Chiang Mai is Thailand’s second largest and second most popular cultural city, after the capital of Bangkok. The atmosphere is noticeably different, even when not considering the lovely mountain setting.
The city is also one of the world’s great travel bargains, with all range of hotels being quite cheap by international standards, and Chiang Mai hostels are, of course, even cheaper. You can get rooms at high-standard 3-star Chiang Mai hotels for around the price of a hostel bed in northern Europe.
Most of the attractions are also free or quite cheap, so visitors can use much of the rest of their budget on the inexpensive souvenirs at the various markets. Food and drinks are available in all price ranges, with plenty of great street food and local restaurants having fantastic bargains.