When we started our travel adventures back in early February, we spend 2 weeks in Chiang Mai, Thailand and had the best time. If you’re headed to Northern Thailand, you definitely need to check it out. Here are some tips on everything you need to know when heading there!
How to get there?
Chiang Mai is located in the Northern part of Thailand, about 12 hours from Bangkok. One of the most popular ways to get to Chiang Mai is to take the overnight train from Hua Lamphong train station in Bangkok. I would recommend getting your tickets at least 2 days before you plan to leave because they usually sell out very quickly, especially if you want to snatch up the first or second class sleeper option, meaning you’ll get your own bed and cubicle, making for an overall have more comfortable journey.
Josh and I made the mistake of going a day too late and had to go for the second class sitting option with A/C for 641 BAHT (approx. $20 usd). The ride itself wasn’t the worst, our seat did recline back so we managed to sleep a bit and overall they were comfortable. The only thing is, Thai’s love to crank up the A/C so it did get really really cold – I definitely recommend bringing a sweater and wear long pants.
Click here if you want to see the full train schedule and fares for the different classes.
Where to Stay?
We would recommend staying in the Old City, this is where you’ll find most of the restaurants and night life. This will save you a lot of money on Songthaews (this is what they call tuk tuks) since you’ll be able to walk everywhere.
If you’re unable to find a hotel/hostel in your budget in the Old City, you can rent a bicycle and get around that way – we opted for this during our stay. I would not recommend renting a motorcycle since the drivers are a bit crazy and it’s not uncommon to see tourists all wrapped up in bandages from accidents. Be careful kids!
What to do?
1.Go to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep
This temple was absolutely stunning and pictures won’t even do it justice! It’s located about a 40 min drive from the Old City up the mountains; you can grab a shared songthaew (a Thai Taxi) for about 100 Bath per person. Once you get there, you’ll have to walk up 300 steps to the temple, which may sound like a lot but trust me, it’s completely worth it. The temple gives off a very peaceful feel, unlike any other another I’ve been to. One of my favourite experiences there was getting a couple’s blessing by a monk.
2.Visit the Night Bazaar
This night market is definitely one of a kind and so far on my trip I have yet to experience a more crowded place. I know, I’m not doing a good job at selling on this, but just go for a night to experience the buzz at the Bazaar. No, but really if you want to try some delicious snacks and shop for some traditional Thai merch, then this is the place. Also, don’t forget to bargain with the vendors, you can always try to bring them down a few Baht.
3. Take a cooking class
I have recommended this to everyone I speak to who is going to Northern Thailand. We took the half day class at Mama Noi’s, where you get to cook 3 dishes and receive a free dessert. The class starts off by being taken to the local farmer’s market to show you the most common ingredients used in Thai cooking and then you get driven to the farm where you’ll be doing the cooking. The actual class was very well organized and the instructor, Kim made it very entertaining. I would consider myself a pretty awful cook but the food I made was absolutely delicious and not only was it good but it was such a fun experience. I cannot say enough good things about it!
4. Explore the Flower Festival
If you’re going in February during the week of Chinese New Year, this is when the annual Chiang Mai flower festival take place. We were lucky enough to go during this time and got to see some incredible colourful and stunning floats.
5. Go see some elephants at a sanctuary
To be honest, we didn’t get a chance to see elephants as it didn’t work with our schedule and was a bit pricey. However, everyone we spoke to had amazing things to say about this experience. If you are an animal lover, then don’t miss this unique opportunity to spend an entire day with Thai elephants. Just make sure you pick an ethical sanctuary that doesn’t abuse these majestic animals.
5. What to Eat
Generally, we found the food in Northern Thai food to be the most inexpensive and delicious in all of Thailand. I pretty much alternated between green or red curry every day and made sure to get mango sticky rice every night. Josh was a huge fan of a typical Northern dish called Khao Soi. A meal in Chiang Mai will run you anywhere from 60-100 Bath per person. A total steal!
If you want to learn more on what to do in Chiang Mai, check out my travel diaries where I take you around the city on our Youtube channel!