Wandering Around Chiang Mai, Thailand

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This post is part of a larger trip report from my 17 day trip to Thailand (Krabi, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Bangkok) and Hong Kong!

  1. Using Miles to Book Flights on American Airlines Home from Hong Kong
  2. Using Miles to Book Flights on Continental to Thailand
  3. Sheraton Krabi Beach Resort Review
  4. Thailand Beaches Day 1: Phi Phi Excursion
  5. Thailand Beaches Day 2 & 4: Railey Beach
  6. Thailand Beaches Day 3: Hong Island
  7. Massages and Dining in Ao Nang, Krabi
  8. Northern Thailand – First Stop Chiang Mai
  9. Three Day Trek and the Golden Triangle Day 1
  10. Three Day Trek and the Golden Triangle: Day 2
  11. Three Day Trek and the Golden Triangle: Day 3
  12. Spending New Years Eve in Chiang Mai
  13. Wandering Around Chiang Mai
  14. Le Meridien Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai Hotel Review
  15. Aloft Bangkok Hotel Review
  16. Temples, Activities, and Dining in Bangkok
  17. Renaissance Hong Kong Harbour View Hotel Review
  18. Things to do in Hong Kong
  19. A Day in Macau
After our Trek around the Golden Triangle (which included: Tiger Temple, Temple Caves, Karan Village, Elephant Ride through Karan Village, The Golden Triangle Buddah, Long Neck Tribes, Chiang Rai, Burma Border, House of Opium, Laos, White Temple) we spent the next three days in Chiang Mai. Many of the activities that we did along the three day trek can be done as day excursions from Chiang Mai, but since we had the time, I enjoyed splitting it up the way we did. So if you are on a time crunch, keep in mind that there are many daily excursions in the Northern area, you just need to pick and chose what you see/do not see.
Chiang Mai Day 1: Patara Elephant Farm
This was by far our favorite day of the entire trip. We woke up early to spend the day at Patara Elephant Farm where you own an elephant for the day. There are many elephant farms near Chiang Mai, but we chose Patara based on a recommendation from a friend and the amazing reviews on trip advisor. While Patara is one of the more expensive “own an elephant for a day” places, it was more than worth it! I’ve spoken to others who went to places where it was two people to an elephant and they still had a great time, so if you are more on a budget, there are other places to go for a great experience as well.
My elephant, Lucky, was a 6-year old female and had so much personality. In the morning we bathed our elephants and checked their health. Afterwards we rode our elephant bareback to a waterfall where we ate lunch. I held on for dear life, but it really was so much fun! The best part was then playing in the waterfall with the elephant. I could probably go on and on about this day, but words really cannot describe! I truly believe that Patara takes great care of their elephants – I know that is a concern of many when visiting elephant farms.
Patara does fill up quickly, so if you know your plans in advance I suggest reaching out to them early (or whatever company you decide to go with). You do not pay until the day you arrive which is nice just in case travel plans change. We went over the Christmas/New Years holiday and when we reached out 2-3 months in advance there were only two days we could select from that worked with our schedule.
Chiang Mai Day 2: Full Day Cooking Class
Our 2nd day in Chiang Mai was spent at an almost full day cooking class. There are MANY different cooking classes within and outside of Chiang Mai, but again, we went with a friends recommendation and selected A Lot of Thai. The instructor, Yui, runs the cooking school out of her home and no more than 10 people in each class, which I liked. They live right on the outskirts of the city and her husband will come to your hotel to pick you up and drop you off.
The day consisted of 6 courses where everyone made each course and a mid-day trip to a local market. The local market visit was cool as it was real life and not made for tourists. Yui showed us some different items and we got to taste some different Thai produce. The bubble tea is also not to be missed! She offers a half day version of the cooking school as well, but I highly suggest the full day, assuming you have the time! The best part is that the full day was around $50 at most! Just make sure not to eat a big breakfast!
Chiang Mai 3: Wandering Around Chiang Mai
At this point we were extremely tired and happy to have this day to relax a bit and just get ourselves lost in the city. It was nice to have a sorta “free day”, although if we were pressed for time and had to cut this day out it would have been totally fine. Although we saw some of the temples on the first day we were here (prior to our trek), we walked along the river and along the outskirts. We found ourselves in places that had more of a local feel and not catered towards tourists, which we liked!
Recommended Restaurants in Chiang Mai
Prior to our trip we were able to receive some great restaurant recommendations from a family friend who visits Thailand at least once or twice a year and now has many Thai friends. One of the best, more local places we went to in Chiang Mai is called “Just Khao Soi”. They specialize in Northern Thailand food, specifically the curry noodle dish called Khao Soi (clearly where they get the restaurant name from!). The address is 108/2 Charoen Prathet Rd., around the corner from the Night Market street called Chang Klan, and it is near the Chedi hotel. Highly, highly recommend! It is definitely foreigner friendly, but more local food and atmosphere, which I loved!
Aside from that, I suggest not eating at American restaurants in Chiang Mai. We did that once for lunch and they were horrible, but that was just my experience from one place!
Overall, I highly recommend a visit to Chiang Mai!

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  1. I loved Chiang Mai when I was there two years ago. Such an easy city to walk around in and felt completely safe the entire time.

  2. Just booked 17 days there in May, can’t wait, didn’t even consider the Elephant farms, but now it is a must. Thanks for the information.

  3. What a coincidence, I only just started reading your blog about a month ago and I am in the middle of planning a trip to Sri Lanka/ India follwed by Bangkok and Chiang Mai. Thailand is the only part we are doing on our own and have left to plan so please post the rest of the series soon! I am anxious to hear about your hotel reviews as that is the next thing to cross of my Chiang Mai planning list.

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