(CNN) — The unofficial second city of Thailand, chilled out Chiang Mai stands in stark contrast to the busting highways and glittering skyscrapers of Bangkok. Nestled among lush hills, Chiang Mai does taking it easy better than any other city in the region, with first-rate street food, cool bars and hotels that offer luxury accommodation without the price tag.
Temples dominate the skyline. Wat Phra Singh is the key attraction within the old city walls, famed for its Lion Buddha that attracts pilgrims from across the country. High in the hills overlooking town, Wat Phra That Doi Sutep stands at the top of 306 steep steps. It's definitely worth scaling them: The views are glorious, the temple itself an ornate gem.
Make sure to stick around for the weekend, when the Saturday Walking Street Market offers the chance to buy trinkets and eat the best cheap eats around. The Night Bazaar is also a great spot for bartering for bargains.