We spent 11 nights in Chiang Mai in total, across two visits. This is the longest time we have spent in any one city on our travels, making it a pretty special place! We loved the relaxed atmosphere in the city, the cafe culture, the ability to walk most places and the variety of things to do – there was something for everyone! So how did we fill all these days I hear you ask? Well, here are some of our highlights from Chiang Mai…
Chiang Mai has a large number of temples and we enjoyed visiting a small number of these. Our favourite was Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, high up in the hills overlooking Chiang Mai city. Even after getting a songthaew up the hill, there is still over 300 steps to climb to the base of the temple, but it was worth it! We also visited Wat Chedi Luang, which at one point was the tallest temple in the Lanna Kingdom, and Wat Chiang Man, the oldest temple within the old city walls. We visited a few more too, all equally beautiful and impressive.
The night markets
After the hussle and bussle of previous markets, we loved the relaxed atmosphere of the markets in Chiang Mai. We could actually look and wander round without feeling any pressure to buy. If the final price was too high and you said “no thank you” and walked away, that was it and you were not hassled or asked to buy as you left. We visited the nightly bazaar, as well as both the Saturday and Sunday night markets (both several times!). We loved the weekend night markets, as the street was closed to traffic so you could freely wander and it was much cooler in the night air. There were various street musicians performing, playing beautiful music as thousands of people browsed the market, creating a fantastic vibe to the market. It was a great way to spend an evening!
The food and drink, a chance to relax and be
Having spent so long in Chiang Mai, we had the opportunity to find some great places to eat. We also enjoyed finding places where you wouldn’t be rushed and we could just watch the world go by. My favourite place to sit and write my journal was The Birds Nest cafe, a small place tucked away in the quiet part of the old town with floor cushions and a hammock, where you were never rushed! Andy’s favourite spot was the Coffee Club on the main road through the old city on a Sunday afternoon, watching people set up for the market that evening.
But we found so many other great places too. We discovered the best fruit smoothies at Dada Kafe, the best value for money breakfast at Cooking Love, the tastiest bacon baguettes at the Baan Bakery and the occasional Mcflurry at Mcdonalds! But our favourite restaurant for dinner was Dash!, we lost count of the times we ate there. Not only was it great value for money and close to our guesthouse, but the food was delicious – with our favourite dishes being the Kao Soi and the Red Coconut Curry! We really enjoyed the Thai food in Chiang Mai and for us eating out was part of experiencing Thailand.
The choice of activities Chiang Mai is a great launching point for many places in northern Thailand and for the abundance of activities at your fingertips in the city. During our stay we had a day out at an elephant centre, visited one of the many museums, did a cooking class and drove Segways around the city!
We did the cooking class with Red Chili Cooking School which is run by Aon. He does fantastic small, personable classes located just outside the old city in a professional garden kitchen he has set up. There were only four of us in our class and we had a great day learning to cook delicious Thai food. The class was lots of fun and we even had music playing to accompany us while we worked away!
Our decision to take a guided Segway tour had been mulled over since we arrived in Chiang Mai, but it wasn’t until we were coming to the end of our time in the city we decided to go for it! We liked the contrast of using this modern mode of transport to see the sights of the ancient old city of Chiang Mai. We drove round the old city, briefly stopping at some temples – it wasn’t a guided temple tour, just a fun way to get out and about to see more of the city! We had already spent a week in the city, so enjoyed doing this after we had visited the temples and got to know the place! I was quite nervous at the start, but was surprised by how much I enjoyed this, it really made me feel like a kid again and was so much fun!
The only thing we didn’t like about Chiang Mai was having to leave! We had a fantastic time exploring some of the things this city has to offer and could easily return one day to explore more!
Photos from our time in Chiang Mai can be viewed below or at http://photos.andywicks.com/ChiangMai