Chiang Mai, Thailand

Photo by
Stephane of bidouze.com/en

City Overview

Though tourist attractions abound in the form of gorgeous temples, jungle treks, safaris, and thrilling zip lines, life is pretty easy in Thailand's northern capital. Nobody is ever compelled to do anything but sit back and relax, maybe have an excellent street-side massage, which normally costs only two, three dollars. Of course, there's Chiang Mai's Northern Thai food: khao soi curry noodles and flavorful sai oua sausages, among many other dishes. Food here is enough to make anyone stay, especially when a good and satisfying meal costs a dollar, two dollars tops. The best thing I love about it, though, is its combination of exciting and laidback--lively night markets and great local bars one night, chilling with a beer on a balcony in another. Chiang Mai is perfect in its dosage.

Paul

City overview by
Paul of walkflypinoy.com/

Where to Stay

Tara Guest House

Tara Guest House
Guest House
(1 reviews)

Tara Guest House Chiang Mai is a 5-minute walk from Sunday Walking Street on Thapae Road. We offer cosy rooms with A/C, fan and free Wi-Fi. The...
Julie Guesthouse

Julie Guesthouse
Guest House
(4 reviews)

It's the most relaxed hostel with many chill-out gardens, various clean and cosy rooms and an Adventure-Tour specialized travel agency in the heart of Chiang Mai's...

What to Do

Fly A Paper Lantern

Make a Wish on a Paper Lantern
by Mattfromtexas about 4 years ago
Make a Wish on a Paper Lantern

Chiang Mai is one of the most popular places in Thailand to set a paper lantern off floating into the night sky. The practice is generally reserved for holidays and festivals, but there are people setting them off all the time. To get one, go to any of the daily markets (such as the one at the Chiang Mai gate) and ask around. The lantern is made of paper with a wick you light, filling the paper with warm air and making it shoot up into the air like a hot air balloon. Don't forget to make a wish!

Massage

Try All the Massages Offered
by Mattfromtexas about 4 years ago

Thailand is the center of the massage world and Chiang Mai offers every type of massage possible on every street corner (literally). At the night markets, you'll find masseuses setting up shop on the side of the road with reclining armchairs for you to sit in while you get a foot rub. When you walk any block in the old city you are sure to pass a massage storefront offering food massage, reflexology, oil, and traditional Thai massage. I say try them all! At no more than 250 baht per hour, it'd be a shame to not get a different type of massage each day.

Monk Chat

Monk Chat at Wat Chedi Luang
by Mattfromtexas about 4 years ago
Monk Chat at Wat Chedi Luang

If you are like me, all these monks walking around the streets of Thailand are pretty intimidating and unapproachable simply because I don't get it. Well, attending Monk Chat is a terrific way to get to know a monk and help them work on their English. It is super simple. Just walk up to the Wat Chedi Luang (in the center of the old city) and look for the monk chat signs. Monks and novice monks will be there most hours of the day from 9am to 6pm to have an hour long conversation about whatever you want to talk about. You won't regret it. Oh, and don't forget to hit up the donation box on your way out. It's optional, but hey, come on.

What to Eat

Restaurants

Breakfast Favs in the Old City
by Hacked By of youtube.com/fırlamaadam about 4 years ago
Breakfast Favs in the Old City

You can judge a good breakfast place by the bacon. Good Morning Chiang Mai (http://www.goodmorningchiangmai.com/) almost gets it right. The gingerbread pancakes, breakfast sandwiches, and muesli are all delicious. If you're looking for traditional Thai, try the egg skillet at Kai Kra-Tha on Prapokklao Rd just north of the Chiang Mai Gate. Look for their "Breakfast WiFi" sign out front. Breakfast sets here start at 35 baht. Open 6am - 3pm.

Festivals & Events

Yee Peng Lantern Festival

Chiang Mai's Lantern Festival
by Hacked By of youtube.com/fırlamaadam about 5 years ago
Chiang Mai's Lantern Festival

On the day of the Yee Peng Lantern Festival, locals gather near Mae Jo University (20 kms from Chiang Mai) to pay their respects to Buddha as well as to ask for Buddha favors. It was magical to see so many good thoughts being released into the universe at once. If you are in Chiang around the end of Oct/Nov, you must make plans to go. Top 5 travel experience. We arrived around 4:30-5pm, which was just enough time to feast on the many free, donated foods, buy a lantern--they cost 100 baht--and find a place to sit on the lawn. The event, including a dance performance and monk chanting, takes about one hour. Red trucks will go that way. You can also rent a moped or find a local to take you. Entrance is free.

