Chiang Mai– I Get it Now

Chiang Mai– I Get it Now

Since becoming a part of the travel blogging community, there is one city that I’ve heard nothing but constant praise for: Chiang Mai.

Home to a sizable travel blogging community, everyone seems to love this city. Can I even call Chiang Mai a city? It feels barely bigger than a town!

Located in the northern region of Thailand, Chiang Mai seems worlds away from its infamous big brother Bangkok, and although it’s indeed the second largest city, I guarantee it’ll never feel that way.

Chiang Mai - Apr 2014

For the past two years Chiang Mai had been on my radar, so I was more than excited when I finally booked my tickets to visit during April for Songkran.

Upon our arrival, I was shocked at the city’s appearance. Free of any skyscrapers and tall buildings, Chiang Mai is surrounded with mountains and villages.

Coming from a place with a fast-paced lifestyle like Hong Kong, the relaxed way of life in Chiang Mai was thoroughly appreciated, and the charming little city was quick to win me over.

Chiang Mai - Apr 2014

Chiang Mai - Apr 2014

Most travelers come to Chiang Mai to visit the hilltribe villages, volunteer at the Elephant Nature Park, trek in the mountains or to improve their Thai cooking skills, but we did none of that.

While we hope to do those activities during future visits, our days in Chiang Mai were spent mainly doing a whole lot of nothing. We wandered the Old City, leisurely visited some markets, ate some delicious food and explored some of the many wats.

Part of that was because we only had a weekend there, but part of that was because it was relaxing– and that’s why I enjoyed it. You don’t need to do a whole lot to experience the charm of Chiang Mai, although it does make a great base for exploring the untapped northern Thailand villages.

Chiang Mai - Apr 2014  Chiang Mai - Apr 2014

I can certainly see why Chiang Mai is home to a very large travel blogging community. It seemed almost too easy to plant roots there.

The northern part of Thailand is the cheapest part of an already very cheap country. I know people living there who have scored beautiful apartments for around $100-$200 USD per month, including all utilities and internet—a price most bloggers or digital nomads can certainly afford when first starting out.

Western amenities are easy to find around the city as well. Pop into any grocery store or even convenience store and you’ll instantly notice familiar western brands.

Not to mention that you can find almost any type of international cuisine in Chiang Mai. Yes, even Mexican food, a food elusive to Asia, which we gladly chowed down on our first night there.

Chiang Mai - Apr 2014

Most of our other meals consisted of mouth-watering street food that I begin to crave just thinking about it. Pad Thai, tender chicken, and incredibly sweet fruits. Oh and the bananas. Fresh bananas, banana crepes, friend bananas…for a banana lover like me, it was heaven.

While the food was amazing, the reason behind my real love for Chiang Mai is because it’s a city steeped in culture.

Chiang Mai - Apr 2014

Chiang Mai has more wats than you can count. Every few steps we encountered another temple or saw crumbling ruins mixed in amongst the more modern buildings. Each unique in their own way, I couldn’t get enough.

We loved strolling through the small markets at night, watching street performances and browsing through art made by locals. We never made it to the famous Night Bazaar, and instead went to a market that was set up specifically for the holiday. There were tourists there of course, but it seemed to mainly cater to Thais and we really felt as though we were getting a better insight to the local culture.

Chiang Mai - Apr 2014

Chiang Mai - Apr 2014

I know we barely even scratched the surface of the culture during our stay. At least we did get to experience Songkran, one of Chiang Mai’s two greatest festivals. Said to be better than anywhere else in Thailand, Songkran was truly an amazing celebration unlike any other I’ve experienced before.

The other festival, Yi Peng, looks absolutely stunning as millions of glowing lanterns are released into the night sky. This is probably the festival I most want to visit anywhere in the world, and hopefully if things go correctly I may finally get to make that dream come true later this year.

Chiang Mai just has so much going for it; I would be lying to say that I never considered making the move out there. While I don’t think I’d ever want to stay longer than a month, (what can I say, I’m a city kind of girl) who knows, maybe I will someday.

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Have you been to Chiang Mai? Would you like to?

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34 Comments

  1. June 23, 2014 / 12:45 pm

    I would love to visit Chiang Mai–it’s near the top of the list! It looks like such a great spot–I’ve always heard such great things about it too. Great description!

    • Beth Williams
      August 5, 2014 / 1:48 am

      A lot of other travelers and digital nomads always rave about Chiang Mai. It’s a great city–depending on what you’re looking for. It’s very quiet and relaxing… nothing like it’s big brother Bangkok. ;)

  2. Marysia
    June 20, 2014 / 9:43 pm

    Glad to hear you liked the place! I think is very nice but way to small to live there….

    • Beth Williams
      August 5, 2014 / 1:43 am

      Yeah, I don’t think I’d like to live there long-term, but I think for a couple of months it could be fun!

  3. June 21, 2014 / 9:44 am

    I’ve also written about Chiang Mai in the past. However, after two visits I’m still get to ‘get’ it at all. I mean don’t get me wrong, it’s an ok place but I find it rather dull in all honesty. Can’t see why it gets so much praise!

    • Beth Williams
      August 5, 2014 / 1:47 am

      It is dull, but after living in Japan and Hong Kong with insanely fast-paced lifestyles, dull was exactly what I needed for a while! Chiang Mai is not somewhere I could stay long-term though. I do need the city and excitement. :)

  4. June 21, 2014 / 3:06 am

    I’ve only been to Chiang Mai once, when I was a teenager. I hope to be back in Thailand some day!

    • Beth Williams
      August 5, 2014 / 1:46 am

      I hope you make it back as well! It would be interesting to see how you like it as an adult.

