Chiang Mai, Thailand: What to do and Where to Eat

I spent my first month in Thailand living in the Old City in Chiang Mai. 

In one short month I fell in love with the not only the country of Thailand, but the city of Chiang Mai.  So when booking my flight to return for a week nearly 7 months later, I couldn’t have been more excited.  My first month I was living in a cute little hotel called Eurana with the 28 other people doing the same thing as me (bless the Eurana staff for putting up with us fa rangs) so I knew I wanted to stay here again, even if only for a night.  When I did finally make an appearance I was pleasantly surprised that the staff remembered me!  The fact that the staff remembered me after all of this time is a prime example of why I fell in love with Thailand so quickly in the first place.  Everyone knows the way to my heart is through a good meal, hence the second reason Thailand was able to steal my heart.  Once being back in Chiang Mai, I was able to visit the restaurants I visited so frequently my first month there: The Funky Dog, Da’s Café, and Arroy Dee’s, just to name a few.  And to my surprise, every single one of the owners remembered me.

There is still so much left for me to explore (and eat) in Chiang Mai, but that’s kind of the beauty of this city.  No matter how long you stay, you’ll be left wanting more and there will be plenty more to discover.  If you’re passing through Chiang Mai, Thailand here are just a few of the activities I’d recommend and the food I’d eat:

What to Do:

Explore the Many Temples:

Just like most places in Thailand, there are plenty of temples throughout Chiang Mai.  You can probably walk outside of your hotel/hostel and happen upon at least a couple and every one is worth checking out.  While I was in Chiang Mai, I visited Wat Chedi Luang and Wat Phra That Doi Suthep.  Doi Suthep also comes with a great view of the city.

Chiang Mai, Thailand temple

Wat Chedi Luang

Chiang Mai, Thailand, Doi Suthep

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep

Chiang Mai, Thailand, view from Doi Suthep

View from Doi Suthep

Spend a Day at Elephant Nature Park:

This is absolutely one of the highlights of my trip.  Unfortunately, a few months ago, I was pretty oblivious to the abuse of elephants in Thailand.  I was visiting Phuket in May with my family and chose to ride elephants.  Being the unknowing tourists that I was, I had no idea that these animals were being brutally abused for tourist’s pleasure.  Elephant Nature Park rescues elephants from trekking camps, logging, the circus, or other abusive environments and provides them with a safe, cruelty-free oasis.  While you’re there, you will have the opportunity to feed, bathe, and interact with these beautiful creatures.  It was truly an unforgettable experience.

Chiang Mai, Thailand elephant nature park

Chiang Mai, Thailand tarah with an elephant

Chiang Mai, Thailand three elephants

Walk up the Bua Tong Waterfalls:

Better known as the “sticky waterfalls”.  This waterfall is bound to be unlike anything you have experienced before.  I’m not very good at science so I’m not going to try and explain it, but these waterfalls are somehow not slippery and allow you to walk straight up the falls.  You can walk up them no problem and not have to worry about slipping (unless you’re me, then you always have to worry about that).  When you reach the top of the waterfall, you’ll be greeted by an amazing view.

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Make a Weekend Trip to Pai:

Pai isn’t actually in Chiang Mai (just about 91 miles northwest of it), but it’s just a 3 and half hour bus and 150 baht ride away.  Pai is an absolutely amazing place to visit, and you can read more about my adventure in Pai here.


Plan a Day Trip to Doi Inthanon National Park:

Doi Inthanon is actually the highest mountain in Thailand.  We chose to do a day tour where we went to the top of the mountain, saw the Pagoda of the King and Queen, hiked through the jungle and saw multiple waterfalls, and ended up at Karen village where we were provided lunch and fresh ground coffee.  We had a tour guide, Yewen, (also known as our personal photographer) who truly made this experience even better.  Shout out to Yewen for being the best tour guide around.

