Chiang Mai has more than 700 temples, the largest concentration outside of Bangkok, and unique little sites are around every corner. In 1 very full day you can hit the highlights in Old Chiang Mai if you travel by tuk-tuk.
Thai Cooking School
If you love Thai food and fancy yourself a chef, consider taking a cooking class in Chiang Mai. The priciest cookery classes are offered at top resorts like the Mandarin Oriental Dhara Dhevi and Four Seasons (covered earlier), but very reasonable courses abound in town as well, such as those offered at Chiang Mai Thai Cookery School, the oldest establishment of its kind in Chiang Mai. They have 1- to 5-day courses, each teaching basic Thai cooking skills, but daily menus feature up to seven new dishes -- over a week you can learn a lot. You'll have hands-on training and a lot of fun. Classes start at 10am, last until 4pm, and cost 990B for the day. Contact them at their main office at 47/2 Moon Muang Rd., opposite the Thapae Gate (tel. 05320-6388; www.thaicookeryschool.com).
The Thai massage schools in Bangkok and Phuket teach the southern style of Thai massage, which places pressure on muscles to make them tender and relaxed. Northern-style Thai massage is something closer to yoga, where your muscles are stretched and elongated to enhance flexibility and relaxation. There are a number of schools in Chiang Mai, and many are no more than small storefronts where, for very little, you'll get individual instruction of varying quality. It is best to go with a more established school: International Training Massage, or ITM, has popular courses (conducted in English) for anyone from first-timers to experts. Each 5-day course is 4,000B. Contact them at 17/6-7 Morakot Rd., Hah Yaek Santitham (tel. 05321-8632; fax 05322-4197).
The Northern Insight Meditation Center, at Wat Rampoeng (Kan Klongchonprathan Rd.), is a well-respected center for learning Vipassana meditation. "Are you ready?" is all they'll ask you upon arrival, because the daily schedule means rising early and spending many hours practicing meditation. The monks, nuns, and lay volunteers who run the center invite only men and women who bring a certain resolve -- sufficient to see them through the 26-day course. Volumes have been written about the practice of Vipassana, but the main idea is to develop mindfulness and observe one's body, mind, and emotions -- to eventually gain "insight" and to see things as they are, without delusion. Come prepared to "peel the onion" of the ego. Participants are assigned very sparse private rooms and are asked to wear white, loose-fitting clothes (available at the temple store), and basic meals are served at 6 and 10:30am only (there isn't an evening meal). Rules are drawn from the monastic precept and, thus, are rigid. There is no charge for the course, but you will be asked to make a contribution to the temple of whatever amount you see fit. Retreats for experienced meditators are ongoing, but they try to consolidate first-timers' start dates for orientation purposes. Call ahead (3 weeks in advance is preferred) at tel. 05327-8620. The temple also welcomes day visitors, and it might be a good idea for those considering a course to have a look. Located on a rural road south and west of town (past the airport), the temple is best reached by tuk-tuk, songtaew, or rented motorbike. For information on Wat Rampoeng, call tel. 05327-8620 or visit www.watrampoeng.com.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.