There is literally nothing I could write on Chiang Mai that has not been written before. Since countless bloggers call this city home, and I only visited for six days, I am in no way an authority on this subject. If you want detailed information about visiting what may be the travel blogger mecca of planet earth, then this is not the post for you. If you want a short and sweet list of things I did (and enjoyed doing) in Chiang Mai, read on.
Take a Cooking Class
Cooking classes are a great way to learn about a culture while also creating and eating delicious food. Read more about my cooking experience in Chiang Mai here.
Visit Some Elephants, Responsibly
Hanging out with elephants is the activity that Asian travel dreams are made of. Unfortunately it is sometimes difficult to find ways to responsibly and ethically interact with these friendly giants. Luckily there are companies dedicated to stopping the inhumane treatment of animals and the movement grows stronger with each tourist dollar it receives. Read about my day at Elephant Jungle Sanctuary here.
Attend a Festival
There are so many festivals to choose from, but I was lucky enough to be in Chiang Mai during the Yi Peng lantern festival. It was pure magic. Read more about it here.
Explore a Few Temples
Chiang Mai is so full of temples that it is basically impossible to avoid them. I didn’t want to over-do the temple thing (like I overdid the church visits during our Honeymoon), so I just went to a few. They were beautiful and totally worth the time and money, just make sure you are dressed appropriately or you will be denied entry. Men and women should cover their knees and shoulders.
Experience a Cabaret
It’s super fun and super affordable. We bought tickets right before the show. Read about my night at the cabaret here.
Get a Tattoo
Okay so this is not for everybody, but if you are interested in getting a tattoo then consider doing your homework and looking into getting one done in Thailand. That may sound sketchy to some, but I have gotten tattoos at four different tattoo parlors and the one in Chiang Mai was just as clean and the artists we just as professional as the places I have been in the states. And it was so much cheaper. Want to know more? Click me.
See a Movie
When you are traveling long term (or even short term) sometimes it is nice to feel a bit of home. Ironically I really don’t see many movies at home, as they are very expensive, but in Thailand movies are a lot cheaper and many of the bigger theaters have showings in English. Plus, it’s fun to experience movie culture in other countries. For example, in Thailand the whole theater stands as the king’s anthem is played during the previews. I saw Star Wars twice during my two months in Southeast Asia and probably paid half what I would have to see it once in America.
There are tons of cute markets selling all kinds of clothes and trinkets all over Thailand, and Chiang Mai is no different. Honestly you don’t need to pack many clothes for your trip to Thailand, you can just buy things once you get there. I promise that with the fun colors and patterns and extremely low prices it’ll be hard to resist.
Get a Massage
Or ten, or twenty. Massages in Thailand are awesome, and awesomely cheap. I limited myself to one every other day, but at around $10 an hour it is awfully hard to resist. Shop around to find businesses you feel comfortable with, offering the services you want. Feet only, back and neck only, whole body, whatever. There are so many places to chose from at so many price points.
Take the night train. (Or the day bus.)
You can get to Chiang Mai from Bangkok the typical ways (plane, train, or bus) and each way gives you a different experience. I personally took bus to Chiang Mai, and an overnight train back to Bangkok. They take around the same amount of time, so which you choose really depends on what you are looking for. My bus journey was during the day, so I was able to see the countryside and we stopped for snacks and even a meal. But, it basically wasted an entire travel day, so if time is a concern the train might be a better option.
My train journey was honestly not that great and I was stuck in a cabin with two loud snorers. The light in our cabin also wouldn’t turn off. And I had gotten in a motorbike accident the previous day and was in a bit of pain. Needless to say I didn’t sleep much, but I did save on accommodation and time.
Honestly though, if you can afford to fly that’s what you should do. Take the time you save to explore Chiang Mai some more. There is plenty to do.