Here’s a quick guide to Chiang Mai Part 2 – activities that you can do in Chiang Mai especially if you have limited number of days to explore in this beautiful, laidback city. As mentioned in the Part 1 post, Chiang Mai is the fifth largest city in Thailand. I was surprised by the never-ending list of activities that one can do in this city of a million people. But then again, it’s Thailand, and the country certainly knows how to organise and showcase their tourism professionally so much so that there are activities for visitors with wide range of interests.
Eat Your Heart Out, And Shop At Markets
I found the best food in Thailand is street food, and Chiang Mai is no exception. A variety of street food is available from noodles to rice; seafood to desserts. When I was in Chiang Mai, I tried street food in a temple courtyard and at the night market.
One of their northern specialties is khao soi which is a Burmese-influenced noodle dish made with deep-fried crispy egg noodles, boiled egg noodles, shallots, lime and meat in curry containing coconut milk. Apparently it’s a popular street dish eaten in northern Thailand.
Another street dish commonly found throughout Thailand is khao kha moo. It’s pork leg braised in light and dark soya sauce, served with rice, some vegetables, boiled eggs and coriander.
The only problem I have with food in Thailand is the small portions (I found the same in Cambodia and Vietnam). After three or four bites, I’m finished with the food but still longing for more. I always end up ordering another dish to satiate my hunger which is not exactly good for the waistline! Or perhaps Malaysia eateries need to reduce their portions of food served…
Shopping at night markets is also a fun activity in Chiang Mai and the biggest night market is the Sunday Night Market which is located right in the centre of the Old City, starting from Tha Pae Gate at one end and down the length of Ratchadamnoen Road, approximately 1km. Ratchadamnoen Road is closed to traffic for the Sunday Night Market, so shoppers are able to browse and bargain with vendors without worrying about vehicles.
I was not able to experience the Sunday Night Market because I fell ill that evening 🙁 I was sick with food poisoning – no, it wasn’t the street food – but it might have been from a savoury pie bought at a hot springs stopover en route to Chiang Rai or the Myanmar curry chicken at a restaurant near the Mekong River port.
I typically don’t fall sick with food poisoning when I travel but something had happened during this trip – oh well, these things do happen, so the best is to take it in stride, rest and relax and drink more fluids.
Be Seen at Trendy Nimman
After some time, it’s always good to get out of the usual tourist circuit. Not too far from the Old City is Nimmanhaemain Road or in short, Nimman. Nimman was formerly a neighbourhood consisting of noodle shops and homes but now the area is a trendy neighbourhood of cafes, galleries and shops. Nimman is not busy or noisy, as such I had a pleasant experience walking along the various Soi or lanes, checking out vintage shops and boutiques. One thing for sure, there are no tour buses here 🙂
Ride On the Red Bus
Although tuk-tuk is synonymous with Thailand, its rates are second most expensive transport in Chiang Mai, after taxis. If you know how to ride a motorcycle or moped, then it’s relatively cheaper to rent one and ride your way around Chiang Mai. Unfortunately, I do not know how to ride a moped, as such, I commuted on the red bus (songthaew) in and out of the Old City.
Fares are not fixed for rides on the red bus but an approximate amount, depending on your destination and how many passengers in the vehicle. The more passengers in the vehicle going on the same route or heading to the same destination means cheaper fares.
Here are the fares paid for my trips in and out of the Old City. This is just a guide – should the drivers quote a fare higher than 10%-15%, do not accept and flag down the next red bus.
Ratchadamnoen Road to Wat Umong: THB150
Wat Umong to Chiang Mai Zoo: THB40
Chiang Mai Zoo to Doi Suthep: THB40 (the zoo is the central stop for passengers commuting up/down Doi Suthep Mountains)
Doi Suthep to Nimman: THB20
Nimman to Ratchadamnoen Road: THB30
FYI, the front desk staff at my hotel advised that the fare from the hotel to Wat Umong is between THB100-150. I settled for THB150 after flagging down four different drivers who either quoted a much higher fare or refused to take me to Wat Umong due to the distance.
And here’s a short video of how it’s like in the red bus en route to Wat Umong. It was 10am on a Saturday morning, not many people commuting in the city, so I had the vehicle to myself.
And, lots of other activities…
If you have the opportunity to stay longer in Chiang Mai, you can have your pick from the list of activities and spread them over the duration of your stay. There are Thai cooking classes, elephant nature camps, boat cruise on the Ping River, jungle hiking, abseiling, a day trip to Chiang Rai and many more.
Regarding elephant nature camp, please support companies that protect, rehabilitate and nurture the elephants properly, rather than the ones provide elephant rides and shows for tourists. There have been many reports of elephant camps in Thailand – and in other countries – that chain and torture elephants for tourists’ entertainment.
And oh yes, no matter how long or short your stay in Chiang Mai – please remember to go for a foot massage. It is so heavenly to be pampered in a lovely spa after a long day of walking and exploring the city 🙂
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