Question: Where else can you spend your days eating spicy Thai food, playing in rivers with elephants, shop till you drop and have a spa day for insanely cheap?! Well my friends, all of the above are the best points of interest in Chiang Mai! I loved Chiang Mai so much that I extended my trip there by an additional 4 days (after already being there for four days!). That’s a full week people. I mean, there is just so much to do, eat, see, experience…I can go on and on. For real though, many travelers come to Thailand thinking they’ll fall in love with the beaches and the islands. But in reality, they (and myself included) end up leaving a little bit of their heart in Chiang Mai. As it is considered the Rose of the North, this beautiful and bustling city is filled with traditional Thai culture, and for the first time on my trip, I felt like I experienced the true spirit of Thailand.
Thailand Points of Interest: Chiang Mai Edition
inside Wat Suan Dok
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep
beautiful Wats everywhere
Wat Suan Dok
With so many temples within the old city walls, it is easy to cover some of the more popular ones, such as Wat Chedi and Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, by foot. However, there are many beautiful temples just on the outskirts of town such as Wat Suan Dok and Wat Phra That Doi Kam. You can reach these by Songtaew (red truck taxi), scooter, or by tour.
Activities to consider:
For those on the path to enlightenment (or just curious about Buddhim), Monk Chats are an incredible way to spend time with monks talking freely about the religion and way of life. They are scattered around town at various temples and are vastly becoming a very popular event amongst tourists. The temple, Wat Chedi happens to be host one of the most popular Monk Chats, which occur daily, from 9-6. Bonus: They are free!
Rise and shine and experience an almsgiving, which is gifting flowers or fruits to monks as a sign of thanks and virtue. It is quite the experience as you’ll gain insight into the spirituality of the Thai people.
Always remember to be respectful and follow proper dress code when exploring and visiting temples while in Thailand.
Baby at Elephant Jungle Sanctuary
hugs and snuggles with baby
playing and bathing elephants in the river
One of the most anticipated experiences of my trip was to spend a day playing with the elephants! So when it came to pick a tour, it was very important to choose a company that was ethical and that the company took great care of the elephants. The Elephant Jungle Sanctuary was a perfect match because they rescue elephants from dire situations and aim to protect them. The elephant sanctuary gives us, the travelers, the chance each day to help take care of them, by feeding, bathing and playing with these amazing animals. You can see how happy they are because the five elephants were so social and loved interacting with all of us. I highly recommend doing an all-day tour to fully take advantage of the experience.
Also, Rantong Elephant Nature Camp is a great company to go through. Similar concept and they have a baby elephant that was four months old. He was clumsy, like a puppy, and so playful!
I highly recommend either camp and aim to choose ethical companies.
Mama Noi Thai Cookery
Northern Thailand is one of the best places to learn so get hot and spicy with a cooking class in Chiang Mai. The cuisine in these regions is similar to what we eat in the Thai food we are accustomed to in the states (spicy and delicious) And let me tell you, the cooking class was amazing. So much so that I did it twice!
Go here: Mama Noi Thai Cookery School: Highly recommend this class because not only are the instructors hilarious, but they are very patient with their students. Our instructor cracked funny jokes and puns that kept us laughing throughout our class.
The deets: 800 ($23 USD) Baht for half day course. They pick you up from your hotel, learn/eat/drink beer for 4 hours and take you home. The options for meals is that you can choose 3 from 4 categories to make completely from scratch: appetizer, stir fries, soup, and curry. Everything was delicious! Also, make sure you come hungry because you’ll eat A LOT!
tom kha gai – yummy coconut soup
The Sunday Night Market was one of the best outdoor shopping experiences I have had to date. I mean, I have been to huge flea markets, farmers markets, all sorts of markets around the world, and none really hold a candle to Chiang Mai’s Sunday Night Market. They offer a lot of the same stuff that can be bought on the islands for much lower prices. So I recommend if you are hitting the islands first, save your money to splurge in Chiang Mai. Also something to consider, is that Sunday’s market is much larger than any other night. If you are in town for a few days, plan to go to the market on Sunday and shop, eat, and people watch.
Chiang Mai Sunday Night Market
No trip to Thailand is complete without having a day at the spa. With many options throughout the city, you can find massages starting at 180 Baht or if you’re like me, you can treat yoself to a two and a half hour spa day for 1000 baht ($28 USD). With prices like that, you have to go for it. However you have been warned, Thai massages are a little different and have you bending and moving in sorts of ways (you’ll look like a pretzel). However, it is so worth it and you’ll feel amazing after.
What to pack for Chiang Mai
Day trips & Overnight Excursions from Chiang Mai:
A cute and quirky town that is known as the island town in the mountains, it is perfect for backpackers to escape the hustle and bustle of city. Best for spending a night or two.
beautiful Pai at sun rise
This can be done as either a full day tour or as an over night trip. Popular sites in this area include the White Temple (Wat Rong Khun), the Golden Triangle and the Singha Distillery.
The White Temple Chiang Rai
So whether your cup of tea is spending the day at the spa, with animals, shopping, getting enlightened, or eating, there is something for everyone in Chiang Mai. The city is booming, yet calm, and is amazing in every sense of the word. I hope this helps plan out your stay in Chiang Mai and if you have any wonderful additions, please send them my way to be featured. Also, as always, subscribe to my newsletter to get my exclusive tips and tricks! Thanks again for stopping by and guess what, it’s almost FRIDAY! Hope you have a fabulous weekend!