We knew we wanted to go to Bangkok, but we also wanted to get a taste of another part of Thailand. With a population of under 150,000 people, Chiang Mai is manageable, it's in the northern part of of the country and its temples are some of the best-known in Thailand - sold!
Quite a bit of our time in Chiang Mai was devoted to visiting a few of its many temples. See our post, Chiang Mai, City of Temples to read about the beautiful temples. Chiang Mai is also known for its markets (day and night) which we enjoyed along with a great restaurant we found on the bank of the Ping River.
In a word - WOW! We love experiencing markets when we travel and we hit the jackpot with this one! The market is huge, with several levels, and you can find just about anything you need from food to clothes to electronics. We spent about an hour there and concentrated on the ground floor which is mostly food. It's open daily and is a great insight to the local culture.
Snake jerky, anyone?
Here's a short video to give you a taste of the market (pun intended)!
It took a while to find out what this is; any guesses? (Answer below)
Some of the non-food items - so colorful!
This was such an interesting shop in the market.
Walking out of the Warorot market, we headed toward the river and found an interesting street market selling beautiful fruit, flowers, meat and seafood.
We tasted dragonfruit for the first time in Chiang Mai and we loved it.
You never know what you might come across.
Sunday Night Market
There are so many markets in Chiang Mai that it's dizzying - and hard to keep them straight. Arguably the most famous of the outdoor markets is the Sunday Night market. We had read about it before we left home and we scheduled our visit to Chiang Mai over a Sunday to be able to experience it - and what an experience it is! Chiang Mai closes the main east/west street in the Old City, Rachadamnoen Road, and it as well as the side streets off of it become a teeming mass of locals and tourists alike. From tea to teeshirts, there's something for everyone. We loved strolling through the food and crafts stalls on a beautiful evening.
Can you imagine trying to choose a ring from this pile?
The coconut ice cream was delicious, but we weren't sure what some of the colorful toppings were. But trying new food is part of the adventure of traveling, right?
This is the adorable young couple who sold us the delicious kabobs.
A Word About Our Hotel - The Empress Premier
Chiang Mai's Old City is only about one square mile and easy to explore on foot. If you've read our other posts, you probably know that we prefer to stay in the old section of cities. We originally booked a hotel in the Old City, but we've become fans of elevators rather than steps and the hotel, as nice as it appeared, didn't have an elevator. I couldn't find one in that area with an elevator that also met our financial guidelines - we like to stay under $200 a night - so we looked outside the walls. We ended up at the Empress Premier, a few minutes' tuktuk ride southeast of the Old City.
It's brand new and their customer service was stellar from the time we landed to the time we left. Not only did they send a front desk staff member to the airport with the driver to meet us, they showered us with flowers and gifts throughout our stay and they upgraded us to a beautiful and huge suite. The hotel has two restaurants; the one pictured below offers a huge breakfast buffet.
We felt like we were coming home each time we returned. There are other high-end hotels in the same area, but I can't imagine staying anywhere other than the Empress Premier!
The River Market Restaurant
Another great find was the River Market Restaurant, on the bank of the Ping River. We had both a dinner and a lunch there. The food and service were excellent as was the setting, and as everything else in Chiang Mai, it was priced reasonably. My curry came in a coconut and it was delicious!
Modes of Transportation in Chiang Mai
There's no lack of options to get around Chiang Mai! Since we stayed outside the Old City, taxis were our usual mode of transportation. Tuktuks are the taxis of Chiang Mai and they're a lot of fun - and inexpensive. There are tuktuk stands everywhere in the Old City, or you can hail one. The drivers are adept at weaving in and out of the Chiang Mai traffic. Only once did we think our children might get their inheritance earlier than we planned!
This driver had it all together; note the chicken (for good luck?) and her horn!
The city buses are called Songthaews. There are benches on each side and in most cases, there's no particular itinerary; they go wherever their passengers want to go. They're inexpensive and very popular, but we opted for tuktuks and didn't try a songthaew.
This is the sightseeing boat on the Ping River.
We happened to be in Chiang Mai during the Loy Krathong festival which is held during the full moon of the 12th lunar month. In 2019 that fell around the the middle of November. Hundreds of lanterns are sent into the sky and krathongs which are floating containers, are placed into the river while the faithful make a wish. We unfortunately weren't able to witness this spectacle, but we enjoyed all the lanterns throughout Chiang Mai while we were there.
The lanterns dancing in the sky from afar.
Here are a few miscellaneous photos as we strolled around the city.
These pop-up shrines as I called them were all over.
The colorful lanterns that greeted us as we arrived at the airport.
Chiang Mai was a wonderful introduction to Thailand for us. The people are warm and friendly and the temples are beautiful. We thoroughly enjoyed our stay there.
Answer to the Warorot Market photo - it's curry!
➜ Top Tips
Thailand is hot, even in the north. Dress comfortably and bring a hat.
Tuktuks are the local taxis and they’re a fun and inexpensive way to get around.
We found that most tuk tuk drivers in Chiang Mai spoke little to no English. Have your hotel write its name and address in Thai or give you a card with that information on it so you can show the tuk tuk driver when you want to return.
Pack light. If your hotel has laundry service, use it. It’s not expensive.
Be sure to visit both the Warorot and Sunday Night markets!
Depending on how many temples you want to visit, three days is a good amount of time to spend in Chiang Mai.