When travellers think of Thailand, they normally think of the crystal blue beaches of the southern coast, where islands dot the coastline and most people walk around with their bathers on and a coconut in their hands. However, there is another part to Thailand up in the north, where you’re more likely to spend your day visiting the hundreds of temples that line the streets and eating amazing local street food in between each stop. It is a place that sat in TripAdvisors list of “25 best destinations in the world” in 2014 (only two places in Thailand made the list) and was also awarded the UNESCO title of Creative City in 2017. Chiang Mai.
If we had to choose one place to go back to in the entire world, it would be Chiang Mai. Below we list some of the reasons why Chiang Mai should be next on your travel bucket list and why it is so amazing!
You’ll never go hungry :
Regarded as a foodie’s haven, there is so much more to Chiang Mai than the countless temples. Whether you are someone who enjoys a restaurant quality meal or someone who is willing to risk it to try the street food, there is something for everyone The Old City is full of tiny, quirky café’s and pubs where you can enjoy a more western meal (with a slight Thai twist) after a hard day of touring the city. We can guarantee that at least every second street will have a little cart on the side of a scooter or bicycle that is selling local goodies and there’s a market around every corner where you can buy fresh fruit and even some bugs to munch on!
Our favourite foodie hangouts:
- SS1254372 Café
- Rustic and Blue
- Kad Luang Market
- Coconut Shell
- Sababa Isreali Restaurant
- Amazing Alleyway juice bar
Chiang Mai is home to over 300 Buddhist temples, which means you can be sure there’s a temple right down the road from you! You can easily walk through the old city and come across many of the smaller temples, or you can hire a scooter and make your way up to the Doi Suthep mountains and visit the Wat Phra Temple, home to many golden chedis with amazing views of Chiang Mai. You can also take a day-two day trip to other outskirting towns like Pai and Chaing Rai to visit temples such as Wat Rong Khun, also more famously known as the White temple. Just be aware that these are very popular attractions and so if you wish to avoid the crowds or take some photos without strangers in them, the best time to go is during the early morning and late afternoon. Also be aware that there are many religious holidays in the Buddhist calendar and so they tend to close the temples on these days, so do your research first!
Cuddle an elephant:
There is no better place to get up close and personal with one of the biggest creatures on land than in Northern Thailand. Elephants have long been used in the logging industry and ethically mistreated in the entertainment industry. Thankfully, it is now an illegal activity and many sanctuaries now provide care for mistreated and enslaved animals. Places like Chiang Mai Elephant Land now provide elephants with a safe place to live in the wild. Visiting these sanctuaries is a great way to learn about their nature and how hard it is to fully combat the unethical treatment of these majestic creatures. Most sanctuaries allow you to feed the elephants, learn how to care for them medically and give it a mud bath! Be aware when picking a place to visit as there are still ones around today who mistreat their elephants for the sake of tourism. When conducting research, make sure that they don’t offer elephant rides (this is a huge thing! Elephants are not meant to be ridden). Below we list a few sanctuaries that are definitely ethical:
- Chaing Mai Elephant Land
- Into the Wild Elephant Camp
- Happy Elephant Home
- Elephant Nature Park
- Patara Elephant Farm
More than just a foodie paradise:
Chiang Mai isn’t just for foodies and culture lovers, there are many other fun activities you can do during your stay! If you’re one for adventure, then venture to the outer regions abseil down a dark hole, wander through some caves and paddle down the rapids. Wander out to the last remaining villages of the ‘Long-Neck’ women to witness some amazing culture history of the Karen Tribe and get a traditional Thai massage. Got some money burning a hole in your wallet? No worries because all weekend the Saturday and Sunday night markets run from 4pm – Midnight where you can find some amazing trinkets to take home to your family and also some mouth-watering street food. We would recommend getting there early as it does tend to get very crowded!
South East Asia is known as one of the cheapest places to visit and Chiang Mai is no exception! If you plan on eating local then we can guarantee you will end up going home with money still in your pockets. Beer is super cheap, costing around 80cents (au) and most meals will cost you $5. You can also find some great deals on accommodation, especially if you’re willing to stay in backpacker hostels or even homestays. You also won’t have to worry about transportation breaking the bank either, as you can use Grab (SEA version of Uber) and drive most places for less than $5. If you wish to have a bit more freedom, scooters can be hired by tourists for around $10/day. However, we only encourage people to take this option if they have an International driver’s permit that allows you to ride scooters otherwise if you have an accident, it’s unlikely it will be covered by your travel insurance.
Chiang Mai is a place full of life and we can’t get enough of it! The locals are among the most friendly we’ve ever met and we have made some memories here that will stay with us for a lifetime!
By Madi from @tinkerbells.travels
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