We fell in love with Chiang Mai instantly the first time we went to Thailand and we hope this post will show you why it’s a must visit! There’s so much to do and it’s a huge city full of life but it somehow manages to be totally chill at the same time.
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What to do:
Visit an Elephant Sanctuary – Being animal lovers, we had to go and see these majestic animals in a safe, loving environment. You get to bathe, feed, give medicine and care for the elephants in one visit and we both cried at how cute they were, especially the baby elephant, Mr. Tongs. We went to Bamboo Elephant Sanctuary where there was absolutely no cruelty present, just these big softies being free to roam and play. If you haven’t visited an Elephant Sanctuary and seen elephants up close, we cannot recommend it enough! We did a full day tour that included a Jungle Trek, White Water Rafting and the Elephant Sanctuary all together which cost us around 2000 baht per person but the price may be a little higher as we got a discount due to us being a group of 4. It was worth every penny though and we can’t put into words how much you’ll love it!
See a Thai Boxing Match – There’s a huge Thai Boxing arena situated near the centre of Chiang Mai which also happens to be surrounded by bars and restaurants. The boxing matches run every night and let us tell you they are absolutely brutal! These men really put themselves through it to entertain the mix of locals and tourists alike. There’s a great atmosphere during the buildup of the match and you’re encouraged to cheer on your favourite fighter at every opportunity (we always favour the underdog who happened to be a very little guy who packed a mean kick). You pay for your seat around the arena in tips and it’s how the fighters get paid so it’s worth giving a tip!
Do a Jungle Trek – So, as mentioned above, we did a full day tour which included the Elephant Sanctuary, Jungle Trek and White Water Rafting. The day started at 7am and ended at roughly 8pm by the time we got back, so it was a pretty intense day! The Jungle Trek was incredible, taking you through Jurassic Park style jungles and to some picturesque waterfalls. We did see some snakes which looked very much like tree branches (be careful you don’t step on them or be prepared to face their wrath) and got eaten alive by mosquitoes so bring some balm/spray to keep the bugs away! On the note of balms and spray, there’s an incredible Thai branded mosquito balm, which unfortunately we don’t know the name of as we can’t speak Thai (one day though!) but it just has a little mosquito on the logo and is a green balm in a small pot which happens to be sold pretty much everywhere, only costs 50 baht and works like a charm. We also recommend wearing appropriate footwear as a woman on our trek ended up breaking a toe because she wore sliders (silly choice)! There are lots of rickety looking huts where people live in the jungle which provide nice stops to catch some shade and refuel.
Go White Water Rafting – This was one of the most exhilarating experiences of our lives and we were certain at one point that we weren’t going to make it out alive! Our rafting leader was incredible, spoke perfect English and encouraged us to have fun at every twist and turn. You will get absolutely soaked but that is half the appeal and feels very refreshing with the Thai sun beating down on you. All of your stuff will get put in the back (to avoid getting totally waterlogged) of a jeep that will meet you at the finish line so no worries about damaging anything, plus it’s totally safe in the care of your tour driver. You’re only on the raft for about an hour in total but time really flies when you’re having fun. If you’re a thrill seeker, this is the activity for you, if not, steer well clear!
Get a Massage – There is something about the massages in Chiang Mai that really have an edge on the rest of Thailand, they just do it right here! Calming music, essential oils, good conversation and the perfect amount of pressure; this helps to relax you while they hone in on the tense body parts (our backs were in bits after the excursion the day before). We ended up getting a massage a day while we were in Chiang Mai (over the course of a week) and can honestly say, every massage parlour we went to was fantastic and you can find a huge amount of them near the city centre. And if you’re a guy, a little tip: say no to going upstairs (we’ll let you think about what this means) unless you’re into that!
Get some Ice Cream Rolls – We’re sure you’ve seen these frozen treats all over Instagram and Facebook and have probably been intrigued. The craftsmanship that goes into these is stellar; an ice cold slab of metal that has cream poured all over it, your favourite ingredients and some seriously ninja-like abilities with a couple of scrapers and within a flash you have a delicious, sickly (depending on your choice of toppings) dessert that will leave you in awe. We made the mistake of choosing Oreos, KitKats, chocolate sauce & sprinkles and it was a little too much even for the sweetest tooth.
Relax! – Chiang Mai really is somewhere that we found had a calming vibe but then again, we didn’t drive anywhere (we’ve heard the roads are very chaotic). The people are all very friendly and the entire place doesn’t rush you in any way. Everyone here seems to take life at their own pace and we suggest you do the same in this wonderful city!
How Much Does it Cost?
Chiang Mai is a LOT cheaper than Bangkok from our experience. We felt that we could splash out a little bit more and not feel so guilty about it. Even the full day tours that you can go on in Chiang Mai aren’t pricey. The beauty of pretty much everything in South-East Asia (as we’ve mentioned before and will continue to do so) is that most things can be haggled, never take the first price you’re offered!
How to Get There
The easiest and cheapest way (provided you’re coming from Bangkok) is on a night bus. It takes around 9-12 hours and it’s actually really comfortable. Bring snacks though as you only stop once or twice on the way up to Chiang Mai and the food at the stops is really quite expensive. The bus tickets cost us 800 baht each but we went all the way to Pai for that money so you could potentially get it cheaper. You can fly into Chiang Mai too but we wouldn’t recommend, it’s a lot more expensive and takes away half the fun and experience of the night busses!
Thanks so much for taking the time to read this post and we hope you enjoyed it! We will be posting on Wednesdays and Sundays (we’re aiming to do more posts when possible) so give us a follow here (and our other socials below) if you’d like to see more of our content.
And while you’re still here, why not keep it in Thailand and check out our post on Pai?
Stay Safe & Much Love,
Matt & Mik
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