Unlike the southern islands of Thailand, Chiang Mai offers mountain scenery and a cuisine slightly different from the southern islands. Here is the list of our favorites and what to visit in the region
For me, Chiang Mai is a starting point to other cities in Northern Thailand. The city is a bit polluted, not very pedestrian friendly (except in the evening). If you come all the way from Bangkok just to spend 2 days in the North, I tell you sincerely: it’s not worth it!
How to get there?
The easiest way is to take a low cost plane from Bangkok (from 26USD without hold luggage)
To know more..
- To go to the airport in Bangkok (there are two airports, check your ticket), choose Grab (the equivalent of Uber)
- To go from Chiang Mai airport to the city center, all cabs will charge you 150 baht (4-seater cab). If you are staying outside of the city center, fares can go up to 250 baht.
The locals use this red bus, which has a well defined path (it is marked in Thai on it). It costs between 20 and 30 baht/person whatever the distance. With a little practice, you will know how to wait for the right truck at the right place
If not, ask your hotel where to wait for your truck, stop all red trucks and show the name of a known place near your destination (a condo – a residence for example; a supermarket or a pagoda), the driver will tell you whether or not he is passing by
If all this seems too difficult, you can
- or rent a motorcycle for 200 baht/day. We recommend you Mango Bikes Rent (click for more info). Be careful if you don’t have an international MOTORBIKE permit, the police will be very happy to stop you (and there are many of them near the canal). In this case, take out a 500 bahts ticket. Your license plate will be noted by the police and your fine will be valid for 3 days.
- either take
an Uber ora Grab (download the mobile applications) Enter the code rlz9uwhen you create your Uber account, to receive the 1st free race (Uber has been replaced by Grab in Asia)
- Enter the code GRABTOURDUMONDE when you create your Grab account, to receive the 1st race for free
- or rent a bike. I don’t recommend it because the traffic is quite stressful, you feel a bit vulnerable with a bike. Moreover, if it’s hot, it’s rather unpleasant
- or take a tuk tuk, but the rates will be higher
Attention: for the Sunday Market, some streets become pedestrian, to take an
Uber/Grab, move away from the pedestrian zone 2-3 streets – otherwise the drivers will not even pick you up
SIM Card – 3G – 4G
What to do / visit in Chiang Mai?
Chiang Mai is the city where there is a temple at (almost) every corner. If you love temples, this is paradise for you! If you like it moderately, you can take advantage of the Sunday Market to quickly explore the temples on your way. Illuminated in the evening, they are very pretty
There is, however, a super beautiful temple called Silver Temple (50 baht/entry), women aren’t allowed to enter it, but it is worth the visit, just to see the outside. The travel diary and pictures of the inside of the Silver temple are available here
For the beautiful view of all Chiang Mai (and its little cloud of pollution). You can go further and visit the H’mong village, the cherry trees. The way is very easily done by scooter. All the agencies in the city offer half-day tours if you are interested
It is really the best quality night market in Southeast Asia, where you can find more local products than usual (few Chinese products – for once). As its name suggests, it takes place every Sunday night. Go to Chan Klan Road
Food isn’t the strong point of this market, but if you’re not too picky, you can make do with a small pad thai sold in the courtyard of a temple
It is an open-air market and food court – held every night, unlike the Sunday Market. It’s very touristy, the prices are quite high, but JB particularly likes the plate full of seafood at 300 baht
A Match of Thai Boxing
Umbrella Making Centre
If you want to see how Chiang Mai’s famous silk/paper umbrellas are made, from A to Z, this is the place to go. The visit of the center is free and the umbrellas are very affordable. The risk is to leave with too many memories. Read our travel diary here
Going to the dentist
There is a strong expat community in Chiang Mai, and there is no shortage of English-speaking dentists. I highly recommend you to go and see one. You can easily make an appointment by phone or on Facebook. I highly recommend Dental 4 U, I think the scaling cost me 800 baths (20€), but it is done much more carefully than at my dentist in France
What to do/visit near Chiang Mai?
It is the highest mount in Thailand. All agencies in Chiang Mai offer day trips to Doi Inthanon
There are various waterfalls around Chiang Mai. We were told a lot of good things about Bua Tong Waterfalls, to visit barefoot. You can go there by scooter
A small corner of paradise, with mountains, waterfalls, and strawberries. The city center isn’t very interesting, choose rather a hotel far from the center. You can go there by scooter from Chiang Mai, or go there by bus and rent a scooter there to explore the surroundings of Pai. Read our travel diary and tips here
In general, people go from Chiang Mai to Pai and then to Chiang Rai (by bus or boat) before going by boat to Luang Prabang (Laos). Chiang Rai is famous for its white temple, 13km from the city center. Beware it is always a little bit cool in Chiang Rai, take warm clothes
- Pad thai : between 40 and 60 baht
- Restaurants: between 50 and 150 baht per dish
- Massage: 250 to 300 baths for one hour Thai massage, between 500 and 700 baht for one hour oil massage
- Facial care: 500 to 700 bahts at the massage parlour, 500 to 1500 bahts at specialized salons
- Scooter rental: 200 baht/day (+ 500 baht fine if you are unlucky enough to run into police officers)
- Airport cab => city center : 150 baht
- Cab downtown => airport: 100 baht
- Linen: 40 baht/kg (you can test the services of WashDrop)
- ATM withdrawal fee: 200 baht/withdrawal (5€), so withdraw a max, usually I withdraw 15 000 baht at a time
- Umbrella: between 40 baht and 1200 baht (depending on the size)
- Entrance ticket to the temples: about 50 baht/person for the famous temples (many other temples are free)
My favorite addresses
All my best addresses of Chiang Mai, Pai and Chiang Rai are on this map, click on each point to read a small description of the place
If you have a Google account, you can make a copy of this map on your account