There are so many things to love about Chiang Mai, Thailand‘s second largest city. It’s smaller and easier to navigate than Bangkok, with great restaurants and markets. Located further north, it’s cooler with a relaxed vibe. Yet, somehow I found Chiang Mai to lack as much grit and charm as Bangkok (which I’ve developed a slight love affair with).
One of my favorite things about the city was the Sunday Night Market in Chiang Mai. We arrived just as it was beginning, and were dropped off right in the middle of it (one of the many times I was thankful we pack light). It was bustling, to say the least.
We walked around the crowded streets looking for our hotel, keeping an eye on all of the interesting food choices…
Fried bugs, anyone? Yeah, me neither…
One food stall was offering omelets cooked in banana leaves over a grill, with your choice of toppings. Sounds pretty good, right? Some of the choices were a little out there… ant eggs or bee eggs? How do you even harvest those? Tempting…
We perused many of incredible, abundant art stalls… we love to bring home something genuine and unique from each place we go. The Sunday Night market in Chiang Mai was the perfect spot for that!
Other than the great markets, Chiang Mai offers many beautiful wats (temples). They were vastly different from the crowded and expansive temples in Bangkok. They felt much more intimate, and we often had them completely to ourselves.
I love the ornate artistry both inside and out of the temples in all of Thailand. So much color and intricate detail (bling!).
We took a cooking class in Chiang Mai, which was definitely the highlight of our time there. We also got several massages from Green Bamboo (fantastic!). We ate at Dash! (great atmosphere, lovely owners) and Brown Rice Organic Bistro (a vegetarian restaurant with awesome khao soi)… as well as excellent street food. The famous Mrs. Pa and her smoothies should not be missed.
Would we go back? Probably not to visit, I just couldn’t find a connection (dammit Bangkok!). One of those “it’s not you, it’s me” situations. Don’t get me wrong – I’m glad we went! Strangely, though, I could live there as so many expats have chosen to do. Great food, decent culture, nice vibe and inexpensive.
Getting there: We planned to take the night train, but they were doing repairs on the tracks at the time. So we decided to fly (Air Asia) last minute. We walked right out of the airport into a Taxi, and were dropped off outside of our hotel.
Tips: 1. Get a Thai massage from Green Bamboo. 2. Eat Khao Soi 3. Get a smoothie from Mrs. Pa. 4. Take a cooking class. Eat lots and lots of food, check this out for some restaurant recommendations, and grab a map of the city here.
Where to Stay in Chiang Mai:
Early Bird Guesthouse – fantastic location inside the old town, literally just off the main road from the Sunday Night Market. Loads of nice cafes and restaurants around, and the price is reasonable too. The breakfasts were huge and very good, and the staff was incredibly friendly and helpful.
3 Sis Vacation Lodge – Just up the side street from Early Bird, and on the main road. Basically same great location, but the rooms are larger (and the price inches up because of that).
VC@SUANPAAK Hotel & Serviced Apartment – quiet and outside of the city, great for guests who want privacy and relaxation. It offers up to 2 bedroom apartments, so it’s great for families!
Green Tiger Vegatarian House – The rooftop terrace has me drooling (you all know I’m a total sucker for them!), plus it’s easy on the wallet, having dorm style and single rooms.
The Dhara Dhevi Chiang Mai – this place oozes luxury, and doesn’t even look like a hotel from the outside. It’s stunning, but it will cost you a pretty penny. Worth it? Maybe…
Looking for everything else we did in Thailand? Check out our Thailand Roundup!
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