The best things about Chiang Mai

The vibrant activity, incredible night markets and cooler air made Chiang Mai one of our favorite spots in Thailand. We spent four nights in the city and one night in the mountains at the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary (which I will write about later). Many travelers come here for elephants and temples, which the city does deliver on, but it has so much more to offer too!

 

Night Market

One of the best parts of Chiang Mai is the night markets! In my opinion, they are much larger and less hectic than the night markets in Bangkok. They are still touristy, but with lots of great things to see including souvenirs, crafts and amazing food. The street food in these markets is so tasty and affordable! We even stumbled on some small bars with very cheap drinks and incredible entertainment (100 baht a drink).

Chiang Mai’s Night bizarre is on the east side of the walled city on Chang Klan Road. The market is huge, and you certainly need a few hours for the full experience.  We spent a few nights wandering around this place and enjoying the atmosphere.

Boutique Hotels

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There are many beautiful boutique hotels scattered throughout Chiang Mai. We stayed at the Rainforest Boutique Hotel for three nights, which is east of the main city. We also spent one night at the 99 Gallery hotel to get a feel for staying in the heart of the city.

The Rainforest Boutique hotel was its own little oasis with an outdoor bathtub attached to our room, two pools and a little restaurant nestled within beautiful gardens. It feels more rural and we really enjoyed walking around and seeing the houses and locals in this area.

Spas and Massages

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Almost everywhere you travel in Thailand has somewhere for massages, but we found some of the nicer spas in Chiang Mai. A massage at a nice spa here costs between 200-300 baht, although you can find them for much more too.

If you’re feeling adventurous, get a foot massage by an inmate at the prison, which is part of a rehabilitation program. And let’s talk about the wonderful foot massages in Chiang Mai – what a perfect thing to do after a hike through the mountains!

Getting around

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Whether day or night, there are many amazing things to explore within the city of Chiang Mai and so many great adventure activities nearby.

Although we downloaded Grab, in Chiang Mai we mostly used Tuk Tuks or songthaews (the red buses/trucks). Songthaews will be cheaper than a tuk tuk, but if you in a hurry they take much longer. They do not have a specific route, but just drive around to wherever the passengers are going like a ride share. They should cost 30 baht within the city. Don’t ask for the price, but just jump in after giving your locations otherwise they sometimes charge tourists more. The tuk tuk will be more, but you can haggle and they will get to your destination faster.

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Travel tips:

  • Although Thai is the first language in Thailand, you will find many people in city centers speak English.
  • The taxis were safe but to avoid haggling we downloaded Grab, which is a similar app to Uber.
  • Chiang Mai overall feels very safe. We walked around at night without incident. Be aware of where your money is to avoid pick pocketing.
  • We booked both boutique hotels on booking.com
  • We decided to make things easier we would fly between cities. I used kiwi.com to look up flight and train options. Our favourite domestic airline was Bangkok Air.

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