The moment I am writing this post I am sitting at Chiang Mai airport waiting for my domestic connection to Ko Samui. As much as I have been looking forward to head towards the South of Thailand for my yoga & beach relaxation part of my holidays, I feel a little sad now to leave Chiang Mai after 3.5 days.
The small to medium sized town is host to a lively backpacker scene while preserving an authentic Thai flair. Check out my short roundtrip to get a first impression:
I put together my recommended do’s and don’ts, which might help you planning your trip to Chiang Mai.
Join a Thai cooking school
1,000 Bhat (26 €) are absolutely well invested in a one-day Thai cooking course. There are several providers with similar offers. I decided for “Great Kitchen” and would definitely do so again. The teaching lady was lovely, funny and very patient. The course includes a pick-up and drop-off at your hostel, a visit at an authentic local Thai market, where all ingredients for your meals are bought freshly. You decide on 6 different dishes to cook, reaching from starters via mains and curries to desserts. At the end of the course you get a recipe book to take back home with you. I was even taught how to turn a watermelon into a (more or less) beautiful decoration.
Get a Thai massage
At a low price of only 90 Bhat (2.5 €) you get a totally relaxing half hour massage. You decide whether your neck, shoulders, back or feet need some treatment.
Relax at Nong Buak Haad park
At the very South-West (left-down) corner of Chiang Mai’s old town you find the Nong Buak Haad park, which is a nice meeting point for Thai and tourists alike for picnics, yoga or simply relaxing. You can lend a mat for 10 Bhat (0.25 €), get a massage, buy some drinks or have a snack in the small cafe.
Go on a trekking tour in the jungle
There are countless providers offering different types of trekking tours from 1 to 3 day durations. Treks either head to Thai tribe villages, up the close by mountains or into the jungle to beautiful waterfalls. Inform yourself either at your hostel reception or in one of the many tourist information booths all over the city. You will surely find the best deal for you. Prices for a 1 day trip starts at 1,000 Bhat (26 €).
Eat, eat, eat
Eat as much as you can. Thai food tasted truly amazing and is so cheap. I had the most delicious curries for only 60 Bhat (1.5 €) including rice. Don’t miss out on the tasty freshly squeezed fruit juices starting at 30 Bhat (0.77 €).
Dinner reco: Ploen Ruedee night food market offers a huge variety of Thai and international meals. The spacious, open air sitting area is surrounded by delicious food booths as well as a stage for live music.
Breakfast reco:The Blue Diamond Breakfast club is THE best place to grab breakfast or also lunch. It has a huge offer of omelets, salads, fresh juices, international breakfast styles as well as typical Thai dishes with a great veggie and vegan choice.
Visit the night bazaar and Sunday night market
Life in Chiang Mai starts off at 5 pm. Streets fill with people as soon as bars, market stalls and street markets open their doors for locals and tourists. The night market has a diverse and colorful offer of clothing, jewelry, handcrafts, souvenirs etc. and is surrounded by live music from the near-by restaurants and bars.
Walk around town and see the temples
The best way to experience Chiang Mai is to walk around the old town (or the area of Nimman). You will find lots of small cafes, bars, restaurants as well as street food, fruit and juice booths. Watch out for the numerous temples, spread across the town at almost every corner – one being more beautiful and impressive than the previous one.
Personally I liked the Wat Phan Tao temple most. It is purely made out of wood and therefore has a very special vibe and down to earth atmosphere compared to the usually pompously temples covered in gold.
There are many many more things offered, like zip lining, high rope parks, white water rafting and of course the vibrant night life in pubs, bars and clubs. Therefore it would not be trouble to stay as long as one week in beautiful Chiang Mai.
Don’t go on an elephant trip
Several providers offer elephant trips, including elephant riding, feeding, bathing whatsoever. I decided strictly against elephant riding and wanted to see the elephants in their natural surrounding – bathing and feeding them in an Elephant rescue camp. Even though it was emphasized this being an elephant friendly place it turned out that it was the same place where also the elephant riding took place and it struck me to see the elephants being crowded by tourists all day long. I therefore cannot recommend any elephant activities.
Don’t pay too much
Neither on markets nor for taxi or tuk-tuk drives you should pay the very first price you are being offered. Take your bargaining skills with you. A drive to the airport, which only takes 10-15 minutes, should not be charged over 100 Bhat (2.6 €) via tuk-tuk or 150 Bhat (3.8 €) via taxi.
Hostel Reco: I staid at Brick House Hostel at a rate of 12 EUR per night in a 4 bed dormitory. The hostel has an awesome location, a nice pool to relax and a nice atmosphere. The staff is not too friendly but at the tour desk any kind of trips or activities can be booked.
All in all I would definitely include a stay in Chiang Mai again in case of traveling Thailand once more in the future.
Have you been in Chiang Mai before? Looking forward to your comments and further additions and travel tips you may have.