Covered or mentioned in this post:
Shopping, evening and Sunday markets, Central Festival shopping mall, Boy Blues Bar, ladyboy show, Panmai cafe, Huay Tung Tao lake, Terracotta Garden, Wat Ket Karet and museum, Mae Rim, Mon Cham, Tiger Kingdom, The Tea House, silver jewellery shopping, Doi Suthep, Wat Phalat, Bhubing Palace gardens, 3D, Chiang Dao, Caves, Chiang Dao Nest, Tweechol Gardens, Nimmanhaemin Road and local markets.
We have enjoyed the company of some friends from Canberra for ten days, which is one of the reasons the blog has been quieter the last few weeks. I thought I would share with you the list of attractions I put together to show them outside the things they organised and did separately. My list gives you an idea of the range of sights you could enjoy when visiting Chiang Mai, some of which are different from the popular to-do’s you will see on various travel sites.
This list is biased towards those visitors hiring a car and getting out of the central city environment however most places are doable using public transport or taxi/tuk tuk.
Firstly I can recommend coming to Thailand this time of year. The rain is mostly over, although we had very little this year, and the days are often sunny and clear. The temperatures are cooling down and the nights in particular are starting to be very pleasant. The mornings have that slightly crisp feel to them before the sun gets going. Lovely.
Now most of the things on my “visitors’ list” have already been covered previously but this post brings them all together with links back to the original posts.
On the market shopping front both the Chang Khlan Road evening markets and the Sunday markets in the Old Town are both worth a wander. Unsurprisingly the markets are tourist orientated with many of the goods coming out of China but you will find some gems in between. I don’t mean to dismiss the commercial offerings. I am typing this blog wearing my Billabong shorts, Polo shirt and elsewhere an item by Ralph Lauren – total cost around $18.00!
If “designer” clothes, belts and watches are on your list of must haves then the evening markets are the place to go. The Sunday walking street markets are more “crafty” although that is a pretty optimistic label. Both places offer all the Thai souvenirs – wooden things, hand carved soaps, garish pictures, jewellry, what’s called Pashmir silk coming by camel from China plus essential gifts for the kids like flick knives, knuckle busters and fake guns. Both markets are busy and fun and you will end up with a few take home items I am sure.
The markets on Chang Khlan street start around 5.00 every evening, although not fully set-up until later, at the Thapae Road end and spill into large courtyards on the left as you look at the street with Thapae Road at your back.
The Sunday markets get going around 5.00 but you’ll have to wait until a bit later before all the stores are set up. Start at Thapae Gate and keep on going and going into the Old Town inside the moat. Allow several hours. Heaps of cheap, freshly cooked and delicious street food everywhere.
If you want the real deal in label clothes, phones and everything else then Central Festival is the best place to go on the super highway 11. One of my recent visitors is a professional shopper and she assures me that this is the place to see in Chiang Mai. Bring a well behaved credit card because the prices are not cheap, much the same as you’d pay in Australia.
Previous posts for the evening markets HERE and the Sunday markets HERE. Central Festival hasn’t been covered before as after about 20 minutes in those places I need to have a couple of glasses of wine and a lie down.
Boy Blues Bar and Ladyboy show
If you are exploring the evening markets then make sure you pop into Boy Blues Bar HERE. Boy starts playing around 9.30 pm these days but there is always other live music happening beforehand.
My last visitors didn’t want to see the ladyboy show but if you think that would be a fun thing to do, as I do, then you’ll find useful information under the evening markets link above.
My favourite cafe in Chiang Mai by a large margin is situated in the huge nursery area behind Tesco Lotus on the super highway 11. My visitors were staying at the Grand Napat Hotel, link HERE, which was a success evidently. The hotel was across the road from the markets and we managed to visit the cafe a few times while my friends were here.
Panmai coffee is the best I have had in Chiang Mai. Just make sure you tell the barista lady that you want it “lon muck muck” – or very, very hot. The smoothies are great too if you prefer something cool. The setting is restful, cool and beautiful and the prices very moderate. Highly recommended – well above the overrated Trip Advisor offerings I am sure.
These photos are a bit old now. The surrounding plants have grown a lot since I took these and it is now a green cavern of lush tropical vegetation. I will update shortly. My original post halfway down this post HERE.
For something different I took my friends to Huay Tung Tao lake for lunch on their final full day here. A little way out of the central city the lake sits at the foot of Doi Suthep. It is a Thai oriented place although a Thai/English menu will be offered in some places. Small salas or bamboo huts sit right on the edge of the lake.
The food is freshly cooked and I recommend the grilled fish. A whole fish with some rice , enough for 2 people costs around 200 THB or $7.00. A large beer will cost $2.20. Entry is 20 THB a person and once you pass through the two ticket places and reach a T junction turn left and almost immediately right – it is almost a straight ahead at the intersection. The huts at this point are in the shade in the afternoon, which makes them a cooler option.
Entry is free after 5.00 pm but food and drinks stop being served at 6.00. Huay Tung Tao lake was covered HERE previously.
We combined this visit with Wat Ket Karet and the lake for an afternoon’s mix of sights. The Terracotta Garden is situated inside the Old Town and is a pleasant and different way of spending a little time. Filled with terracotta statues, pots and reliefs everything is for sale, although not super cheap. A medium sized statue will set you back $700.00 and a smallish pot 4,000 THB or $130.00.
I wrote about the Terracotta Garden HERE.
