After rushing around amongst the hustle and bustle of Bangkok, Chiang Mai’s relaxed vibe made me feel so welcome and chilled.
It was so refreshing to finally cross at a zebra crossing without fearing for your life again, but apart from this, Chiang Mai is full of amazing things that will make you fall in love with it. Just like I did.
Here are the five reasons that I fell in love with Chiang Mai:
Let’s count down from five…
#5: The Food
If you ask anyone that knows me then they’ll tell you that good, tasty food is up there in the list of things that I love the most and Chiang Mai did not disappoint! There was something for every occasion, whether it’s a home comforts day or you’re feeling an embrace yourself in Thai culture vibe, you’re sure to find food to match your mood.
My top recommendation would be to try the street food because it was seriously amazing! When dusk arrives, Chiang Mai comes alive with street food and night markets. It’s all freshly cooked in front of you, full of flavour and great value for money. My favourite was the pork and satay sauce which they barbecued in front of us and served with cucumber and chillies – we went back more than once for this treat!
If you’re not feeling the street vibe then you won’t be stuck for choice because Chiang Mai is also full of cute, quirky cafés which have menus to satisfy any craving. During my stay I fell in love with Rich Garden House. Open until 8, this bakery and café boasts a menu of traditional Thai food as well as some spaghetti dishes, sandwiches and cakes that are to die for. It was Friday, so we had to treat ourselves.
Not only was the food tasty but the atmosphere was so tranquil and chilled. Surrounded by trees, plants and a water feature we sat outside drinking tea, eating cake and watched the dark creep in as the lanterns slowly illuminated, one by one. Such a picturesque scene and a perfect way to relax and chill out in the evening.
As well as Rich Garden House, we visited Into the Woods café and the Loghome Boutique café which also had a good range of food to choose from and an amazing atmosphere. Into the Woods even had its own corner library so you could eat, drink and enjoy the literature until your heart’s content!
#4: The Shopping
Not only do the night markets offer amazing food at good value, they also sell a crazy amount of clothes, bags, gifts and general touristy goods.
As you walk down the street you get hit from every angle: the spicy scent of the freshly cooked cuisine, the incredible sights of stalls full of vibrant colours and intricate patterns, the sounds of tourists bartering with the merchants to get the best deal possible. Then, if you’re anything like me, the soft touch of every piece of fabric that catches your eye, followed by the insane taste of street food of your choice. Being in Thailand, my go to meal was Pad Thai which never failed to satisfy my need for tasty, filling food… until I put my bikini back on I and realised how unhealthy this fried carb filled dish was. But, if you’re not too worried about your carb intake and chowing down on fried foods then Pad Thai in Thailand is a must!
If you’re after elephant pants, cute gifts, memorabilia to take home or just something a little bit different then the night market is the place to be. Also, according to a friendly local, the Saturday and Sunday walking streets are a must see and are cheaper than the all-week night market as they are for the locals!
#3: The People
As soon as we reached our Airbnb at Baan Ploy In in Chiang Mai Old Town, I knew that we were in good hands. Our host was so welcoming and really made us feel safe and secure in our new place. The room that we had booked for the first night was incredible! A big space with an awesome view. Our host was also very accommodating when we decided that we wanted to stay there an extra few nights and switched our rooms around to fit her bookings without any fuss. She was super helpful when we were after information on the local buses and places to visit too. I would definitely recommend staying here if you’re looking for somewhere where you’ll feel safe, welcome and in a great location.
If you haven’t tried Airbnb before I’d definitely recommend it as it’s quick and easy to find what you’re looking for and you can check the reviews too to see if the place has everything you need. If you do find yourself in Chiang Mai then check out Baan Ploy In for a good room, decent wifi and FREE tea and coffee. You can use this link to get £25 off your first stay with Airbnb.
Not only was our host super friendly, but everyone else that we walked past seemed to smile and say hello too.
Walking back from some temple visits we were stopped by a group of school girls who politely asked us if we would mind having a photo with them. One by one they stood between us for their shot! So, we thought we’d get them to return the favour and took a group selfie. It was such a strange experience being asked to have our picture taken with complete strangers but they seemed pleased that they got their snaps!
#2: The Music
On Thursday we headed to a bar called The Edge, by the Ping river. We’d been stopped earlier on in the day by an American guy on a scooter who saw that we were looking very touristy and a little bit lost so he gave us one direction. The Edge, 21.30 for live music.
Being inquisitive types we turned up at the bar and were welcomed by the sounds of “By the seat of your pants”. These guys were awesome and had so much to offer! We later found out that it was a swap in jamming session and at points they’d call in for a drummer or vocalist and if you felt like it you could jam with them then the stage was yours. They had a pretty clean and cool sound for musicians who had possibly never played together before. I definitely sat there in awe wishing my scat and improv skills were up to scratch… maybe next time though!
This cool little spot set their stage up outside in the lantern lit beer garden which backed out into the river Ping. So, if you find yourself in Chiang Mai on a Thursday head over to The Edge for a beautiful scene and some funky music to enjoy a beer to – sorted!
Thursday’s jamming session set us up beautifully for what Friday had to offer at Chiang Mai’s world-famous jazz bar: North Gate. Awesome music, good beer and a relaxed atmosphere. This place has got you covered after a day of exploring the sites. Just watch and you’ll see why.
No more words needed!
#1: The Elephants
This was easily the most memorable day that I had in Chiang Mai. We woke up super early and got collected by a taxi. We travelled north to the Hug Elephant Sanctuary to spend half a day with the gentle giants: ELEPHANTS!
We had the chance to feed them, follow them on a walk through the jungle and then finished off our time with them by giving them a mud bath… although, I’m pretty sure that I got muddier than they did!
The day that we had chosen to visit the sanctuary was really quiet and we were just with two other people. This made experience really quite amazing and we got to spend lots of time with the elephants without being bombarded by other tourists. The guys who worked there were more than happy and willing to take loads of pictures for us and allowed us to get up close with the elephants too.
Once we’d said goodbye to the elephants we were taken to the waterfall. I couldn’t wait to dive in and go for a swim. Just a word of warning though, because when the locals say that the current is strong… they mean it. Thanks to our tour guide, I lived to tell the tale.
We were then taken back to the main camp to enjoy a large feast for two of rice, noodles, sweet and sour and curry which filled us up for our ride home.
All of this was included in the price of 1,700 THB, including our taxi to and from the camp. Such a good day and I would highly recommend Hug Elephant Sanctuary for an amazing experience with Elephants.
If you are looking to book then contact them through their website and they will reply with the PayPal details… we were really confused because we didn’t get any confirmation but they confirmed with our Airbnb instead so no need to panic about your payment being lost.
If that isn’t enough for you then you can also check out the many Wats that are scattered around Chiang Mai. They were each absolutely stunning in their own way but these were some of my favourites:
Wat Chiang Mun
Wat Pra Sing
Wat Lok Moli
Those were the five ways that I fell in love with Chiang Mai, with an added bonus too. Let me know in the comments if Chiang Mai captured your heart in the same way or if you found something different to fall in love with.
If you know someone who is heading to Chiang Mai and would find this helpful please share!