If you’re ready to take a break from the hustle and bustle of fast-moving cities, Chiang Mai is perfect for you. We felt safe the entire time and the people were very relaxed and kind. It’s got a nature feel – We suggest finding a place to stay at an outdoorsy location with a jungle-like environment.
You have several options in Chiang Mai yet it is not near as overwhelming as Bangkok. We’ve broken it down into three options for you:
1) Stay inside the square. This is the busiest and most fun spot to stay if you want to be in the action. Everyone goes to the square for shopping, the markets, activities, night-life. Plus you can walk to anything!
2) Stay right outside the square. Be walking distance from the square yet be in a bit more peace and quiet to be one with the jungle! Here stay at our airBnb.. We loved it!
Our host, Mo, and her mother were extremely helpful. Each day ladies came from a nearby mountain town to cook us breakfast. On their way they would stop at the market to pick up fresh food to cook and we would wake up to a surprise! We had chicken curry, pad thai, and fried chicken mixed with different fruits, tea, coffee and their dessert (sticky rice with coconut served in a banana leaf). Chiang Mai in known for spicy food, sticky rice, and proteins. In Thailand, they do not have specific foods for breakfast like we do in American.
3) Stay a little further away from the square for complete relaxation. You can come in whenever you would like or you can relax and spa the entire time. We suggest Veranda Resort and Spa
Make sure to embrace your wild, care-free hair while you’re there! If you’re a fan of live music you should spend an evening in Old Town. There are quality performances at every corner! As we like, we’re going to plan your trip for you so you can relax and enjoy the ride. Here are our suggestions to make your trip to Chang Mai off the charts:
Elephant Jungle Sanctuary: This is absolutely worth it. Please put this on your list if it isn’t already on there! The sanctuary is 1.5 hours away so we chose to do the half day which costs $40. You read that right – $40 to make friends with elephants. We fed them, gave them a mud bathe, bathed and washed them in the local river. We also were served a Thai cooked meal complete with Chang beer. We thought a half-day was all the time needed to have a life-altering experience. The Sanctuary is an initiative to provide as many elephants as possible with health, freedom and happiness. It was created by locals who were concerned of the welfare of elephants in Thailand. Click here for directions.
Wat Chedi Luang: this Buddhist temple is inside the square which makes visiting very easy. The grounds are large with a lot of beautiful art to see. 40 baht entrance fee (a few US dollars). Warning: females are unable to go into one section due to old age ideas about female menstruation.
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep Temple: We suggest renting a scooter and riding to this temple outside of town. The drive is very cool and it is one the most well-known temple in Chiang Mai.
Massages: Chiang Mai is no exception for the great Thai massages. They are a big deal here, and they’re so cheap compared to a massage in the states. We clearly had to say yes… several times. Funny experiences for sure – We suggest looking up what a Thai Massage is before you willfully agree. Imagine a tiny Thai woman standing on your back and contorting your body in positions you never knew were humanly possible. Slightly painful, slightly hilarious. We also did an oil massage which is pretty much the same as the states besides the lack of personal boundaries — No place is off limits, let’s just leave it at that. Definitely let them know beforehand if you have areas you don’t want them to touch (cough boob and nipple massage)!
Mountain Sports: You can kayak, hike, and mountain bike in a lot of different spots in Chiang Mai.
Markets: You should also go to the square to check out the countless markets! Just make sure your stomach is prepared to see some rare things – pig nose, frogs, crickets – Even fried caterpillars (check out the picture below)! We stuck to curry, noodles and some fresh produce (still be cautious with your choices, though). Chiang Mai is well-known for these markets and it was very fun to walk around and attempt to talk to locals.
SP Chicken: We suggest getting the fish… KIDDING! Get the chicken, duh, and the sticky rice! They make little bowls with the stick rice and you dip the chicken in the sauces. Might sound strange, but it’s so good. Click here for directions.
Dash: We ate here twice. Fun atmosphere with a lot of outdoor seating built with traditional Lanna Style teak wood. You MUST get the tamarind chicken! It was amazing.
Krua Phech Doi Ngam: Along with some unique eats (crickets), this spot has some incredible, really filling salads! They’re also insta-worthy, if we do say so our-self. Click here for directions.
Cafe de L’Amour: Refuel that body with some tasty coffee! This place is super cute with a jungle-like patio. This could either be a quick grab-and-go or a stay and chat location! Click here for directions.
Akha Ama Coffee La Fattoria: This coffee joint is very Americanized and their coffee is amazing! It looks like your every-day hip coffee joint with exposed brick and and an urban feel. We’d consider this to be a grab-and-go location. Click here for directions.
Cabaret Ladyboy Show: Whooaaa this was an experience! Great entertainment and quality dancing. We paid a bit extra for front row seats, and each ticket comes with a beer and peanuts. The show starts around 10 pm. If you go with guys, be warned, they might end up on stage especially if you are in the front row! The ladies were very beautiful and we applaud them for the amazing show they put on. If you do go then please go with open-mindedness to experience something you may not experience in other parts on the world. We don’t want to give too much away… but a little sneak peak…
Cowboy Hat Night Stall: When you get here you have ONE mission – Find the cowboy hat lady and get the pork leg with rice! Worry about the mess later. Click here for directions.
Midnight Chicken: This is a go-to if you’re out late. It opens at midnight and they don’t close until they run out. The locals rave about this chicken and we’ve gotta admit – It could entice vegitarians. Click here for directions.
Thanks for adventuring, Chiang Mai! Off to our next adventure…