48 Hours in Chiang Mai

I didn't have any real expectations for Chiang Mai. I'd only heard great things but after Koh Samui, I anticipated that I might feel disappointed. Thankfully, I was totally wrong. In fact, I think our hotel in Chiang Mai was likely my favorite hotel of the entire three-week trip. We ate really well, we saw beautiful things, we had a lot of fun shopping, and once again, the people of Thailand managed to make us feel so welcome.
The flight from Koh Samui was super easy. It was about an hour and a half and we got to see some gorgeous mountainous scenery from the airplane.

We grabbed a cab from the airport and it was a ten minute ride into the old city to our hotel.
We got to the hotel just before lunch time and our room wasn't ready so we left our bags and went to explore. But before we left, they draped some jasmine flower necklaces around our necks. They smelled amazing.
Just around the corner from our hotel was its namesake, the Phra Singh temple.
It was quiet, quaint, serene, and completely free to visit, except for one building which had a small fee; we skipped that one.
I'm sure part of this is biased by the fact that this was the first temple we visited in Chiang Mai, but I think it was my favorite. There was something so zen and charming about the fact that it was nestled in amongst trees and hedges and loads of greenery. It was just so quiet and felt genuinely spiritual being there; all of the tourists wandering the grounds seemed really respectful of the vibe and kept their voices down. And it was ornate and beautiful without being overly ostentatious.
About a ten minute walk from Phra Singh was Wat Chedi Luang. I had bookmarked this one on my map because I'd seen photos of it on Google and saw that it looked like an ancient ruin and completely different from any of the other temples and I was completely lured in by its uniqueness. Needless to say, this aspect meant that there were hoards of other tourists who were similarly persuaded to visit.
I thought it was beautiful and vast and the architecture was v. interesting.
This little dragon made me miss George Michael so much!
It was at this point that I realized I'd lost my baseball cap somewhere. It wasn't anything special but it was really annoying and wasteful to lose it like that. I mean, it had survived several plane rides and multiple cities at this point but it couldn't survive the half-mile walk between two temples? Ugh.
By the time we'd finished walking around Chedi Luang, it was almost the time our hotel said our room would be ready so we headed back. Just around the corner from our hotel was a v. reputable chicken shop. We stopped and picked up a half chicken and an order of morning glory.
When we got back to the hotel, we'd arrived just in time for afternoon tea and activity. So, we grabbed some dumplings, a cold beverage, and a popsicle and waited for the instructor to finish setting up.
It was a Monday and the afternoon activity that day was a class on how to make papaya salad. Since we'd just picked up lunch, we thought this would make a great additional side dish so we jumped right in. I wrote down the recipe immediately after the class and we've made it a couple of times since getting home so I'll be sharing the recipe on my food blog eventually.
The salad was bright and salty and spicy and savory; it was such a good balance of textures and flavors. The morning glory was good, though it didn't live up to our Koh Samui experience of morning glory. The chicken was fantastic. The meat was tender, the skin was crisp, and I don't know what they did exactly to season it but there was a deep umami, savory flavor that I found so satisfying.
Our room was super spacious with a large bathroom and two comfortable beds. We paid ฿6075 ($198 USD) for two nights. This rate might be a bit high for Thailand but it didn't even register as expensive in my North America-minded brain and split between two people, that's only $50 USD a night anyway. Plus, the rate included breakfast and the fun afternoon activities and tea every day and the rooms were so clean and modern and luxe, there was a lovely pool, free bikes to borrow, and the location was so prime, I think every dollar we paid was worth it.
I had read great things about this spa, which was literally a one-minute walk from our hotel, so before we arrived, I booked in for massages, two days in a row.
If you're unfamiliar with Thai spa etiquette, you should take your shoes off before you enter; don't worry, they'll give you slippers. And, in Buddhism (and in my opinion, in general life) feet are considered dirty, the masseuses will clean your feet before you get your massage.

For our first massages, we got full body Thai massages. Thai massages are performed fully clothed. They provided us with breezy linen outfits. My sister loved the pants so much she was obsessed with trying to find a pair to purchase and bring home. (Spoiler: she succeeded.)

My masseuse was pretty aggressive with pressure and at some points I was mildly uncomfortable with the way she was pressing on my bones instead of my muscles; I thought it was kind of weird but I just went with it figuring she knew exactly what she was doing. And honestly, despite feeling a bit sore in some spots, overall I felt super stretched and refreshed by the end of it so I guess it worked, right?
After our massages, we were given a delicious herbal tea and cashew nut tartlets.
I'm not usually one for booking tours, but wanting to maximize on having a cultural experience while abroad figuring I wouldn't be back to Thailand again for a little while, I booked a Khantoke dinner. It's basically just enjoying a meal while sitting on the floor and watching some traditional Thai dances. There wasn't anything wrong with the experience in and of itself but we found it kind of boring to be frank. Thai dancing doesn't really require complicated skill or rhythm so it was just kind of like watching people moving their hands around and smiling. My sister and I felt a little rude at some points because we were actually cackling with laughter at some of the performances (including one where a group of women came out and scream-sang for fifteen seconds and left) but it was honestly pretty laughable at times.
The food was decent. There were some dishes I enjoyed more than others. In particular, I loved these crunchy sweet fried banana fritters, sweet fried crispy noodles, and the pork skin. I also really enjoyed the sticky rice served in bamboo baskets.
The costumes were v. pretty and it wasn't a horrible way to spend the evening. I just don't think it was worth the money. We paid about ฿600 ($20 USD) each and since it included transportation, dinner, and a show, I suppose it's not like we felt robbed. In retrospect, that money would've been better spent on really delicious street food instead.
The next morning, we got up pretty bright and early and grabbed breakfast in the hotel lobby. They had this super simple, amazingly delicious noodle soup that I fell in love with. One of the staff - this super smiley guy that chuckled and laughed at everything - instructed me to add a little fish sauce and vinegar and in the end, the broth had such a complex depth of flavor.
The one and only time we took a songthaew was to go to a temple outside of the city center. We could've taken a communal one but instead, we decided to pay ฿600 ($20 USD) for a private one to take us up, wait for us while we did our sightseeing, and brought us back down. The communal ones function kind of like a public bus except that there are no set stops and it'll stop for people flagging it down, it'll stop for people who want to get off wherever they want to get off, and I knew it might take too long. Plus, the ones headed for the temples tend to wait for the vehicle to be completely full before they leave and I didn't really want to waste that kind of time.
If you're not keen on climbing the stairs, there's a cable car but I don't think the stairs are all that strenuous.
We paid ฿30 (<$1 USD) each as foreigners to enter. Thai citizens can get in for free.
When I talked about how I really enjoyed Wat Phra Singh because it wasn't overly ostentatious, I think I was comparing it to this place. It's huge and everything is gilded and there are little shrines and statues and jewels all over the place. That being said, it was certainly a sight to behold and pretty wonderful and a lot of fun.
By the way, the culottes I'm wearing in the photo below are the ones I purchased in Koh Samui. They were super breezy and comfortable and I think they're plenty cute and I've already worn them a couple times at home.

