Don’t get me wrong, I usually adore quiet places, of course the cooler temp and especially the city has vast food options… and then of course maybe influenced by tons of positive blogs I’ve read before coming to Chiang Mai, so I definitely included CM then to the list – only that maybe it’s just me that I didn’t feel the real kick, the instant astounding surprise that when I first saw it I would be like, gobsmacked and say “OMG, yes!!! This is where I wanna be!” But of course it’s pretty, compared to Bangkok, oh helluva yes it’s not even fair a comparison to Bangkok. But like one that I have read, Chiang Mai lacked an edge for me personally. That’s why, maybe it’s just me.
For some reason when we arrived I was looking for something that I’d be very surprised, but no I haven’t found it. Or maybe it is also influenced with our route. We arrived in Phuket, had seen the amazing beaches including the lots-of-’em-call-it : “Awful Patong” (no not amazing) then visited the quiet (as in oh my, quiet!) Thung-song at the province of Nakhon then the Nakhon Si Thammarat city centre, after that I went to Bangkok for the first time, then Pattaya (nope will not live there), and have seen the beautiful beaches of Koh Phangan (plus the Full Moon Party 😉 ), Phuket again and fell in love with the awesome viewpoints, then flew to Chiang Mai. So is it because of that, or just because I like the combination of cheap streets foods but also chic restos at times, clean city & supermarkets which also carry western products & easy, cheap transportation options (so of course Chiang Mai qualified for this) & accessible shopping malls (of course this too) but then, I don’t know and a lot will hate me for saying this then : I love Phuket & Krabi than Chiang Mai! And you can imagine how I saved some breathes before I was able to spurt that out finally because 1 out of 100 love CM than Phuket. I mean, there are bad sides of Phuket too that is really awful like the horrible Bangla Road, Patong. The expensive tuktuk rides as most call it “Phuket Tuktuk mafia”. But for me, who don’t like Patong beach there are other options, like Kata beach my favorite. Kata is still crowded during high season but it isn’t as cramped as Patong and the water is great. I will write more about Phuket beaches, like dozens of them. So sadly, for the beach lovers, CM is inland and in fact on the higher altitude which is good because it’s cooler but if you’d dream about the beach then you’d need to fly out.But Chiang Mai got that unique character of course! As I notice, people are more honest. They are more relaxed. I couldn’t remember if I’ve been ripped-off here which happens a lot in Bangkok (and yes more in Phuket too 😀 ) . Its heritage is well-kept. And everything is cheap, from food, accommodations, massage, transpo.
Chiang Mai has a charm that other Thai cities do not have, so it should also be absolutely in your list. Anyway, if you will not really really fall in love with it, then at least you know why because you’ve actually visited it. Here are the places I most recommend :
1. Wat Chedi Luang. Perhaps the most famous amongst their temples in CM. I knew I had to visit this because it’s the number 1 spot in Things-to-do in TripAdvisor. I know I had been to lots of temples already in Thailand but I admired the architecture of Wat Chedi. Historical and different from the contemporary temples if you could call it like that. I mean, it’s different from the others. When you enter the Wat Chedi premises, the usual temple building will greet you:
But the more amazing one is behind it :
It is built on the 14th century when they are still called Kingdom of Lanna (you will notice a lot of Lanna words in Chiang Mai, from massages to restos to streets and will leave you wondering what it means; I really googled what it is, so here I’ll give you the easy way : It’s formerly the Kingdom of Lanna. Then a reclining buddha also on the side of the Wat Chedi and one story of a “ugly fat” monk they call, whom, according to the story (or myth to us), he made himself ugly and fat.
Tip : I really recommend to go at night. You can see the difference when you visit with daylight and on the evening. Aside from lesser Chinese group tourists at night, the beaming lights towards the Wat Chedi makes it magnificent subject for photos that certainly the shutterbugs will be happy about! It’s cooler too at night because Thailand’s humidity and intense heat strikes from 1:00 PM to 5:00 PM before sunset (during high season).
2. Anusarn Night Market. This market is located surrounding Le Meridien, Centara Duangtawan and a bit from Shangri-La so there you can assume why it’s expensive (again, by Thai standards) but still a bargain for those who are earning bucks and holiday-makers 😉
Tip: If you will visit Bangkok anyway, then do the shopping there. Just shop here if you really need it while you are in Chiang Mai. It’s expensive in this market, to Thai standards at least. But again, if you’re gonna visit Bangkok anyway then do your shopping there at Platinum Fashion Mall. Scarves are plentiful in Chiang Mai, and that’s the only item I bought here. The restos here are also the most expensive in the city too. So like us, in which we thought that of course it’s a “market” then the restos surrounding it should be cheap but nonetheless, we enjoyed our food so that’s fine.
