Northern Thailand’s Chiang Mai is a perfect escape from the beach party atmosphere of the southern islands. With over 200 temples located on hills, in the jungle or behind city walls, there is an immediate step-change of pace.

But what about if you are missing a good splash around?

swimming in Paraty
Get him to the water! He looks so happy.

Drive about 40 minutes south of the Old City on road 121 and you will find Chiang Mai’s hidden gem. A former quarry now lies open for locals and tourists alike to come and grab an inner tube to enjoy an afternoon on the water.

Chiang Mai Hidden gem - us
Chiang Mai’s ‘Grand Canyon’

Located in the Hang Dong region, you think an old quarry is an unusual place to go for a swim.

And you would be right!

I don’t immediately think of a big hole in the ground left by miners and now with water as a ‘destination’. The drive down also gives you no clue of what you will come across. Along the highway you see the extent of the expat community expanding with new gated villages being built and accommodation supporting the ever-growing medical tourism trade particularly in dentistry. If I ever need new gnashers this is where I would come.

After passing the golf course on your left you take the turn off on the right and wiggle through the narrow streets, passing newer quarries. Signposted now, it’s hard to get lost.

Chiang Mai Hidden gem - sign
If you don’t have an offline map, then look out for these signs on the highway. They will direct right to the entrance.

What awaits surprises you. After paying 50baht you look out to beautiful red ochre walls set against emerald water.

Chiang Mai Hidden Gems-8
Chiang Mai’s hidden gem

With bamboo floating ‘islands’ it makes for a relaxing spot to sun bathe after a cliff jump or two.

I have had bad experiences jumping from any height, often resulting in losing a bathing suit part or spraining an ankle and Rich has had shoulder surgery, so we walk in, keeping our clothes in tact and body parts in place.

Rich loves a bath and the temperature of the quarry water is that of his favourite past time. Did I tell you how we travelled across the Black Forest of Germany to go to a place called Baden Baden meaning bath-bath in German? Highly recommended!

We take two lonely inner tubes and hand paddle around the cliff walls. Finding ourselves out of the main pool we watch the sun go down listening to soothing lounge jazz (I know it surprised us too) coming from a bamboo hut.

Chiang Mai Hidden Gems-9

After an hour or so, we get out and collect our complimentary purple drink and soak up the changing colours as the sun sets. In the background we listen to the encouraging shouts from friends to this young American gal to make the jump off the cliff.

Tastes like purple!
Tastes like purple!

We would allow for about and 1.5 hours at the quarry. It would be ideal to catch the sunset here and would suggest leaving about 3.30/4pm from Chiang Mai. It will mean the 40-minute return drive will partly be in the dark. Your call on how comfortable you feel on a scooter. We did see larger groups in the silver vans arrive and if you asked your accommodation to put the address in Thai for a red songtaew driver you could also get here that way. There is a café, shower and toilets on site.

What else can you do on route? Well that morning we spent exploring two more temples outside the old city walls – Wat Umong and Wat Srisuphan.

Wat Umong also known as the cave temple is a beautiful and tranquil Buddhist temple nestled in the forest at the foothill of Doi Suthep. A working monk residence you can also enrol in a residential mediation course similar to vipassana.

Chiang Mai Hidden Gems-3

Chiang Mai Hidden Gems-5

Chiang Mai Hidden Gems-2

Again the story about this tunnel temple is awesome.

The legend goes that temple was built in the 14th century by the King for this highly regarded monk who was a little bonkers. The mad monk loved a good wander for days, so to keep him in the temple complex the maze-like tunnels were built. It’s like the IKEA of temples!

Rich thankfully finds his way out
The mad monk? Nah…just Rich!

Spend a good hour exploring the temple tunnels, reading the plaques of Buddhist wisdom hanging from the “talking tress” and of course head up to see the large stupa.

Chiang Mai Hidden Gems-4
We were advised by the monk at the shop entrance to walk around the stupa three times thinking about good times.

Did it work?

When you get to spend your days seeing this kind of scenery, then the answer is easily yes!

Chiang Mai Hidden Gems-6
The ‘connected planet’ is spreading beyond our species.

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I get distracted easily by shiny things and so Chiang Mai’s temples have been a great delight for my eyes.

The gold covered Wat Doi Suthep to the lanna-style red walls with gold stencils of Wat Phra Singh.

But what about other precious metals like silver?

Chiang Mai doesn’t disappoint and a visit to Wat Srisuphan just on the outside of the south wall is a great morning visit.

Silver temple
Wat Srisuphan

Another great surprise as you round the corner of a quiet neighborhood to look into a small temple complex with a silver and gold temple. Walking around you hear the persistent tapping of hammer on metal as the monks shape and create stunning silver pieces depicting stories from the Buddhist teachings.

Allegedly this is the world’s first silver ordination hall, you will have to get a man to go in to take pictures as women are not allowed to enter.

Inside of Wat Srisuphan
For all you ladies out there that can’t go inside.

Another great day in Chiang Mai! Stay tuned for my 3 and 5 day itinerary recommendations.

No more lounge jazz, and back to some warped beats from Bird of Prey.

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Chiang Mai’s hidden gem – splash around in Thailand’s ‘Grand Canyon’
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