Wat Ket Karet and museum
Wats or temples weren’t high on my visitors list so I only had a couple on my list for them. I took them to Ket Karet because it is outside the Old Town, where most tourists have their Wat experience and has an interesting museum attached, which makes it a two for one experience. If you want a Buddhist monk blessing there is often a monk handy who will do this for a small donation.
Make sure you see the museum on the right of the Wat.
A drive in the countryside
If you just stick to the developed area of Chiang Mai you are missing out on so much of the natural and scenic beauty of this part of Thailand. It requires a car so I understand why people with limited time and budget don’t do it. It isn’t on everyone’s list of things to do in Thailand anyway. This drive was ticked off as a to-do by my friends so it appears on the list.
Mae Rim is on the edge of the city as you drive North on Route 107. Turn off the main road through this area and you head into the hills and away from the tourist attractions that sit in the lower parts. The road is a loop and takes a couple of hours with a lunch stop along the way. My original post is HERE.
We stopped at a weird place called the Beer House. It is actually an old lady’s home but she seems to open it up for people to look through. No beer available that I saw.
The eating places at the the top of the hills in a place called Mon Cham is worth a stop off. Not mainstream Trip Advisor but covered HERE. The food is Thai only, double what you’d pay normally but the view is what it’s all about.
Coming back you may encounter a different type of traffic as we did.
My previous post on this trip recommended you see the tigers at Tiger Kingdom as part of this circuit – I’ll give you the link again HERE although it is above as well. I tell you how to do this for free. Two of my visitors wanted to get photos with the baby tigers, which you pay for, while we watched from the cafe while other tourists going through the photo session with the big animals.
Lunch and silver jewellery shopping
My friend Julie was keen to look at some silver jewellery and I had been down this path looking for a present to give Gaun, my wife, for her last birthday. I decided to combine this with an excellent lunch and we headed to Thapae Road. This is one of THE tourist spots in Chiang Mai. Full of shops, tour companies and cafes it is worth spending some time here if that’s your thing.
For lunch make sure you escape the constant traffic noise and heat of the road itself and plunge into another peaceful, quiet and yummie food world inside the Tea House, about halfway down the street on the right as you face Thapae Gate.
More photos of the Tea House can be found in Gaun’s Birthday post HERE. It’s well down in the post.
There are a number of silver shops on this street. Two of the better ones and most reasonably priced are almost at Thapae Gate close to Dental 4U, a popular stop-off for many farang. One is immediately to the left in this photo.
The other one is a few shops up on the right of this shot. I will get there to take a photo and publish it shortly. The first one has the widest range of jewellery including some gold, while the other one is a lot cheaper, around the 900 – 1,300 THB or A$30 – $45, with a more limited range of simple modern items. Both well worth a visit.
I won’t cover it here but my Canberra mate had five amalgam fillings replaced with white composite and a couple of other dental things done for a total coat of $500. Each filling was costing him about this in Canberra. Let me know if you want more information by leaving a comment.
Doi Suthep and Bhubing Palace.
No trip to Chiang Mai would be complete without a trip up the hill at the back of the city called Doi Suthep. Most people do it to see a famous Wat there called Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, which I wrote about HERE.
I wanted to show my friends a couple of things away from the main crowds and I’m not a big fan of this temple anyway. We stopped off at a jungle temple called Wat Phalat. I had been here before HERE but it was during the dry season and the falls weren’t in action. I was hoping to see something more spectacular this time. The Wat also has a lovely glimpse of Chiang Mai, which surprises people and is a little unusual so worth the stop off.
Bhubing Palace gardens was the next stop almost at the top of the hill. This is a favourite for me but many of the flowers weren’t at their best this time. The orchids however were splendid.
3D Chiang Mai
This was on my list as I knew my friends would enjoy the experience. It’s not for everyone. If you have lost the ability to be childish for a while move on. I didn’t have to accompany them on this expedition so don’t have up to date photos. Allow a couple of hours. Great for either a very hot day, they have good air cond, or a wet day or both. Covered in detail HERE.
Chiang Dao, caves and lunch.
My friend Phillip wanted to see some Thai caves and I knew this area had a great place for lunch so it made it on my list.
Chiang Dao is a recent discovery for me and I wrote about it HERE. We spent a day and night there exploring the area and loved it. An hour and a half from central Chiang Mai on the 107 this is an easy day trip.
The caves were explored by Phillip who took the unlit cave tour, where you hire a guide with a gas lamp, and really enjoyed it. 100 THB or A$3.50 for the tour and a 100 THB tip at the end if you make it. No need to tip if you don’t.
Lunch at Chiang Dao Nest 1 was as good as the first time we went there. Set in lush natural and peaceful surroundings this is a wonderful escape from life. Highly recommended.
Our visitors chickened out on the 500 steps to this jungle Wat but it is there to be done and I think it’s worthwhile as long as it isn’t too hot.
Things we didn’t do
Time and energy levels prevented us completing my list. For the record some of the remaining activities included Tweechol Botanical gardens, a great bike ride in beautifully maintained gardens and waterways. Covered in this post HERE.
Make sure you visit some real Thai food shopping markets. They always have something yummy being cooked and it is interesting to see another “real” side of life here. I wrote about one of our local markets HERE.
Enough already. Maybe if you are planning to spend time in Chiang Mai this list, which has just been visitor tested!, will be useful.
Thanks for reading.