Because this temple is up high on a mountain, you can get some pretty spectacular views of the old city from here.
Because we got there so early, it wasn't overly crowded but after about an hour, it started to fill up rather quickly so we slowly made our way down. Halfway back to the songthaew we made friends with this cutie.
When we got back to our hotel, we grabbed bikes and went off in search of lunch.
I had read that a great local dish to try was khao soi and this was the place to get it.
This place only makes two dishes: noodle soup and khao soi, so we got one of each. The noodle soup had a lovely, clean-tasting broth with bits of tender pork and wonderfully soft noodles. The khao soi had a rich saucy curry with really chewy hand-cut noodles. My mouth is watering as I write about this meal.
After first lunch, we hopped back on our bikes in search of second lunch.
I wanted more Hainanese chicken so we came to this little spot. The chicken was decent, though, not as good as the chicken we had in Bangkok. The real star of this meal was the Thai iced tea. It was insanely cheap; I think it was maybe ฿20 ($0.65 USD) per glass and it was fantastically delicious with loads of deep, rich black tea flavor, perfectly sweetened, and piled high with crushed ice.
After lunch, we biked back to our hotel and got in some pool time. There were a handful of kids being kind of loud and obnoxious so we didn't spend too much time there. It was just enough time to cool off. M got a fifteen-minute massage (the hotel offered free massages by the pool) and I wanted one too but it was getting too close to tea time and I didn't want to miss out on the activity so we left to clean up.
We headed down to the lobby around 2PM so we could participate in the flower arrangement class. We had so much fun making our arrangement (and though they promised they'd keep it for a week, it had been altered when we went down the next morning, hmph).
We'd missed most of the delicious savory snacks from tea time (like all of the dumplings and skewered meat) but I did have a shaved ice, piece of cake, and fruit.
After our snack, we walked around the city to do some shopping. We bought some coffee and handmade goods as souvenirs for friends and family back home.
As we were walking past this cafe, I thought it looked super charming so we popped in to check it out. I loved the look - it was total instagram porn - and they had Thai iced tea on the menu so we sat down and had a little snack. I got the Thai iced tea and M got the lychee smoothie. The tea was a little too bougie (I actually preferred the one I had with lunch earlier in the day) but it was still good. The lychee smoothie was just blended frozen lychee and it was so good.
For our second massages at Kiriya Spa Vana, we got foot massages. It was so relaxing and awesome and we left with super soft, happy feet. By the way, each massage was ฿500 ($16 USD), which is sort of mid-tier price for a Thai massage. You pay more for ambiance and amenities.
The instructor from our flower arranging class had told us we should check out the spa associated with our hotel, Makkha, if we wanted to check out some more awesome flower arrangements so we stopped by on our way back. The staff were so sweet that even though we weren't there to get any treatments, they brought us cold towels, tea, and a yummy crispy rice cake snack.
As soon as the sun went down, it started pouring rain. As soon as it let up, we made the twenty minute sojourn to the north of the city to get a street food dinner at one of the city's many markets.
We got our meal from the most famous stall of the market and got the most famed dish of pork leg rice. And of course, we couldn't not get one last dish of morning glory on our last night in Thailand. The pork was crazy tender and seasoned with what I suspect is soy sauce and palm sugar and it totally hit the spot.
For dessert, we had the coconut pudding. It was soft and sweet and custardy inside with lacy crispy edges.
On our final morning, we grabbed some breakfast and then hopped in a taxi to the airport.
We had the cutest little propeller plane to our next destination: Hanoi.
This meant that the plane never went too high and we got to see all of the lovely landscape throughout the flight.
Here's my video diary:


  1. I have been to Krabi and Bangkok in Thailand, awesome place. We visited the Railay ( Phra Nang Cave) beach, Chicken island, Poda Island & Tup Island in Krabi. We did Snorkeling near Tup island &Chicken Island, awesome experience. Then we visited Krabi night market, here you can find people enjoying shopping, eating, music & having fun late night in the market. You can find good things at reasonable prices. I would surely recommend others to visit Krabi. In Bangkok we have the city tour, very clean and beautiful city. We travelled from UAE and the trip was so awesome. Thai Visa processing was too quick and easy.


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