Thailand’s enchanting northern city is a cultural hub packed with temples and marketplaces, and surrounded by mountain wilderness. Chiang Mai activities range from urban wanderings in the old town, to countryside adventures exploring National Parks, wildlife sanctuaries and hill tribe villages.
Thai immersion Chiang Mai activities
A number of museums help visitors learn about Thai traditional life. Another way is to mingle with locals at the marketplaces and try some local cuisine. You’ll love learning to make delectable Thai dishes from freshly grown produce at the Thai Farm Cooking School, and love eating them even more.
The temple city
Of Chiang Mai’s 300 or so temples, 13th century Wat Chiang Man is the city’s oldest and features a magnificent gold and crimson interior and rare Buddha statues. Unique Wat U Mong was built into a hill in the 14th century, with chambers and tunnels located underground. Opulent ‘royal grade’ Wat Phra Singh (pictured top), is called the ‘Lion Temple’ because of the lion statues guarding the entrance.
Mountaintop Wat Phra That at Doi Suthep is about a 25-minute drive out of Chiang Mai. It features a grand 300 step Naga serpent staircase to the temple complex. (You can also make the ascent via a lift.) Its terraces provide an expansive view of the city, and the complex has an impressive gold chedi (stupa) and exquisite emerald Buddha. Visitors are welcome to sound the temple gong – one of the largest in the world.
Chiang Mai’s ageless teak temples, Wat Phan Tao and Wat Lok Molee, feature golden Buddhas and intricate gold and wood carvings. They could be the most serene and atmospheric in Chiang Mai. In addition, Wat Lok Molee has a beautiful chedi and a collection of unusual sculptures. The carved animals from the Chinese zodiac on the temple’s lawns are particularly charming.
Chiang Mai’s world-famous Loy Krathong festival takes place each November, with beautiful floating offerings and sky lanterns.
Chiang Mai is surrounded by mountainous National Parks featuring caves, waterfalls and jungle hikes. The range of activities is enormous, from mountain bike tours to visits to elephant camps or hill tribe villages.
Humane activities which avoid harm to elephants, gibbons and other wild animals are increasing in popularity. Lanna Kingdom Tours offer tours to a sanctuary where visitors can help feed and bathe the elephants. The same company offers white water rafting, ziplining and bamboo rafting tours.
Markets and handicrafts are a specialty. Browse the stalls at the coolest time of day at the Chiang Mai night bazaar, or the popular Saturday and Sunday Walking Street markets on weekends. Locals shop at Talat Ton Phayom and Talat Warorot markets.
Baan Tawai is a ‘creative village’ of small craft shops and workshops about an hour’s drive from the city. It’s less crowded than the markets and can be slightly cheaper. Perhaps worth hiring a car and driver to make the trip.
Baan Celadon on Sankamphaeng Road specializes in traditional Celadon ceramics, including fine tableware and ornaments.
Thai Tribal Crafts is a fair trade store selling attractive handicrafts and textiles at reasonable prices. Otherwise, visit the local craftspeople with disabilities at work at the Healing Family Workshop.
Chiang Mai certainly has plenty of tailors ready to measure you up and run up some new outfits or suits.
Finally, when it’s time to unwind, indulge in one of the incredible eateries, and the numerous spas offering massages and other pampering treatments.
Travellers love Bali for its luxury accommodation deals, great beaches, magical sights and exotic culture. The incredible Bali shopping is a delectable bonus that keeps them going back. Shoppers head to the markets and workshops selling colourful handicrafts, art and textiles. Others love to browse for fashion, furniture and homewares at higher end shops.
In the shops
Bamboo Blonde in Seminyak sells relaxed and colourful fashion for enjoying Bali’s resort and party life. Otherwise, find the perfect swimsuit in the amazing range at Blue Glue. The Kerobokan store also sells gorgeous resort wear and accessories. Biasa is an elegant resort wear label by an Italian designer and has boutiques in Seminyak and Sanur. Mums and kids can find fab fashions in the same store at Indigo and Rose in Kuta and Seminyak.
The Kuta Beach area also has plush, air-conditioned shopping malls, stocking all the big brands.