Where to Shop

Arts & Handicrafts

Saturday Night Market on Wualai Rd
by Mattfromtexas about 4 years ago
Saturday Night Market on Wualai Rd

The Saturday night market in Chiang Mai is an epic display of vendors from all around the region selling everything from silver jewelry to street food, tribal artifacts to hand made clothing, and furnishings to plastic things that light up. It is an assault on the senses and the feet. The market begins near the Chiang Mai gate and continues along Wualai Rd for a good 20 blocks or so. Street performers will entertain you as you take it all in with 5,000 of your new closest friends, all crammed in shoulder to shoulder trying to get all their shopping for the year done in one night. If you miss it, then hit the Sunday Market in the center of the old city where you'll find many of the same vendors and the same crowds.

Getting Around

Other

How to be safe renting a motorbike in Chiang Mai
by Cornelius of instagram/onelonell about 4 years ago

Motorbikes are a great and cheap way to explore the area around Chiang Mai. Unfortunately, some people find themselves in a situation where they have to pay a certain extra amount when the owner notices a "new" scratch. This gets even more expensive when they exit Wat Phra Singh and notice their bike has mysteriously disappeared. So how to avoid situations like these?

1) When possible, always take pictures of the motorbike before renting.

2) Buy a new lock and use it to lock the motorbike instead of the one the owner provides. They are easy to find and a lot cheaper than a new motorbike for the owner.

3) There are also rental places run by ex-pats which are more expensive, but more reliable.

4) The streets are usually busy and quite hectic. Don't drive too fast and don't forget to drive on the left-hand side.

Songthaews Cheapest Form of Transpo in Chiang Mai
by Hacked By of youtube.com/fırlamaadam about 4 years ago
Songthaews Cheapest Form of Transpo in Chiang Mai

There are no motorbike taxis or public buses in Chiang Mai, only songthaews and tuks tuks. If you're traveling within the walled city or heading to the train station, Nimmanhaemin area or the Ping River--essentially central Chiang Mai--look for one of the ubiquitous red trucks around town. Tell the driver where you want to go but don't try to negotiate a price. The fixed rate is 20 baht. If your driver wants more, flag down the next truck until you get an honest driver.

Best Tuk Tuk Driver and Tour Guide in Chiang Mai
by Mattfromtexas about 4 years ago
Best Tuk Tuk Driver and Tour Guide in Chiang Mai

If you are looking for a non-touristic, off the beaten path Chiang Mai experience, then borrow someone's cell phone and give Rung a call. She speaks fluent English, has a pimped-out tuk-tuk 3-wheeler complete with neon lights, loud stereo, and a vast collection of tunes. Her custom tours consist of eating jumping shrimp, getting massages while lying on a pier over picturesque lakes, and tours of some of the craziest nightlife Chiang Mai has to offer. Her number is 083 325 3782.

General Advice

Drinking Water

Fill up your water bottle at the water dispenser
by Hacked By of youtube.com/fırlamaadam about 4 years ago
Fill up your water bottle at the water dispenser

Even Thais won't drink the local water in Chiang Mai. My advice is to fill up your 6-liter bottle at the local Good Drinks dispensers near select mini marts around town. A 6-liter bottle will cost you 3 baht. Great way to save for those staying in Chiang Mai long-term.

Long Term Stays

Finding Long Term Rentals in Chiang Mai
by Hacked By of youtube.com/fırlamaadam about 4 years ago
Finding Long Term Rentals in Chiang Mai

Many guesthouses and apartments offer long-term rentals. Obviously, the longer you stay, the more negotiating room you'll have. We ended up going with a nice, comfortable guesthouse that offered a monthly rate of 8500 baht that included a/c, hot water, and wifi. It's certainly possible to do better as a friend was able to snatch up an apartment (single person) in the Old City for $80/month with a Thai reference. Look around before committing and try to make friends with a local as having a reference seems to make a difference here.

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