Chiang Mai Thai ~ Chiang Mai Thailand is for many people the ideal place to settle down.
It has the comfortable 20-30 degree temperatures, cheap and modern accommodation (advertising weekly and monthly stays), tons of restaurants, cafes and bars, and all other comfortable necessities you’ll need – western quality for a much cheaper price.
It’s the second largest city after Bangkok, but compared to Bangkok’s 11 million inhabitants, Chiang Mai is rather small and quiet with only 160,000.
It’s likely that you will find yourself staying here longer than you intended, just spending your day hopping from cafe to restaurant to bar to market.
There are so many things that it seems completely unorganized and random, yet they all seem to match each other in color!
Table of Contents
Best Time to Visit Chiang Mai Thai
Learning how to cook in the food mecca of Thailand was my highlight of Chiang Mai. I cannot recommend this enough.
I took a cooking course and had an amazing time. Aside from cooking, you learn so many things about Thai cuisine and traditions.
Choose your school wisely, as the teachers are what makes the class. We chose Asia Scenic Cooking School, and our teacher Gay Ray was fantastic.
Chiang Mai Thai Massage
Massages in Chiang Mai are incredibly cheap, often down to half the price of the ones in Bangkok. A normal price for an hour Thai massage is 120-200 Baht, and an oil massage is from 200 Baht.
A local Thai woman told me that just like every Thai woman can cook, they know massage. However, some parlors are just nicer and more romantic than others.
Green Bamboo and Fah Lannah Massage are both great places, a little more expensive (200 baht) but really professional and very nice rooms.
If you like, there are massage places all down the Loi Khro rd on the street giving foot massages for a cheap price, although it’s not quite the same experience.
Chiang Mai Thai Temples
I must admit that we had had our fair share of temples by the time we finally reached Chiang Mai. But there are so many temples in Chiang Mai that you can’t walk 30 meters in the old town before you walk past another temple – they’re everywhere!
They’re all beautiful, and in some you will see the surrounding gardens full of small and big statues of all kinds, that you normally wouldn’t think would fit in; Donald duck, Ganesha, a rooster, a cow – they’re all around the temple, which makes it a fun change.
Buddhists in Thailand strongly believe that worshiping at temples is a way of making merit, and a popular thing to do in Chiang Mai for Buddhist monks and locals is to visit nine temples all in one day, during a special holiday.
Sounds like a crazy thing, but it’s pretty manageable as all of these nine important temples are close to each other in the old city.
If you want to join their tradition, go ahead, otherwise I suggest you just walk around in the old city and choose the ones which look interesting.
Temples and Monks In Chiang Mai
With the overwhelming number of Wats, it comes as no surprise that Chiang Mai has very strong Buddhist traditions, and temples have become a very important part of peoples’ lives in the city.
Many temples act as community centers, and they are also very popular places for people to go to just relax, sit down in the shade and contemplate – below I have posted a series of photos we took while walking around Chiang Mai last week.
The temple grounds are peaceful and quiet – and although the hectic streets are just outside the temple walls, you feel like you’re a world away from it all.
There is so much to look at, and we loved all the wooden signs with words of wisdom that were nailed to the trees, reminding you of what is really important in life.
Every temple is beautifully decorated with golden details glittering in the sun, and they all have their own touches that makes each Wat unique and different from the rest.
Whether that’s a huge Buddha head statue or a Donald Duck statue eating noodle soup.
You can easily get templed-out while in Chiang Mai, but as soon as you leave you realize how much you took all of these beautiful serene places for granted.
Buddhist monks wear robes in different shades of Saffron and Orange.
People say that this is because it used to be the cheapest dye available, and thus became a tradition.
Explore the Chiang Mai Markets
If you like markets you will love Chiang Mai.
Every hour of the day there is a market going on somewhere in the city.
Weekday or weekend, morning, day or night – there is always a market going on.
There are morning markets spread out all over Chiang Mai, Somphet is the one which is closest to the guest houses in the old city, a perfect place to buy some fruit or coconut for breakfast.
Other great markets are San Pa Khoi market and Muang Mai market. The markets in South East Asia are a feast to the eyes as well as a shock.
Fish, candy, fruit and meat all mix together in a mish mash of stalls.
Fish markets in South East Asia
During the rest of the day there is the Warorot day market up at Chiang Moi Rd, a favorite for shopping among the locals, perhaps because you can buy anything and everything here.
Chiang MaiSunday Market
This market in the center of the old city along Ratchadamnoen Rd, the stalls are crammed next to each other and live music performers line the middle of the street.
