Chiang Mai is one of the very few places in Thailand that offers fantastic entertainment while managing to keep its authentic charm. There is a multitude of bars and clubs here and live music can be found across the city every night of the week. There are also a number of sporting venues, including golf clubs, shooting ranges and tennis and squash courts.
Outdoor activities are probably the most popular pastimes for tourists, whether you are interested in trekking through the mountains, raising your heart rate white-water rafting or swinging through the jungle on spine-tingling zip-lines.
The national Thai festivals are also celebrated with particular vigor here, especially the Loi Krathong Festival, which usually takes place in November, and the exceptionally fun Songkran water festival in April. Tourists can also take various courses and master everything from Thai cooking to yoga during their stay.
Songkran takes place at the Thai New Year, which starts on the April 13. The festivities last for three days and are mainly comprised of a huge water fight. Chiang Mai is commonly thought to be the best place to experience such merriment, but be prepared to get more than a little wet. Whether you are armed or not, the moment you step outside you will be drenched by buckets of ice-cold water.
Flight of the Gibbon offers a unique experience to tour the 1,500-year-old Thai rainforest from a series of zip-lines, sky bridges and lofty viewing platforms. If you book in advance through your guesthouse or a booking agent they will pick you up for free, but don't expect to enjoy it if you don't have a head for heights.
There are countless organizations in Chiang Mai offering to teach the basics of Thai cooking. All the ingredients are included in the price of the course and students often have the choice of a few different dishes to cook. You can return home with your new skills and impress your friends at a dinner party, but the best thing about this activity is gobbling down your hard work at the end of the day.
There is a Muay Thai boxing venue in Chiang Mai which hosts big fights every Thursday night that are often not for the faint-hearted. The ancient martial art is now practiced all over the world, and many international fighters try their luck here against the veteran Thais. There are also several camps in Chiang Mai that offer rigorous training programs for those wishing to take their chances in the ring, but just don't expect too much of an easy ride.
Chiang Mai is one of the best spots in Thailand if you're a keen golfer. As well as several driving ranges, there are in excess of 10 clubs which all offer reasonable rates for a go on their greens. The Gymkhana club is one of the oldest sports venues in Chiang Mai and a great place to play a few rounds. Other clubs include Green Valley, Lanna and Mae Jo.