A guide to Chiang Mai, Thailand
Chiang Mai, is the most popular city in the North of Thailand. It is now a major destination on most peoples itineraries and who can blame them. Chiang Mai offers a great mix of culture, history and modern city life. Theres plenty of things to do and see; from the beautiful temples, great shopping, incredible views and not to mention some of the most delicious foods. Chiang Mai is a place that you could easily stay a while in.
Chiang Mai is easily reachable by bus, air or train from Bangkok. The overnight sleeper train being the most popular option with tourists. Trains leave Bangkok’s Hua Lamphong station daily at around 7:30pm and take approximately 15 hours. There are 4 different types of trains with different classes of cars. Personally, I think that second class sleeper is perfectly fine. If you are short on time, flying is the fastest option, have a look at some of the budget airlines for decent fares. Thai airways, Airasia, Lionair and Nokair.
When you arrive I would just take a taxi to the centre or to your accommodation. It’s relatively cheap and very easy. Just remember to ask for the METRE!!
THINGS TO DO
Theres plenty of things to see and do and Chiang Mai, so here is quite an extensive list of the best places to do those things;
Exploring the temples
Theres a wide range of temples to explore in and around the city but the 3 most popular places to visit are;
Wat Phra Singh– 20baht entry. It is is one Chiang Mai’s most respected temples which draws sightseers for its resident buddha and marvellous artwork and architecture.
Wat Chedi Luang– Theres no entry fee to this temple but a donation is welcomed. Wat Chedi was once one of the tallest structures in ancient times but it suffered large-scale damage in an Earthquake.
Wat Phra Doi Sutep– 30baht entry fee. This temple looks over the city from high on top of its mountain home and is one the most sacred temple in the North of Thailand. The best way to get to the temple is by flagging down one of the many red songkhaew taxi trucks you will see bustling around the city. Once you get there, you will have to take a 306 step walk up to the top, which is intended as an act of meditation. It is so worth it though as the temple is amazing and the views are spectacular.
Learn to cook
Learn some new culinary skills at some of the best cooking schools in town.
Asia Scenic Thai Cooking offers classes starting from 900baht. They have both an out of town location and an in city location.
Chiang Mai Thai cooking school offers classes from 1450baht. Classes are run by TV chef Sompon Nabinan and is one of Chiang Mai’s first cooking schools.
Baan Thai offers courses from 900baht and you get to choose the dishes you want to make prior to arriving.
Shop until you drop
The markets in Chiang Mai are some of the best to pick up some handicrafts and to learn the art of ‘haggling’. The night market everyday from 6pm is a must as well as the Saturday and Sunday walking market. If you are after something more local then Talat Warorot is a great place for souvenir shopping, knick-knacks, every day essentials, people watching and snacking.
Try a meditation or yoga retreat.
Theres a wide range of retreats in this laid back city to experience.
International Buddhism Centre is situated within the Doi Sutep temple. It offers beginner to advanced retreats lasting from 3-21 days. This is the most popular retreat and would need to be booked in advance.
Wat Sisuphan offers an introduction to meditation, which is perfect for any first-timers. They are open Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.
Namo offers yoga classes from 220baht and they are open Monday- Saturday. Namo offers drop in classes as well as a variety of workshops.
Chiang Mai is blessed with some beautiful surroundings and who wouldn’t be tempted to trek into the luscious green jungles. It isn’t recommended to go at it alone, so here are some of the best tours you could go with;
Green Trails– offers a variety of different treks and tours.
Trekking Collective Co.– Renowned for taking you on unique personal journeys focusing on the Lanna region. Create you own personalised itinerary around your interests, fitness ability and personal schedule.
Chiang Mai is known as the place to go for the once in a life-time encounters with animals, but with recent exposure of animal tourism in Thailand, I’m not going to promote anything but good on this blog. Encounters with animals can still be had but it’s important to practice good tourism.
Chiang Mai night Safari– Entry fee is 400baht for children and 800baht for adults. Most bookings would have to be made through a tour agency, which can be found all around the city and in hotels. This is because they will need to arrange transfers because the safari is 12km outside the city. English language trams leave at 7:45pm and 9:30pm.
Elephant Nature park– I talked about this place briefly in my post about Animal Tourism. Elephant Nature park is a sanctuary for injured or rescued elephants that have had a life in tourism. Visitors can help wash and feed the elephants but there is no riding them or no show. The park is 60km outside the city centre.
Relax with a massage
Want to relax after a long day exploring? Well if anything in Chiang Mai there is absolutely no shortage of massage parlours, so go on treat yourself. There’s that many that I can’t even begin to tell you which ones are the best. All I did was scout out the prices and seen which one I liked the best and went for it. I’ve never had a problem doing that.
WHERE TO STAY
There isn’t a lack of places to stay in Chiang Mai, so here I have chosen 3 options, 1 for each luxury, mid-range and budget.
LUXURY- Rachamankha is in the heart if the old city hidden away near Wat Phra Singh Temple. Rachamankha offers a relaxing zen atmosphere with beautiful gardens, an open air massage covering, a library with thousands of books and a 20m pool. Rooms start from 8000baht a night.
MID- RANGE- Sri Pat Guesthouse is centrally located with well lit rooms, air-con and wifi as well as a relaxing swimming pool area and an in house restaurant. What else do you need? Rooms start from 1000baht a night.
BUDGET- Julie’s Guesthouse is a place that nearly every budget backpacker knows about. If you are after a place to meet new people and a laid back chill atmosphere then this is the place for you. It does offer wifi and a cool rooftop with hammocks but you can forget about private bathrooms as they are shared with cold water showers, but for 80baht a night for a dorm or privates starting from 100baht a night then you can’t really complain.
WHERE TO EAT AND DRINK
There is absolutely no shortage of restaurants in Chiang Mai. From local eateries to international restaurants, your appetite will be fed here.
Kow Soy Siri Soy– because no trip to Chiang Mai would be complete without a bowl of Kow Soi. Otherwise known as Chiang Mai noodles. Seriously, the most delicious thing ever.
Salsa Kitchen– Not Thai food but Mexican, and if you have been in Asia long enough you will probably be craving some good old Western style food. This place is a hit with everyone, even the locals love it.
There’s also plenty of bars to sit back and chill with friends over a few bottles of Singha but if after that you are looking for a place to party then there really is no other place in town to go and that is;
Zoe in Yellow– Head there and I promise you will have the best night, it just seems that everyone is there, expats, tourists and even locals. This place does close at 2am but so does most places now after the military coup back in 2013.
I hope this guide can help you out if you are ever stuck for ideas of what to do in Chiang Mai.
I have tried to link everything I could. All research was my own.