For me, Chiang Mai = relaxation. So you might want to hire a bike, discover the areas nearby and dance until early hours – I didn’t. I chilled. And chilled. And chilled. That’s about it. Plus a few minor things described in this article.
It was the place where I “stopped by” between Vietnam and Burma, and then between Burma and Laos. In the end, I ended up spending a total of 10 days there, discovering the city, lounging near the pool or drinking smoothies in nice cafes. Here are my top recommendations – Chiang Mai is really touristic so these are the things that most tourists do anyway (but these are the ones I actually enjoyed).
Budget: backpacker 🙂
Where to sleep in Chiang Mai ? I tried 2 different hostels (with 2 different vibes):
- “Cheap and Cheerful” – If you want to meet loads of friendly people and want to do a Jungle Trek, go to Hug hostel. The trek they organise was really good (you sleep outside in the middle of nowhere and the guy was probably one of Bear Grylls relatives (check if the guide is good before going, as the whole trek wasn’t cheap).
- For a hostel with nice pool, delicious smoothies and “luxury” dorms, go to Green Tiger Vegetarian House. This is by far the best hostel I have been to in SE Asia. It felt a bit more up-market than all the other hostels in Asia – and it was more expensive as well (we are probably talking £5 a night instead of £3), but it was just perfect.
Where to eat in Chiang Mai? (nothing posh, just nice, local food)
- Kanjana, family-owned restaurant
- Street food market (in front of Hug Hostel, on the other side of the river), huge selection of local food with little tables to sit outside
- Local restaurant Khao Soi Khun Yai – the most delicious Khao Soi in SEA !
What to do in Chiang Mai (day time)?
- Jungle trek (see above)
- Visit Wat Doi Suthep temple, overlooking the whole city
- Spa and massages – all day
- Monk mass early in the morning
- Elephants camp – I am very dubious about these camps. Are they really helping or is it at this stage only a tourist business? I won’t recommend any – as I don’t think I will do it again.
- Saturday or Sunday market – for souvenirs 🙂
- Cooking class (I did it with the Hug hostel – it was really good but some might be cheaper)
What to do in Chiang Mai (night time)? When it felt the most touristic. Everybody goes to the Night Bazaar (there are some nice but expensive restaurants around).
- Boy blues bar – I definitely recommend going there (and if you only have one night in Chiang Mai, do this instead of the suggestions below). Blues and biers , what else can you ask for?
- Go to a Muay Thai boxing tournament at Thapae Stadium– it is really touristic but also really fun 🙂
- Ladyboys at Chiang Mai Cabaret Show – also super touristic and super cliche, but we had a good time
- Night Bazaar – THE place in Chiang Mai to buy souvenirs and presents
Around Chiang Mai
- Pai – THE “hippie” town – I didn’t like it, it was SO touristic (it is described in the guide as “Ko Pha-Ngan without the beach”) but I did a day of white water rafting with Pai Adventure and the tour was really good (make sure the level of water is high enough or it won’t be fun at all)
- that’s it.. for me (as I said… I chilled).