and examples of these kind of tours.
We are determined to promote and preserve Lanna Culture, the culture of Northern Thailand. For centuries North Thailand has been an independent kingdom. Between roughly 1558 and 1774, it was part of a Burmese kingdom. Only in the late 19th and beginning of the 20th century a Thai kingdom, centred in Bangkok, slowly stamped its authority on the North.
Still, there is a very strong Northern Thai identity in architecture, dance, music and culinary traditions. If you are interested in Lanna architecture, Lampang is a great place to go.
The samlor, which means “three wheels”, is the traditional bicycle taxi. In many Southeast Asian cities and towns, the bicycle taxi was an essential means of transportation. In Vietnam, they are called cyclos while in Indonesia, we know them as betjak. Other names you will encounter are trishaw (Singapore and Malaysia) and tricycle or trisikad (Philippines). They all have in common that strong male legs power them. We have never seen a female samlor driver.
This beautiful, environmental-friendly traditional means of transportation is unfortunately threatened with extinction. As late as the 1970s there were a couple of hundred samlors in Chiang Mai. Like everywhere in Southeast Asia the samlor had to make space for cars, tuk-tuks and other motorised vehicles.
The only way the samlor will survive is by becoming a tourist attraction. In Phnom Penh, Hanoi and Singapore this has already happened. Local people don’t use the cyclos/trishaws anymore. They only make rides with tourists.
This unique three-wheeler is a part of Chiang Mai heritage and should not disappear. Also in Chiang Mai tourism should help preserving the samlor. That is also the mission of our sister brand Chiang Mai on Three Wheels. We offer a day tour that starts with a “samlor food tour”. You will explore the old streets and markets of Chiang Mai by samlor. There will be many stops along the way where your guide will let you taste a variety of snacks and delicacies.
The standard Chiang Mai private tours include visits to Wat Doi Suthep, Wat Chiang Man, Wat Phra Singh and Wat Chedi Luang. There are lots of other very interesting temples in Chiang Mai and surroundings. We mention Wat Umong, Wat Doi Kham, Wat Suandok, Wat Lok Molee and Wat Jet Yod but there are many more that are worth a visit. If you have a little bit more time and are interested in Buddhism a visit to one of these temples we can highly recommend. Don’t miss Wat Srisuphan, the silver temple. Our standard tour is the Amazing Temples of Chiang Mai tour, but we can customise this tour to suit your needs and wishes.
Different styles of temple architecture
There are different architectural styles of temple construction. Temples such as Wat Mahawan and Wat Buparam have distinct Burmese influences. The form of the chedis are typically Burmese. Very interesting are the chedis that have niches in which standing Buddha images are enshrined. The temple towers have the shape of a stepped tapering pyramid. This style is attributed to Mon and Burmese influences. An excellent example of such a temple tower is the chedi of Wat Chedi Liam.
Wat Chedi Liam dates back to the 13th century and predates the foundation of Chiang Mai. The design of the chedi seems to have been inspired by the Mahabol chedi of Wat Kukut aka Wat Chamathewi in Lamphun. This tower is an example of Mon-Hariphunchai style referring to the kingdom of the same name that predated Chiang Mai by at least four centuries. Both Wat Chedi Liam and Wat Kukut feature in our tour Wiang Kum Kam, Lamphun and Wat Doi Suthep.
There is another seldom-visited temple in Chiang Mai that has a chedi that also has Buddha images in niches. That temple is Wat Phuak Hong, located in the southwest corner of the old city. It has niches, but the chedi has a round shape as opposed to the chedis of Wat Kukut and Wat Chedi Liam.
There are a lot more historical structures than only temples in Chiang Mai. Chiang Mai boasts a lot of heritage houses, churches, traditional teak wooden houses and other historical buildings. We offer historical walks on the banks of the Ping River. In the past couple of years, we also did several customised Chiang Mai tours for relatives of people who worked for the British teak logging firms before World War Two. For the boutique hotel 137 Pillars House, we organise a trip called the Tales and Trails of the Teak Wallahs. This hotel occupies part of the former compound of the Borneo Company Ltd. This company was involved in the teak industry. The restaurant of the hotel is the old office.
Chiang Mai also has a lot of American Missionary history that few people know. In 1867 American Presbyterian missionary Daniel McGilvary founded the Laos Mission in Chiang Mai. Many missionaries followed in this footsteps. They founded McCormick Hospital, the first Girls School (Dara Academy) and the Prince Royal College. The church has now moved to a new location. The old wooden church is part of a school. The Prince Royal College has a museum and the Dara Academy too. Both are schools that were founded more than 100 years ago by American missionaries.
The Thai kitchen is world famous. In many cities and towns worldwide there are Thai restaurants. The Northern Thai kitchen boasts a number of characteristic dishes such as khao soi and sai ua. Fried pork skin with spicy paste is a Northern Thai specialty that people typically bring as a present fro Chiang Mai.