The Bali shopping holiday experience
Some of the island’s retailers provide an experience that goes beyond shopping. Australian brand Deus Ex Machina’s store in Canggu (north of Seminyak) is part workshop, skateboard mecca, art gallery, shop, bar and café. Custom surfboards, skateboards and bicycles are made onsite. Ogle the custom built motorcycles or order one for yourself.
Drifter Surf Shop and café in Seminyak stocks the big surf labels for men and women, plus some smaller edgier brands. Stay for lunch or a snack and check out the books, surfboards and memorabilia.
Hitting the markets and workshops
It’s worth travelling out of the Kuta, Seminyak area to Bali’s renowned art markets in Ubud, Guwang or Sukawati. Shoppers can also visit the many artisan workshops located around those centres. Specialties include wood and stone carvings, crafted batik, and hand woven ikat fabrics. Carved Buddhas, toys, clothes, souvenirs and trinkets are popular buys. The shops in and around Kuta have many of the same goods, but prices tend to be higher. Serious shoppers hire a car or van with driver to make the trip. Some operators offer market or arts and crafts tours to make it all easier.
Handmade silver jewellery is another Bali speciality. Some silver workshops, like Studio Perak in Ubud, welcome visitors and offer classes.
What you need to know about Bali shopping
Can I bring it back to Australia? Check the Australian Customs website for restricted items. For example, wooden and woven items have to be presented to Customs to make sure they don’t contain bark or insects.
Bartering is the customary way of doing business at markets and local shops, however, prices tend to be fixed at retailers in shopping malls, boutiques etc. It’s best to ask if you’re not sure. The vendor’s first price is often up to twice what you end up paying (three times is rare but not unheard of), but there is no rule. Keep the exchange rate in mind. The price you settle for is bound to be a bargain compared to what you might get at home.
You may need to ship some larger or heavier items home or to their intended destination, so factor in the price of shipping and transit time.
See also Things to do in Kuta, Seminyak Nusa Dua
Visitors gravitate to the local markets and specialty stores to make the most of Phuket shopping. Look for fashion, jewellery, ceramics and textiles, including exquisite silks.
Doing the markets
The popular Phuket Town weekend market runs every Saturday and Sunday from afternoon until 10 pm. Certainly, it’s a more relaxed and a more authentic Thai experience than the tourist-oriented markets around Patong. Apart from clothes, handicrafts, trinkets and the like, it also has plenty of great street food. Prices are also cheaper than the markets around Patong.
Phuket Walking Street on Sundays from 4 pm is also popular. It’s great for browsing for trinkets and lingering for snacks or dinner. In poor weather try the indoor Expo Market or Phuket Square in Phuket town. While the atmosphere isn’t as vibrant as their outdoor counterparts, there are plenty of great bargains.
Phuket shopping – specialty retailers
For shoes and other leather goods, try the fixed price stores Udomagg, Finding and Kata Leather Goods at Kata Beach. Also at Kata Beach, Parin Waris sells organic skincare and aromatherapy products. Harry’s Fashion House is a trusted custom tailor running up women’s fashion and menswear to measure.
Freedom Board Sports is a surf and watersports shop stocking everything the board enthusiast could want. It’s at Mu Ban Ban Sabai in Chalong.
The well-known silk retailer, Jim Thompson, has several stores in Phuket. The fashion and decor items are renowned for their high quality but expect prices to match.
Soul of Asia is a fine art gallery near Patong Beach, owned by a Dutch collector. The gallery specialises in Asian antiques and paintings but also carries works by famous Western artists.
For something different, try Fe² for decor items and jewellery crafted from crystal, wood or silk. The store is at 49/33 Boat Avenue, Baan Don-Cherngthalay Rd, Choeng Thale.
For those still unsatisfied with the selection from local vendors, the island also has its share of air-conditioned shopping malls and chain stores selling well known international brands.
Phuket shopping facts to consider
It’s worth checking the quality of goods you’re buying. Some tailors use substandard fabrics and cheap labour, so choose carefully. Some vendors also try to pass off synthetic fabrics as silk. Authentic silk is never cheap. Furthermore, it’s illegal to bring fake designer goods or pirated CDs etc. into Australia.
Avoid touts luring you into jewellery stores, or business propositions claiming you can make double or triple returns reselling jewellery or gems.
