Asia,  TDM,  Thailand,  Travel Journal

Our first days in Chiang Mai (Thailand)

After a month of happiness in Siem Reap, we take the road again, direction Chiang Mai
Part 1: Travel Diary
Part 2: Practical Tips

Part 1: Travel Diary

How to go from Siem Reap to Chiang Mai?

We could have taken 2 flights with a stopover in Bangkok, but unfortunately this will also mean paying twice for the luggage in the hold (which are usually optional with low cost airlines). We decide to take a bus to Bangkok, then a plane to Chiang Mai from Bangkok

The travel agency told us about 7h30, maximum 8 hours of travel, but the reality is quite different. It is thus a little surprised that we learn via the bus driver that we will arrive in Bangkok at 6 pm, instead of 4 pm. And our plane takes off at 8:20 pm

We still relax and say to ourselves that in all our lives we’ve never missed a plane or a train – even though it almost happened four-five times for me – so there’s no reason for it to happen now

If the journey takes so long, it’s because the immigration process takes forever. To get out of Cambodia, you have to queue. Some passengers of our bus were asked 4$ of tips, without any justification. So they had to negotiate, to put pressure. Then, we walk 5 minutes until the Thai immigration. As a Vietnamese, I pass in front of everyone (hey, long live ASEAN!), but JB queues for 45 minutes with the others

Given the traffic approaching Bangkok, we and the other travelers ask the driver to stop in the suburbs, so we will go faster by cab to the airport. It stops in the middle of the highway and we do not know how, several cabs are already waiting for us there. JB asks the cab to put the meter on, but the cab wants to charge us 500 baht. We negotiate at 400 bahts, and without knowing it, it was the good price, because the meter will indicate at the end 250 bahts + 150 bahts of toll

So it is at 5:30 pm that we arrive at the airport of Don Muang and we have plenty of time to have a bite to eat and buy a Thai SIM card

Cost: 11$/person for the bus Siem Reap – Bangkok and 52$/person for the plane Bangkok – Chiang Mai, luggage in the hold included. 400 cab bahts

Discovery of our condominium

Arriving in Chiang Mai, all cab companies announce a price of 250 baht to take us to our apartment. Let’s go ! On the way, the cab driver tells us that our condominium (i.e. residence with services) is a 5 star residence, recently built and next to a huge shopping mall called Central Festival. Well, we are very off-center (about 20 minutes by scooter from the city center), but the advantage is to be surrounded by Thai people and to have the impression to live like locals

I am so happy to discover our beautiful apartment, rented for a month on Airbnb (750€)

There’s even a fitness area and a common workspace in the building, where a YouTube machine was seen filming itself

There is wifi everywhere, even in common areas. And fiber optics in our apartment. The guards are there 24/7, and they open the gate for us every time, warning you, it’s too much class! There are washing machines available (for 10 bahts), but I see many of my neighbors taking the car to wash their clothes on the weekend. More info on condos here

The funny thing about Thailand is that they only use these electric showers, like in South America. Luckily, this one looks better than average and I have a hotter than usual shower AND with pressure

What irritates me, however, is the presence of ants. They are really everywhere in Thailand. It is necessary to put everything in the fridge and not to leave the slightest crumb of food lying around. As I’ve been carrying a honey pot with me for several months, it acts as an ant detector (in Siem Reap for example,there were no ants)

Scooter rental

The next day, we decide to rent a scooter at Mango Bikes Rent. We choose the most expensive motorcycle (3200 bahts/month càd 82€) because it is the biggest and as we have to take the ring road regularly (our condominium is next door), it seems safer to us. The guys are cool, they only ask for 1000 bahts deposit (and not the passport deposit as it’s usually the case)

They also explain to us that as we do not have a motorcycle license, if we cross the police, we will be fined 500 baht which allows us to continue to ride for 3 days in violation. So if we cross the police all the time, we will have to expect to pay 500 bahts every 3 days. In reality, we do not cross them that often

Now superbly equipped, we take a scooter tour of the city to discover that

  • Chiang Mai doesn’t look like the city of our imagination, it’s a small, quiet town on the mountainside. There are indeed mountains, but they are far away.
  • However, there are indeed golden temples everywhere, as indicated on Lonely Planet
  • There isn’t really a place suitable for walking, even in the city center.