Chiang Mai has many cooking schools and fantastic markets. If you want to learn cooking Thai food Chiang Mai is the place to be. You are spoilt for choice when it comes to cooking school. Chiang Mai has the highest density of cooking schools nationwide. We can tell you what the best ones are.
We will not only take you to a cooking school but also know where the best markets are. Even though many people nowadays prefer to do their shopping in airconditioned shopping malls and supermarkets, fresh markets in Chiang Mai are still very much alive and kicking.
Kad Luang is the most famous one. Most people know this market as the Warorot Market but this is only a part of the market. The other main part of the market is the Tonlamyai Market. Other important parts of the market are the flower market along Wichayanon Road as well as the Hmong market. At the latter tribal textiles and souvenirs are on offer. You can easily spend a couple of hours at this most fascinating market. It is one of our favorite places.
Origins of Kad Luang
At this particular location there once where the elephant stables of the Royal Family of Chiang Mai. Before the railroad from Bangkok reached Chiang Mai in 1922 the Ping River was the main artery of the city. Boats with good from Bangkok or other places moored at a riverside location in Chiang Mai. This location became a marketplace.
Many traders and business people were of Chinese or Indian descent. That explains why Kad Luang over time became the heart of Chiang Mai’s Chinatown. Sikh people paid for the construction of the Chansom Memorial footbridge in 1965. The bridge connects Kad Luang with the Wat Ket community across the river.
Orchards and ricefields
Explore rice fields and fruit orchards with us. Let our guides show you where your food is coming from. Our sister company Chiang Mai on Three Wheels offers a tremendous half-day culinary tour by samlor. You will sample eight snacks at local markets and shops.
As a trekking destination, Chiang Mai has been somewhat overlooked. The best trekking is right at our doorstep in Doi Suthep/Doi Pui National Park. The one day trek from Doi Pui Hmong village to another Hmong village Ban Mae Sa Mai is the best day trek you can do. If you have a bit more time, we recommend an overnight stay in the Hmong village Ban Mae Sa Mai. Scenery is fantastic and hiking around the village is superb. Our Historic Opium Trail trekking is a great program.
We have lots of experience with Chiang Mai private tours for families. Every family has different needs and requirements. We can customise your family trip and can add lots of exciting activities for the young ones. These tours are educational and also fun. Our sister company Green Trails offers many different active tours for the family. A good example is the All in the Family tour, a soft adventure trip for the whole family.
Festival Tours are our speciality. We offer many Loy Krathong tours, private as well as join-in. Loy Krathong is not the only festival we promote. We love Songkran. Other great festivals are the Flower festival, the Poy Sang Long Ceremony, the Lamyai Festival (Lamphun) and the fantastic Salak Yom Festival. There are many other small festivals and events in Chiang Mai and North Thailand.
Chiang Mai is the handicraft capital of Thailand, no doubt about it. We will take you to handicraft factories where few people go. We will not take you to commercialised handicraft places but have selected several places where sa paper, celadon, pottery, umbrella’s and parasols are still being handmade. You might not want to miss out on the atelier and museum of Petch Viriya, the master carver of wooden elephants. Try our Old Handicrafts of Chiang Mai tour.
Tribal Culture Tours
North Thailand is home to many ethnic minority groups. The so-called Hill Tribes are ethnic minorities, but there are also lesser-known groups such as the Tai Lüe, Tai Yuan, Tai Ya, Kachin, Lawa and Pa-O amongst others. All these groups have their fascinating characteristics in their customs and traditional dress. We offer a Tribal Photography Tour but can also customise tours to any of the other ethnic groups. Our sister company Green Trails has experience with organising tribal textile tours.
If you are specifically interested in Buddhism, we have extensive contacts to organise customised tours to temples, meditation centres, Buddhist Universities, and so on. We can organise lectures, retreats and meetings with monks and experts on Buddhism.
National Park Tours
There are many national parks in North Thailand. Doi Inthanon National Park is probably the most well known. We offer several tours such as the “Doi Inthanon, the Roof of Thailand” day tour. There are other national parks such as Doi Khuntan. This kind of overlooked national park is worth visiting. It is one of the few parks through which a railroad runs. Huay Nam Dang National park offers one of the classic trekking routes. Don’t forget Doi Suthep/Doi Pui National Park.
Special Interest Tours
We are the specialist of customised tours in Chiang Mai and North Thailand. If you have any particular interest such as stone carving; paper flowers; tribal textiles; Lanna culture; temple architecture; history of the Teak Industry in North Thailand; any specific hill tribe or minority group; any particular festival; botanical gardens; Burmese legacy in Chiang Mai; Northern Thai food, rice cultivation; American missionary history or any other: please contact us. We will put together a customised tour for you.