We are just over a week back from our 2 week trip to Thailand and reluctantly reacclimatising to the miserably cold Melbourne weather. This was my 5th trip to Thailand and will not be the last. We had the first week in Chiang Mai and the second in Phuket. I don’t see myself returning to Phuket anytime soon but Chiang Mai - now that is another story.
This trip was myself, my partner and my 17 year old daughter. His 4th and her 3rd trip respectively.
We flew Malaysia airlines (usually go Thai) primarily to bid for the MH upgrade which my son and I got a coupe years back on a trip to Cambodia. As it turns out we did not get the upgrade and as Malaysia do not fly to Chiang Mai we then had the hassle of a 7 hour layover at KL and having to change airlines. Both flights were fine although our AirAsia to CM was delayed nearly an hour.
On arrival at CM it was quick through immigration and our bags were the first out! We grabbed a taxi easily and off we went.
We stayed at Green Tiger House in the north area. First time staying in this area. Other stays have been at Bodhi Serene, The Castle or by the riverside. I’ve done a review of Green Tiger - suffice to say it was fantastic and will be back hopefully next year. More of a residential area but still only 5 minutes walk to all the shops, restaurants, massage places etc.
As we have been to CM previously we have done many of the usual touristy things and this trip was more about relaxing and exploring a new area.
Arrived around 5pm. Power went out about an hour later but no big deal. Dinner at the Reform Kafe attached to Green Tiger (all vegan, vegetarian food) was wonderful and had by candlelight. Went for a short walk around the local area and tried a couple of atms without luck.
Woke up quite early today and had breakfast (delicious) then went for a walk. Made it down to Rachadamnoen Rd and walked a little way along here and back. I had a photo workshop with Chiang Mai Photo Workshops starting at 8. Had a fantastic day and learnt a lot. Seperate review. Not cheap (4200 thb I think) but well worth it. Arrived back around 3.30 and went out for a walk to get some food. Had a green milk tea (my favourite) at a little cafe attached to guesthouse for 30 baht and then wandered into Fahtara - the cafe attached to Fah Lanna Spa. Lovely cafe, lovely food, tranquil outdoor area. We had green tofu curry and 2 drinks - 390 baht. I had trouble getting cash from my Citibank visa debit card - kept being rejected. Worked fine in Europe last year. Got online and reset the pin and it worked fine after that.
Next up is Sunday walking street market. I have to stop at the new Elephant Parade store by Thae Pae Gate. I love these painted elephants and have been collecting them since our first trip. I get another 6 and the lovely lady there agrees to drop them off at the guesthouse later that night. We then hit the market around 6 and it’s already busy as expected. We stay about 2 hours, looked a lot, bought a few things and had a bite to eat along the way. I feel like a lot of the unique, handcrafty stalls aren’t there and the atmosphere isn’t what it’s been in past years but maybe we are just tired. We stop for a foot massage on the way back and at 300 baht each it is very good. Somewhat spoilt at the end by a couple of loud, rude, talking on their phones Chinese tourists. The massage staff are noticeably uncomfortable and embarrassed.
Up early today and off to a Muay Thai class at Chiang Mai Muay Thai gym about an 8 minute walk away. Great class with only 2 other people there. 380 baht.
Then it’s off to the riverside for shopping. We take a grab car to Wat Ket Karam for 50 baht. Have a look around here and then walk down to Healing Family Foundation. This is run for and by people (and their families) with disabilities. They make lovely cards, t shirts, bookmarks etc. We stock up on the cards and have a chat to one of the fathers who runs the place. Very inspiring.
Next is the pink tea house - Vieng Jong Oom. Love this tea house and we have a pleasant lunch in the outdoor seating area. They have a little shop out front and as always we make a few purchases before leaving. Across the road is a handmade paper shop that sells, unsurprisingly, paper -but also gorgeous handmade cards and we stock up on these. Have bought paper before and it hasn’t been used so it’s just cards today. These always get used.
A few more shops are looked through including Elephant Parade where I do buy one more elephant! We then cross the bridge and head over to the market area - fruit and flowers are purchased (100 baht for a lovely rose arrangement) and then my daughter and I grab a songthaew back (30 baht each). There are a couple of Thai ladies in the back and a conversation is attempted through gestures, smiles and nods mostly. We drop our shopping off and head back to the cafe from yesterday for another 30 baht green milk tea. The rather flamboyant young man who works there remembers is and is chuffed we came back. He tells me about the boys in the cave and shows us a YouTube video.