  5. June 20, 2014 / 11:48 pm

    Thank you so much for this review.
    I also have seen a lot of appraisal of Chiang Mai amongst travel bloggers and never understood why…until now. It seems a lovely and relaxing place!

    • Beth Williams
      August 5, 2014 / 1:45 am

      It’s a great place if you’re looking for that laid-back atmosphere. If you like fast-paced and nightlife, you’d be highly disappointed!

  6. Megan Claire
    June 20, 2014 / 10:47 pm

    I would LOVE to get to Chiang Mai! I especially can’t wait to get to Songkran – city wide waterfight? Count me in!!

    • Beth Williams
      August 5, 2014 / 1:44 am

      It was seriously such a blast!

  7. June 20, 2014 / 10:47 pm

    I leave for my travels around Southeast Asia in a week and Chiang Mai is firmly on my hit list! After reading so many glowing reviews about the place, I’m considering sticking around for a bit too :)

    • Beth Williams
      August 5, 2014 / 1:44 am

      Let me know how you like it! Where else are you planning on visiting?

  8. June 20, 2014 / 3:40 am

    Oh I miss Chiang Mai sooooo much! There is a little coffee shop in the middle of the “square” about a block from the Saturday Night Market that has the best coffee I’ve had in Thailand.

    • Beth Williams
      August 5, 2014 / 1:43 am

      I miss it too! I’d love to go back and stick around for a few months.

  9. June 17, 2014 / 8:03 pm

    I’m sure I would love this city that looks like a town: the atmosphere, the food, and the traditions still strong… it all looks exciting!

    • Beth Williams
      August 5, 2014 / 1:42 am

      I think it’s a hard place not to love!

  10. June 13, 2014 / 6:58 pm

    Curious – how good was that Mexican food actually? Though I guess after a dry spell anything would be good!

    I am bummed we didn’t make it to Chiang Mai while in Thailand, I’ve heard such good things about it. We did really dig Bangkok though.

    • Beth Williams
      August 5, 2014 / 1:42 am

      Unlike in Japan where I only ever went to one Mexican restaurant, we have a few in HK. They’re all… okay. The one in Chiang Mai though was actually GOOD! I was so surprised.

      I’ve traveled about in Thailand twice and still haven’t been to Bangkok! Hoping this fall I’ll get there.

    • Beth Williams
      August 5, 2014 / 1:40 am

      I’ve been dying to go to Yi Peng! Maybe this year I’ll make it out that way. :)

  11. June 12, 2014 / 7:11 am

    Glad to hear you liked it. I have been wanting to go to Chiang Mai and more generally to Thailand for YEARS. I hope to make it there eventually, but it is a long jaunt for me at the moment with limited vacation days :(

    • Beth Williams
      August 5, 2014 / 1:40 am

      Yeah, there’s really no easy way to get to Thailand. Hopefully you can keep saving your days off and get out there! It’ll all be worth it when you finally make it there :)

  12. June 11, 2014 / 12:01 am

    Hi Beth, great post and you’re spot on with everything you say. I’m currently living here with my wife and two-year-old son. We plan on staying for the full two months of our visa, and we’d definitely stay longer if we weren’t meeting up with people at our next destination. It’s not the most beautiful city in the world, but it has to be one of the most charming. The people, food, relaxed lifestyle, countless things to do, it’s just a great city. Like you, we may be back one day to stay a lot longer than this initial two month stay.

    • Beth Williams
      June 25, 2014 / 6:05 am

      I was surprised at how charming it was. Yes it’s slow, and yes it’s pretty small… but that’s exactly why I liked it. I hope to return soon!

  13. June 10, 2014 / 6:06 pm

    While I wasn’t a fan of Bangkok, I am intrigued by Chiang Mai mostly because it seems so popular and because it’s more laid back than Bangkok. I love that you just went there an wandered around and didn’t try to fit everything in. I try really hard to travel like that all the time but it’s not always possible when there is so many great things to see and do.

    • Beth Williams
      June 25, 2014 / 5:59 am

      It was nice just wandering and not visiting any tourist attractions for once. We’ll do it next time though :)
      I’m really wanting to visit Bangkok since I’ve never been… not sure I’d like it either though.

  14. June 10, 2014 / 5:57 pm

    As always, I love your photos! You’ve just added Chang Mai to my list as well. So many places to see, so little time ;)

    • Beth Williams
      June 25, 2014 / 5:58 am

      Thanks Greg! It’s true.. as I tick off places I’ve always wanted to see, more places just get added to the list ;)

  15. June 10, 2014 / 7:17 am

    I have been to Chiang Mai twice and love the city. During the first visit my boyfriend and I did two cooking classes plus bamboo rafting, the latter north of Chiang Mai, and spent lots of time at the night market. Unfortunately we didn’t have enough time to visit the many Wats and Temples.The second time one year later I made it to Wat Doi Suthep and to some Hot Springs, both outside of the city, but couldn’t do that much more because I was on a 24-hours stopover on my way to the thai-lao border and further down the Mekong to Luang Prabang on a slow boat. I’ll definitely go back to Chiang Mai in the (near) future for a more cultural stay to finally see at least some of the buddhist Wats and Temples.

    • Beth Williams
      June 25, 2014 / 5:57 am

      That sounds amazing. I really wanted to do cooking classes and Wat Doi Suthep, but we just didn’t have the time. We really didn’t do a single touristy thing other than visit Wat Chedi Luang. Next time!

  16. June 10, 2014 / 5:21 am

    I haven’t been there yet, but have read that lots of bloggers live there. It seems a bit small to stay for long, but I”ll have to see for myself one day :)

    • Beth Williams
      June 25, 2014 / 5:56 am

      I agree it’s too small, so I wouldn’t want to stay more than a month or two. Although, it would be nice to hunker down and get some work done!