Our second stop in Chiang Mai, Thailand
Updated: Mar 5, 2019
We heard amazing things about this city from our friends so we were really looking forward to visiting here.
Day 1 - The Old City of Chiang Mai
We arrived in Chiang Mai around 11:30 am. We flew Bangkok Airways and our flight was delayed for about half an hour. Even though it was a short flight (an hour), they actually served us lunch (sandwiches & drinks). The service on the flight was excellent. After we landed, we called "Grab" to get to the place where we'll be staying for three nights, Leafy Greens Mushroom Clay house. "Grab" is the Asian version of Uber or Lyft in the US. It works exactly the same way and cost about the same as regular taxis, but unlike regular taxis, you know exactly how much your fare is going to be before you get in. Grab is considered the best way to get around in Thailand. It's super reliable and convenient. Our 5 mile ride was only 98 baht (approximately $3). Highly recommend it.
We found this place through Airbnb and paid total of $146.54 for three nights. It's exactly how it looks in the pictures. Even though it's pretty small with no kitchen, it's well built and very charming.
Our check in time at our Leafy Greens was not until 3:00 pm, but we arrived early around 12:30 pm. People who maintain the place let us in and had us checked in early to accommodate us. Even though they hardly speak any English and seem very timid, people here are very nice and genuine. Love the people here.
Our home for the next three days is located about 5 miles from the Old City of Chiang Mai so we called "Grab" again and headed out to explore the city. The Old City is full of shops and tourists but it's not anything like Bangkok. They still had those tangled power and cable lines (I'm still fascinated by these), but it wasn't nearly as crowded or hectic as Bangkok. I like this city already.
By one of our friend's recommendations, we found a local restaurant called Khao Soi Mae Sai that was famous for Khao Soi, a noodle dish that is usually served in a soup made of coconut milk. We chose the vegetarian, and I have to say it was pretty darn good. A bowl of vegetarian Khao Soi (#1 on the menu) is 40 baht ($1.30) and Thai tea 10 baht (30 cents). It's not a nice restaurant but the service was good and fast, I mean really fast. We had our food in minutes. I would definitely go back.
Wandering around, we saw many restaurants and shops but what caught my eye was how many Thai Massage places there are here. There are literally everywhere. Neither of us are into massages back home but since we were on vacation, we had to try it. Average cost for one hour foot massage is 250 baht ($8). After a full day of walking around, we sat down to a foot massage. It was totally worth it, and the ladies there were absolutely great.
My husband and I both had a great time on our first day in Chiang Mai, and we're really looking forward to our second day here.
Day 2 - Local Food Tour
For our second day, we signed up to do a private local Food Tour. I found this website called "Withlocals" where you can book a private tour. The cost for our private 3 hour tour was $30/person including food. Our guide's name was Ken, born and raised in New York.
We met with Ken at noon on Friday. He had brought his Thai wife, Rak, along for translations. Even though Ken now lives in Thailand and speak basic Thai, he claimed that he doesn't quite speak like a native so in order to accommodate my vegan dietary preferences, he brought his wife along to make special requests to the vendors.
We started out with the traditional Thai tea (no milk for me) and must had about 10 different tastings in 3 hour period that included Khao Soi, green curry fried rice, 4 different kind of amazing Thai desserts. It was definitely the best food tour I had ever been on, and it was worth every penny. Ken and his wife were very friendly and accommodating to our every need. I highly recommend it.
After a full three hours of stuffing ourselves with great traditional local food, we headed back to the Old City. There we rented some bikes so we can bike around the city for the rest of the day. We randomly walked into this bike place called Cacti Bike. The owner was super super nice (is everybody so nice here?). The cost for the bike rental was 150 baht ($4.80) for all day. For motorbikes, it's only 250 baht ($8/day). We thought about renting a motorbike but decided not to after our food tour guide, Ken, told us that the tourist riders often get fined (around $16) for riding without an international license, and we didn't have one.
Even though the traffic was pretty crazy especially during rush hour, for some reason, I felt safe and not bit intimidated riding on the streets. It was actually quite fun and I was amazed at how everybody just knew what to do. This was definitely the best and fastest way to see the city, and it was a lot of fun. Looking forward to day 3, our last day in Chiang Mai.
Day 3 - Hike and Bike in Doi Suthep Pui National Park
We booked this trip through Trip Advisor. The cost of the trip for 6 hour Hike and Bike tour was $121.22 for two including bikes and gears. It was 3 hour hike up to the top and 3 hour downhill mountain biking to the lake. We had four guides for a group of 8 people.
We got picked up around 9:30 am at our Airbnb and were taken to the shop where we got ready for our day. Once we got to the park where we were supposed to start our hike, we were notified that the princess of Thailand was in the park so they had to shut down all the trails except for one. This meant that our original plan of hiking up to the mountain had to be cancelled. We were only given one option which was to bike up the mountain and bike down. It turned out to be pretty grueling and treacherous biking up the mountain. Four hours of biking through the jungles left our group of eight people exhausted and hungry but it was totally worth it.
It was quite an experience, and we ended up meeting some interesting people from all over the world. If you're into mountain biking, I would definitely recommend this tour by Chiang Mai Mountain biking & Kayaks. The staff was outstanding and we had a great time.
We're definitely going to miss this city. We're getting on the sleeping bus tomorrow at 9 am for the 20 hour bus ride to our next destination. Luang Prabang in Laos.
My overview of Chiang Mai
I have to say I really enjoyed my time here. It's a busy city but not too busy like Bangkok, and most of all, everyone is so kind and helpful, it's hard to say "no" to anyone. Everything here is super cheap and you can easily get by with very little money if you're on a budget. There are a lot of interesting temples and museums as well as great food including amazing fruits like mangos, dragon fruit, and mini pineapples. You can never go hungry even on a budget.