Imagine it’s April 2017. After 5 nights in Bangkok, we took the overnight sleeper train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai – a city that has a lot in common with my other favourite places. There’s a walkable city centre, a good mix of historic and modern areas, bustling markets, stunning temples, interesting day trips, and great food—which is my number one reason for choosing to go anywhere. I also don’t remember any touts approaching us during our whole stay, which made it more enjoyable compared to Bangkok.
We stayed for 8 nights and half our time was spent on a day trips: a day at Wat Doi Suthep; an organised tour to Doi Inthanon National Park; cooking lessons at Thai Farm Cooking School; and a visit to the Elephant Nature Park. The other half was spent exploring the city, eating at different street stalls, and dipping in and out of different temples. Whilst the temples provided the culture, they also gave me a chance to escape from the sun that was melting my face off.
As a reminder, we were visiting in peak hot season, so temperatures were hitting a humid 35°C and I was constant sweaty mess. I can’t quite remember why I planned it this way, but it was probably about balancing the cost of flights and accommodation for a 3 month holiday.
City centre temples
Despite its much smaller size, Chiang Mai has almost as many temples as Bangkok. There are several within the city centre and one late afternoon, we did the temple walking trail that you can find in most guide books.
Wat Chiang Man
The city’s oldest wat, featuring a chedi (pagoda) surrounded by stone elephants.
171 Ratchapakhinai Rd
Wat Phra Singh
A lavish wat covered in gold. Also known as ‘The Monastery of the Lion Buddha’.
2 Samlarn Rd
Wat Phan Tao
A modest temple lined with dark teak panels. I liked the outdoor area here, especially since we came here at the perfect time of day to compliment the yellow flags.
127/7 Prapokkloa Rd
Wat Chedi Luang
In contrast to other well maintained wats, this temple features the ruins of a huge Lanna-style chedi. During our visit, I could see the beginnings of restoration work, with scaffolding dotted around the site.
103 Prapokkloa Rd
Food in Chiang Mai
I can’t emphasise enough how well we ate during our 8 nights here. Despite pinning plenty of recommendations on my google map, most of them were forgotten in favour of markets and street vendors, although we did make it to a few.
Huan Chao Bua Tip
This restaurant was a lucky find whilst hangry walking. Delicious fried rice and noodle dishes. They also have great fruit shakes.
64 Prapokkloa Rd
A humble noodle canteen. Staff were delighted that Will knew how to ask where the toilet was in Thai.
196/5/1 Ratchapakhinai Rd
A good all-rounder restaurant for Northern Thai food, that caters mostly for locals.
112 Rachamankha Rd
Chiang Mai in particular changed my whole attitude to eating out in London, especially since the rise of ‘street food’. After returning home, it took a long time to stop being annoyed at how expensive it was, for so much less in choice, quantity and flavour. In comparison to Chiang Mai, whatever I was in the mood for, I found it. Noodles, rice, soup, fruit shakes, skewers, cakes, dumplings or new dishes I’d never heard of before. They had it all.
Chiang Mai Gate Market
This market was my favourite place to eat in the city, with a full post coming soon. There was so much choice and we came here 5 out of 8 nights for dinner with no regrets. We also found Mrs Pa selling the best fruits shakes here. My god, I miss the fruit so much.
Bumrung Buri Rd and Phra Pokklao Rd
Chang Puak Gate Market
We did venture away from the south gate for one evening, up to Chang Puak Gate Market. It’s a similar set-up but a little bit smaller.
248/70 Manee Nopparat Rd
I don’t think you can visit this city without going to at least one market. After visiting quite a few throughout the region, I rate Chiang Mai’s quite highly. So if you’re willing to browse the row upon row of stalls, you’ll find some gems.
Sunday Walking Market
This market is set up along Rathadamnoen road, expanding out into the surrounding streets. There’s plenty of food, artisan crafts and other goods on offer, so it’s a good place to pick up souvenirs. We tried to hold back buying things at the beginning our trip because of our limited packing space, but couldn’t resist and picked up a couple of little bits.
Wualai Walking Street (Saturday Walking Market)
This market is like the Sunday Walking Market but open on Saturdays and a lot smaller. It’s located south of the city centre walls, with stalls set up along Wua Lai Road.
Wua Lai Road
Chiang Mai Night Bazaar
The night bazaar covers a large area, with less artisan goods and more trashy souvenirs. We also found Ploen Ruedee Night Market which had musical entertainment and food stalls, albeit more westernised.
104/1 intersection of Tha Pae and Chang Klan Road Chang Klang
This is more of a locals market and is open during the day. It’s good for a wander around as well as picking up snacks.
Revisiting Chiang Mai through my notes, journal and photos is a reminder of how much more there is to see. I’d love to go back, whenever I decide to visit that part of the world again. But during a cooler season next time!
Read more posts from my SE Asia trip here.