Thailand: An invigorating and culturally explosive destination that can leave those less travelled feeling quite intimidated. From spicy curries to quaint villages, this country has something to offer for everybody even if it is your first visit. But where do you start? Every week I’m going to go through the countries I’ve visited and recommend where I think would be a good first place to dip your toes. What better place to start than one of my favourites…
Chiang Mai, Thailand
Wat Chedi Luang
Chiang Mai is located in the north of Thailand and is a great starting point for those who have never experienced all that Thailand has to offer. With a much more relaxed pace compared to the hustle and bustle of Bangkok or the parties in Phuket; Chiang Mai will ease you into a country known for it’s fiery foods and a language that even I still can’t decipher. I spent roughly a week here exploring and relaxing after travelling the whole country for a month and this place felt like true Thailand to me. Whether you are a solo traveller, a couple looking for a nice getaway or even a family; Chiang Mai has it all. Night markets, waterfalls, tigers, temples…what more could you ask for?
Things To Do
The Golden Chedi at Wat Phra That Doi Suthep
- Wat Phra That Doi Suthep – This temple is the city’s most famous and dates back to 1383. It sits atop Doi Suthep, a hill to the north west of the city and is easily accessible by taxi or booking onto a tour as I did. Upon arrival you will be greeted by a staircase lined with beautifully embellished dragons that will guide you to the top. Small shrines and gardens dot the main courtyard while the inner courtyard houses the golden chedi which guards the Buddha relic. Take in the magnificent views of the city of Chiang Mai from up above as well before you leave.
- Address: Th Huay Kaew, Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai, Thailand
- Cost: 30 Thai Baht
- Opening times: Approx. 6am – 6pm
- 603 steps to the top or elevator for an additional fee
- Dress code: Not strict but as with visiting any religious site dress modest and with respect.
- Extra info: The children dressed in traditional ware that ask for photos will want money in return so have some spare change if you would like one. Also at the bottom of the stairs are many souvenir and food stalls so if you are waiting for your tour to leave this would be a great place to grab a snack and take a rest.
- Wat Phra Singh – This temple is located within the city walls of Chiang Mai and dates back to 1345. It is easily accessible via either walking or by taxi. Within the walls sit many various temples that you can roam amongst although the most notable are Wihan Luang & Wat Chedi Luang which can’t be missed.
- Address: 103 Road King Prajadhipok Phra Singh, Muang District, Chiang Mai, Thailand
- Cost: FREE! Unless you are going into a temple and need to pay roughly 10 baht to rent a robe.
- Opening times: Approx. 6am – 6pm
- Dress code: Not strict walking around the complex but you must be fulled covered when entering the temples themselves.
- Night Bazaar – The Night Bazaar is located in the east side of the city within the old city walls and stretches for a few blocks in each direction and seems to grow as the night goes on. Weaving amongst temples, roads, bars and restaurants; you will absolutely find anything from antiques to cheap souvenirs here.
- Address: 104-1 Chang Klan Rd
- Cost: Remember to barter for what you buy! Generally 20-30% under asking is fair but only ask if you are definitely interested in purchasing.
- Opening times: Every day of the year from dusk till about midnight
- Songkran – This event is nationwide and happens mid-April every year to celebrate the traditional Thai New Year and Chiang Mai has become one of the most popular spots in Thailand to be for it. Most notable about this celebration is the water fights that take place. I was in Krabi at the end of this festival once and I have never seen so many Nerf squirt guns and barrels of water being thrown at people in my life. The event also encompasses parades and beauty pageants and is spread out over multiple days so it won’t be missed if you are somewhere in Thailand during it!
- Loi Krathong – This event usually falls in November and sees thousands of people come together in Chiang Mai to worship the Goddess of Water with floating banana leaf vessels (a krathong) and paper lanterns that decorate the sky in the evening, a site that can’t be missed.
Where to Stay
Sabai Hostel & Hotel ($)
- I stayed in this hostel and absolutely loved every bit of it. They offer 24 hour reception so when I arrived by bus at 3am I was able to check right in. In the morning they offer a full breakfast buffet which had all the works; fresh juice, eggs, sausage, fruits and so on. Most places I have stayed that offer breakfast is very minimal so this was a delightful surprise before getting my days going. The beds were very comfortable and each had it’s own plug outlets and mini-lamps and thankfully this place has excellent aircon, something you will learn to appreciate in Asia’s humidity. Free wifi is also a great bonus.
- Address: 189/1 Rachamankha Rd. Prasing Amphoe Muang Chiang Mai, Thailand
- Cost Per Night: Approx. $8USD 10 bed dorm room / $26USD standard double room
- 3km from Chiang Mai International Airport
Ban Chunsongsang Homestay ($$)
- If you’re looking for something a bit more authentic than a homestay is the perfect choice. Learn from Nong the best of Thai cooking and relax with an afternoon massage. Although this homestay is based a bit outside of Chiang Mai, you’ll love the peace and quiet and biking down the back roads of this beautiful country.
- Address: 15/3 San Thon Muang Nuea Village T. Samranrat, Doi Saket, Thailand
- Cost Per Night: Aprrox $25USD with breakfast included
- 17km from Chiang Mai city centre, free transfer to and from the city if staying more than 1 night
99 The Heritage Hotel ($$$)
- 99 The Heritage Hotel ($$$) – If you’d like a life of luxury while in Chiang Mai then go no further than this immaculately appointed hotel. With everything from an outdoor swimming pool, an in house restaurant and classic decor to match; 99 The Heritage Hotel is a destination in itself.
- Address: 2 Samlan Road, Tambon Sriphum, Muang, Chiang Mai, Thailand
- Cost Per Night: Approx $170USD for a Deluxe Double or Twin Room with Spa Bath
- 3km from Chiang Mai International Airport and directly across from Wat Phra Singh
Chiang Mai completely changed my view of Thailand after not enjoying the parties down south and the exhaustive amount of tourists in Bangkok. If you are looking for someplace that’s going to give you the full flare of this country built by kings but don’t want to be completely overwhelmed by culture shock; than Chiang Mai is the perfect place to start.
“Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and enjoy the journey.” – Babs Hoffman