Travel

Chiang Mai Ultimate Guide – All You Need to Know for Your Trip to Northern Thailand

4. July 2019

Chiang Mai Ultimate Guide All You Need to Know for Your Trip to Northern Thailand Chairs

Chiang Mai has become Thailand’s unofficial capital of coffee, Yogis, hipsters and a laid-back life. This city in the North will make you fall in love with Thailand. I think it is probably what Bangkok used to look like 20 years ago – just with many more cool bars, restaurants and cafés. If you plan a trip to Southeast Asia, I definitely recommend to spend a few days there.

Facts about Chiang Mai

Best Time to Visit
Chiang Mai Ultimate Guide All You Need to Know for Your Trip to Northern Thailand Location

The best way to explore the Old Town is on foot. There are so many beautiful buildings and sights you will pass by.

Thailand knows two seasons: hot and hotter. The hottest period is between April and June (with temperature reaching up to 40 degrees Celcius), the rainy season lasts from May until October. Therefore, the best time to visit Chiangmai is between November and March. I recommend to pack some scarves or jumpers for inside as air-conditioning turns most places into ice boxes.

Chiang Mai Ultimate Guide All You Need to Know for Your Trip to Northern Thailand One Nimman Mall Motorcycles

Motorcycles in front of One Nimman

I would recommend to spend about three days in Chiangmai.

Language

The local language is Thai with its own script. However, in Bangkok it is usually not a problem to get around with English. Most of the street signs are also translated into English script.

Chiang Mai Ultimate Guide All You Need to Know for Your Trip to Northern Thailand White Mansion

A beautiful mansion on our way to Akha Ama La Fattoria

Currency, ATMs and Payment Ways

Thailand’s currency is the Thai Baht (THB), with an exchange rate of 30 BHT per 1 EUR / 34 BHT per 1 USD. ATMs are very common in the busy areas (stick to the ones by the big local banks such as Siam Commercial Bank, Krungsri Bank or Kasikorn Bank). Credit cards are widely accepted in restaurants and malls but carry some cash with you for smaller places (very often there is a mininum charge of BHT 300-500 for credit cards). Taxis do not have any credit card options.

Getting around
Chiang Mai Ultimate Guide All You Need to Know for Your Trip to Northern Thailand Wat Phra Singh

Wat Phra Singh – one of Chiang Mai’s main attractions

Public transport is very limited in Chiangmai. There are plenty of taxis which can be flagged down at the street. Make sure to ask the taxi driver to turn on the meter. Alternatively, download the Grab mobile app – the local Uber app. Uber does not work in Thailand.

A popular alternative is the Songthaew (also called Road-Daeng, Red Taxi or Red Truck). These are red trucks with two rows (= song thaew) with fixed routes through the city. For about BHT 30 (EUR 0.90, USD 1), you can hop on and hop off along its route.

During my trip, I walked most of the time when I explored the Old City. (The weather was not too hot.)

Chiang Mai Ultimate Guide All You Need to Know for Your Trip to Northern Thailand Wat Chedi Luang Black Mansion

Old and new – a fairly modern building opposite of the structures which are more than 700 years old at Wat Chedi Luang

Water and Street Food

Do not drink the tap water, carry some bottled water with you. Also be careful with food from street stands and always listen to your body. Very often, our bodies are not used to the way of cooking, hygiene standards or ingredients when we travel to a foreign country, especially with hot climates.

Chiang Mai Ultimate Guide All You Need to Know for Your Trip to Northern Thailand Buildings Old Town

Sometimes it does not feel like being in Thailand at all.

Etiquette Essentials

Most importantly, wear appropriate clothing when visiting temples and other sights. This means covering your knees and shoulders. You will not be allowed to enter without being covered but the bigger temples usually have covers available to borrow against a deposit which you will get back later.

Thais do not shake hands. When you greet with “Sawasdee kha” or say thank you “Kop khun kha” put your hands together as if you are praying.

Chiang Mai Ultimate Guide All You Need to Know for Your Trip to Northern Thailand Reading Newspaper

Morning routine

In general, there is no tip in Thailand. However, I always check if there is a service charge included. If not, I leave a tip (10%) equivalent of what would have been the service charge if I was satisfied with the service. I also leave tips at smaller places even if they have a service charge because I want to support the staff.

Visit…

Temples

I recommend to explore the Old Town of Chiang Mai. There are temples in almost every street.

Chiang Mai Ultimate Guide All You Need to Know for Your Trip to Northern Thailand Hidden Temple

The bamboo bridge leading to the hidden monastery at Wat Ched Lin

My favourite was the “Hidden Temple” called Wat Ched Lin. We discovered it by accident because we asked a local for directions and he pointed out that this temple is very special. It has a bamboo bridge leading to the monastery.

Chiang Mai Ultimate Guide All You Need to Know for Your Trip to Northern Thailand Hidden Temple Wat Ched Lin

Wat Ched Lin was my favourite discovery.