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Quick Trip to Mon Jam:

Yet another place with a beautiful view of the city.  I visited Mon Jam on my last day in Chiang Mai for a “graduation ceremony” from our TESOL course.  Definitely a great way to commemorate my time in Chiang Mai.  Also worth mentioning: tripped and slid down a little hill while taking a picture in front of everyone in my program lol



Experience the Madness that is Songkran:

If you haven’t heard about Songkran yet, let me be the first to inform you on this amazing holiday in Thailand. It is actually the Thai New Year and the entire country breaks out into an all out water fight for four days straight. Chiang Mai is known as one of the top places to celebrate the holiday, however, it can be experienced all over Thailand. Although you would have to plan your trip around these dates as it only happens once a year, it will be worth it. Be on the look out for a full post about my new favorite holiday!

Where To Eat:

The Funky Dog:

I went here almost everyday for breakfast and occasionally for lunch, as well…it’s just that good.  Whether you’re in the mood for a croissant for breakfast or a traditional Thai meal for lunch, the Funky Dog won’t disappoint.

Arroy Dee’s:

Khao Soi is a traditional meal that you can only find in the North of Thailand.  It is by far one of the best meals I’ve had since being in Thailand and I was looking forward to going back to Chiang Mai just to eat this dish.  You can find it at restaurants all over Chiang Mai, but the best one I found was at Arroy Dee’s.  Unfortunately, I’ve really got to work on my foodstagram skills because I seem to lack pictures in the food category.  Take my word for it, though, it’s amazing.

The Hideout:

I’ll be the first to admit that sometimes you just need a good Western style meal.  If you’re a little sick of the rice at noodles at this point and feel like having a good sandwich, this is where you’ll want to go.  This adorably designed café will make you feel right at home and leave you with a full stomach.

Chiang Mai was the first place I stayed when arriving in Thailand and the last place I saw when leaving after 6 and a half months.  It is one of my all time favorite places I’ve ever visited and it will always hold a special place in my heart.  These were just a few of my favorite things I did and places I ate while there, but I’m still left wanting so much more.  Until next time, Chiang Mai!

Also While in Chiang Mai:

Ate 8 pounds of rice a day, ate American breakfast every morning, took a Muay Thai class, planted rice, drank plenty of coffee, blacked out at Zoe’s, and plenty of other things that probably aren’t worth mentioning.  Already looking forward to the day I return.


25 thoughts on “Chiang Mai, Thailand: What to do and Where to Eat

  1. I can’t wait to have you for my tour guide when we come to see you! You never cease to amaze me!! I miss you Tar!! And love you! Xo

  2. I’m so happy you recommended ENP, such a magical place. After seeing your Pai and National Park pics, I regret not going there as well! list and I wish I was back in fun Chiang Mai 😀

  3. These all sound like amazing things to do. I would definitely want to go see the elephants and enjoy watching them while knowing they are being humanely treated. I would also want to go up the sticky waterfall! Chiang Mai looks incredible!

  4. Your trip to Chiang Mai looks like great fun! Kudos to you for admiting of riding an elephant in puket and then posting about Elephant Nature Park… It’s great to be aware now and support the good animal causes now. Really appreciated reading your post 😉

  5. I have been to Thailand several times but never Chiang Mai. Your post has decided my next location in Thailand. I will love to stick to that waterfall and that swing is so so cool. I can spend full day sitting there and taking views. Thanks for sharing this up.

  6. I feel like packing my bags right away and leaving for Thailand. That waterfall, that swing, that temple, those views!!! Just loved this post 🙂

  7. Wow you took wonderful pictures and it seems you really enjoyed this incredible location!! I love Chiang Mai, it’s one of my favourite city I have ever been in my trip around Thailand. I went there in November 2013 and I can’t forget my 5 days, between old city, walking days tour and Doi Inthanon mountain. Chiang Mai is laid-back, dynamic and modern without having lost its down-to-earth charm. Thank you for sharing this post, brilliant!! 😀

  8. Your first point….. Temples would be my main reason to get there. They have always amazed me with the stories and architecture within and then, the waterfalls and elephant park for me…

  9. Which tour did you use for your trip to Doi Inthanon? Going to Thailand in March and super interested in visiting Doi Inthanon, but not sure if it’s worth renting a car and driving there with friends or going with a tour like you did!

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