After a 5 hour plane trip from Beijing (see previous post), we arrived in Chiang Mai, Thailand. I have tons of stories from our time in Chiang Mai, but I’ll break it down into highlights of what we did, tips and recommendations.
We booked an Airbnb to stay in for the week we would be there, and I’d arranged for a driver to pick us up and bring us to our house. The house we stayed in was in a residential area near the airport. It wasn’t amazing, and the pictures definitely looked nicer than it actually was, but it also wasn’t bad enough to make us move. We didn’t plan on being in the house much anyways. Whether you’re traveling as a couple or with a group, I always recommend airbnbs. And in Asia you can get really nice places dirt cheap. If you’re more adventurous, there are definitely plenty of hostels, even in nice upscale areas of town. I saw quite a few I would’ve stayed at if Adam and I were traveling together and bouncing around from town to town.
The house we stayed at actually provided free scooters for us to use, as well as bicycles. However, once we got there we decided scooters and bicycles were maybe too much of a risk for everyone to safely attempt. (As of 2017 Thailand had the highest motor vehicle accidents and deaths in the world.) We’d planned on using public transportation most of the time anyways so it didn’t change much.
In Chiang Mai we did quite a few days of getting around by foot and by Songtheaw (pictured below). Warning though, when you flag down a driver and he doesn’t speak English that can be difficult. We learned to direct drivers to landmarks near the destination you want to get to. OR, if you bought cell service, pull up Google Maps and either have them follow it, or show them on the map where you want to go. We learned that the hard way after our first day out and about. As the group leader, I spent a very frustrating couple hours lost and wandering around downtown Chiang Mai with no Songthaew drivers able to figure out where I wanted to go – which was just back to our house. I didn’t know what landmarks were near our house, and at that point I had no cell service.
I quickly remedied my google maps issue and bought a Thai sim card through AIS at the airport mall. I went right into the AIS store and they did the whole setup for me. I highly recommend this. It was only $10 for 30 days of unlimited data. That means you can google, use maps, social media, emails, whatsapp and messenger whenever you need.
I will say that the amount of WiFi spots in Thailand was amazing. Almost every restaurant and store has a wifi hotspot and a large amount of places post their username and password access in view for customers to see and use.
We met up with some friends that live in Chiang Mai for this one. We met up in the early morning and drove the almost two hours to the park. The drive up the mountain was cool. However, we were a bit disappointed at the top. We accidently ended up going on King’s day which was a mistake we realize far too late. So the park was PACKED. Regardless though, there wasn’t any great views from the top. The viewpoints were lower down the mountain, and a large majority of them you needed to pay per person to go on the trail. More for adults, and more for non-residents. That’s a sucker punch when you’re a group of 13. We decided to go on one trail for the views. It was indeed a pretty hike through the rainforest, and it ended in grassy slopes with a view that stretched endlessly into the horizon.
Some of us also decided to check out the Pagodas. That ended up being the best part of our park visit. It was indeed beautiful up there. The Buddhist temples are garnished by lavish gardens and fountains, with another beautiful view.
Because of the crowds and because were in a large group with people who were wanting to do different things we didn’t see and do everything. But I found this blog post which lists other things to do in the park.
The entrance we took to the temple was definitely hidden. We parked near the University and the zoo, and hiked up the mountain. But upon arriving to the top, we found that the giant parking lot at the top definitely makes this temple not so hidden anymore.
The temple was gorgeous. I think it was one of my favorite spots on the Thailand trip overall. The architecture so high up in the mountains, and the overgrowth of vines wrapping around the old Buddhist statues was beautiful. And really, the hike up was enjoyable. It was a 45 minute walk up and half hour down.
This was the coolest most unique thing ever. It took us a little over an hour to drive there from our place in Chiang Mai, but so worth it. I’ve always wanted to climb and repel waterfalls. And though this wasn’t quite that, it was kind of similar. The waterfalls have a mineral that makes them grippy. So you can literally hike up the waterfalls. Some areas you scramble hands over knees, other areas, there are ropes to help you up, and other areas are much less steep and have a handrail by them. They were doing a lot of construction work when we were there so I would venture to assume they’re soon going to charge people to go to the park. But as of Dec 2019 it was still free and an awesome place to spend a day.
Dear Thailand. Your food is amazing. Writing this as I’m back home makes me crave some more authentic Thai food like crazy.
In Chiang Mai we kinda got stuck in one area. On purpose. Because we liked it. It was an area near the city moat on Ratchamanka Road in the Mueang Chiang Mai District. It seems to cater to tourists and travel hippies like myself. The area is flooded with hostels, juice bars, lots of vegan and vegetarian restaurants (our crew are veggies) and plenty of massages places and shopping. Our favorite restaurant was Mamory Delicious. The food and atmosphere was great. But really if you walk anywhere up and down that road or on side roads, there were so many good places to eat.
Also, the Chiang Mai Sunday night markest is a MUST. The market gets set up in the city center and stretches like a spider web in all directions for seemingly endless miles. The vendors all sell something unique, and the food sections boast the most amazing cheap eats.
It seems like every street corner has a massage parlor. And though we were skeptical and cautious at first due to Thailand’s “sex in the city” seedy reputation, normal family friendly massage parlors were the vast majority of what we saw.
At an average of $7-10/hr, take advantage we did! I thoroughly enjoyed every foot massage (my favorite kind of massage). My husband even took advantage and got an upper body massage and one time we even did a couples’ massage! (for a whopping $18 total for both of us.) Out of all the ones we went to we can personally recommend the Nimman House. I had done my research before we went and had found excellent reviews overall and some of the best prices around.
Fair warning, a full body massage can be painful. Those small ladies are no joke. They can push and pull you in ways that definitely releases all your knots but also leaves you sore for days. Lol