Otherwise, keep your sense of humour when bartering. If you don’t think the price is reasonable, politely decline and walk away. With some practice you’ll become familiar with the prices, and you’re bound to make some excellent buys you won’t get at home.
Bangkok is a vibrant, 24-hour city with plenty of sites and attractions to explore well beyond a transit stay. Make the most of the sights by beginning with the opulent palaces and grand Buddhist temples. Or just enjoy the hectic street life, barter for bargains in the markets, and wander from snack to snack at the street stalls.
Getting to know Bangkok
The banks of the Chao Phraya river are home to Bangkok’s historic centre, Phra Nakhon, revolving around the Grand Palace and stunning temple complexes. With lavish gold statuary, jewel-like mosaics and distinctive Thai architecture, they’re a feast for the eyes. Wat Pho, the spectacular Temple of the Reclining Buddha houses a 45 metre long reclining Buddha. Wat Phra Keow with its shimmering golden spires and sacred Emerald Buddha is in the same district, as well as the imposing towers of Wat Arun.
Further up river is the Dusit district, which includes Dusit Palace, the current home to the Thai royal family. Vimanmek Mansion, a former palace, is now a museum of Thai heritage. The Dusit Zoo is also nearby.
In the Siam district of central Bangkok, look for Jim Thompson House, the former home of the American silk entrepreneur. Built in traditional Thai Style, it’s now a museum and art gallery.
A traditional Thai Home
Plenty of things to do
Bangkok may also be the world capital of shopping. If you don’t get your shopping fix from the shops, markets and shopping malls, you’ll find street vendors proffering wares on every street. Plus, Thailand’s incredible cuisine is one of the delights of any visit to the country. Like many locations in Asia, Bangkok’s street food is often as good or better than restaurant fare – and cheap!
Visitors get around metropolitan Bangkok by tuk-tuk. Water buses are a great way to escape traffic. They’re also an economical way to travel between some of the city’s best attractions. Stay aboard in the evening for a leisurely sightseeing tour along the Chao Phraya River.
Thailand celebrates festivals throughout the year. Celebrate Chinese New Year on the first new moon of the calendar year. Mid-April, Thailand shuts up shop for the Songkran water festival. The whole nation shuts up shop, holds a street party, and douses everyone with water, including tourists. Prepare to meet bucket loads and the odd hosing. Lastly, Thais celebrate the traditional Buddhist festival, Loy Krathong in November. Beautiful balloon lanterns fill the sky, and the locals float offerings on nearby rivers and lakes.
Bangkok travel facts
Read our Thailand traveller information guide for info on visas.
There are numerous flights to Bangkok daily from Australia’s international airports. The city has two international airports, Suvarnabhumi (BKK), and Don Mueang. Check your ticket to make sure you go to the correct one when departing on international or domestic flights.
Bangkok’s daytime temperatures are hot year round. Night time temperatures November to March are occasionally cool enough to need a jacket or sweater. Nights are hot the rest of the year. The rainy season lasts from May until October, with tropical heavy falls in May, September and October. The best months to visit are November to April when it’s driest and relatively cool.
Thailand’s capital is a bustling city crammed with sights and memorable Bangkok activities. Visit its opulent temples and palaces, dine on the best of spicy Thai cuisine and enjoy superlative shopping. Wherever you look you’ll find a multitude of new and exciting experiences.
Cultural Bangkok activities – glistening temples & palaces
Many of Bangkok’s top attractions are along the course of the Chao Phraya River in the centre of the city. Wat Pho is a spectacular temple that houses an impressive 45 meters long reclining Buddha. The lavish Wat Phra Keow temple complex has magnificent towers and golden chedi spires. It’s regarded as the most sacred temple in Thailand and houses the Emerald Buddha, a jade and gold statue believed to be the protector of the Thai kingdom. Wat Phra Keow adjoins Bangkok’s Grand Palace, which was the former residence of the king. Not to mention Wat Arun with its seventy-metre shell and porcelain encrusted tower.
Note that Thailand’s sacred temples and royal buildings have a dress code. Men must wear long trousers and sleeved shirts and women must don long skirts or a sarong. The major temples rent appropriate clothing to visitors who arrive unprepared.
