Chiang Mai is a great place to really dive into the culture of Thailand, and it’s the perfect base for exploring Northern Thailand’s gorgeous natural landscapes! Most of the action happens inside the four ancient city walls, the so-called Old City. There are plenty of guest houses, hotels, B&B’s, and restaurants. Here you also find the most famous temples as well as the popular Sunday Market.
We went to Chiang Mai last November and we had such a magical experience. This year we decided to go back just to experience the lantern festival once again.
Where to Stay?
When we travelled here in 2018 we found the best B&B called Amaka. With chic beautiful rooms that are so clean, breakfast that’s so delicious, hosts that are absolutely amazing, and the perfect location in the Old Town, this place is a must! It’s walking distance to everything, so no need to rent a scooter, unless you want to adventure further out. This place is so amazing that we had to stop in this time to say hi. Since we were full-time travelling we had to stay somewhere cheaper, however we did go there every day for breakfast. 🙂 The coffee and coconut smoothies are the best, as well as their simple, but delicious western breakfast. This place is doing very well; they just opened up another building just down the alleyway from them, some private/family rooms, as well as a hostel type of room. A private room will run you about $40-$47 CAD/night
Since it was the lantern festival, places got pretty expensive to book in the Old Town, so we found a place that was 20 mins out of Chiang Mai called TreeRetro. We paid $15CAD/night. It was a decent place. Clean room, our bathroom was a bit dated, our hosts didn’t speak English at all, so It could get a little confusing with what they needed/wanted, but overall it was a good place.
Where to Workout?
TreeRetro was walking distance to two gyms! One was called Magnus and the one we we went to was called King Of Gym. It was an AMAZING gym! They literally had everything! They sold some snacks, water bottles, and even macro friendly meals that were prepped in containers ready to eat, which was $2CAD!! Insane right? Back home healthy prepped meals are so expensive, so we definitely took advantage of the meals there.
We paid $4CAD/PP for the gym.
What to Do?
Of course with being in Thailand you need to do some temple hopping. The most popular ones to visit are located right in the inner quarter of the Old City walls. The temples in Thailand are all so stunning! Make sure you are dressed properly, most temples you need to cover your shoulders and legs. Male and female. Chiang Mai has over 300 Buddhist temples! So do your research and figure out which ones you want to see. 🙂
Visit A Proper Elephant Sanctuary
I say proper sanctuary, because there are lots of bad elephant parks around SEA. Please, please do your RESEARCH before going to any animal place.
Chiang Mai has the best one called Elephant Nature Park. They have brought in and saved elephants that have been abused. Always check out TripAdvisor and check out the pictures, if you see elephants chained up, or workers with any tool in their hand like a bull-hook, please ignore and do not support these places.
Elephants are wild animals and you SHOULDN’T RIDE THEM, it’s so bad for their backs. Elephant Nature Park was amazing, we did a day-trip there in 2018, and it was the best experience ever! The elephants were so gentle, we got to feed them bananas and watch them play, and bathe. You can also stay there for a couple of days to volunteer so you can help them around the park. We only saw one elephant that was in a gated area, due to it being so mentally broken from bad people beating it for the circus and whatnot. The rest of the elephants were free to roam the park and just be, well, elephants. You do research for places you want to travel to, so please do the same for every activity you do that involves wild animals.
Chiang Mai has so many spas for each price range. You can get an hour massage for as little as $10 CAD. Splurge and go have a full-day of pampering.
Take A Cooking Class
We haven’t done it yet, but there are so many cooking classes to choose from!
Shop At Night Markets
Also known as the Sunday Market or the Walking Market this is probably the most famous of all the markets in Chiang Mai, it opens every Sunday starting at Thapae Gate and running along the entire length of the Ratchadamnoen Road. Also so many other markets in Chiang Mai!
Get A Magical Tattoo
Sak Yant is an ancient form of tattooing that were believed to over protection to the wearer (including prosperity, health, and good fortune). This form of tattooing is done in a traditional poke method, instead of a modern tattoo gun. Jamie received a Gao Yord (9 spire tattoo), which is often the first Sak Yant tattoo given to someone as the number 9 has deep meaning with Buddhism.
If you are in Chiang Mai and are into body art this is definitely a great way to commemorate your trip. We went with a company called Sak Yant Chiang Mai and they helped Jamie along his journey to getting a tattoo (you even have the option to go to a temple or to their shop in Chiang Mai) dependent on your schedule. Another nice thing about this company s that they have Arjun’s who are able to tattoo women, as most monks can’t touch women.
You can experience a traditional Thai tattoo for as little as $40CAD and we absolutely recommend it!
Experience Loy Krathong / Yi Peng
Every year in November on a full moon day they have a lantern festival. There are two festivals, one is Loy Krathong, which are banana leaf boats that are beautifully decorated and you light it up and you put it in the river. People gather around the rivers, lakes, or canals to pay respect to the water goddess and make wishes for the coming years.
Yi Peng is the lantern festival that is so magical to experience. I am so thankful that we got to experience it twice!
The act of releasing the lantern and krathong symbolizes letting go of all ills and misfortunes in the previous year, and Buddhists also believe that if you make a wish when you set off the lantern, it will come true (but only if you do good deeds the following year, of course). As part of this festival of lights, there are plenty of other activities that happen all over Chiang Mai. These include traditional Thai dance shows, the official Yi Peng Parade around the Old City gate and down Tha Phae Road, live music and handicraft sessions. You can just experience it down by the water in the Old Town. You can also buy tickets to go to the actual festival, which is crazy expensive. It costs around $200CAD/PP. Why pay so much money when you can see it for free!
What to Eat?
Check out all the street food! It’s all so delicious. Here are some western places if you crave something different than Thai food.
Street Pizza and The Wine House
Went here in 2018 and now this year, the pizza is delicious and the service is great. Gorgeous balcony overlooking the streets of Old Town.
The Beast Burger
Ok, if you want an epic burger, please come here. This was the best burger I have ever tried. The beef was juicy, it had crisp shredded lettuce, and the secret sauce on the burger was fire. Sweet potato fries and garlic mayo is to die for. $20CAD for the both of us all together.
New Delhi Indian Restaurant
Wow, ok just when you thought you had tried all the delicious food already! This place is a must go to. The dishes are so good and the naan bread is just.. wow.. We recommend trying the chicken curry. It was amazing!!!