This post is all about what to do in Chiang Mai, Thailand. There are thousands of other activities to check out, so don’t limit yourself to this list but I think this is a good resource for getting some ideas on how to spend your time!
My husband and I went to Thailand in January 2019 for our honeymoon and absolutely loved it. We traveled around the country to a few cities and they all had some really cool and entertaining aspects, but Chiang Mai was by far our favorite spot. We spent one week in Chiang Mai but could have honestly spent the whole honeymoon there. I don’t think I could ever get sick of the beautiful temples, delicious food and peacefulness that Chiang Mai offered. I compiled a list of our favorite activities in Chiang Mai, I hope you enjoy it!
Grab a Latte at Ristr8to
Chiang Mai had quite a few roasters and specialty coffee shops, and my husband and I had every intention of going to a new one every morning. However, when we went to Ristr8o on day two, we knew there was no way we would go anywhere else the rest of our stay in Chiang Mai. They roast their beans every Tuesday and every cup of coffee we tried was heavenly. The staff was very friendly and well informed if you were interested in learning more about their beans and products. But the best part about Ristr8o was that each latte was a work of art. We would stop and admire the perfect designs in the foamed milk before we would devour our coffee. The baristas at Ristr8to actually have taken home several awards for their creative caffeine displays, including the National Thailand Latte Art Championship. Check out their website here.
Enjoy a Take Away Thai Iced Tea
If it’s too early for a Singha or you’re just not feeling in the mood for water grab a Thai Iced Tea and go for a stroll around the neighborhood. You can of course get a Thai iced tea anywhere in the world, but for some reason these drinks are extra delicious when you are drinking them around town in Chiang Mai. Who knew tea, milk and sugar could be so addictive! We would have at least one a day and they were always a tasty treat. I loved getting one of the tapioca bubbles in a sip! The tea in the picture is from a cute little open air shop called Tea Mania. You can check out their website and location here.
Go Grab a Beer From Parallel Universe of Lunar 2 on the Hidden Moon
This place was a hidden gem. My husband and I really love IPAs and Sours, and craft beer wasn’t readily available in a lot of the bars and restaurants. We decided to try to find a place that served some good craft beers and we found it! The bar is located on the fifth floor of a building which was really neat because they had three balconies that overlooked downtown Chiang Mai. We grabbed a couple beers and enjoyed the sites and sounds for a few hours one night. The two staff members that were working when we went in were super excited to meet fellow beer lovers and were really fun to talk to. You can also buy beer to go from them which was cool so we could have a night cap back at our hotel room. We ended up buying some pint glasses from them because the name of the bar was so cool we wanted something to remember it by! Plug the address into your GPS program and look for the elevator outside to gain access. When we went there was just a handwritten sign marking the bar so keep your eyes peeled because it was slightly tricky to find. Check out their location and hours here.
Take a Thai Cooking Class
I think this was my favorite part of what we did in Chiang Mai. There are a few different venues to choose from and I am so glad we choose the place we did. It was called Thai Farm Cooking School and I highly recommend them. The reason we choose them is because they offered transportation which was super easy to set-up, they took you to the market so you could learn how to buy rice and spices and all of the other ingredient came right from the farm. We had a ton of fun and decided to do the full day cooking class to really get the most out of the experience. You do not have to have any previous cooking skills and it was fun to meet other travelers. The class sizes were small and everyone was really interesting and from all over the world. The instructor walked you through step-by-step each recipes and she was very attentive if you needed help at any point. The best part of the cooking class was that there was a full staff of aunties to do all the dishes between courses! You go home with a recipe book that contains all the recipes you made and a few additional ones too. It was so cool seeing this self-sustained farm and learning how all the crops grow. If we ever go back I would absolutely do it again because they prepare different menus on different days.
Treat Yo’ Self to a Couple of Nights at Pingvamin Hotel
When Paul and I travel internationally we like to stay in a variety of lodging accommodations. As much as we love to see new places and learn about different cultures, it can get a little stressful and sometimes you need to have a place where you can take a minute to feel a little pampered and be able to feel totally relaxed. I think it helps to enhance your trip because there is nothing worse than being on edge and stressed out when you’re on vacation. We generally will go back and forth between cheap, but well rated Airbnb’s and higher end hotel rooms to help achieve this balance. This way the cost of our lodging will average out to a reasonable amount and we get to feel a little pampered. I personally like to use booking.com for the hotel rooms because I they have a loyalty program called “Genius Rewards” which unlocks discounts at a lot of places. That being said one of our “treat yo’self” hotel rooms ended up being one of the coolest places we have ever stayed.
