When you think Thailand, you think of beautiful temples. When you think of beautiful temples, you’re definitely thinking of Chiang Mai. This quintessential Thai city is known for beautiful landscapes and stunning temples sprinkled throughout the region. Located in the Northern part of the country, it rests between some of the highest peaks in Thailand!
The city of Chiang Mai dates back almost 1000 years of rich history. In order to find my bearings and understand a bit more about the city, I contacted a local to give me an insider’s tour. Koppi, my guide, took me on a walking adventure through the area, stopping his favorite food spots — I found myself learning through my stomach on a food tour.
There’s something so special about seeing the top of a temple peeking through the treetops as you get closer. Take a moment and examine the details. Each and every temple looks to be out of a fairytale, with gilded accents and colorful entryways.
A buddha made out of gold dating back almost 700 years. The inside of this temple was carved out of wood with such intricate golden details. Stepping inside really leaves you wondering how much time and effort went into these sacred buildings.
Pro Tip: Remember to always make sure to remove any shoes before stepping into any sacred building.
Jet lag is a curse and a blessing. I was able to wake up early in the morning to get out and explore the area. I’d make my way to the local market to watch the stalls light up with foot traffic. Warorot is one of the main markets in the area for produce, flowers, nibbles, and any other fixes your heart desires.
Pro Tips For Visiting The Food Market
The queen of mango sticky rice resides within a small stall and makes a fresh batch every morning for three generations! I paid a visit to her almost every day, without fail.
Dried fruit is pretty popular, and pretty yummy to snack on. Grab some and bring it on the plane with you.
Chiang Mai is actually a major exporter of silver, so, if you’re looking for some great jewelry — this is the place to get it! I was able to find a few boho rings to match my Thai vibes.
A popular spot in the area is actually a local restaurant that is run by women inmates. The idea is to teach them valuable skills like hospitality and even massage therapy that will help them build a future when they’re out of prison! That’s right, you can get a massage by an inmate. I got cozy with a bowl of khao soy kai — an egg noodle dish with a spicy soup and crispy wontons to throw inside. Massages started at 8 dollars!
Whenever I travel alone, I try to make a conscious effort to look up expat restaurants and bars. This is a nice way to meet locals who have moved into the area and speak english! I stumbled across a jazz club located at the North Gate of the city. It just so happens that I love jazz and to say that this was by far my favorite activity in Chiang Mai is an understatement.
Morning are so quiet, It’s easy to get lost in the winding roads and endless coffee shops. The scent of coffee beans will bring you in from the street and into a darling cafe. You don’t have to go far to find some of the most amazing coffee in the world! Every street is stocked with shops, so take your pick! Mine was this cute van with a friendly local who hooked it up with caffeine. Pinkies up!
Other Things To Do
Due to some unfortunate weather during my visit season, I had gotten rained out of visiting Do Suthep, the temple on the highest peak in the country! I highly recommend it and it’s only a 45 minute drive from central Chiang Mai. I would aim to go for sunrise as the monks collect their morning alms.
Chiang Mai is home to the elephants. This is truly a bucket list item, where you can spend an entire day helping these beautiful animals. With tourism becoming such a prominent source of income in some areas in Southeast Asia, I would do plenty of research before booking to make sure that the sanctuary you attend is ethical. Yay happy elephants.
Take a trip to Chiang Rai. So, during my lesson in Chiang Mai with a local, I learned that the King of Chiang Rai actually left to create Chiang Mai. Which means, the area of Chiang Rai dates back farther than many of its surrounding neighbors. This includes temples that are some of the oldest in the country.
Chiang Mai is one of the rising Michelin cities, with cuisines that will blow your socks off. Seriously, you’ll be doing yourself a disservice if you don’t taste the famous sticky mango rice of Chiang Mai… oh and the coffee too!
A vibrant, yet secluded, city that values its traditions and people has remained a backpackers dream. With plenty of accommodations near central locations, it’s a great way to see a city on foot or bike. Whether you’re looking for a hike through a mountain or an adventure to nearby cities, the area feels remote. You will feel welcomed at around every corner with a warmth that is difficult to find in nearby cities.