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Chiang Mai Travel Diaries

By June 03, 2016 , , ,

I recently had the chance to travel to Chiang Mai for work (how lucky am I!). Chiang Mai is the second largest city in Thailand located up north, nestled among the mountains and hills. The weather is usually cooler up there, especially during the winter months. I happened to visit in the midst of a heat wave (lucky me again!). Somehow, I managed to tolerate 40 deg C weather because everything else about Chiang Mai was just so enjoyable, from the food to the people to the sights to see. I had last visited this hill station/city over 20 years ago as a young child. It was a sleepy little town then, which has now burgoened into a hipster, trendy city. There's a pity in that but also unique, interesting pockets of town that have emerged as a result of this change. 

In the short 3 day visit, I managed to squeeze in a sufficient amount of time to re-aquaint myself with the city. Here are some of my main recommendations along with my photo diary: 

Walked the 300 steps up to the top of the hill where the temple, Wat Doi Suthep, is located
Khao soi is a must-try in Chiang Mai
Dhara Devi Hotel is an old temple ground transformed into a luxurious hotel. Walk around the property to appreciate the beauty of ancient temple ruins juxtaposed against the modern hotel
Dhara Devi Hotel: The remnants of an old temple wall artfully assimilated into a 
luxury hotel with modern vibes
Wat Doi Suthep temple is beautiful and a striking color of gold in the morning light
Pretty little knick-knacks at the Saturday night market
Some restaurant recommendations:
David's Kitchen is ranked the #1 best restarant in Chiang Mai...and for good reason too! It's serves up fusion/modern Thai and Western cuisine set in a cozy home. You'll love the intimate setting and the highly personalized service. Be sure to make reservations in advance! 

Khao Soi Lam Duan for the traditional Khao Soi soup noodle dish. It is traditional a northern "Isaan" Thai cuisine. This restaurant is a shack literally but the taxis/tuk tuk drivers know about it. There are several other khao soi places around town and I'm sure they're great as well

Dhara Devi Hotel for drinks at the bar. It's a temple converted into a luxury hotel and while most of us can't afford to stay there, it's definitely worth a visit to walk around the beautiful property with its mysterious vibes followed by drinks at the hotel bar. I suggest visiting after 6pm when the sun is setting, making for prime time picturesque shots

Temple visits: 
Wat Doi Suthep is a 25-30 min drive outside the city center. I suggest waking up early and going around 6am. It's on a hilltop and you'll get a spectacular view of the city below. 

Wat Chedi Luang and some other smaller temples are located within the city. You can cover them relatively quickly within a couple hours

Night markets: I usually find the night markets overly touristy so I would avoid it. However, I did enjoy the Saturday night market which has a mix of everything, including traditional Thai souvenirs, silver jewelry and other trinkets. There is a Sunday night market as well.

Other activities to do in Chiang Mai:
Nimmanhaemin Road is an awfully cumbersome name but this hipster neighborhood is worth visiting for its local boutiques and cafes/restaurants. For vegetarians like me out there, there is a restaurant called Ancharn Vegetarian Restaurant that is worth visiting and well rated by TripAdvisor

Visit the Elephant Nature Park to take a ride on the elephants. While I haven't visited this place personally, I hear good things about it. It's a rescue and rehabilitation center for elephants so you can rest assured that our trunky friends are treated well.

Flight of the Gibbons is a zipline canopy tour if you're looking for an adrenaline rush

Spa it up! There are lots of spas/massage places of all price ranges. While I don't have a specific one to recommend, most are usually okay to good in terms of quality.

Getting around: 
The taxis aren't metered but you can get to most places for around 200-300 baht. Tuk tuks are cheaper than taxis if you're willing to brave the heat!

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