We had come directly from Bankgkok and I needed a day or two to calm down because Bangkok was sensory overload! We choose to stay at The Pingvamin Hotel in a Luxury Suite with a king bed, spa bathtub and private balcony. As the conversion from US dollar to Thai bhat is so good this hotel room only cost about $141 a night after taxes and it was so worth it. The bathroom in our room was GIGANTIC and so posh. We were greeted with a delicious iced tea and snack upon check in and we knew we had made the right choice! The hotel is immaculately clean and absolutely beautiful. It is designed to be traditional Northern Thai style rooms where everything from the bed frame to the baseboards is carved from wood with a rich red and gold color palette. All of the tiles and draperies are elegant and you almost feel like you are Thai royalty because the hotel feels like a palace. The staff works very hard to make sure every need you have is met and the whole resort is spotless. There is a restaurant on site overlooking a lovely koi pond and we thought the papaya salad was the best one we had in all of Thailand! The pool and spa is just what you need to cool off from the hot Thai weather and the king size bed felt like sleeping on a cloud. We really enjoyed our time here and I would highly recommend spending one or two nights to experience this calm and peaceful place. Recharging your batteries is so important when traveling internationally because of the time zone change and I really feel like you need to plan a couple nights at a nicer place like this. If you are interested in booking a hotel room, you will receive $25 off your stay with this coupon code at booking.com.
Enjoy Traditional Northern Thai Dancing, Music and Dinner Show at Old Chiangmai Khantoke
What a unique and beautiful experience this was! We felt totally immersed in a rich history of Northern Thai. From the elaborate costumes to the unique instruments and music this was a beautiful showcase of traditional Northern Thai dancing, music and food. The costumes and performers were stunning and kept you entertained and engaged for the whole show. It is was a mix of a history lesson, dance performance and dinner. You purchase your tickets in advance and with the exchange rate the cost ends up being less than $20 USD and includes a ten course meal consisting of traditional Northern Thai dishes. You sit on the floor cross legged on comfy little mats and your hosts bring your dinner directly to you. This feast is served family style with endless refills on anything you would like. Check out their website here for pricing and show time.
Shop for Beautiful and Unique Hand Made Pottery at Mengraikilns
This shop has rooms and rooms that are full from floor to ceiling with the most stunning pottery in every color of the rainbow. They are all celadon style which is the type of glaze that is applied and then hot-fired to produce a translucent ashy look. Celadon style pottery has been around for over 2,000 years and I think these pottery artists do a wonderful job at carrying on the tradition. I think it would be impossible to come here and leave empty handed. I bought so many souvenirs here I had to buy an additional piece of luggage to get it all home! But it was absolutely worth it as we purchased a jade-colored tea set that we will have for years to come! Check out their website for hours and location.
Take a Tour of Araksa Tea Garden
We are all about trying new food and drink when we travel and we love taking advantage of opportunities to learn more about these delicacies from specialists when we can. This was a very peaceful and serene day for us and we learned so much about tea and got to see a little bit more of the remote countryside. There are several tour packages you can choose from, we decided to do a garden tour with a lunch. If you need it, Araksa Tea Garden will arrange for your transport and pick you up from your hotel (which we opted to do). It was a beautiful ride up North to where Araksa was located and nice to get out of the densely populated city for a few hours. Upon arrival we were greeted by the caretaker of the Garden named Charlie who was also our tour guide. A very kind and gentle man he taught us the differences between the tea varieties and the process of growing, picking and producing tea. We were given our own collection gear and spent some time wandering the grounds and picking the perfect leaves to make our own delicious green tea. It was very interesting to learn all the health benefits of green tea from Charlie and his assistant. After our tour we were provided with an amazing three course lunch and of course the tea we had picked ourselves and roasted! What an amazing experience it was and probably one of the only places like it in the world. Check out their website if you are interested in learning more and for pricing.
