After a quick stop in Bangkok and a day in Chiang Rai, our adventures around Thailand continued with a visit to the biggest cultural hub of Northern Thailand – Chiang Mai. This beautiful mountain city was once the capital of Lanna kingdom and a look around Old town and elegant Buddhist temples clearly depicts why!
How to Spend 24 hours in Chiang Mai
Once again, we were short on time with our packed itinerary and that’s how I know exactly what to do and how to make the most of your visit to Chiang Mai if you only have a day to spare in this stunning part of North Thailand. Needless to say, I highly recommend spending several weeks at leisure and succumb to the fresh mountain air and laid back vibe.
Visit Ban Rai Kong Khing village
With the surge of community based tourism in Thailand, travelers from around the world are genuinely interested in learning about local traditions, culture, food and people. The village of Ban Rai Kong Khing introduces you to Thai culture and is the perfect warm welcome to Chiang Mai you can hope for!
We were welcomed with local food like Khai Pam, Khanom Jok and other sweet and savory delights. Interacting with locals while traveling has always been a big part of my travels.. however, not so much by going back to the roots and traditions through meeting villagers and understanding their way of living, at the core. This turned out to be a very interesting experience, to say the least.
Next up on our itinerary was a massage. We had just arrived from Chiang Rai after visiting the lovely White Temple and were surely looking forward to a long, relaxing full body massage. However, we were all in for a big surprise. This was not your usual spa but more like an adventurous massage. Being an adrenaline junkie, this was right up my alley and as soon as I heard we were to get a traditional “Fire massage” by master masseurs, I was stoked.
Yam Khang aka fire massage, did not disappoint, at all. This was one of the best experiences I could hope for. The villagers provide you with a basic local change of clothes and then you lay down on a simple mattress. The minimalist effect, was extremely calming somehow.
One of the masters would then get some burning charcoal, rub their feet in sesame oil & water and put it on the charcoal to create a big flame. Might I add that these masters have had decades of training in self discipline and are experts in their fields. Next, they will rub your pressure points with their hot burning feet and get rid of any aches you may have. I must say – this does work!
It sure is intimidating at first when you see big flames of fire burst out of red hot charcoal with a loud crackling sound. That being said, it is still a lovely experience and even though it was super hot at times, I felt no body aches at all after this rejuvenating massage. Even the oil didn’t feel sticky later as we were advised not to shower for few hours and let the oil heal us.
Next at the village, we had local Thai cooking classes. Now everyone who knows me, surely knows my lack of skills in the kitchen. I was given some veggies to chop and eggs to crack. Thankfully, it wasn’t so hard and I managed to cook – Khai Pam. It is somewhat like an omelette, I would say. The only difference is you put the batter in banana leaf cups and grill them on charcoal and this makes all the difference. It tastes fantastic and literally just takes few minutes to cook. Few people were brave enough to try my Khai Pam and actually liked it.
Sunday Walking Street
After a quick shower at our hotel and Italian fine dining experience, we headed straight to the bustling Sunday walking street.
Now I have been to many street markets and walking streets in India, Thailand and around SE Asia but honestly, this one takes the cake. Initially, when I heard we were headed to the walking street – My thoughts were, its just going to be the same as Bangkok, Phuket, Pattaya but I was wrong. The variety of items for sale, amazing bargains and high quality items, makes it stand out from other street markets.
Apart from funky street food stalls (Even food trucks) and the usual magicians and live artists, the market not only had a lovely vibe but also turned out to be an awesome shopping experience. You can shop for anything under the sun here – quirky fridge magnets, beautiful wooden bookmarks, keyrings, stuffed toys, fire lights, Pashmina shawls, handicrafts and an array of home decor items. Also, unlike other marketplaces , I rarely ever saw the same items in next shops. Usually, the items for sale get repetitive as you go along, but not in the Chiang mai Sunday walking street.
Queen Sirikit Botanical Garden
Following day, we headed straight for the lovely Queen Sirikit botanical garden. I love greenery so ogling at all the lovely flowers and different displays, was simply wonderful.
These botanical gardens have the perfect photo opportunities which made it a haven for us bloggers and we clicked away to glory. This was also our first real taste of Chiang Mai’s natural beauty, apart from the lovely scenic drive from Chiang Rai.
Sporting the lovely horses and sun flow tank top from ‘The Mountain art wear’ throughout my Queen sirikit spree. Excellent for a day of sight seeing, comfy, airy and makes for great pics. Buy your own tank at TheMountain now!
Doi Mon Chaem
Mon Chaem is a hillside paradise where you can take in the vast valley views, sample local produce and buy fresh fruits, veggies, tea and likes. It was developed in order to discourage local farmers from opium plantations and move towards alternative farming options. The lovely cool climate in the area is ideal for all sorts of farms, even strawberry and olives.
Before you bid adieu to Chiang Mai, a must try activity in Mon Chaem is the mountain formula one. When I heard we were going to try mountain F1, I instantly knew I will love it. With no experience riding a gokart, I got into a rickety wooden gokart and was pushed down a 400 meter slope. It was a lot of fun even though I crashed thrice into the bushes just because I was busy trying to capture this experience on my GoPro. Was it worth it?
Check out this video of my adventures in Thailand to find out
Where to eat in Chiang Mai
With so much to see and explore in Chiang Mai, don’t forget that Thai cuisine is one of the best in the world. No one can soak in the real local experience without enjoying some flavorsome food, right? So, here’s what I would recommend, based on my personal experience of eating out in Chiang Mai –
Baan Mon Muan
Baan Mon Muan was my top choice of restaurants we visited in Thailand. Not only did it boast of breathtaking views of the valley, the food was simply out of this world.
We tried our usual salads and soups, pork ribs, chicken wings and everything was simply delectable. Even the chocolate brownies, various icecreams and red velvet cake we tried as dessert, was scrumptious and displayed so well that it made for perfect food porn.
Cuisine de Garden
Though not popular for Thai cuisine, this Italian fine dining restaurant in the middle of a village, was simply an extraordinary experience.
I had never tried things like liquid nitrogen kiwi foam, charcoal icecream, eggs on a nest and the array of sea food was simply mind boggling. We had a lavish 7 course meal here. The portions were small but coupled with wine and bread, quite sufficient. Here’s a sneak peak into our dinner menu for the night –
Plus, did you hear its right inside a village – so imagine a fine dining place in such an area? It just adds to its unique element and vibe.
Where to stay in Chiang Mai
Ratilanna Riverside Spa Resort
Staying at Ratilanna was just divine. This was my top choice among all the hotels and resorts we stayed at whilst in Thailand, to be honest. The rooms were huge, bathrooms were fitted with tubs and TV’s, lovely veranda to chill, infinity pool and so much more. I would say, this was undoubtedly, Thai royalty at it’s best.
All in all, exploring Chiang Mai was so much fun and I would love to go back and spend more time there. As a big fan of safety while traveling, I would recommend using only reliable airport transfer in Chiang Mai so that there’s a vetted driver waiting for you and you can avoid scams and last minute hassles.
Have any of you been to North Thailand? Would love to hear about the places you visited and learn about your experiences.
Disclaimer – I was a guest of Tourism Authority of Thailand for this #TATNewsroom trip to #AmazingThailand