My favorite spots in Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai is nestled in between some mountains in northern Thailand and enjoys a cooler climate. It’s very different from the bustling capital of Thailand: Bangkok. You won’t be seeing skyscrapers, traffic is hardly existent (at least while we were there), and there aren’t gigantic malls every corner (there were about 2 that I passed by but didn’t have the need to enter). Finding yummy food and good coffee was was easy enough as you’d hardly go wrong. The art scene is thriving in Chiang Mai. There’s  a lot of handmade art you can get from various places (see some of the things I got below).

How we got there: From Manila, we took Philippine Airlines and there wasn’t a direct flight to Chiang Mai. We had to fly to Bangkok first. From Bangkok to Chiang Mai, we took Thai Airways and it took an hour. When you get to Chiang Mai airport, you can easily hire a taxi to get to your hotel (if your hotel doesn’t already arrange a way to pick you up). I was with my wife and two kids (3 years and 9 months), and we were traveling with two other friends with their kids. So we hired a van and from my recollection that was about THB400 from the airport to hotel.

Here are my favorite places in Chiang Mai and hopefully it can help you in your trip:

Where We Stayed – Rich Lanna House

Rich Lanna House is located on the North East corner of the Chiang Mai Square (on Google Maps for some reason if you type Rich Lanna House, it’s pinned somewhere near the mountains. The map on their website is more accurate or try this). Since it was located in the square, it was easy to get around everywhere. The hotel was situated along the moat that surrounds the city square.

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Chiang_Mai_jarconcengco_01There’s a small cafe in front that serves local coffee and really good fruit smoothies for about THB65. It’s a small hotel with quaint teak furniture in its rooms.

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photo by kim williams-waaijer

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You also get an introduction of the craftiness of the people of Chiang Mai are in Rich Lanna House. The cups in the room are all handmade (which they also sell).

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The hotel serves breakfast buffet with a lot of Western food (eggs, bacon, cereal, toast and jam). There were also some Thai choices like fried rice, egg rolls, braised pork and tropical fruits. You can eat in an air conditioned area or since it’s cool, you can eat with the river as your view.

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Their pool is fairly small, but if you’re the only guests swimming, it’s ok! The kids had a blast! And it was a great way to cool off after a long day of exploring the city (the pool is open 24 hours).

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The unexpected gem – Chiang Mai Night Safari

On our first day, our itinerary was supposed to be going to the Chiang Mai Zoo. But since it rained, our driver suggested we try the Chiang Mai Night Safari as he predicted the rain would stop by nighttime and at least we’d be inside a vehicle. We didn’t expect much as our friends have already been to the Singapore Night Safari and was quite disappointed.

When we arrived at around 7pm, the entrance was swarming with flying termites (harmless, but open your mouth too long and you’d be sure to swallow some). So you can imagine how our expectations got even lower (we even thought about not going through with the night safari anymore and just head back). Good thing we didn’t.

This greeted you at the entrance of the Night Safari.

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The cabaret show and the light show that comes with your ticket is skippable.

Once we get on our vehicle for the night safari, the kids (and us adults actually) were thrilled to see all the animals!

photos by kim williams-waaijer

photos by kim williams-waaijer

photos by kim williams-waaijer

photos by kim williams-waaijer

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This totally beats walking around in a zoo under the sun with a pack of kids with you.

For the Hipster In You – Nimmanahaeminda Road

Trendy and hip, Nimman road is a long stretch full of stores, restaurants, and cafes. It starts off with Think Park – and the Chanel toting cat sculpture in front of Local Cafe.

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Inside Local Cafe (check out the car doors refurbished to clad the front counter):

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My motto as well:

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The Local Cafe’s Mango Finale with a scored mango cheek, avocado ice cream, softserve, tossed with roasted almonds:Chiang_Mai_jarconcengco_22

Nimman Soi 1 (Sorry I didn’t get too far into Nimman as it’s challenging with kids, but it was enough to see how cool it was. More to see next time? Yes!)

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Koland is a store that sold modern Chinese decor. There is also a very small cafe inside where you can enjoy a cup of joe in the midst of all the plants and colorful stuff:

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Another store along Nimman Soi 1:

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Hom candles are found in Think Park and here’s a diagram of how they use used beer bottles to make the containers for the candles:

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Some street art in Think Park:

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Most Crafty – Baan Kang Wat

It’s a bit of a drive, and our Red Car got a bit lost going there. But once you do get there, you’ll give yourself a pat on the back. It seems like in the middle of nowhere, but that’s probably what they want you to feel. They want you to take it slow and inhale. Forget everything and just relax.

