Where We Be
For years we've been hearing about Chiang
Mai as a favored destination of expats and
early retirees, but it's taken us over ten years
since retiring to finally get here and see the
place for ourselves. Now we understand: this
place is special -- a winning combination of low
prices (northern Thailand is cheap even by
Thai standards), excellent food, and great
cultural sights. It has a comfortable vibe that
comes from being a smallish city (pop. 150,000).
The pace of living is relaxed, and Chiang Mai's
location in the northern Thai mountains means
it has cooler temps than other parts of Thailand.
During our one week here we did quite a bit of
exploring in the mornings and evenings when
it was coolest (it's still plenty hot in May even
in Chiang Mai). We sought out the best temples
inside the city like Phra Singh and Chedi Luang
(our personal favorite). We walked along the
square moat that runs around the old city. And
we even surprised ourselves and did some
shopping at the Sunday Night Market's endless
handicraft stalls. This page focuses on sights
within Chiang Mai itself, while the following
pages cover two nearby mountain temples, an
elephant rescue park, and a fun 3D museum.
|Speaking of home, we absolutely loved our stay at BED Phrasingh Hotel ($64 per night). It's centrally located near Phra
Singh Temple, and everything from the pool to the fast wifi to the incredibly helpful staff made our week here memorable.
|We immediately fell in love with the FREE fresh fruit, cookies, coffee, and bottled water in the lobby area --
not to mention complimentary beers and soft drinks in the mini-fridge of our room. The full breakfasts
each morning were outstanding -- especially the Thai mangoes the staff would happily slice up for you.
|We happened to arrive on a Sunday, the same day as the Sunday Night Market. This is a
big deal and only happens once a week, so this was our one and only chance to see it.
|The whole street is closed to traffic, and handicraft and food stalls set up all along
the road. It's a shopper's paradise. We ended up buying gifts for the whole family.
|These delicate handmade soap carvings of flowers inside “egg” containers were
our favorite purchase. At 90 baht each (~$3 US) we thought they were a steal.
|These paper lanterns also made a lovely display at night. We returned home
literally broke in terms of what remained in our wallets, and that rarely happens!
|We found two great restaurants within easy walking distance. It's Good Kitchen is a homey place
with tasty Thai food at low prices. And Tikky Café is the #1 cheap eats restaurant in Chiang Mai
per TripAdvisor. This place is terrific, with delicious Thai dinners for two only costing $6 US total.
|As far as getting around, we walked most of the time, but a
tuk tuk ride was always an easy option at just $2 or $3 per trip
|On a different day we visited the oldest temple in Chiang Mai -- Wat Chiang Man.
It was built in 1297 AD, around the same time Chiang Mai itself was founded.
|The lovely Elephant Chedi with its 15 life-size elephants
around the base is the oldest construction in the complex
|Hotel staff recommended we visit Wat Lok Molee just outside the northern city moat.
We especially liked the peaceful interior with its fine woodwork and gold highlights.
|These wooden statues of yoked oxen festooned
with colorful ribbons stood just outside Lok Molee
|After seeing Chiang Man (located in the northeast quadrant of the city), we continued walking
along the northern moat. In this photo you can see what little remains of the old city walls.
|Back streets in the historical center of Chiang Mai have a small-town feel,
with fruit stands, small cafes, and flowers helping to soften the city's edges
|Just down the street from our hotel was Wat Phra Singh, one of the most
popular temples in Chiang Mai. It's especially pretty when lit up at night.
|Phra Singh is Chiang Mai’s most revered temple. When we visited,
Buddhist monks were chanting in unison and locals outnumbered tourists.
|A daytime visit is also a good idea so you
can see the sunlight glinting off all that gold!
|Outside the temple is a memorial to Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who died
in 2016. Throughout Thailand we saw memorials like this to the beloved king.
|Just for fun, we also tracked down the Year of the Rabbit statue tied to the
year of our birth (1963) per the Chinese zodiac and made a small donation
|From Wat Phra Singh we walked to Wat Chedi Luang Varavihara (40 baht, ~$1.20).
Located in the historic center of the city, this was our favorite temple in Chiang Mai.
|The moat encircling the old city makes for pleasant walking. Our one week in Chiang Mai
was enough to get a feel for the place but you could easily spend a month or more here.
|Built in the 14th century, Chedi Luang rises up asymmetrically due to earthquake damage --
and yet it maintains a mysterious power. Its asymmetry only adds to its allure in our opinion.
|Chedi Luang once housed the famous Emerald Buddha before the 1545 earthquake damaged the temple.
It's still home to lovely golden Buddhas like this one sitting between two protective Naga (snake) guardians.
|The map at left shows Chiang Mai's location in the northwestern part of Thailand. We flew straight
from Phuket into Chiang Mai. The map at right shows the square moat that surrounds the old city
center. Here is where we did most of our exploring (plus Loi Kroh Road towards the Ping River).
|On the way home we detoured to find the Chiang Mai Women’s Correctional Institute, where you can get a Women’s
Prison massage. It’s part of a vocational training program and is highly popular with tourists -- in fact the wait was
over two hours long! We ended up skipping the massage but bought two watermelon smoothies at the café instead.
|A more modern and elaborate temple
also stands at Wat Chiang Man
|On the way home we passed several more
temples with beautiful artwork like this