The Dusit district is a little further up the river and includes the Dusit Zoo and the current royal palace. Within the precinct, the luxurious Vimanmek Mansion is a former palace which is now a museum of Thai culture and heritage. In contrast to its traditional teak architecture, the nearby Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall is a classically grand European style building.
The water bus on the Chao Phraya River is an inexpensive way to travel between many of the city’s major attractions. It’s also a welcome and cool reprieve from the hectic traffic. An evening cruise is particularly enjoyable at the end of a full day of Bangkok activities.
Jim Thompson House in central Bangkok was the former home of the American businessman, architect and silk entrepreneur. The traditional Thai building is now a major tourist attraction as a museum and art gallery. Thompson had six 19th century houses dismantled, shipped to Bangkok and reassembled to create it.
You’ll find street vendors on literally every street in Bangkok. Plus, the huge Chatuchak market in the city’s north has about 15,000 stalls selling everything from clothes to handcrafts. It’s one of the best known, however, there are many markets dotted all over the city. Certainly, the range of items for sale is huge, with masses of bargains. Many markets open at night, like the Ratchada market pictured above. Find it behind the Cultural Centre MRT Underground Station. Alternatively, head for the giant shopping centres like MBK and Central World if you prefer authentic branded goods and air conditioning.
Finally, there’s food, food everywhere in Thailand. You can eat just as well at street stalls as you can at restaurants for a fraction of the price. Bangkok is no exception. Seek out the places Thais themselves gravitate to for the best. Certainly, the areas of Saphan Thaksin and Bang Rak heading along Charoen Krung Road from the BTS Station are a street food institution. Or try the area around Victory Monument. Otherwise, splash out on air-conditioned ambience at Issaya Siamese Club.
Cosmopolitan Melbourne is an exciting hub for shopping, dining, sport and the best of Australia’s arts scene. It’s also just a day trip away from nature walks, wineries, and the beach hamlets along the Great Ocean Road.
The network of laneways, with their cafés, restaurants and boutiques give the CBD its distinctive character. Hosier Lane is particularly famous for its riotous street art. The Ian Potter Centre in nearby Federation Square is a branch of the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV). The stunning contemporary building houses the NGV’s Australian collection, including a significant collection of aboriginal art. The NGV International is about ten minutes walk away.
Also nearby is the Rod Laver Arena, home to the Australian Open tennis, as well as the Melbourne Cricket Ground. The beautiful parklands of Fitzroy Gardens and the Royal Botanic Gardens are wonderful spots to make the most of the city’s bicycle hire.
Food is a serious highlight in Melbourne with an incredible menu of authentic international cuisines throughout the city. Whether it’s fine dining at Movida or street food at Hanoi Hannah’s, the choices are diverse and delicious. In addition, Melburnians are justifiably proud of their nightlife and bars. Enjoy a cocktail at one of the city’s chic rooftop bars, or make the most of the vibrant live music scene.
Shopping is another highlight and visitors can indulge their passion and their love of food at Queen Victoria Market. Otherwise, wander the stylish suburbs of Fitzroy and Carlton for chic boutiques and stylish homewares.
Beyond the CBD
Top rated Melbourne Zoo is about 25 minutes by tram north of the CBD. Or catch a tram south to beachfront St Kilda. Stroll the breezy Esplanade, take a dip, or visit Luna Park and enjoy the rides.
Around Melbourne, take a drive into the magnificent Dandenong ranges for gorgeous nature walks. Perhaps take a trip to the charming towns and dramatic coastal views along the Great Ocean Road. The wineries of the Yarra Valley are also only an hour’s drive from the CBD.
Melbourne travel facts
The key to enjoying Melbourne is to be prepared for any weather. Wearing layers is advised seeing temperatures are known to fluctuate year round. Summer in Melbourne can be blisteringly hot, reaching the high thirties, but also drop to the low teens. Winter, from April to September, is reliably chilly with minimum temperatures in the single digits and daytime temperatures rarely climbing higher than the low teens.
Tullamarine Airport is about 30 minutes drive from the CBD with a choice of taxi or Sky Bus. Self-drivers need to be aware of toll roads and buy a pass. Tram travel within the CBD ‘city grid’ is free. Visitors need to pre-purchase a Myki smart-card to travel beyond. Trams on the same line share the same number regardless of the direction, so check its destination before you get on. That will be written on the front.