It’s no secret that Thailand is an incredible country. I bet you have five friends that have been in the last year (or you’ve been yourself).
It’s a popular destination and for good reason. Beautiful beaches, a great attitude, tasty food, and so much more. Everyone loves Thailand. It’s an easy place to be.
Yet Chiang Mai was still an unexpected surprise. The places I tend to find most attractive when traveling are generally lesser known spots in the middle of nowhere rather than sprawling cities.
But of course there are always exceptions. In fact I almost didn’t leave this lovely place that I fondly refer to as the “Portland of Southeast Asia.”
It’s cheap as hell, the people are awesome, the food is out of this world, the street markets are killer, the yoga is phenomenal, and the climbing is much more relaxed than in the south. And the MASSAGES. Less than $10 USD for a sweet Thai lady to work out all those knots over the course of an hour.
Chiang Mai is magic. Essentially.
To be quite honest, though I did eat at a variety of spots (the street food in this city seriously kicks ass), I ate at Dada Kafe nearly every day. Everything is fresh and organic. And the SMOOTHIES!! OMFG!!
Rock climbing at Crazy Horse Buttress is far more relaxed than the climbing in the south. I think this is mainly because it’s about 40 minutes out of Chiang Mai so it takes slightly more effort to access the crag. However, I thoroughly enjoyed this after the busy, polished routes in Tonsai. You can either rent a scooter to get out there yourself, or head out with Chiang Mai Rock Climbing Adventures. For about $10 USD they’ll take you out at 8:30am, feed you lunch, and bring you back to town at 4pm.
I made friends. We rented scooters and rode them up into the mountains to visit a Hmong hill tribe village and a crazy golden temple.
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is a buddhist temple that is a super popular tourist site. The biggest takeaway I had from visiting the temple? I didn’t – and still don’t – understand why a BUDDHIST temple is decked out in gold. Seems to defeat the whole point…
The first guesthouse I stayed at is not worth mentioning because I soon found Giant 2 to call home. I don’t know where Giant 1 is, but quite frankly, I didn’t care because I just adored staying at this little place. The location is fantastic — it is a two minute walk to CMRCA which was convenient because leaving to climb at 8 am is quite early for me. And the staff is super awesome — we definitely shared a bit of Sang Som and a lot of laughter.
For a basic private room and shared bathroom I paid about $6 USD a night. A nicer room is about $10 USD, but being the end of my trip and having slummed it in far worse accommodations, the cheaper room was fine by me. They also offer free water, coffee, and tea which is a nice touch.
A few more snapshots of this city I love so dear.