One of the main temples is Wat Chedi Luang which dates back to the 14th century. I really liked to see the old, yet intricate structures and sculptures.

Chiang Mai Ultimate Guide All You Need to Know for Your Trip to Northern Thailand Wat Chedi Luang

More than 700 years of history at Wat Chedi Luang

Wat Phra Singh has an impressive gold pagoda and a beautiful park.

Chiang Mai Ultimate Guide All You Need to Know for Your Trip to Northern Thailand Wat Phra Singh Park

The beautiful park at Wat Phra Singh

MAIIAM Contemporary Art Museum

This contemporary art museum is a must. The founders Jean Michel Beurdeley and his late wife Patsri Bunnag, together with their son Eric Bunnag Booth, wanted to share the private collection they built together over 30 years. Apart from an interesting collection, I found the name quite interesting: MAIIAM is a play on words: “Mai” in Chiang Mai means “new city”. The second part is a tribute to Eric Bunnag Booth’s great grand aunt “Chao Chom Iam”, a royal consort to King Rama V, who lived during a time when Thailand came into modernity. Together MAI IAM means “brand new”. (122, Moo 7 Tonpao Amphoe San Kamphaeng)

Chiang Mai Ultimate Guide All You Need to Know for Your Trip to Northern Thailand Street Art

Street Art near Nimmanahaeminda Road

Shop at…

One Nimman

This beautiful building is home to many small boutiques with really nice products from the region in and around Chiang Mai. Avoid the department store starting on the first floor – it is a maze without exits and average branded products. (Nimmanahaeminda Road)

Chiang Mai Ultimate Guide All You Need to Know for Your Trip to Northern Thailand One Nimman Mall

One Nimman is a beautifully renovated building hosting many small boutiques.

The area around Nimmanahaeminda Road and the Old Town itself offer great finds – from pottery, to jewellery, fashion and accessories. Even if you are looking for furniture, you can find it in Chiang Mai.

Chiang Mai Ultimate Guide All You Need to Know for Your Trip to Northern Thailand Nimmanahaeminda Road Ristr8to

Ristr8to at Nimmanahaeminda Road is always busy. The area around Nimmana is great for shopping as well.

Studio Naenna is an organisation empowering local female artisans. The main location is a bit outside of Chiangmai in a beautiful house. You can not only shop for handmade scarves, accessories and apparel but also experience how the products are made. Right in front of the house there are indigo trees, you can watch the women hand dye the fabrics and sew them. (138/8 Soi Chang Khian, Huay Keow Road)

Chiang Mai Ultimate Guide All You Need to Know for Your Trip to Northern Thailand Studio Naenna

Handmade and hand-dyed silk scarves at Studio Naenna

Eat at…

Treat yourself with a fancy dinner at David’s Kitchen. David, the owner, welcomes each guest in person. The food is Western – it reminded me of family dinners at fancy restaurants in my childhood. Especially the chocolate mousse based on a recipe of David’s aunt took me back to the nineties. (113 Bamrungrad Road)

Chiang Mai Ultimate Guide All You Need to Know for Your Trip to Northern Thailand Khao Soi

Kao Soy is a kind of curry with deep fried and boiled noodles – and usually chicken (but we ate the vegetarian version here). When in Chiang Mai you have to try it.

Kanjana Kao Soy is an open air place which is really simple but the Kao Soy is one of the best in town. (7/1 Rachadamnoen Rd Soi 5)

Chiang Mai Ultimate Guide All You Need to Know for Your Trip to Northern Thailand Khao Soi Restaurant

Best place for Kao Soy (this is also were I took the picture above)

Kao Soy Nimman is nice for a quick Kao Soy lunch when you need a break from shopping at Nimmanhaeminda Road. (Even though the Kao Soy cannot beat Kanjana’s. (22 Nimmana Haeminda Rd Lane 7)

Chiang Mai Ultimate Guide All You Need to Know for Your Trip to Northern Thailand Banana Blossom Salad

Crispy banana flower salad at Anchan Vegetarian

If you need a restaurant to convince you that it is possible to have a delicious vegetarian-only meal, head to Anchan Vegetarian. Their food is so tasty, I am sure it will convince even the biggest meat lovers. The cashew fried rice was delicious. So was the crispy banana flower salad. (Nimmanhaeminda Road, Soi Hillside 2 (opposite soi 13))

Chiang Mai Ultimate Guide All You Need to Know for Your Trip to Northern Thailand Gate

Gate outside of Phor Liang Meun Terracotta Arts Hotel

Overstand serves very nice breakfast – their special of sourdough bread with olive tapenade, tomatoes and egg was delicious. The layered muesli was also nice – ask for no juice on top though. (19/3 Ratchamanka Soi 2)

