While sitting on our pool in Bali we want to share our very personal guide to Chiang Mai on what to do and where to go.
Where to sleep:
There are a lot of options in Chiang Mai where to stay for the night. Half of the buildings in oldtown are hostels. We think, it is best to just walk around Oldtown and ask at the hostels or guesthouses if they have a room availible. There are hundreds of different accommodations meeting every different standard. But overall you have to be aware, that the Thai standard is not always the same as the western standard. Most showers in low budget hotels are in the middle of the bathroom and not separated with a curtain or glass wall. Because of the sewage system you mustn’t throw toilet paper into the toilet (which does apply for most Thai hotels). You also should lower your expectation regarding cleanliness in low budget guesthouses: It is simply not as clean as you expect it back home and you may meet some minor insects or lizards in your room. But that’s not unusual: We are close to nature in Chiang Mai (and lizards do eat mosquitos! 😊)
If you want to have a nice bathroom, which is not flooded every time you shower, we could recommend Bruuns guesthouse. We payed only 500 Bath per night and got a very clean room with aircon and a quite nice bathroom. It is also close to Old Town.
Where to eat:
There are so many options and it doesn’t matter if you want to have Thai food or western food for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
We actually found some really good Thai restaurants at Sithiwongsa Road at the crossing with Rathawong Lane. You have to try the Morning Glory there especially. So delicious!
If you are more up for an European style Pizza, go to By Hand Pizza Café at 25 Moon Muang Road Lane 7. The have a handmade woodstove and the pizza tastes great. The best bagels and sandwiches for breakfast are available at a nice little restaurant named The Hideout at Sithiwongse road.
Overall, we used to walk around old town, grab some smaller dishes at one of the numerous food markets or soup kitchens and most times it was really good!
To help you making some good choices, we would like to introduce you our favorite dishes in Thailand so far:
Phak Bung – Stir fried morning glory with chili and garlic
Khao Soi – Red curry soup with egg noodles and chicken
Pad Thai – Thai style stir fried noodles with egg, vegetables, tofu and meat of your choice
Pad See Ew – Thai style stir fried big noodles
Pad Ga-praw – Stir fried pork with basil
And of course, the noodles soups you can get everywhere!
What to do:
There are so many things you can do in Chiang Mai during day and night.
First of all, the landscape around Chiang Mai is great. We, for example, went to Doi Inthanon National Park and also the impressive Sticky Waterfalls (Buatong Waterfalls). If you want to go for a hike, you can book tours almost everywhere in Chiang Mai. But you can also do it by your own or join on of the hiking group on facebook doing weekly hikes somewhere around Chiang Mai. We went with one of them to their Sunday hiking tour to Nam Mae Kwong national park, which was a lot of fun.
We also did a tour by our own on the Monk’s trail up to Doi Suthep. It is an easy to find hike starting at the end of Suthep Alley (best to go there with an uber). The hike itself is steep and in rainy season sometimes slippery, but very beautiful. You will have great view at Doi Suthep tempel, you will pass a very nice hidden temple and some waterfalls, you will see the most colorful butterflies and you will just have a good time.
In Chiang Mai you can entertain yourself by strolling at the different markets, especially the night markets on Saturday and Sunday, going to Night Bazaar, visiting on of the nice temples, relaxing in Buak Had Park or by getting a massage.
During the evenings it is impressing to go to the Ladyboy Show at Night Bazaar or if you like it, maybe go to a Muay Thai fight. There are lots of nice bars around with very good live bands and also some clubs. But we found them very touristic and were a little bit disgusted by all the drunken tourists trying to find someone for the night.
But what we really liked best was the opportunity to join the multiple meetups. There are meetups for every kind of interest. For example, there are some for meeting people learning languages, digital nomads, bitcoin investors, boardgame players, sport lovers or those who are searching for spiritual enlightment. We went to a couple of them and it was always a lot of fun and we surely made a couple of new friends. You can find those meetups on facebook, meetup or couchsurfing.
How to go around:
We guess most of the people here rent a scooter or motorbike, some even a bicycle. But you can also go around easily without your own vehicles. There are red buses (Tuk Truks) driving around the city. Because there isn’t a real public transport system, you can just stop them and tell them your destination. If you are within the city center it shouldn’t cost more than 30 to 50 Baht per person. We have never tried it, but our host told us, that if you enter the buses at the established red car stops, it should cost less. If you prefer TukTuks, they are also everywhere around. But expect that you have to pay much more. We prefer taking an uber (or grab) to go around. There are a lot of uber drivers driving around old town, so we never had to wait more than three minutes for an uber to fetch us. And it is most of the time even cheaper than going with the red cars.
Chiang Mai’s inner-city center is not too big, so we were walking most the time. In our opinion it is still the best way to explore a city.