Ever since I moved to Bangkok, I always wanted to visit Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai. Several Thai colleagues had recommended me this place. I’d also heard about Chiang Mai’s good weather, scenic views, beautiful temples, trekking by the waterfall etc.
Last week I finally managed to visit Chiang Mai with my wife and brother, and I thought of sharing my experience through my almost-dead blog. So here it goes….
Reaching Chiang Mai from Bangkok
We travelled by the Vietjet airlines(tickets were a bit costly than usual, mainly because we booked at last minute, but otherwise they have the cheapest tickets). Many people prefer travelling by train to enjoy the scenic views on their journey to Chiang Mai. However, both the airport and train station are around 10–15 minutes away by taxi to the main city. (5–10km 150 bhat)
Choosing a hotel in Chiang Mai
We stayed at Baan Chern Chiang Mai, a fairly new, clean, budget hotel inside the Old city near the south gate. The staff were very helpful & friendly. They helped us get bikes on the first day, arranged a super early breakfast on the second day and well maintained rooms. The Saturday & Sunday night markets, local restaurants and 7/11 are at walking distances from the hotel.
Day 1 — Old city & Wat Phra That Doi Suthep
Rent a bike
The hotel staff helped us rent 2 bikes as soon as we checked in for a reasonable price of 150 THB with a 2000 THB deposit. We had our lunch at an Indian restaurant, and then started our ride towards Wat Phra That Doi Suthep.
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep
The journey to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep was one of my best rides in a really long time. It was around an hour ride from our hotel to reach to the popular temple.
The journey to the top was very pleasant due to the amazing weather and beautiful roads. Anyone with a decent bike riding experiences could easily ride this road, though there were good curves and turns as can be seen in the google map screenshot above.
There were a few stopping/rest points on the way, where one could stop and take some pictures of the valley.
We reached Wat Phra That Doi Suthep around 4pm and spent around 2 hours exploring the area. If I remember correctly, there were around 306 steps to reach the temple, with an entry fee of 30 THB for foreigner tourists. The surrounding temple area itself is nice to walk around, take pictures, eat/drink etc. It was quite scenic and peaceful. A few tourists had drones and could not get enough of capturing the beautiful landscape overlooking the city.
Wat Phra Singh
On our way back to the city before sunset, we spent time at the Wat Phra Singh for an hour. It was a busy temple with no entry fee. The humongous golden Buddha inside the main temple along with the two golden stupas behind the main temple made a mesmerizing view.
Day 1 early wrap up
We had a early dinner at a nearby Vegan restaurant — Amrita’s Garden before heading to the hotel to sleep early for the highly awaited trek next day.
Day 2 — Full day trek to Doi Inthanon
We had booked a full day trek tour with Wonderful Ecotours. Our guide Mr Bee reached our hotel at the scheduled time 7am to pick us up. The van later picked up 3 more tourists before heading towards Doi Inthanon.
Our first stop was the magnificent Wachirathan Falls!
Due to rains, the water was unlikely in full force. So much that the refreshing water would have drenched us if we had not used our raincoats (sold in 7/11 for 29 THB in a pocket-sized pack). A good buy indeed!It felt extremely relaxing to hear and see the gushing water.
Doi Inthanon National Park
We then drove for another half-an-hour to begin our trek. Each of us was handed a stick to be used throughout the trek. We were introduced to our second guide for the day, Mr Jobpuk. The man was a localite from the white Karen tribe, spoke an altogether different dialect called — Karen and Northern thai. Mr. Bee spoke English, Thai and Karen, so it was easy to communicate with both the guides. Mr. Jobpuk was very skilled. He could randomly pull out leaves and twigs from trees and effortlessly make a flute or catapult of them using the broad knife he carried in his satchel.
The trek was of medium difficulty. You would need good shoes, insect repellent, sunglasses and raincoat to get through. The course of the trek was through the jungle alongside a waterfall. We passed multiple photo stops to the waterfalls, flower/fruit plantations, breathtaking views and challenging cliffs.
Doi Inthanon National Park & Pagoda
Final stop for the day was Doi Inthanon peak, the highest spot in Thailand.
Later we visited the king and queen pagodas. The temperature here was cool and low i.e. around 10–12 C. The pagodas are surrounded by beautiful gardens and scenic paintings on their structures. We could not see much around the pagodas due to the poor visibility by rain and fog.
Lunch and travel back to the hotel
We took a stop at a local village where we were served vegetarian food for lunch. The day was refreshing and tiring. On the way back to the city, I remember sleeping the entire journey to the hotel. We were back in our rooms by 5:30 pm.
Saturday night market
Later that night we went to the Saturday night market which was few hundred meters away from our hotel. It was brightly lit and thronged by tourists. The streets were filled with shops selling almost everything and not to forget the street food and massage parlors.
Day 3 — Exploring Wat Chedi Luang & Mae Rim
We checked out from the hotel at around 9 am to spend a full day at Mae Rim. Mr Bee was on time to pick us up from the hotel. We did not have a specific itenary for the day. However, we knew we wanted to relax and explore the surrounding areas of the Chiang Mai Old City. We started off by going to Wat Chedi Luang that we had missed seeing on the first day and then towards Mae Rim.
Mae Rim is a small district in Chiang Mai, about 1 hour drive from the Old city. Mr Bee wanted to take us to a coffee shop with a view he had heard about on Facebook. On our way we spotted Pongyang Zipline and Jungle Coaster, where we stopped to try one of their rides. We didn’t spend much time here, but this place had lots of things to do, and could easily take half of your day.
Little further was the coffee shop, which Mr Bee had been talking about. We were hoping it would be as good as he had described and it turned out to be much more. We were in complete awe of the view this little coffee shop had.
We spent 2 hours here just admiring the landscape and sipping in our coffee and munching our fries, cheese pops and what not.
Later we drove to the other side of the hill where we had our lunch at the edge of the hill in middle of the mist! We roamed around the area for some more time, took some really good pictures. This place had very less or no foreign tourists to be seen but seemed to be popular among the Thais.
Mae Sa Snake Farm
After lunch we headed towards the airport. On our way back, we stopped on at the Mae Sa Snake Farm to watch the famous snake show. I really did not have much interest in this one, but my wife insisted. The show was extravagant. The snake artists were very entertaining. They even threw a fake snake at us during the show which petrified my brother and leaped off his seat. It was exciting and fun to watch the show. The snake artists were very passionate about what they were doing and handled the snakes with utmost care. After the show, they went to great lengths explaining what to do when you see a snake.
We stopped at an Indian restaurant for an early dinner before being dropped at the airport.
- Plan your trip to Chiang Mai as early as possible. Domestic flight tickets prices shoot up like crazy when booking in holiday/peak season.
- Carry your driver license incase you plan to rent a bike/car and drive around the city.
- And lastly, pictures or videos I posted do not give justice to any of the views we had seen on this trip.