With five days in Chiang Mai, there’s plenty to do to keep you happy, full, and having fun.
As most Asian cities promise, there are all sorts of markets in Chiang Mai. The Saturday market and Sunday market offer delicious and inexpensive street food, as well as cheap souvenir shopping. Both can get super packed, so go early!
A hidden giant gem is the Wararot Market. While there are markets all over Chiang Mai on Google maps, choose this one for every single item you could ever want. From scarves and backpacks to spices and kitchenware, you can find it all at super cheap prices. This market runs during the day; at night you can catch the food stall vendors. There’s no need to buy an expensive dinner at a restaurant when there’s a market around.
With over 60 options for cooking classes, you’re spoiled for choice here. On a recommendation, I tried the Best Thai Cooking School. Not to brag, but the food we made was the best I ate in Thailand – and the food in this country is magnificent. Perm, the owner and head chef, leads most classes which includes six dishes such as Pad Thai, a curry of your choosing, papaya salad, and mango sticky rice dessert. The first stop on the course is at a local market where Perm walks you through the many spices, herbs, and vegetables you’ll be using to cook. The setting is at Perm’s organic farm, a beautiful sight amongst the rice fields.
As to be expected in Thailand, there are is a temple every block or so. You’ll get burnt out if you stop at every single one, so a few highlights include Wat Chiang Man (my favorite of the temples I saw), Wat Chedi Luang (complete with an ancient ruin temple), and Wat Pra Sing, all of which are located in the old town square. Go a bit further out of town to Doi Suthep; either take a red songthaew (a truck taxi where multiple people jump on/off) or an Uber. We went at sunset for a great mountain view alongside the large temple. Most temples cost 20-30 baht entrance fee (less than a U.S. buck!).
There are multiple options for trekking in Chiang Mai; I chose the 2-day, 1-night trek which was just enough time! I’ll expand on this in a later post, but in general it’s a lot of hiking, sleeping in a homestay, elephants, and rafting. Check out Travel Hub for great deals.
This should almost go without saying, but you must get a massage (or two!) when in Chiang Mai. A true Thai massage is pretty intense, so I prefer the “relaxing” version – and by relaxing, I don’t mean Swedish or aromatherapy, but stretching and moving like you’ve never done before.
Where to Stay
On a scale of 1 to 5 stars, D-Well Hostel gets a high 4.5. The staff are amazingly nice, remembering your name and offering advice whenever you need it. The entire place is very clean and breakfast is included. The only thing missing for me is the social aspect. I have stayed in hostels where they offer nightly activities or tours and where people are super social; that isn’t the case here, though I still recommend it whole-heartedly.
What more can I say than street food?! Fresh smoothies are delightful. Grilled meats are succulent. Rice and noodle dishes are everywhere. One restaurant recommendation I’ll share is Ratana’s Kitchen. It was my first meal in Thailand and I was salivating at the friend noodles. There are so many choices for restaurants that you won’t go hungry no matter where you choose!