Thailand’s second city after Bangkok, Chiang Mai is a tourist’s heaven. With an international airport and an increase in direct flights, the city is easier to get to than before. At the heart of Chiang Mai lies the Old City, one square mile in size and fortified with a perimeter wall and moat to protect the city from threatening countries 700 years ago. As you enter from one of the original gate entrances, the old city is filled with gleaming Buddhist temples, cool cafes and cosy resturants serving great food. We were there in Chiang Mai during the annual Flower Festival.
WHERE TO STAY
We decided to stay a little bit away from the bustle of soi 6, a street full of bars, massage parlours and restaurants, in soi 9 in the old city at the Kavil 2 Guesthouse. The rooms are basic, but the beds are comfortable and there is a choice of fan rooms and air conditioned ones. The bathrooms aren’t the cleanest we found, but for a couple nights, and the quiet location gives you a good night’s sleep. The neighbourhood is one of the nicest areas in Chiang Mai’s Old City, the backstreets are lined with cool cafes and great resturants. A really chilled out area, an ideal escape from the hustle and bustle of the city.
WHAT TO SEE
Chiang Mai has many temples to visit, cooking schools and museums. We visited Wat Phra Singh, a beautifully restored 14th century temple with impressive buildings and structures.
The Chiang Mai Flower Festival was one the reasons we came to the city, this was a 3 day event during the first weekend of February. It began with a colourful parade from Narawat Bridge working it’s way through to the Old City eventually ending at Buak Hard Park where you could see the parade floats up close. The park was filled with orchids, tulips and an interesting cabbage wall.
WHERE TO EAT
You won’t go hungry in Chiang Mai and no matter what you fancy eating, you will find somewhere serving it. We found a lot of vegetarian options here and a number of healthy eating resturants. The restaurant attached to Kavil 2 has a great breakfast, as does Nice Kitchen on Soi 6. Lucky Too has great Thai and western foods with a good atmosphere, also on soi 6. You will find plenty of fresh juice bars too, one of our favourites is Khun Kae’s Juice & Smoothie Bar – fresh, healthy smoothies from only 40 baht.
Outside of the city walls, there is a huge night market where you can wander around until something catches your eye and eat with views of the river. It is located further down from the Meridian Hotel on Chang Klan Road. A great spot for a laid back drink or coffee go to Tambon Chang Moi, the riverside road after crossing the Narawat Bridge.
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- Chiang Mai surprised us when we discovered the quiet backstreets, tucked away between Moon Muang Rd Lanes 5 to 9 (North East corner of the Old City). This is a really cool, arty neighbourhood we would recommend staying here as the streets are quieter but close enough to walk to see the sights.
- We would advise against riding elephants at the elephant sanctuaries in Chiang Mai (and anywhere else in Thailand if you see rides being offered). There is a growing group of non-profit, eco-tourism charity organisations in Thailand providing a great alternative of seeing elephants. We visited one in Pai, which will cover in our next post.
- Wear appropriate clothing when visiting temples, covering legs and bare shoulders.
- As mentioned in our previous post, please be respectful during the year of mourning for the late king.