Trip report - Seven nights in Chiang Mai
After a fantastic six nights in Chiang Rai we headed south to Chiang Mai for 7 nights. One of the good things about spending a week in each place was that rather than rushing from location to location and trying to cram in as much as we could, it was much more relaxing and gave us a chance to explore a region.
We stayed at Baan Orapin B&B and enjoyed it. I have done a separate accommodation review of the B&B.
We'd been to CM a long time ago as backpackers, but the quant little town I remembered was long gone. Lots of cars and traffic and traffic pollution, but there is still an appeal to the area...and there are lots of tourists.
Day 1 was the Sunday night markets. Very busy, but some good shopping. The stalls went on and on forever, so eventually we decided to get a tuk tuk to Ginger Restaurant. When we arrived we found they were fully booked, so we headed back to the riverside area (opposite Baan Orapin) and ate at The Gallery. The setting on the river was lovely but the food was not memorable.
Day 2 was to explore the city. We bought the very helpful Nancy Chandler map and headed to the area around the Chiang Mai moat gate. Wandered around some wats, stopped and had a yummy Nutella crepe from a stall, and after walking for a while decided to have a one hour massage at a place called Amethyst. It was 250 baht an hour (there are cheaper around) and very nice. That night we dined at Dash. This is a great place to eat. More upmarket than a backpackers. Cocktails, great food, a dude playing a guitar and singing - very nice. We visited here a second night as we enjoyed it so much. I recommend you make a booking if you plan on going as they were busy.
Day 3 we used Joy to drive us around for the day. We visited the wat on Doi Suthep (which is worth a look), then went to Tiger Kingdom. I have to say that before I went there I had no interest in the notion of going in a cage with a tiger and hugging it. BUT, it's infectious. I hugged big, little and very small tigers and loved every minute of it. I'd get there early as there were long waiting times. We then went to some of the handicraft "villages" - umbrellas, silk and silver. I didn't enjoy this much as it seemed very commercial. That night we dined at Ginger. Very nice food, lovely atmosphere, a bit posh. More expensive than other restaurants we ate at.
Most nights we headed off to the night markets after dinner. We mostly shopped around Anusarne and Killare markets. As well as lots and lots of market stalls there are massages, some parlour games, you can even get a henna tattoo. We also got the obligatory photo taken with the tranvestites promoting their show, which is "free" but you buy drinks.
Day 4 was Flight of the Gibbon. It was rated by my family as "the best thing we did on the holiday" which speaks for itself. There are a number of competitors selling similar zip lining adventures, but we opted for the original one.
That night we ate at the markets. Caroline on TA suggested Killare markets as they have tight hygiene rules. It was tasty, had a decent variety to choose from and cheap. About 500 baht to feed four of us. We went a couple of times during our stay.
Day 5 was the Chiang Rai Zoo and Aquarium and department store shopping. The zoo and aquarium are interesting enough if you have some time to spare, but I was taken aback at how we had to keep handing over money to enter, ride the bus, see the pandas, see the aquarium. The New Festival Shopping Plaza is a new, shiny shopping complex. There is a Marks & Spencer there for those who want a fix of English clothes shopping.
Two nice places we discovered along the river were The Meeting Room Art Cafe and Khumpoon Art Gallery. The cafe has a nice vibe and good smoothies. Some nice artwork to buy too if that is your thing. Khumpoon is great for one off special souvenirs e.g. Vases, sculptures, home decor, that you won't find elsewhere and they had fantastic coffee and cakes. Very reasonable prices and they happily bubbled wrapped everything. We also visited the fancy Pink Tea Room along the river. Lovely setting with fancy sweet drinks and expensive little tiers of cakes and finger food.
Day 5 was another day of wandering around the moat area, shops, massage (this time at Pranom behind Hot Chilli Cafe), cafe, relaxing.
Day 6 we did a fantastic day tour with Untouched Tours. We booked this once we were in Chiang Mai. We had a fantastic day, but the price was high relative to what we paid for other tours and guides. In the morning we rode bikes with a friendly guide for a couple of hours around the Lost city and surrounding small villages. An easy ride and nice rural scenery. We then drove an hour or two to the highest mountain in Thailand, Doi Inthanon National Park. First we stopped at a waterfall for a delicious restaurant lunch then drove on to see the local markets where they sell their local produce. Very colourful and interesting. Then we met our guide from a nearby Karen Village for our soft trek. Turns out that "soft trek" does not mean easy trek as we first assumed, it actually means short trek. In our case two fantastic hours walking though forest, alongside a raging stream with waterfalls, climbing down ladders and crossing bamboo bridges, terraced hills and finally walking through the local village and having a coffee and chat with the locals. One of the very best days we had and very enjoyable. Best thing was we saw no other tourists on our trek.
We got around CM by tuk tuk sometimes, but mostly by red truck. The red trucks roam around all the time so are very easy to flag down. We usually paid around 20 baht per person for a red truck, but sometimes a bit more. Tuk Tuks cost four of us (yes, four in one tuk tuk!) about 100 to 150 baht per trip. A good trick is to take a map and show the driver where you want to go. Sometimes they get it, sometimes they don't. But all part of the adventure.
All in all a great trip with some fantastic memories.