Try to visit the market on a Sunday which is not during a holiday season, as it’s more quiet and less crowded then.
There is also a Saturday market down the Wua Lai road from late afternoon til midnight, some prefer this one over the Sunday market.
It’s the same kind of market but smaller and less crowded, and the prices are lower. You can still get the insect, ancient ice creams and waffles, but be able to enjoy them better 😉
Chiang Mai Night Bazaar
This market is on every night, and you’ll find anything from lanterns to clothes to jewelry. Just make sure to shop around for the open prices, as they vary a lot between the stalls for the same thing.
One of my favorite things to do when I travel is to visit the local markets; the smells, the pace, the people, the colors and the food is always such a fun experience, and it gives a great insight into the daily life of the people and the culture of the country you’re in.
Things To Do In Chiang Mai Thailand Markets
Day Tours and Treks
Every second shop down the main streets in Chiang Mai will be a tour agency trying to hook you up with a trek or tour. There are many different types of tours to choose from, and I suggest you shop around comparing prices between different agencies.
The tours usually include an elephant ride, a tribal village, some trekking and bamboo rafting.
Hire a Scooter or Bike
A scooter is a great idea if you want to see the outskirts yourself.
You don’t have to go to the tribal villages with a tour, but are more than welcome to go there by yourself too.
Just be careful, I saw more people injured from scooter accidents in Chiang Mai than I’ve seen in total in the rest of Thailand, the drivers are pretty reckless, and just because the streets are emptier it doesn’t mean that they’re much safer.
A bike is a great way of getting around the area, not just the old city but if you want to bike a bit further and check out some malls and spa’s.
Chiang Mai Thai Food and Restaurants
Thai food culture has a key role in Thailand, and in my opinion, the best place to explore this famous cuisine is in Chiang Mai. There are also a lot of choices for western, Indian and organic alternatives. The restaurants are lined up along every street.
Along Mueang Soi 6 and around the small street corners are some great eateries, and there are some great cafes at Rachadamnoen road.
The street food is best at the southern end of Taphae Gate.
Great breakfast and lunch, large portions and a lot of choices on the menu (especially for vegetarians), in a nice relaxed environment
Aum Vegetarian Food
The Khao Soy soup is to-die-for, and the Chiang Mai Style Muesli Fruit platter is great!
If you’re craving for something else than Thai food, El Diablo serves huge burritos and a big basket of fat nachos, worth the price.
Thailand Medical Tourism Get Healthy and Beautiful
After traveling through Laos & Cambodia we decided to head down to the south of Thailand and relax for a while on a few of the islands – in the video below we decided to try something new – we wanted to try and capture our impressions of the Thai islands in video format.
Thailand Medical Tourism is becoming increasingly popular in Thailand as people are realizing that traveling abroad can actually save you more money than getting the treatment in your own country.
Walking down the streets of Chiang Mai, it’s hard to avoid seeing all the signs and shops offering amazing deals for all sorts of health treatments – so why not go for it?
We took advantage of the cheaper prices in Thailand Medical Tourism and had a bunch of health and beauty treatments in Chiang Mai, from a visit to the dentist to another detox and getting my hair cut.
Whether you’re just looking for some touch-ups, to spoil yourself, or looking for a more serious surgery, Thailand is definitely a place to consider.
Here are some popular treatments that are much cheaper in Thailand…
Thailand Medical Tourism Dental Treatments
Normally, people don’t just pop into a dentist and get their teeth fixed in a “spur of the moment” kind of way – in Thailand, that’s pretty much exactly how you do it.
A lot of people go there to just whiten their teeth, but having a check-up and do some fillings is also a great idea.
The dental clinics in Thailand are very modern and equipped with the latest technology, so we were happy that we decided to go there ourselves.
Thailand Medical Tourism: To give you an idea of the prices, a tooth filling costs from 500 baht ($15 USD), whereas in Europe it costs around $100 USD.
Colon Cleansing In Chiang Mai Thailand
When entering the fancy glass doors into a “Health and Beauty Clinic” in Chiang Mai, we were welcomed with a glass of ice cold water and asked to sit down and discuss the treatment. With your eating habits, it’s safe to say that your body needs regular maintenance through detox cleanses.
It really was an absurd situation, to be talking with two young, good looking women about bowel massage and… poop.
Yes – we were both having a colon cleanse.
