After spending about 5 months in Chiang Mai, you might think we’re running out of things to do. Well, you couldn’t be more wrong. Chiang Mai has so many good things to offer. The past months, I’ve been blogging about many of them separately, but now I’ve put them together in a list for you.
If you want more info and pictures about a place, click on the link for the full blog post!
Let me start with how to get around. Chiang Mai is pretty big and even though walking is an option, you might want to get some help. The easiest way to get around is definitely by cycling. You can rent a bike, or if you’re into road cycling, definitely bring your own. It’s pretty safe in traffic, as the drivers are used to scooters and in general they give you a lot of space. Also, it’s the best way to avoid traffic jams and will save you a lot of time. If you really don’t want to cycle, renting a scooter is also a good option. Just remember to bring your international driver’s license as there are many police checks on the side of the road. And last but not least, a really cheap way to get around is using the red taxi service. It costs about 30-40 bath per person, depending on the distance. The one problem with this is that you will get stuck in traffic during the peak hours.
Now you’re ready to get around, let’s start exploring!
The old town of Chiang Mai is absolutely gorgeous. Beautiful temples around every corner, little alleyways and streets filled with shops, restaurants and cafes. Here you can breath in the Northern Thai atmosphere the fullest. It’s usually not that busy during the week. Only during weekends it gets crowded as the evening markets are on.
EAT (VEGAN) THAI FOOD
Chiang Mai is filled with great restaurants of which many are vegetarian or even vegan! Curries, stir fries, spring rolls and don’t forget the sticky rice will be a highlight of your stay. And the price (+ quality) of the food will make you go crazy and might even turn your trip into a food holiday before you know it. If you don’t know where to go, I made a list of my favourite restaurants!
An up and coming neighbourhood in the North West of the city. The beautiful streets in the Nimmanhaemin area are filled with the hippest cafes and bars. Start your day off with a coffee, a morning walk through the beautiful streets and some shopping in the pop up stores and boutique shops, or end the day wining and dining in one of the many restaurants.
You can’t visit Thailand without visiting some temples. These overdecorated buildings can be found everywhere. There’s organised temple tours but you can easily arrange your own tour! Personally I’d recommend going in early mornings, when the streets are filled with monks collecting their offerings.
Chiang Mai must be the bicycle capital of South East Asia and it will soon become clear why. It’s not just people riding city bikes, but it’s also mountain biking and road cycling. Around the city, you can find dozens of scenic rides both on the flat as in the mountains and it is definitely one of the best (and cheapest) ways to see the city!
If you’re not in the mood for late night drinking but still like to do some evening activities, this is your call. Chiang Mai has evening markets on several locations in town. Most of them sell similar things like souvenirs, clothing and fake brands but if you get around the Nimmanhaemin area, you’ll find little artists markets and local clothing markets selling really nice products!
ELEPHANT NATURE PARK
I usually wouldn’t recommend any zoos or animal sanctuaries, because I think it is sad and just not right to lock up animals. However the Elephant Nature Park is a different kind. In this park, rescued animals from logging and entertainment businesses have found a new home. Volunteers take care of the many hurt and even disabled elephants and your visit will support their good cause!
The Grand Canyon is a beautiful quarry, great for an afternoon of swimming, cliff jumping and relaxing! It’s located about 20km from the city but it’s well worth the trip. Let’s take a break from the city shall we?
HIKE UP THE DOI SUTHEP
After getting all the delicious Thai food in, it might be a good idea to get active. The Pilgrims trail, starting at the Chiang Mai University brings you through the Doi Suthep Pui National Park to the well known Doi Suthep temple, overlooking the city. It’s a tough 1 hour climb but you’ll get rewarded with amazing views, fresh air and smoothies at the top!
ENJOY THE CAFE CULTURE
The big and upcoming cafe culture hasn’t skipped Chiang Mai. On the contrary: the city has many beautiful coffee bars, spread all over town. Special brewed coffees and award winning latte art are no exception here. Served in the coolest interiors in town.
GET A MASSAGE
I don’t have to say this twice do I?! Perfect after a day on the bike, a hike up Doi Suthep or… just because: why not? You can find massage places all over town, and prices vary around 200-300 bath an hour (let’s say 5 – 7.5 euro) so you literally have no excuse not to try this out.
QUEEN SIRIKIT BOTANIC GARDEN
No city is complete without a botanic garden and Chiang Mai might have one of the prettiest of all. These botanic gardens have next to a banana avenue (is this real life?), greenhouses filled with waterlillies, cacti and succulents, an amazing collection of native Thai plants and beautiful walkways through the park. A paradise for plant lovers!
(VEGAN) COOKING COURSE
Food is a big thing in Chiang Mai, so why not learn how to make your favourite Thai food yourself and enjoy it at home? There’s many cooking courses available in different price categories. There’s a couple of vegan ones available, which might be a good chance to get some vegan cooking inspiration, for those who think veganism is hard.
SWIM IN WATERFALLS
I don’t think I’ve ever been in a place with this many waterfalls. Cycling through the mountains, you’ll find them on the side of the road or signs showing you the way to the ones nearby. A good cool down on a hot Thai summer’s day or place to relax!
BAAN KANG WAT ARTIST VILLAGE
This place is a little gem just outside Chiang Mai. The Baan Kang Wat artist village is a little green oasis with little art studios and galleries, veggie patches, artists markets, coffee bars and restaurants. A must for a quick city escape and to get inspired by the arty northern Thai atmosphere.
MUANG MAI MARKETS
Chiang Mai has markets everywhere but without any doubt, the Muang Mai Markets are my favourites. Located next to the Ping river, this place is a paradise for fresh fruit and veggies. Cheap prices, great choices and amazing photo opportunities!
GO TO THE MOVIES
Ehm what? Yes! I can honestly not believe how cheap the movie theaters are in Thailand. A ticket costs about 180 bath (4.5 euro) and on Tuesdays you’ll even get a discount… They play lots of English spoken movies, the seats are super comfy and the cinema is just another great spot to cool down from the melting Thai climate.