Back to green tiger for a quick swim in the small but lovely pool and then we head to Fah Lanna Spa for our massages. Booked a couple months ago. Absolutely wonderful spa - seperate review.
Dinner was at Dash - used Grab there and back. Delicious food as always at Dash.
A day out with Jimmy (Gems Excursion Advisors). We met Jimmy on our first trip and have used him ever since. A lovely man and a great tour guide. Unfortunately his wife was away so we didn’t get to catch up with here this time. Today we went to -
Wat Pha Lat - the jungle temple. It was raining lightly but a beautiful setting.
Elephant PooPoo paper park - recycling poo into paper. Great idea and a very pleasant visit. They give you a guided tour and you assist with the making of paper. Bought a few things in the gift shop too.
Queen Sirikit Botanic Gardens - canopy walk was very nice and the gardens were pleasant. Our favourite was the orchid and cactus houses that were just stunning (especially the orchid house). Had a drink at the cafe. Did not go to the gift shop.
Huay Tung Tao Lake. We had lunch here. It was ok nothing special but a lovely spot to relax for an hour. Not many people about.
Baan Celadon - my other favourite shop! The proper house not the outlet. Simply beautiful pieces here and the hand painted ones are just so detailed. I add to my collection of these as well as a few other things. There is a stunning hand painted vase but at 30000 baht it’s just too much.
We are back at Green Tiger around 4 - 2500 baht for the day’s driving. We head over to Fahtara for something to eat - mango sticky rice for me.
Dinner tonight at Good Souls - vegan place. Meals were lovely but unfortunately my daughter had an allergic reaction to something in hers. She has a nut allergy and we were told there were no nuts but who knows. Her lips swell up, rash around mouth, distressed and then vomits everything up about 10 minutes later. The staff are very good and concerned about her. After that we just head home. We had planned to go to a bar and watch Australia v Peru but this is quashed and my partner does this solo. Glad I didn’t go as we were appalling!
Up early and spent couple of hours in the seating area by the pool - I tended to do this every morning as I was waking at 6am and it was a lovely place to sit and relax. Had planned to go to Muay Thai again but the rain and my laziness decided against it. My partner had booked a mountain bike trip today and he was picked up at 8. Said it was a fantastic day out and a combo of bike / hike.
Daughter and I head to Free Bird Cafe (vegan) via Grab for breakfast. We both have the banana pancakes which are good but very filling and neither of us finish. We also have a fresh juice. We buy some bamboo straws, toothbrushes and cutlery so all up it is 1400 baht. This is a really lovely little cafe and supports refugees.
Next we head to Chiang Mai airport Paza mall. We use grab again and it is 75 baht. He is a bit of a character telling us sorry it was meant to be his wife driving but she was taking too long putting her make up on so he had to do it. We spent about 4 hours at the mall and bought a few bits and pieces. Had lunch at Fuji (Japanese) which was very nice. Grab back to Green Tiger.
I went over the road to Wat Lok Moh and had a look round (raining). Then a bit of a wander down toward Tha Pae Gate with the rain increasing. Stopped for a green milk tea along the way.
Picked up at 4.30 Kiyora Spa for our 5pm booking. Been here before and loved it. This time was good but the therapists wear gloves. Afterwards they drop us at Secret Learning Restaurant where we have a sublime Italian pasta meal. See seperate review. In short though - fantastic place. 750 baht for 3 of us.
We walk back after dinner stopping at our fav little cafe for green milk tea and iced tea.
Made it to Muay Thai today 8-10am and again a very enjoyable session. 2 others there this time. Once back my partner and I went for a walk down to Wororot market stopping at a few places along the way. Have been to this area before but strangely never right into the market. Anyway we loved it and see why everyone raves about it. Bought some Khao Soi pastes that were sealed for 50 baht each. Some lemongrass tea and dried mango (yum). Had a 40 baht bowl of Khao Soi on the ground floor. Found more wooden cutlery and got 4 sets for 45 baht each and 4 of the round wooden coasters for a similar price. So cheap. Wandered a bit more then found a cafe with wifi back on the streets and ordered a grab. Oh and green milk teas! This was the only time we had issues with grab as he said he couldn’t find us. I text him our location and he didn’t respond. The app showed his car nearby but not moving. After a few texts were not responded to I canceled and we got a songthaew. I showed the driver the Wat nearby Green Tiger which has the Thai name in google maps and he nodded all good and dropped us there.
