Getting around Chiang Mai
The city of Chiang Mai is small and easy to navigate, making it possible to get around by foot or bicycle. However, the hills can be steep in some areas, so consider renting a motorbike or hiring a tuk-tuk (a small, open-air taxi) if you prefer a more relaxed mode of transportation. Renting a motorbike is a popular option for travelers, as it allows you to explore the surrounding countryside at your own pace. Just be sure to drive safely and always wear a helmet.
If you prefer public transportation, Chiang Mai has a network of songthaews (shared taxis) that can take you to most places in the city. These can be hailed on the street, and you can negotiate the price with the driver before getting in. It’s also possible to flag down a tuk-tuk on the street, though these can be more expensive than songthaews.
Where to stay in Chiang Mai?
Chiang Mai has a range of accommodations to suit every budget, from luxury resorts to budget hostels. If you want to be near the city center, consider staying in the old town area, where you’ll find a number of guesthouses and small hotels. The old town is a charming and historic area, with narrow streets and beautiful temples, making it a great place to base yourself for exploring the city.
For a more peaceful stay, consider staying in one of the surrounding villages, where you can experience traditional Thai village life. There are many small guesthouses and homestays available in these areas, which are often cheaper than accommodations in the city center. Some popular villages to consider include Mae Rim, Mae Taeng, and San Kamphaeng.
Things to do in Chiang Mai
There is no shortage of things to do in Chiang Mai, from visiting ancient temples and experiencing the city’s rich cultural history to exploring the surrounding countryside. Here are some suggestions for activities to consider during your stay:
Visit the Elephant Nature Park: Located just outside of Chiang Mai, the Elephant Nature Park is a sanctuary for rescued elephants. Here you can learn about these intelligent and gentle animals, and even help feed and bathe them.
Take a cooking class: Thai cuisine is known for its bold flavors and fragrant herbs, and taking a cooking class is a great way to learn how to prepare some of these dishes yourself. Many classes take place at local markets, where you can learn about the ingredients used in Thai cooking, before returning to a kitchen to start cooking.
Trek through the jungle: The surrounding countryside of Chiang Mai is home to a number of national parks and jungle areas, making it a great destination for nature lovers. There are many trekking companies that offer guided tours through the jungle, where you can spot a variety of wildlife and visit hill tribe villages.
Visit hill tribes: The hills around Chiang Mai are home to a number of ethnic minority groups, known as hill tribes. Visiting these tribes is a great way to learn about their traditional way of life and culture. Many tour companies offer guided visits to hill tribe villages, where you can learn about their customs and traditions.
Visit the Mae Sa Waterfall: Located just outside of Chiang Mai, the Mae Sa Waterfall is a beautiful spot to cool off on a hot day. There are several tiers to the waterfall, and you can swim in the pools at the base of the falls. The surrounding area is also home to a number of hiking trails, so you can combine your visit to the waterfall with a short hike.
The Northern Food of Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai is known for its delicious street food, which is typically served from small stalls or carts. Street food is an integral part of Thai culture, and it’s a great way to try a variety of dishes at a low cost. Some popular dishes to try include:
Khao soi: This is a spicy curry noodle dish that is a specialty of Chiang Mai. It’s made with egg noodles in a coconut milk-based curry broth, and it’s usually served with pickled mustard greens, shallots, and lime.
Gaeng hang lay: This is a pork curry that is slow-cooked in a blend of spices and coconut milk. It’s usually served with rice and pickled vegetables.
Sticky rice with mango: This is a popular dessert in Thailand, and it’s especially delicious in Chiang Mai, where the mangoes are sweet and juicy. Sticky rice is served with slices of mango and a drizzle of sweet coconut cream.
There are also a number of restaurants that serve Thai and international cuisine for those who prefer a more formal dining experience. In the old town area, you’ll find a range of restaurants serving everything from Thai curries to Italian pasta. There are also many coffee shops and bakeries where you can grab a bite to eat.
When dining out, be sure to follow good hygiene practices to avoid getting sick. This includes avoiding undercooked meat, washing your hands before eating, and avoiding ice in drinks if you’re unsure of the water quality. It’s also a good idea to carry hand sanitizer with you, especially when eating street food.
So, overall, Chiang Mai is a charming and welcoming destination that offers a rich cultural experience for travelers. With its beautiful natural surroundings, delicious food, and friendly locals, it’s no wonder that it’s a popular choice for travelers to Thailand.