Try Some Amazing Street Food at Chiang Phuak Night Market
We loved eating dinner on the go at the street markets all over Thailand and Chiang Mai’s Phuak Night Market did not disappoint. The amount of food and beer you get for $3 is incredible and it’s all delicious and fresh. Our favorite food from Chiang Phuak market was (of course) the pork and rice from the cowboy hat lady and the steamed custard buns from the cart directly to the right of the cowboy lady. We actually found ourselves craving these amazing steamed buns for months after we got home and I would highly recommend trying one…or five! There isn’t a website for either but just look for the food stand with the biggest line and you are in the right place!
Support Local Muay Thai Boxing and go to Thaphae Boxing Stadium
If you are looking for some action and nightlife, start our your evening by checking out some authentic Muay Thai boxing. There are several arenas in Chiang Mai, and based off reviews and blogs we choose Thaphae and I would highly recommend you do too. There were fighters of all levels of experience which was super cool to see, and they had a live band playing traditional Muay Thai fighting music. It was super fun to place wagers and bets with the locals that were also spectators and the beer was cheap! Please keep in mind that this is real fighting with blood and bruising, so if you have a problem with hand-to-hand fighting this event is not for you, but if you can appreciate the sport then it is such a cool experience! A lot of the google reviews were people complaining about the age of the fighters and I think you just need to remember that it takes years to master the skillset to be a successful Muay Thai boxer and you are competing at all stages of your training. You can check out the hours and prices of the gym here.
Eat as Much Khao Soi as Possible!
Khao Soi is the most delicious thing you will ever eat. It is a curry- coconut based broth containing chopped pork, bean sprouts , lime, ground chillies and topped with friend crispy noodles. It is so easy to devour giant bowls of this well beyond your capacity because it’s unlike anything you ever eaten before. I have two different places to recommend you try and I really think you need to have both. Both of these restaruants are un-assuming simple shops and it will blow your mind how scrumptious their Khao Soi is. The first is called Khao Soi Khun Yai and it is located directly next to Wat Khuan Khama Temple. There are currently 780 google reviews with a 4.6 star rating which is pretty amazing and it’s not uncommon to order a second bowl once you devour the first!
The second place was there very tiny little street shop that does not appear to have a business name. I only found the location because I went to the info on my google photo album. But trust me, this is worth the adventure into the unknown!! The google coordinates are: 18.7812000, 98.9954000 or just click to drop the pin in google maps and give it a try! If you do go and find out what this little shop is called please, please let me know so I can link up to it! It is directly next door to a little coffee shop and there is a blue and white umbrella out front.
Watch a Sunset at Rise Rooftop Bar
We found this rooftop bar called Rise and went there one night to watch the sunset over the mountains to the west of Chiang Mai. It was breathtaking, as the sky changed the most beautiful shades of pinks, reds and purples. You could see the Mountain Top temple in the distance and it was just a really awesome experience. Rise Rooftop Bar is located on the 10th floor of the Akyra Manor Hotel and offers some really delicious cocktails and Tapas snacks. Go during their happy hour to get 2 for 1 cocktails!
Go See Wat Doi Suthep (Golden Temple in the Clouds)
Wow. What a beautiful place. Chiang Mai has hundreds of temples all over the city, but this one is a must see for its beauty and size. It is situated on top of a hill southwest of the city center. There are 300 stairs you climb to get up to the golden temple (or you can wait for an elevator) and the stair case is lined with two serpents on either side winding up the mountain. Make sure you are dressed appropriately to enter the temple (covered from your elbows to knees and no shoes before entering) and enjoy the beauty. We stayed and enjoyed watching the monks and other worshipers enjoy this amazing place where you truly are in the clouds.
People Watch at Poppy’s Kitchen
The last night we were in Chiang Mai we stopped into Poppy’s Kitchen, grabbed one last cold Singha, sat on the patio and people watched all night. There was live music and it was so relaxing to watch everyone hustle and by us. It is directly across the street from the Buddhist temple Wat Chedi Luang and I loved seeing the monks come and go in their yellow clothes. A very fun and low key to spend an evening in Chiang Mai after a busy day of eating and sightseeing. Check out Poppy’s and spend an hour relaxing here!
What do you think about my list? Is there anything you think I forgot? Are you going to Thailand and planning a trip soon? Let me know!