Recommendations: Chiang Mai

Most people come to Thailand for the beaches and the food but you should also come to Thailand for Chiang Mai.  The capital city of the north is not quite the bustling metropolis of Bangkok but that’s a relief. Food markets, history and jungle scenery all make Chiang Mai a reason to keep coming back to Thailand. 

A monk at Wat Phra That Doi Suthep

What to Do: 

Elephants: One of the most popular activities to do in Chiang Mai, and in all of Thailand is to visit elephants.  There are a number of ways you can get up close and personal with these incredible animals but make sure you do your research as there are a number of Elephant tourist attractions that are unethical.  We opted for Patara Elephant Park (check out my review) where you become a Mahout for a day but the other popular option is Elephant Nature Park.  

Our group at Patra

Giving an elephant some water 

Temples of Doi Suthep: We were told there were two things you have to do in Chiang Mai, eat Kao Soi and visit Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. At the top of the mountain of Doi Suthep sit's Chiang Mai's most famous temple which provides stunning views of the city below (not to mention there are significantly less tourists than the other temples you'll visit on your trip).  Go in the early morning or later in the evening to watch Monks chant their daily prayers.  You should also be sure to stop at Wat Phalad, a hidden temple nestled in the jungle, on the way up or down. 

Monks chanting at Wat Phra That

A monk walking out of Wat Phalad

Walk Around Old City:   The old city is a square in the heart of Chiang Mai and is best seen by simply walking around.  We didn’t have too much time to do this but you can spend a whole afternoon doing so.  There are a number of Wats you will stumble upon but the two most notable ones are Wat Chedi Luang and Phra Singh Temple. 

Hopping in the back of vans in the Old City

Nimman: The whole reason we didn’t walk around the old city was because we didn’t want to leave the trendy area of Nimman.  It's West Village of Chiang Mai that is filled filled with coffee shops, outdoor bars and art studios.  Just to the left of 
Nimmanhaemin Road are a number of streets numbered 1 - 17.  Zig zag through the streets and just pop in and out of whatever catches your eye. 

Nimman is known for their art galleries, we stumbled upon one with this type of theme

Chiang Mai Cabaret Show: It’s nearly impossible to spend time in Thailand without running into their famed lady boys.  While attending a cabaret show won’t be for everyone, it’s highly entertaining if you’re up for it.  There are larger cabaret shows throughout Thailand but the Chiang Mai show, located in the Anusarn Market, is an intimate theater where you will get up close and personal with the performers - and maybe even pulled on stage.  Be sure to go at 8 to buy a ticket and ask to reserve a table, then you can walk around the markets for a bit before the show starts.  

With some of the Ladyboy performers 

If you are looking for a tour guide in Chiang Mai, you should email our tour guide Tong who took us around for half an afternoon, he was great -

Wat Phalad is surrounded by dense jungle and waterfalls 

Where to Eat: 

Khow Soi Lumudan Faham: When you're traveling, you know you hit the food jackpot when you walk into a packed restaurant and it's all locals, that's this place.  As I mentioned, when in Chiang Mai, you have to get their most famous dish, Kao Soi and there will be no better place to go then here.  Khow Soi is a family establishment and has been around for decades and will be home to one of the best meals you eat in Thailand. 

Kao Soi

Talat Pratu Chang Pheuak: Chiang Mai is known for it's food markett/street food and Talat Pratu Chang Pheuak is one of the best.  Sometimes markets can be overwhelming where there are so many options that you don't know what to do.  Not the case here, you can easily walk around to see all the options and then decide on a few different dishes.   The infamous Cowboy Hat Lady has her stall here where she cooks up Khao Kha Moo (slow cooked pork) - highly recommended. 

The Cowboy Hat Lady at Talat Pratu Chang Pheuak

Massive spring rolls are never a bad option

Night Bazzar: Unlike Chang Pheuak, the Night Bazzar is huge and overwhelming.  If you are looking to buy gifts, this is where you should come as it will have everything under the sun.  That said, there are a number of stalls to buy food from as well so just walk around and see what catches your appetite. 

Samantha and I at the Night Bazzar

Ristr8to Coffee: Coffee shops are a staple of Nimman so it only feels right walking around with a latte in your hand.  Stop at Ristr8to which recently won the world championship for latte designs. 

One of the Latte artists 

Where to Stay: 

Four Seasons: About 15 to 20 minutes outside of the city is the Four Seasons resort.  Set on rice paddies with the Mountains in the background, it will be one of the most beautiful resorts you ever stay on.  The downside is you have to drive into town but that's also a plus as you don't hear a sound which makes for a relaxing and serene experience. Pro tip is to look for one of the 27 residences on AirBnB as it will be about a 1/3rd the price of a regular room. 

The focal point of the Four Seasons Chiang Mai

Nimman: As I mentioned, Nimman is the trendy part of town and if I were to stay in Chiang Mai proper, this is where I would look.  

Few other photos from Chiang Mai:

Wat Phalad 

Beads hanging off a statue at a temple
Wat Phra That

An elephant at Patra Elephant farm

The mountains of the Chiang Mai province 

More large spring rolls


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