Daughter hungry by now so I take her to Fahtara which has quickly become a favourite. Green tofu curry, spring rolls and 2 drinks - all delicious and 580 baht. Walked her back and then my partner and I went for a massage at the ex prisoners run Women’s Massage Centre nearby. Great massage. Much as I do enjoy going to the ‘fancy’ spas like Fah Lanna, Kiyora etc it is the small ones that I enjoy more. I like the hit and miss of it, it’s much more real and the people working there are mostly very genuine and friendly. Back to Green Tiger for a swim and relax before being picked up at 5.30 for our dinner at David’s kitchen. Seperate review done but please do yourself a favour and go here. Unforgettable evening and added to my list of to dos when in CM. I think the bill was roughly 5000 baht - 3 courses for 3 plus cocktails and mocktails. When I compare to what we get for that at home - we’ll actually there is no comparison.
We had a day trip booked today with Green Trails - see separate review. Just my partner and I went and we had a brilliant day. Pick up right on time at 8 and then we went to the butterfly / orchid farm. Haven’t been before and not somewhere I would go usually but it was actually quite nice. Next a local market. Bought some of those yummy sticky rice with banana snacks for 5 baht (for 2). We then drove to a local village in Chiang Dao where we had lunch - picked up Pad Thai along the way and it was delicious. Next another village where we talked to some of the locals and admired their weaving. Met an 86 year old woman who is still weaving. Just amazing.
We then started our trek which took about 3 hours. Was graded easy but I would say it was moderately difficult. A lot of uphill, very hot and humid, often no real path to follow, jumping back and forth across streams, traipsing through bamboo forests. The downhill was a bit slippery at times and had it been raining could have been treacherous. The final water crashing was actually quite difficult and we had to improvise with fallen branches to clamber across. Naturally we got wet doing this. We then drove back to CM arriving about 4. My daughter and I went to Fah Lanna for a final indulgent massage which did not disappoint. They offer a post treatment snack and tea in the gift shop but as she is allergic to nuts I had asked if we could have an alternative and not be seated near anyone having the nut snack. They very kindly sat us in the Fahtara cafe and we had a lovely snack of fruit and sticky rice.
We had planned dinner at Fuang Vegetarian but it was closed to it was back to Fahtara (after strongly toying with the idea of gong back to Secret Learning - proximity won out). Dinner for 3 with 3 drinks - 940 baht.
Woke up feeling sad at having to leave our beloved Chiang Mai. Thai airways flight to Phuket was all good though and we arrived around 12.
The weather - I think there was only one day where it didn’t rain at all but mostly short lived downpours that didn’t really affect our pans at all. It was quite hot and more humid than it has been before. Other visits have been in December (awesome time weather wise),April (just very very hot) and September (cooler but rainy). I would definitely go at this time again.
Numbers - I felt that there weren’t as many people around and this is certainly what locals were saying. Jimmy felt tourist numbers down the past year. I had been expecting big buses of group tourists but didn’t really see this at all. The only place that was crowded was the Sunday Market.
Why keep going back? It is under my skin and despite 5 visits I feel I haven’t seen enough. I find CM to be laid back and relaxed. I love the smell of jasmine and frangipani that always in the air. The variety of cafes, restaurant and local eating spots. The quirky shops and galleries. Walking around the riverside area. You don’t get hassled for tuk tuk, suits etc. It’s so walkable and enjoyable doing just that.
I do a lot of research here before any holiday -places to stay, things to do, where to eat -in this way we have have had some great experiences. It’s also fun leaving things to chance and just picking eateries randomly. Travelling with my daughter who is allergic to nuts and also vegetarian with a mild dairy allergy meant that our eating choices had to be fairly well researched and we couldn’t go to the local, plastic chair type places. That will be for the next trip!Edited: 16 July 2018, 10:00