WAT CHEDI LUANG
Founded in the mid-1300s, Wat Chedi Luang is perhaps the most dramatic temple in Chiang Mai due to its ruined brick and stone stupa that still stands impressively high. The accompanying temple is a place for quiet reflection or ogling the decadent architecture. Try approaching the temple from eccentric angles or during the early morning to frame the stupa in a striking golden light. To capture the intricacies of the ornate architecture, don’t be afraid to zoom in for a close up!
This market is the oldest in Chiang Mai and by far the most expansive. Packed to the brim with textiles, home goods, souvenirs, crafts, produce, and freshly made food, Warorot is an experience for shoppers and photographers alike. Though there’s plenty of striking colors and contrasts to capture here, your most compelling subject is movement. Focus on the vendors (though be sure to ask permission before photographing them!), and try to frame them as they craft their goods or interact with customers.
Located right next to Warorot Market is Chiang Mai’s only fresh flower market, and one that’s a sight to behold. Take advantage of the rows upon rows of gorgeous buds and blooms — the market will have everything from roses to orchids to native Thai flowers. Aim for a healthy mix of close-ups and wide shots — simultaneously capturing the color contrasts of the market and the vivid textures of the flower petals.
WAT PHRA SINGH
Another one of Chiang Mai’s Old City gems is Wat Phra Singh, located in the western part of the city. Enter the gorgeous temple complex and be ready to photograph some of the loveliest Thai architecture you’ve ever seen. From the ornate designs of the golden plating on the exterior to the gorgeous slant of the temple’s pointed roof, there’s no shortage of photo opportunities here. Try heading inside and pointing your lens back outside — use the towering columns to frame the golden statue in the courtyard.
Visit Thailand to be amazed by seeing wildlife in person. Head to an ethical elephant sanctuary (learn more here) and don’t forget your camera. Be respectful and photograph from afar unless you’re permitted to touch the elephants. Capture these animals’ expressive eyes and playful behavior. Photograph next to a person to show scale, and see if you can capture them interacting with one another. Remember — never photograph animals with flash!
SUNDAY WALKING STREET
Sundays can be a bit of a downer, but not in Chiang Mai. As twilight falls on Sunday evening, Chiang Mai comes alive: a major road from Tha Pae Gate to the western part of the city is filled with vendors selling clothes, souvenirs, food, and handmade crafts.
Bring your camera to shoot long exposure and capture the movement of the crowds against the lights. Photograph the variety of goods, delicious assortment of street food, and colorful stands. The Walking Street is a perfect portrait opportunity — just be sure to ask permission to photograph vendors and shoppers first!
MAIIAM CONTEMPORARY ART MUSEUM
Head to this new and flashy art museum for inspiration, but don’t forget to bring along your camera for some exterior shots before you head inside. As you explore the grounds, you’ll discover modern architecture that’s a departure from the ornate traditional Thai style and a feast for the eyes of those interested in minimalism. Use the whitewashed walls to frame interesting subjects, and make sure to play around with the reflective surfaces.
Chiang Mai’s Doi Suthep temple is a symbol of the city — and a beautiful place to photograph. Start at the 306 steps that lead up to the temple and capture the intricate mosaic dragons that flank the stairway. Once at the top, capture the almost comical amount of discarded shoes (visitors must explore the temple barefoot), beautiful flowering trees, and intricate tile work.
Continuing into the temple complex, aim your camera at the golden stupa (though it’ll be hard to look at while it reflects the midday sun, so go early in the morning or late in the evening). Capture the tiny details of the temples, the lotus blooms offered by pilgrims, and even praying monks — but keep a respectful distance!
Chiang Mai is home to many artsy cafes and galleries, but one of the best is Gallery Seescape, located in Chiang Mai’s trendy Nimmanhaemin neighborhood. Take photographs of the futuristic exterior, which features porthole-like windows and a facade draped in creeping ivy.
Head indoors to photograph the stunning offerings of the gallery, which include funky art pieces, paintings, and jewelry. If you get hungry, the gallery has a cafe attached, which offers an assortment of delicious dishes, including the ever-popular mango toast.
DOI INTHANON NATIONAL PARK
Doi Inthanon is one of the most beautiful places in northern Thailand: hike the rugged peaks, explore the twin stupas on the hill, and photograph at all hours of the day. Though taking pictures in the morning and in the evening will yield the most beautiful results, like pastel hued clouds, the park is stunning at any time Capture the rolling green hills that characterize Thailand’s northern landscape and be sure to snap views of the city below. Bring a telephoto lens if you have it — you never know when you’ll spot one of the 362 species of rare birds that call the park home.