best things to do in chiang mai

Things to do in Chiang Mai – Night Markets and Easy Streets

We arrived in Chiang Mai on the Greenbus X121 service from Chiang Rai.   At 169 THB each, it was an easy trip.  Then, it was a hot, sweaty 3km hike to our hotel, the Thapae Garden Guest House, but there was air conditioning waiting for us and what felt like a luxurious room.

We seem to have left the easiest until last.  Most folks will start in Thailand, and Chiang Mai will be early on their list of places to go.  For us, it’s our last stop before flying out of Thailand and Asia.


It’s time to leave the country when things that normally you’d find interesting now irritate the heck out of you. The tuk-tuk’s have been especially noisy recently, proving me right on this piece of wisdom. The practice of parking motorbikes smack bang in the middle of the “pavement” when there’s clearly a space at the side has become ridiculous rather than amusing.

So.  Chiang Mai.  Nigel was here 25 years ago.  It’s grown a lot since.  A huge amount.  And it’s incredibly westernized.  And easy.  We definitely should have come here earlier in our trip, if for no other reason than we might appreciate it a lot more.

Where to Stay in Chiang Mai

There are a host of places to stay in Chiang Mai – here’s our pick of the luxury places to stay in Chiang Mai, mid-range places to stay in Chiang Mai, and budget accommodation in Chiang Mai.

The Inside House (SHA Extra Plus), Chiang Mai, Thailand: The Inside House (SHA Extra Plus) is a luxury hotel in Chiang Mai, located in the old part of the city. This luxurious hotel in Chiang Mai, provides both continental and buffet breakfast and all rooms here have air conditioning and internet access, as well as soundproofing and blackout curtains.  There are coffee/tea machines, complimentary drinking water, and a minibar as well as free toiletries and slippers waiting for you in the private bathrooms. The facilities at this top hotel in Chiang Mai also include a hot spring bath and a garden. Check availability here.

Phra Singh Village (SHA Extra Plus), Chiang Mai, Thailand: The Phra Singh Village (SHA Extra Plus) is a Chiang Mai mid-range hotel in the Old City. All the rooms here at the stunning Phra Singh Village in Chiang Mai have air conditioning and internet access and come along with bathtubs, towels and free toiletries, and slippers.  The rooms at this fabulous mid-range hotel in Chiang Mai also include tea and coffee machines, free coffee and tea, and a minibar.  This great well-priced hotel in Chiang Mai also provides Netflix and has a swimming pool too.  . The Phra Singh Village books out quickly, so you’ll need to reserve early.

De Lanna Hotel (SHA Extra Plus), Chiang Mai, Thailand: The De Lanna Hotel (SHA Extra Plus) is a budget Chiang Mai Hotel conveniently located in the Old City. All of the rooms in this budget-friendly Chiang Mai hotel have air conditioning and internet access.  Rooms here also have coffee/tea machines and balconies, along with a DVD/CD player and your private bathroom comes with fluffy bathrobes, and slippers, as well as free toiletries; and a refrigerator. If you’re looking for a lovely hotel during your stay in Chiang Mai, at a budget location, then the De Lanna Hotel is the one for you. See room rates here.

Highlights of What to See & Do in Chiang Mai

The highlights for us in Chiang Mai were the night markets.  Well.  Ok, the food at some of the smaller night stalls.

Eat Sour Pork Sausages in Chiang Mai

The sour pork sausages at Chiang Mai’s south gate are wonderful and highly recommended, especially when washed down with a cold bottle of Chang.  There are plastic tables and chairs in the south gate food area, so grab one.  Then head to the 711 and buy cold beer.  Sit, eat, drink, enjoy.

Chiang Mai - Sour Pork Sausage

Khao Soi Noodles are the Chiang Mai Noodle Speciality

Khao soi is the noodle dish specialty of Chiang Mai.  Coconut milk curry with meat (or not), crunchy vegetables on the side and topped with crispy shallots.  Nom Nom.

Chiang Mai - Khao Soi
Chiang Mai - Khao Soi

Khanom Krok is Thai Dessert in Chiang Mai

There’s Thai dessert too, for us at the night markets.  It comes in the form of Khanom Krok.  Rice flour milk topped with coconut milk and cooked to mouth-watering perfection.

Chiang Mai - Khanom Krok
Chiang Mai - Khanom Krok

There are food night markets throughout Chiang Mai.  We headed to the area at the Chiang Mai South Gate most nights, as we thought it had the best options.    It was also relatively close to the Saturday Walking Market.


The Saturday Walking Market in Chiang Mai

One of the key tourist attractions in Chiang Mai is the Saturday walking market.  We didn’t arrive there until 8pm.  When it’s a zoo.  A hot, sweaty, very crowded zoo.  It’s where you walk.  Along past stalls of t-shirts, some food (but not much), souvenirs and the like.  We didn’t last very long at the market.  Unless you’re on the outside of the crowd then all you can see is the crowd.

Chiang Mai - Saturday Walking Market

Wat’d Out in Chiang Mai

We couldn’t visit Chiang Mai without taking in some of the temples.  You should read about the top 15 jaw-dropping temples in Chiang Mai here.  Or Wats, as they are in Thailand.  Bear in mind we’re pretty templed out (despite the glory of Wat Rong Khun in Chiang Rai), this wasn’t going to be easy.  We managed to visit one Wats before we quit.  Actually, we managed two, if you count that we stood outside Wat Phra Singh, saw what it cost to enter, and decided not to.

Wat Chedi Luang in Chiang Mai

The first wat that we visit is Chedi Luang, which was begun in the 14th century.  It’s famous for housing the Emerald Buddha until an earthquake in 1545, after which the Buddha found a new home in Luang Prabang.

Chiang Mai - Wat Chedi Luang

And so, after some final watermelon fruit shakes, another hit of sour pork sausages and khai soi, we’re off.

It’s back to Bangkok for the last time, we’re on a 2nd class fan-cooled train (you need to book your train tickets a little ahead here on this major tourist route).

Book Thai Train Tickets online here: You can book your ticket on trains in Thailand using 12goAsia – check prices, seats, and availability here.

Chiang Mai - Bangkok Train Second Class Fan

We have two days in Bangkok before we fly to Auckland, New Zealand, where I’m ready for a cooler climate, some mountains, no mosquitos and the same bed for more than two nights at a time..

Chiang Mai to Bangkok Views

Travel Tips for Exploring Thailand

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