The reasons to have a colon cleanse are many, like skin beauty, cancer prevention, longevity etc. However, for us there was one reason that made us really want to do it (prepare for some gross facts):
The average person has between 4 to 25 pounds of built-up intestinal matter in their colon… The amount of built up “crap” depends a lot on your eating habits.
Back to the reception. It was absurd simply because you just don’t discuss your bowel movements and habits with others – EVER! It’s embarrassing and disturbing.
But I had to get over myself and remind myself that these two well dressed petite Thai women do this every day – it’s their job to empty people’s… bowels.
The women weren’t embarrassed at all, but talked about everything as though it was nothing more sensitive than a facial treatment.
Although I’m not sure how used they were to having a 6 foot 3 tall guy (Nathan) coming there!
Colon Cleanse Procedure
A few minutes later, the two of us were put into different rooms (something I was very thankful for later on!), and given a set of sandals, a towel, and a silk robe.
As I entered the room there was a huge spaceship-seat-looking thing with a big tank in front filled with 25 liters of water. I was left alone, and had no idea what to do.
Did they expect me to do it all myself and know how to get this spaceship going? I started getting nervous: what had I got myself into?!
How could this tank of 25 liters of water possibly be able to fit inside MY body? What were those two see-through pipes running along the sides, and that huge leaver next to the seat?!
As I tried to climb on top of the thing, one of the women finally entered the door.
This is when things got a little awkward… She helped me with all the..uhm..arrangements, and told me to start pulling the “gear”.
It was a very strange feeling, and being told to “push out” in front of a stranger was a thought that I had to fight to get over.
I have never before been into such a crazy situation, having someone carefully observing what comes through the pipes running along the machine.
Then, after a minute or so, she said “Oh, I see you’re a vegetarian!”…Huh?
She continued asking me questions, talk about my health and eating habits, things I thought nobody else could know unless you followed me 24/7 – she could see it all by just looking inside that see through pipe, and knew my body better than myself!
I was left alone with a magazine, as though they thought you could relax and read anything when your whole world was been pushed upside down.
The following hour was one of the strangest experiences, but it also changed everything for the better for months afterwards.
In the West, colon cleanse is still something rather new, and old-fashioned doctors claim that the body should take care of it without help – however the truth is that it doesn’t.
Researches have shown that 90% of the western world’s population’s colon is completely messed up and doesn’t look anything in the way it does when we’re born, this because of our eating habits.
It’s not the normal spoil-yourself gift for the start of a new year, but if you want to get healthier instantly, Thailand is a cheap place to do it.
Medical Tourism in Thailand is a huge business. Other than health treatments, Thailand is full of medical beauty touch ups too, like dentists… I can’t help but to consider trying that too…
Spa Resort / Detox Center Packages
Stay for an hour, a day, or a week – there are plenty of spa resorts, detox centers and other types of wellness retreats all across Thailand Medical Tourism – both for those who just want to pamper themselves, as well as for those who want to change their whole lifestyle – detoxify their bodies and meet with alternative health doctors.
Tao Garden outside of Chiang Mai is one of the best health retreats in northern Thailand, mixing new medical developments of Holistic Western Medicine with traditional Eastern arts like Taoist Massage, 5 Element Chinese Healing Systems, Acupuncture and Ayurvedic practices from India.
In the South, Kamalaya on Koh Samui has won many awards for being one of the best wellness retreats in the world, as much for the beautiful location as for the service itself.
Massages and Manicures
A Thai girl we met said that just like every Thai woman learns how to cook Pad Thai, they learn how to do a great Thai massage – which might explain why they’re so many massage parlors everywhere..!
Massages are so cheap in Thailand that you can treat yourself to one every week – but I would suggest visiting a real parlor rather than sitting down in a chair by the street, it’s just not the same.
There are many different types of massages to choose from, and just to let you know, the Thai massage is not as relaxing as it sounds, although it is an experience in itself..!
Manicures are also cheap and a great way to spoil yourself, and you can hustle a good deal if you go for a pedicure as well.
A 1 hour Thai massage costs around 4 USD, while in Europe the same massage costs 60 dollars.
A manicure costs around 5 dollars, while in Europe you would pay around 30 dollars.
Walking around Chiang Mai, you pass by a lot of clinics advertising everything from botox to face lifts – even specialized surgeries like a tummy tuck, cost half the price from getting it done in Europe.
While botox is probably not on top of most people’s lists, I know several people who traveled all the way from Sweden to Thailand Medical Tourism to get help with their skin and health issues because the treatments were both cheaper and better than at home.