The Best of Chiang Mai
When visiting Thailand, we had the opportunity to stay 8 wonderful days in Chiang Mai. After our 45 day stay in Thailand, we can agree that Chiang Mai was our favorite town in all of Thailand. Chiang Mai is located in the northern part of Thailand famous for its Elephant Sanctuaries. We had a good amount of time to discover the town and below we share with you our top experiences.
One of the main reasons for our visit to Chiang Mai was to experience the Elephant Sanctuaries. If you are in town, you can not miss enjoying a day with these magical creatures! There are plenty of places to chose from, the trick is finding the right one for you. Chiang Mai has been leading the pack in making people aware of the atrocities committed against these lovable animals. In these sanctuaries you will get the chance to spend an entire day caring for these elephants including feeding them and bathing them. By far, this has been one of the main highlights of our travels.
Visit the White Temple
One of the top places on our list to visit while in Chiang Mai was the White Temple in Chiang Rai. We payed a tour to take us there since we were limited on time, but it was well worth it. There are plenty of tour companies in Chiang Mai that offer packages to take you there. Try to get there early to avoid the crowds because once they arrive, it will be really hard to truly enjoy the beauty of this temple. The inside is a complete work of art. You can not miss it! Just keep in mind, there is no photography allowed inside.
Chiang Mai is also known for its markets and let me tell you...they've got some of the best ones we've visited. At the markets you will find clothes, jewelry, handcrafts and great food! Bring your best bargaining skills and have fun. You can not miss the Night Bazaar which is open 7 days a week. On the day we went, we were able to grab a bite from the many foodtrucks while listening to some music. Our favorite market was the Saturday Night Market on Wua Lai Road. It is open from 4pm-11pm. The Sunday Street Walking Market is also a must see. This market starts by the Tha Pae Gate and extends most of the length of Ratchadamnoen Road.
Eat Sticky Rice
Sticky rice is a traditional Thai dessert which contains coconut sticky rice and fresh sliced mangos. This originated in the northern part of Thailand. You can not leave Chiang Mai without trying this delicious dessert. You can easily find it at any of the markets. We've tried sticky rice in other parts of Thailand, but it doesn't compare to the one in Chiang Mai.
Visit the Wats
Chiang Mai has plenty of neat temples that can easily take a full morning to tour! Make a list, chose your favorite ones and make your own Wat Tour. Another wat which was highly recommended, but we unfortunately didn't get a chance to visit is Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. This is located on the hills of Chiang Mai. If you have spare time check out Wat Sri Suphan, Chiang Mai's Silver Temple. Be warned, this temple does not allow women to enter, but you can still admire its beauty from the outside.
During our stay in Chiang Mai we found two good spots for lunch and dinner. Our go to place was Tikky Cafe. The food was incredible and the ambiance was very laid back. This place was almost always full. You may have to wait for a table, but the prices are very reasonable and the food is fresh and made when you order. The prices for a decent sized meal start at 50 Baht ($1.60USD). Coconut Shell was another good spot. The prices are very similar to Tikky Cafe. You can easily find food in the center of town, but if you look for these two spots you will not regret it.
Don't let this town fool you, Chiang Mai has plenty of nightlife to keep you partying all night long. We visited two areas which were lots of fun. One was near the center of Chiang Mai. If you visit Zoe in Yellow, you will be in the heart of all the nightlife.
The other was Nimmanhaeman, a little further out on the west side of Chiang Mai's Old Town. We walked down the street full of bars and ended up at a neat local spot named Living Machine. Great place to meet new friends!
Chiang Mai has plenty of affordable accommodations. You can easily find hostels or guesthouses via Booking.com or Airbnb. We highly recommend you stay inside the old town area. This way you will be close and within walking distance to a lot of attractions in Chiang Mai.
Sign up for Airbnb, get $40USD off your next vacation of $75 or more by following the link: www.airbnb.com/c/ricardoa7512
Book on Booking.com using link below, and you’ll get $25USD after your trip.
Chiang Mai is a very safe place to travel to as a couple or as a solo traveler. There were plenty of times we walked around late at night and had no issues. Just like in any other part of the world, use common sense and be weary of pickpockets in crowded places specially the night markets.
Thai (You won't have trouble finding locals that speak English.)
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CREDIT CARDS AND BANKS
Cash is king in Thailand so make sure to have it handy all the time.
ATMs are readily available, but be sure to take out enough every time you use the ATM. We had a very hard time avoiding those hefty ATM fees! (~$7 per ATM withdrawal).
VISA REQUIRED FOR US CITIZENS
No, if you are staying less than 30 days. If planning on staying for more than 30 days, make sure to apply for the tourist visa that will allow you to stay a total of 60 days. Cost of the 60 day tourist visa in Thailand is 1,900 Baht ($60USD). Always check with your local embassy for visa updates.
From Bangkok we decided to hop on an overnight sleeper train to Chiang Mai. This was our first overnight sleeper train in Asia and we absolutely loved it and highly recommend. We felt very safe and they even have train security onboard. If you are nervous about your belongings, bring an extra lock so you can make sure your valuables stay safe while you sleep. Train tickets were much cheaper than flying plus we were able to save on a night of accommodation. Train tickets tend to sell out quickly during high season so make sure to book in advance. Use the following website Thairailwayticket.com to book your train tickets directly and avoid any 3rd party charges.
Once we arrived at the train station in Chiang Mai, your best bet is finding a songthaew. They are red trucks that take multiple people at once to their destination. These red trucks are found right outside the train station so you should have no problem finding one. We found these to be the cheapest way to get to our accommodation. We were able to negotiate 40 Baht ($1.28USD) per person to take us to our guesthouse. We also used this mode of transport to get us back to the train station once we left Chiang Mai. These trucks are found all over town and you can just hail one on the side of the road at any time and they will stop for you.
In Chiang Mai, you will quickly feel the warmth and friendliness of its people. We stumbled upon Nui's Coffee after seeing a sign for the cheapest beer in all of Chiang Mai. Nui's Coffee is a small hole in the wall place owned by Nui. It is located right in front of his home. We grabbed a few drinks as Nui was preparing dinner for his mom. He invited us to dinner and of course we could not say no. While traveling, keep your mind open to new experiences and we promise, you are sure to find some of the kindest people willing to open their hearts and their homes to you all while asking NOTHING in return.
Want to see more pictures of our trip to Chiang Mai? Check out the full gallery below!
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