Coffee at…

Chiang Mai Ultimate Guide All You Need to Know for Your Trip to Northern Thailand Ristr8to Photo Fail

Photo fail at Ristr8to – the coffee was good though

Ristr8to was the best place coffee-wise. As it has become really popular, the place gets very busy. They also serve their signature coffee in glass skulls. I liked that their coffee was strong and that they had options such as piccolo lattes and cortados. A must visit. (15/3 Nimmanahaeminda Road)

Chiang Mai Ultimate Guide All You Need to Know for Your Trip to Northern Thailand Lane

Explore the small lanes around Graph Café

Graph Café in the Old Town is a really cute place. Coffee is delicious and they only have three tables. The area around it is lovely with landed houses and small lanes. (25/1 Rajvithi Lane 1)

Chiang Mai Ultimate Guide All You Need to Know for Your Trip to Northern Thailand Graph Cafe

The place is tiny, but Graph is really cute and serves delicious coffee.

Akha Ama La Fattoria is perfect for iced coffee lovers and for a break in between the temple hopping. Definitely try their oatmeal cookies. I am not a big fan of American-style cookies but these ones are delish! (175/1 Rachadamnoen Road)

Chiang Mai Ultimate Guide All You Need to Know for Your Trip to Northern Thailand Akha Ama Coffee

Akha Ama La Fattoria is perfect for a break in between the temple hopping

Drinks at…

As it was directly next to the hotel, we enjoyed a drink at The Faces. The interior was really lovely and it is a great place to chill out. (33 Soi 2 Prapoklao Road)

Chiang Mai Ultimate Guide All You Need to Know for Your Trip to Northern Thailand Faces

Decor at The Faces

Stay at…

Chiang Mai Ultimate Guide All You Need to Know for Your Trip to Northern Thailand Phor Liang Meun Terracotta Arts Hotel

Entrance to the hotel lobby (Picture credit Ankita Sodhia)

Phor Liang Meun Terracotta Arts Hotel is a fairly new boutique hotel conveniently located in the Old City. I really liked the area around the hotel: right outside there was a typical Thai street market. On the other side, there was a beautiful residential area. The hotel has a beautiful pool and the terracotta feel was just really dreamy.

Chiang Mai Ultimate Guide All You Need to Know for Your Trip to Northern Thailand Street Market

A typical Thai street market right outside of the hotel

I booked directly via the hotel and the rate included the airport transfer as well. (36 Prasing Soi 2 Phrapokklao Road)

How to Get There

There are flights from Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang airports at almost every hour. Chiang Mai has an international airport. Therefore, you can also fly directly into Northern Thailand. Alternatively, the night train from Bangkok to Chiangmai is also popular among tourists. However, considering that air fares are very affordable, I recommend flying over the train as it saves you time.

Chiang Mai Ultimate Guide All You Need to Know for Your Trip to Northern Thailand Wat Sie Koet

More about Thailand

Top 20 Things to Do in Bangkok
Bangkok Glass Skywalk
Jim Thompson House
Bangkok Street Art
Best Coffee Places in Thong Lo and Ekkamai
Bangkok Suvarnabhumi International Airport Guide
Chocolate Making Class at Chocolab

Streifen Website

All information as of the date of publishing/updating. We cannot accept responsibility for the correctness or completeness of the data, or for ensuring that it is up to date. All recommendations are based on the personal experience of Elisabeth Steiger, no fees were received by the recommended places above.

Chiang Mai Ultimate Guide All You Need to Know for Your Trip to Northern Thailand Spirit House

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8 Comments

  • Reply Ankita Sodhia 5. July 2019 at 4:47

    Let’s go back! These photos are amazing!

    • Reply Liz 9. July 2019 at 12:01

      Yes please!! There are so many things we need to try or re-visit. I want some coffee 😉

  • Reply Sara 5. July 2019 at 6:50

    Great Information about Chiang Mai . I really think I need to come back. So much that I missed ❣️

    • Reply Liz 9. July 2019 at 12:01

      Thank you so much! I also think I haven’t seen enough. It’s definitely a place I want to visit again and see more.

  • Reply Marya 13. July 2019 at 11:37

    Thank you for this, so glad that I’ve come across your post on Chiang Mai. I’m planning to do a month trip to Vietnam-Cambodia-Laos-Northern Thailand as I’m aiming to stop by the Golden Triangle in the border of Thailand-Laos-Myanmar. I also heard a lot of things about Chiang Mai while I have some old friends living there. Thanks for the tips! 😀

    • Reply Liz 21. July 2019 at 20:24

      That’s great, it sounds like an amazing trip and I’m happy I could contribute to it 🙂

  • Reply Carly 14. July 2019 at 3:49

    I loved my time in Chang Mai a few years ago and this is a great post with lots of helpful info.

    • Reply Liz 21. July 2019 at 20:24

      Thank you so much! Happy to read that from someone who has visited Chiang Mai already.

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