Chiang Mai is wildly rich in culture, history and experience. Seemingly more of a laid back city than it’s sensational Bangkok counterpart, with much to do and see. Below are a few notable things we’d like to share if you plan to come this way:
- Food stand side cars affixed to motor bikes
- Motor bikes [can] ride on the sidewalks (so watch out!)
- Trucks with standing billboards in their beds, blaring music, circle the streets to promote perhaps Thai kick boxing events and/or other events and products/services
- Everything is made from bamboo (ladders, rafts, bridges, etc.)
- On the outskirts of Chiang Mai: Riverside restaurants will have the dining area across from the kitchen. Floor tables sit upon bamboo floors, and the food/condiments are zipped down via a wire from the kitchen area above
- Khao Soi: A thick spicy broth and noodle dish that varies based on the chef, so try many and find your favorite! (Suggestion cred: Graham)
- Mango sticky rice
- Tom Yum soup
- Spring rolls
- All curry dishes: Massaman, Green & Red
- Sugarcane juice
- Fresh fruit juices (coconut and banana are especially good)
- Chicken and rice for breakfast. A tradiational favorite that I can’t atest to trying, but if you’re feeling adventurous, this breakfast will put you at the table with the local people.
Insider tip: Rice is usually an extra charge for most dishes, so if it isn’t listed as part of the description and you’re eating with someone else, it’s great to split the rice order (there’s plenty for 2-3 in any given serving)
- Thai cooking class. There are many cooking classes offered in Chiang Mai and across Thailand but we found our experience to be especially nice at Asia Scenic. We first walked about the garden where all the herbs and spices grew, learning how each played a part in Thai cuisine. We then took a trip to the local market where we were shown where and how to buy all other ingredients, our instructor paying special attention to substitutes we could find once back at home. There wasn’t a set menu either which gave us the freedom to cook what we were individually interested and all the while our instructor was patient, humorous and helpful. We took with us a souvenir cooking book, small enough to carry with us, so look forward to trying on our own once home!
You can find more background and detail around booking on Asia Scenic’s website here
Suggestion cred: Joe Cerrone
- Motor bike. We had a liberating day motor biking through the outskirts of Chiang Mai past many a waterfall and up to the beautiful Du Suthop pagoda.
Insider tip: At 6:00pm you can observe the monks chanting in the temple which we’ve heard is beautiful though we do suggest taking a taxi if you head up for that (versus a motor bike) as the road is unlit and windy so can test even the best of motor skills. Taxis run from the center of Old City and are plentiful at the temple for your return trip as well.
- Night Bazaar. Known for its many handicrafts, food stands and bands, this is a perfect attraction to visit to unwind at the end of your day. Make sure to check out the area with various food trucks and local bands off to the side of the main bazaar. You’ll find delicious local craft cocktails, dishes and deserts all out of refurbished and often graffiti covered trucks.
Insider tip: There is a musician who performs almost nightly, from California. He gathered together some local band mates and all proceeds he gathers are donated back to the Chiang Mai community.
- North Gate Jazz Co-Op. Incrediblely talented local jazz artists come out nightly to this cozy spot. If you hit it on the right night, there is a wildly talented saxophone player who is memorizing to listen to and also famously known by anyone who frequents the club.
Suggestion cred: Derek and our Swiss friend from the elephant sanctuary
- Thai kick boxing via the Night Bazaar. On Mondays, Wednesdays ad Fridays you can catch a match or two of traditional Thai kick boxing outside of the Night Bazaar. Both men and women alike match up, and the rounds are quite intense. Insider tip: If you go after 1-2 matches are complete, you’ll likely be able to negotiate a cheaper ticket price.
HeyHa Guest House. Numerous rave reviews can be easily found on TripAdvisor but to further elaborate, Tee, the owner, and his wife are the heart of why this guest house is so widely loved. They will let you borrow their bicycles, complimentary, are visibility excited to help you plan your visit and get you set up with any activities you’d like to do. They offer wonderfully tailored suggestions based on what you’re looking for, to ensure you see the best of their city. You can also rent motor bikes from them for a reasonable day rate as well. Leaving HeyHa felt a bit like leaving home and we were truly sad to go!
Suggestion cred: Derek