But we don’t care because we have our scooter, and the sun hits too hard to walk anyway. And we quickly understood that Chiang Mai was more a pleasant stop from where we can visit the surroundings

When we look at the map of Chiang Mai city center, we can see that it is a perfect square, surrounded by ramparts and water. So cute! (the small heart badly drawn, it is there where our apartment is)

It reminds me of an anecdote read on the Internet: a French tourist visits Chiang Mai for the first time. After dropping off his belongings in a youth hostel, he takes a tuk tuk to go to the immigration office to extend his visa. Once his visa extended, he goes out, climbs on the tuk tuk, direction the youth hostel. Except that, it isn’t the same tuk tuk driver. And since he chose his hostel the same day, he doesn’t know where he put his things. So he went for hours of research in tuk tuk, in a city in the shape of a perfect square. But the story ends well, he really found his inn 😀

Meeting with François

We spend part of the afternoon with François, a French expat who has been living in Chiang Mai for 6 months. He gives us an appointment at Dom Cafe, an “Instagram” café (where everything is cute to facilitate the upload of photos on Instagram)

We are in a chic district of the city, with very good restaurants. In front of the Dom Café, there is a mini market of top-of-the-range crafts, and street food. I wrote a report of this meeting in this article about expatriation in Thailand

Thai Shopping Centers

We’re right next to a huge shopping mall so a priori, that’s where we go to lunch on our work days. Asian shopping malls are indeed gastronomic paradises. You can find there all kind of restaurants as well as a “food court” where you can eat street food for 3 times nothing. It is so huge that it will take me several days to visit each of the stores. There are two things that I like the most in the world: shopping & eating. And this mall is like an answer to my prayers. We’ll also try to watch an IMAX movie FINE

Look at this, we paid 12€ for all this !

Sunday Night Market

This is THE thing not to be missed in Chiang Mai. This night market is very different from the ones we could do in Bangkok. Already, it takes several hours to go through everything. Then, the products are very varied, and seem to be made in Thailand, and not imported from China. Some craftsmen make their products under our eyes. So if you like something, you have to buy it right away, the chance to cross another seller with the same product is very low

By the way, we recommend you to come by Uber/Grab or tuk-tuk, it’s hard to park and moreover, going back to the parking lot with all these little people isn’t something I wish you

We saw some nice things that we’ve never seen before. Sorry for the quality of the pictures, they were taken in less than optimal conditions

This gentleman carves soaps (white at the base)

Or that gentleman who decorates the t-shirts with felt

Regarding food, there are less food stands than souvenir stands, but we still discovered some novelties, apart from the Tom Yum, papaya salad and fried noodles. For example this dessert made with whipped egg white

or grilled omelettes on boat-shaped leaves

and a kind of sticky rice to eat with sugar ?? (I didn’t try it)

seaweed drinks and coconuts ready to eat (photo taken elsewhere but there are some at the night market too)

Seafood isn’t very expensive

Big weak point: there are a lot of people. Every 200m or so, massage stands are there to relieve our little feet on fire (140 bahts/h)

Ah yes, speaking of massages, in 2 days, I was able to test 3 addresses 😀 in fact, massages in Siem Reap are so bad that it does more harm than good

I tested Chai Massage 2 and I validate for the Thai massage (300 bahts/hour) but not the oil massage, too expensive (700 bahts)

I tested the foot massage at Time to Massage, which I also validate (260 baht/hour)

Finally, I recommend facial care at Dee Dee Bea uty (Google Maps link), a local beauty institute, a little less good than in Vietnam, but above the facial care practiced in massage centers. But I’ll give you a separate article

Part 2: Practical Tips


  • Siem Reap => Chiang Mai
    • Bus Siem Reap => Bangkok : 11$/person
    • Plane Bangkok => Chiang Mai : 52$/person
    • Cab suburbs of Bangkok => Don Muang Airport: 400 baht

  • Bank charges for a withdrawal of 15,000 baht: 200 baht
  • Rental of an apartment for one month: 750€ (via Airbnb) at D Condo Nim
  • Scooter rental for one month at Mango Bikes Rent: 3200 bahts + 1000 bahts deposit
  • Massage: between 250 and 300 baths the one hour massage
  • Facial care: 500 bahts
  • SIM card + 1GB for one month: 260 baht at Truemove H
  • Linen: 40 baht/kg
  • Food :
    • 40-60 bahts for a Thai pad
    • 10 bahts a small bottle of water
    • 40-60 baht for a soup/vodka soup
    • 20-25 baht for a skewer
    • 10-15 baht for a portion of rice / glutinous rice / vermicelles
    • 30-35 bahts for a thai iced milk tea

A few tips

  • Uber and Grab are competitors and regularly offer discounts. Download both apps and compare the fares for each route. These cars are cheaper than the tuk tuk
  • If you prefer to rent a scooter like us, make sure you wear helmets at all times and especially ROULE LEFT !!!!
  • Truemove H offers the best SIM cards for tourists. You can buy them at the airport or at 7 Eleven.
  • Each withdrawal will be charged by the Thai bank, between 200 baht and 220 baht. Withdraw a lot! I withdrew for example 15000 bahts in one go.
  • In Chiang Mai, the 1000 bahts bills are less sold than in Bangkok, people make faces when you give them a 1000 bahts bill, try to break them as soon as you can (especially in massage parlors, posh restaurants)
  • If you like night markets, there is one in front of the Hard Rock Café every day from 6pm. It’s much smaller than the Sunday Night Market, but it’s quality street food and not expensive
  • Food courts in shopping malls also offer street food equivalents on the top floor and in the basement. If you prefer to sit in an air-conditioned place to eat, this is the place to be.

See you soon for more travel diaries & Chiang Mai guide!

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