Chiang Mai, Thailand travel tips

Like is true for most visitors, our week in Chiang Mai, Thailand was filled with many all-day activities. When we weren’t feeding elephants or nearly blinding ourselves with chili, we wandered from wat to wat, stopping to eat as often as we could. Nearly everything was excellent, though a few stinkers popped up in Chiang Mai.

The Ratings Explained:

[one_third]YEH Good to great, though sometimes only relative to the other options in town. ! = we wanted more.[/one_third]
[one_third]MEH An intense level of indifference. It probably won’t suck, but it won’t impress either.[/one_third]
[one_third_last]NAH Likely to cause sadness, frustration, wallet-emptying, or a raging need for Cipro. Avoid.[/one_third_last]

Where we ate and drank:

  • Bunny Juice, Th Ratchaphakinai – Groggy from our overnight bus ride, we stumbled into this shrine to Bugs Bunny and Harley Davidson, completed by lackluster food and drink: NAH
  • Talat Somphet Market, Moon Muang Rd. – We often picked up snacks from this market, including Northern-style sausage, strange banana leaf wrapped goodies, and khanom khrok, highly addictive warm little griddle balls of coconut and tapioca custard: YEH
  • Hong Tauw Inn, 95/17-18 Nantawan Arcade, Th Nimmanhaemin – Well reviewed in the guidebooks, so a little more expensive than it should be. Still, the food was amazing, each dish we ordered delivered at least one ingredient we’d never eaten before. The décor is grandma’s living room kitch, without any sense of humor about it: YEH
  • Thorphan Coffee and Bakery, west of Wat Phra Singh – Large, arctically iced coffee: YEH
  • Sunday Walking Street, especially a wat on the NE corner at Th Ratchaphakinai – Some may come for the shopping, but only fools would pass by the food. It’s street food at it’s foodie finest. Basically, wats off a central road open up their grounds to food vendors every Sunday. We ate ourselves silly, never sitting down, just wandering from stall to stall grazing heavily. I would move to Chiang Mai for the walking street alone: YEH
  • Chiang Mai Saloon – If you go here as a tourist, unless you have a compulsion to watch the Super Bowl, you’re wasting your travel time. If you come here as an expat, I’d love to understand why: NAH
  • Brix – We were tired, it was there, and they advertised bagels, which is our travel kryptonite. Overpriced, terrible service, and the food was a waste of belly room: NAH
  • The Kafé, 127/9 Moon Muang Road – Though mostly a bar with Western food, it has another menu of local dishes hard to find elsewhere. We had to convince the waitress to let us order from the local menu, which had no English translation. We were happy with a pork dip, but even our adventurous palates gave up when faced with a large plate of sauteed pig skin, which had great flavor but was had the texture of rubbery pork fat, which got old. I’d love to go with a group and order one of every local dish so I could try it all: YEH
  • May Kaidee, Ratchapakinai Rd – After our plate of pork skin, we needed a dose of veggie. The pumpkin hummus, which they were very proud of, was bland. We got our fiber but no flavor: NAH
  • Jerusalem, Moon Muang Rd – Even coconut and lemongrass lovers like ourselves can burn out on Thai food. So, Todd’s mother recommended this place for great Israeli dishes. We picked a bunch of veggie mezes and, though it was one of our more expensive meals in Thailand, we did get a big plate of cheese out of it: YEH
  • John’s Place, Moon Muang Rd. – One of many dinky dive bars on the edge of old town, we were drawn by their shrimp toasts and cheap beer. It did the job: YEH
  • Kalare Food Center, Chang Khlan Rd. – It’s not worth seeking out, but if you are nearby and tired of street food, this is a controlled, well-lit food court setting with cheap and diverse options. Todd took his chances and ordered something with a name he didn’t recognize and wound up with blood pudding soup. There are plenty of more palatable options like pad see ew and tom ka gai, all for very few baht: YEH
  • Herb Garden Restaurant, Th Ratchadamnoen, Soi 1 – Inexplicably popular with the fatter-walleted tourists, we were hoping to be fed innovative Thai cooking, as the menu promised. It amounted to a whole lot of deep fried basil leaves and some of the more boring food we had in Thailand: NAH
  • Da Bakery, Moonmuang Road, Soi 6 – A good place to pick up baked snacks and fresh yogurt: YEH

Where we stayed:

  • CM Blue House, 30/1 Moonmuang Road, Soi 6 – This is where Todd’s brother and our sister-in-law stayed on their international honeymoon, so we went with their recommendation. Nice garden area, good included Wi-Fi, well-sized rooms, always available cold beer. Lots of mosquitoes from the garden water features so bring your bug spray: YEH

What we saw:

  • Wat Mahawan, Wat Bupparam, Wat Umong, Wat Pan Ring, Wat Suan Dok, Wat Chedi Luang, Wat Phra Singh, Wat Phan Tao, etcetera! – You could spend a month in Chiang Mai and not get to all the town’s wats. These are the ones we went to and as far as we can remember, were all worth a bike-by or a longer visit. It’s all become a chedi-chasing blur: YEH
  • Muay Thai Kickboxing at Loi Kroh Boxing Stadium, Loi Kroh Rd., west of river – read our story about muay thai: YEH
  • Bike rental from Sea of Love – Bicycle rental is a non-existent business in the old center of Chiang Mai, and once we got on our bikes we figured out why. The distances are long, the air is polluted, and the traffic is congested. Still better than being in cabs all day. The more of us that bike ride, the more bikes there will be to rent: YEH
  • Sunday Walking Street – Also a great place to eat, the shopping was secondary, but we found a few things to take home. Haggling necessary, though the bottom price is still high: YEH
  • Pongsakorn Dental for Teeth Cleaning, Moon Muang Rd. – Todd needed a teeth cleaning, and luckily it turns out that Chiang Mai is a hot spot for high quality, low cost dentistry for tourists. He left clean and happy: YEH
  • Grandma’s Thai Recipes Cooking Classread our story about the cooking class: YEH
  • Elephant Nature Parkread our story about visiting this amazing elephant sanctuary: YEH