Baan Kang Wat is an artist community where the stores surround an amphitheater. Each store is actually a traditional Thai house. Artists from Chiang Mai are carefully chosen to sell their wares here in Baan Kang Wat and that means you get the best of the best. Everything is handmade, everything is local, and everything is organic.

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Love the use of simple concrete as tables and wooden palettes as chairs.

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Here is Bookoo Studio:

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I absolutely loved these handmade ceramic spoons with wooden handles. Chiang_Mai_jarconcengco_26

I had the pleasure of meeting the artist behind Bookoo Studio Nattawut Ruckprasin. He also designed Baan Kang Wat.

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A cafe at the end of Baan Kang Wat. Look at the Doi Suthep mountains around you. It was such a beautiful view.

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Another store called Jibberish:

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Another store called Enough For Life:

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If you’re looking for a hearty meal, try Yellow Mango (a big yellow Tuscan style building next to Baan Kang Wat, you can’t miss it!).

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If not a meal, you must try the most fun iced coffee you’ll ever have which they call Indy coffee. This little tray of coffee and milk helped keep me cool. Those ice cubes are actually coffee ready to be drowned in some type of milk (they included several types – cream, whole milk, soy, and condensed). You can add another shot of espresso if you want to too.

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Most jaw dropping – Maesa Elephant Camp

When you’re in the midst of the world’s largest land mammals, you can’t help but feel small. You look up at them, you look around you more often and you’re kind of intimidated.

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Before the show, you’ll get a glimpse of how elephants bathe. Maesa Elephant camp has a river that flows through it so you’ll get to see the elephants march towards the river and get washed.Chiang_Mai_jarconcengco_37

By now, you’ve probably read up that elephants are very intelligent and have long term memories. But you have no idea!

At Maesa, you’ll see elephants play soccer and basketball. You’ll even see them paint! The paintings get sold afterwards and you can bring home your own painting by a baby elephant!

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We needed a van to get up to Maesa Elephant Camp (since we were a party of 8). And we hired a driver named Chart which we highly recommend. Here’s his number: +668-1950-8465. Super nice guy who speaks English well and has a pimped out van! You can’t ask for more.

Most Organic – Farm Story House

A very small inn with a restaurant and cafe that seats about 10 in a quiet soi inside the Chiang Mai Square is Farm Story House. They serve organic rice which they grow in their own farm and even sell handmade soaps that are made from coffee and tamarind.

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Ben of Farm Story House steeping my sticky rice tea.

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Ben and I:

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I tried their sticky rice tea and it paired really well with their banana honey French toast.

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Most Charming – 137 Pillars House

Once you enter the grounds of 137 Pillars House, you know right away it isn’t anything ordinary. It made such an impact and we’re wishing to return to Chiang Mai just for it!

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The beautifully restored teak house where the restaurant is used to be part of the headquarters of the East Borneo Company (one of the first foreign companies to set up shop in Chiang Mai). And the place got its name from the number of pillars holding this building up: 137!

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I know you can get Khao Soi (a crunchy noodle curry dish that’s found in Chiang Mai) in several places including the streets, but it was really good here at 137 Pillars House.

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The place transforms at night.

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Best Night Market – Wulai Rd. Saturday Market

I don’t have photos for this, but we went to this one and Tha Phae Sunday Market. Out of the two, I really liked Wulai more. There was a lot more wares and trinkets I got to bring back whereas Tha Phae seemed to have more clothing. If you had to choose from the two markets, definitely choose Wulai Rd.

Here are the souvenirs I got from Chiang Mai:

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1. Handmade indigo dyed table cloth found at the Tha Phae Gate Night Market.
2. Mobile of elephants bought at a store on Wulai road
3. A ceramic and wooden bowl shaped like an apple bought in Nimman.
4. Ceramic coffee drip cone from Enough For Life at Baan Kang Wat
5. Hom soy candles. The container is made from recycled beer bottles.
6. Kitchen towels handmade in Chiang Mai
7. Vintage drawer handles made of brass
8. A small necklace bag
9. A postcard with an Elephant painting (because we remember that the most from the Elephant show. Planning to frame this and put it up)
10. Joggers for my baby girl from Ginger.
11. Handmade soap made from Coffee from Farm Story House
12. Set of owls with the words: I love you, Thank you, I’m Sorry, Please (4 phrases we’d love to teach our kids).
13. Ceramic and wooden spoons by Bookoo Studio in Baan Kang Wat
14. Colorful coasters from Ginger
15. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Michaelangelo bought in the night market
16. Stuffed Toy “taxidermy” of a rhino from Ginger

Thanks for reading! Hope this helped!

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Comments
2 Responses to “My favorite spots in Chiang Mai”
  1. annie ong says:

    Thanks for sharing and love all the photos that you took they look very professional.

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