3. Gates and moats. You can’t miss this because this is the main area of CM. It’s nice to have a cool leisure walk at the moats in the afternoon.
Tip : We visited CM on the month of March. Noone had told us about the smog problem there before we had booked our tickets. The forums about Thailand say its worse and many issues about it. I don’t know how worse it could be on other days but when we were there the smoke didn’t bother us although you can see the skies is always cloudy. The smoke is caused by the burning of ricefields that farmers do all around the areas of northern Thailand and the neighboring countries within the closest geographical area, to get the ricefields ready for the next planting season. There was actually a flight which was diverted, I’m not sure where now, because of the visibility probs.
Aside from this, March is the hottest season in Chiang Mai although people say this is the coldest city in Thailand. Sadly, we didn’t feel the “coolness” because aside from its their dry season, the burning of ricefields might have added to the temperature. So its uncomfortable roaming around from 2pm to 5pm.
4. Thai Silk shop. We got in here because the Tuktuk driver took us. Having been to Phuket, I’m already cautious about tuktuks who will take you to shops to force you to buy things or sell tours to your face. But maybe we just got lucky we found a very nice Tuktuk driver who only charged us 50 Baht per hour and he took us to all temples, then to a silk shop factory and last was the Silver shop and we just then said we had enough for the day because it’s getting really humid and uncomfortable from the heat of the sun. And he willingly returned us to the street near our hotel where we requested him to drop us to.
So although at first we are hesitant when he said he will take us to the silk shop, we actually enjoyed seeing how the pupa mature and how the ladies weave the silk. We all saw this in our science subject of course, but it’s educational it’s fun!
Tip: You can do this tour (included in our 50 baht per hour tuktuk tour after the temples) if you are tough and good in refusing when after the factory, they will then show you the showroom where products will be offered to your face tirelessly and pushy salesmen will swoon you to talks. I am good in refusing even if they will throw you darn looks afterwards but I don’t care, I won’t buy tourist items especially in tourist prices, and most especially that I wouldn’t need anyway, plus most most especially, I cannot carry in my luggage or the airport officers will just confiscate and throw at the bin.
5. Silver Shop. So after the Thai Silk Village our Tuktuk driver took us here. There is a showroom again convincing you to buy the silver items. There are other affordable items too like a 250 Baht tiny stud earrings but still, I didn’t buy.
6. Ratchadamnoen Sunday Walking Street (Market). This is very popular but if you have been to lots of weekend markets in Thailand, then this is not much of a difference from those. This stretches to Pra Singh Roads.
Tip : If your hotel is outside the gate, you can ask the red cab (20 Baht per trip) to take you to Wat Pra Singh and then start the ‘walking street’ of various products and items and also food too; because the market starts from Wat Pra Singh and ends at the Tha Pae gate.
7. Nimman Road. Again, because upon my research, I have found that the upscale restos and pubs (not the sleazy ones) are on this street, so again I’ve kept my hopes too high. The street really didn’t appear that much to us. Maybe because I expected that there could be something like chic area because the famous Monkey bar is here too. Yes there are many western restos and good bars, but something is missing…
(The shake has already been “shaked”? or shaken?… And note that this is already Starbucks, I just thought companies would proofread international products still 😀 )
But you my dear readers, might have a different experience or it actually depends on what people are looking for a place to impress them. I mean, I am impressed with the charm of Chiang Mai, but I can’t say yet if I will live here long term.
In our case, we had a feel of the city, the malls on the outskirts of the gate, the Universities around, food, hotels, night markets and restaurants hoping to get the gist out of it. If we go back and give it a second chance? Absolutely!
Because we actually enjoyed our stay coming here as holiday-makers, not as long-term residents.
Here we dip in our cold water pool in Centara Duangtawan Hotel, but that’s Le Meridien there, the yellow building.
And get our fav coffee at Cafe de ThaanAoan at Ratchamanka road, which we absolutely recommend! Great staff, good food, and fabulous menu!
Please get yourself too a blueberry cake cup like this in NICE bakery at gate corner Ratchamanka road, it’s gorgeous! :
Of course, the pride of Northern Thailand, the Khao Soi which is a chicken curry-like dish but its a curry soup with crispy noodles on it. We had both the crispy pork spare ribs at Huen Phen restaurant at Ratchamanka road.
Plus like I said, people in Chiang Mai are more honest, and pleasant as far as where we’ve been to. But then, since we didn’t really find the awaited awe, guess where I am back now, of course… Phuket.
Will write about Phuket soon! See yah! 😉