Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai was a pleasant place to acclimate to Thailand for a few days.

Day 1: Bangkok to Chiang Mai

We arrived in Bangkok mid-morning and caught a flight to Chiang Mai that afternoon. We thought Chiang Mai would be an easier transition to Thailand than Bangkok and I think we were right. By the time we arrived the Sunday night walking street was in progress. Our taxi driver had to drop us off at the city gates because the road was closed to vehicles. After dropping off our bags we braved the throngs — and it was PACKED, you could barely move — in search of dinner. We found some excellent khao soi with pork; our hotel had recommended it as a traditional local dish. 

After dinner and soaking in the walking street atmosphere we bought some beer and went back to our hotel. We found the roof terrace a relaxing spot to unwind at the end of night. 

Day 2: Wat Phra Singh, Wat Chedi Luang & Wat Pan Tao

We had breakfast at the hotel. The breakfast menu was brief but had good options. Today we had a traditional omelet and a Thai omelet with rice. You can’t drink the tap water in Thailand and Awana House had the best solution we saw. They gave us two bottles a day but also had a dispenser at the entrance for refilling bottles. 

Our first stop was Wat Phra Singh, a famous local temple. It had beautiful temple buildings and grounds. 

nagas

Below are some of the sights we saw while walking around. We saw a number of tailor shops in Thailand where you can get custom suits in … interesting fabrics. 

We worked our way back to Wat Chedi Luang, which has a sacred ruin, and Wat Phan Tao, built of teak. 

Wat Chedi Luang

We did a little shopping for elephant pants but didn’t buy any. For dinner we headed for pizza at La Fontana. We also exchanged some money. 

Money

Thai ATMs charge fees and Thai visa requirements say each person should have $600 in cash when entering the country. So we brought $1200 in new $100 bills (the preferred version) and exchanged them for That baht as needed. We ended up spending about $1000 in cash during our five weeks in Thailand.

Day 3: Wandering the Old Town

We heading for the North Gate by way of the Three Kings monument.

We passed by a few smaller temples along the way, a school or two, and a lot of mopeds. We had drinks and snacks at the UN Irish pub and dinner and beer at Renegades/UGO along the edge of the old town. 

Day 4: Mae Peng River Cruise

We were ready to get out of town but didn’t want to commit to a full day trip in a bus or van so we went on a Mae Peng river cruise. It was kind of a hike over to the river from the old town but we got to see some more of the city and got some steps in. 

Not that the areas outside the city walls looked that different. All of Chiang Mai looks pretty similar. More expensive hotels show up on city streets alongside less fancy places. 

On our way back we hit one of the street markets to do some shopping and got some elephant pants.

There was a temple right by where the river cruise started that had some of the longest nagas we saw. 

Some the city walls and gates are still standing, and there’s still a moat around the old city. 

We went back to the same place for dinner so I could have another excellent Vocation Kirsch of Death cherry beer with chocolate and chili. We gave Google Translate quite a workout on this trip. The ability to translate via a photo was handy.

beer
Google translate

Day 5: Shopping and Relaxing

We didn’t do much today. Shopped for more elephant pants and got a crossbody bag. We heard monks chatting during our travels. And saw some random cute and pretty things (shown below). We also tried out one of the platform day beds on the rooftop terrace. 

We had lots of time in Chiang Mai to allow for jet lag recovery, a day trip, and perhaps a traditional massage  or a cooking class. We ended up doing none of those things. You could easily do what we did in a couple of days. 

Essentials​

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Lodging

Awana House set a new record low cost for us. It was in a great location near the walking street, restaurants, and temples, yet a quiet area. We had a tiny balcony with our superior queen room but ended up using the really nice covered roof deck. Warm and helpful staff gave us a map and local recommendations. The breakfast options were limited but good value. We ended up eating breakfast there every morning.

hotel room

Dining

We had dinner on the walking street, at La Fontana, Renegades/UGO, and Kat’s Kitchen. They were all good. Renegades/UGO had a nice selection of international and Thai food and a great selection of craft beers. 

Transportation

We flew from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. There were lots of flights available. We went with Thai Airways which was more expensive but we thought we be less potential hassle. We got a taxi to and from the airport and otherwise walked everywhere.