Thailand has everything you could ever want out of a country- stunning beaches, bustling cities, elephants and Chiang Mai fits in perfectly! Everyone says it is the highlight of Thailand to them and I completely understand why. This beautiful small city in Northern Thailand is filled with expats, cafes, temples and just a short drive away from the Elephant Sanctuary. We only had a few days in Chiang Mai, and each of them were jam packed- but I honestly feel we conquered this awesome city in those 48 hours! Follow our plan- or create your own, but do NOT miss Chiang Mai when visiting Thailand!
Before you go- If you want to go to the Elephant Nature Park, you have to book online. They will pick you up right at your hotel. We recommend the half day trip since they stopped letting people bathe with the elephants. With the half day trip you will feed the elephants and walk around the area taking pictures with them up close and personal. It really is a beautiful park and they care about their animals so I highly recommend checking it out and booking in advance!
Morning: Book your cooking class at your hotel so you can decide if you want to do the morning or afternoon. Then head up to the temple Wat Phra That Doi Suthep which has the most beautiful view of Chiang Mai. This is a bit of a drive so hire a driver from your hotel!
Afternoon: Join in on a cooking class! We loved Zabb E Lee cooking school but there are tons that I am sure are just as good! For 1,000 Baht (just over $30) they pick you up at your hotel, take you to a local market and explain the food indigenous to the area and then teach you SIX recipes! You cook in an adorable outdoor kitchen with a small group everything from curry paste and spring rolls to pad thai and sticky rice. The food was honestly the best we had in Thailand and they even give you a cookbook as a souvenir!
Night: Head to the North Gate Jazz club for a beer (I still crave Singha) and to enjoy some amazing music to end your perfect first day!
Morning: Get picked up from your hotel and head to the Elephant Nature Park. ADDED BONUS- they have a dog and cat sanctuary too! The park is unbelievable and the elephants seem right at home. We got to feed them in the morning and walk around meeting them and hearing their stories!
Afternoon: Wander around the neighborhood by Chiang Mai University Start off at Ristr8o coffee to enjoy a coffee by the company that won the world latte art competition! Then enjoy a late lunch at one of the many adorable cafes (we loved Rustic & Blue). After lunch and coffee, peruse over to the temples. Within walking distance is Wat Suan Dok- this massive temple is on the side of the road without an entrance fee and is absolutely stunning. We wandered for a bit and then ended with green tea at The Barn Eatery & Design (hard to find but SO WORTH it!!)
Night: Finish off your visit to Chiang Mai with a fun dinner at Rock Me Burger (surprisingly awesome burgers) or The Swan (more traditional Burmese food) and then head to the Night Market. Inside the market are tons of small bars with pool tables and cheap, cold beer! Continue the night with a lady boy show at Ram Bar where the ceiling looks like cotton candy and the entertainers give their all. Finally, end at Yellow Bar- a night club that is ALWAYS packed and the strobe light makes you feel like you are dancing even if you are just standing.
1. Take a cab to your hotel- They are super affordable! Have them run the meter because the old city is directly next to the airport!
2. Stay in the old city! Everything is walking distance! We stayed at the U Chiang Mai and loved it! The pool was beautiful, our room had the coolest decorations and we were seriously in the middle of everything
3. If you don’t have a ton of time in Thailand- fly there! Use AirAsia, Thai Smile or another cheap regional airline and for less than $50 you can be to Chiang Mai in an hour from Bangkok! They even feed you (which is saying a lot if you come from America where peanuts are generous)
I hope you enjoy your trip to Chiang Mai as much as I did! Feel free to comment below with any questions & I will do my best to answer!!