Travel guide: 11 things to do in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Chiang Mai is situated in the north of Thailand, frequented by tourists for its mountainous terrain and for the calm atmosphere one can find there. It is the largest city in the north of the country, being a great hub for the other towns in the area, Chiang Rai, Pai, and Lamphun, which are also points of interest for many tourists.

Moat around the old city of Chiang Mai, Thailand

We stayed in Chiang Mai for one week, experimenting part of the things this wonderful place has to offer.

Here are our suggestions for your trip in Chiang Mai:

1. Chat with a monk

Visiting one of the biggest Wat in Chiang Mai and chat with a monk.

There is a program that they have at this temple and you can talk with a monk about whatever you are interested in, you can ask him about their life, about Buddhism, about the meaning of life, about the Universe etc. You won’t have a time limit, so just sit down comfortably and enjoy the talk, leave room for the others to ask, be respectful, don’t be ashamed to ask and be curious.

It is one experience that you can have in Chiang Mai that will surely stay with you for a while.

2. Tiptoe around a Wat (Buddhist Temple)

Temple in Chiang Mai, Thailand

If you have been before to Bangkok or another Buddhist Asian city, you have surely seen many temples and maybe this won’t be the first attraction for you. You will nevertheless observe that they have a different energy, so we recommend you to just have a walk on the quiet and narrow streets of Chiang Mai and for sure will find a nice, colorful temple where you can stay and meditate for a while and find a little peace. If possible try not to talk when entering a temple and turn off your camera flashlight. Respect others and the monks that are usually around meditating or doing their chores.

3. Visit the Chiang Mai Night Market

Smiling vendor in Chiang Mai night market, Thailand

Chiang Mai Night Market is crazy. It’s full of people and products, you can find there whatever you want. The place is a celebration. Take care of your belongings as the place is very crowded, negotiate the prices if you want to buy something and go to The Food Center where you can eat a cheap and delicious dinner.

On your way to the market, you can see part of the nightlife in Chiang Mai, ladyboys and places for erotic massage. Don’t stare at them, just smile and move along. Of course, do this in case you don’t want their services. 🙂

4. Take a three days tour into the jungle

By far one of our best experiences in Thailand was going on a three days tour into the jungle.

We recommend you to prepare for this trip before coming to Chiang Mai as it will be useful to take it into consideration when booking your accommodation. Since you will sleep two nights in the jungle, it’s useless to also pay for a hotel room.

The experience is unique and you will learn many things about living in the jungle, about plants and seeds, about insects and snakes, about people who live there and of course, about yourself.

Take a comfortable pair of trekking shoes, water, and some snacks and just let yourself amazed by the beauty of nature. Walk barefoot, learn how to cook with them, respect the nature and be part of it.

You can read about our experience in the jungle here and here.

5. Chill out on a beautiful terrace

Terrace in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Chiang Mai has plenty of beautiful terraces that allow you to enjoy the weather, to feel the place, to have a drink or to eat something delicious. We recommend you get lost on its narrow streets and to find your favorite one.  Usually, the music is nice, the atmosphere is relaxed and the traffic is almost absent.

Just take a break from all the attractions and feel the vibe of the city.

6. Enjoy an authentic Thai massage

One happy customer after Thai massage

Despite what Westerners think, an authentic Thai massage has nothing to do with erotism. In the contrary, at some point, you may feel that the lady will break you in pieces. 🙂 You will never know how flexible your body is until you have a Thai massage. You will be fully dressed in special loose massage clothes provided by the salon and they will press different parts of your body and they will contort you to different positions. Thai massage is one on one.

Although you will experience some pain, you will leave the place relaxed and with a flexible body.

As you walk the tiny streets you will find many Thai massage salons with very acceptable prices. Just find your favorite and experience the different types of Thai massage.

7. Enjoy as many coconuts as you can

First, you drink the sweet juice of the coconut

If you want to make us happy, give us one coconut. It was our favorite beverage in Chiang Mai. It’s cheap, healthy, it has a nice taste and of course, you can find it anywhere in the streets and restaurants.

Then you scoop the pulp with a spoon and eat it

The price often varies because of the size of the coconuts and the type of place you buy it in but with maximum 60 Thai Baht (about 1,5 euros), you can enjoy your coconut anywhere in Chiang Mai.

8. Roam the streets

In Chiang Mai, we didn’t use any kind of transportation. The city is not so big and the streets are so nice and have so many things and attractions that we thought it would be a pity not to walk everywhere.

It can be tiring at some point but you can rest whenever you want in a cafe or in the middle of the street drinking a coconut or just stopping for a massage.

9. Take a Thai cooking class

Cook teacher explains how spicy the Thai like to eat

Learn how to cook like a local by taking a cooking class. Thai food is very tasty, with a lot of spicy ingredients and different herbs and vegetables. We enjoy eating it, but many times we didn’t know what was on our plate, because of the diversity of the ingredients, so we decided to attend a Thai cooking class.

We chose Thai Akha Cooking School and we paid 27 $/person. The class includes a tour to the local market where the chef shows you different Thai ingredients and spices, the cooking class and the food for the whole day.

We cooked 11 different dishes and we tasted them all. Yes, it was difficult to eat so much food, but we managed it. 🙂

Don’t we look pretty?

The chef gives you many tips and tricks about Thai food and also about Thai culture. She even told us at the end of the course how to stay safe in Thailand and what to avoid in order to have a wonderful holiday.

Thai cooking class in Chiang Mai, Thailand

This course is also a great opportunity to meet new people from different countries. At the end of the course, you will receive a cooking book and some Thai ingredients. We booked our cooking class online here. You can read about our experience here.

10. Go to the local market

Food stand in a market in Chiang Mai, Thailand

If you book a tour, you will surely experience a local market. We went to four different markets and all of them were different. Experiencing local market is a part of the Thai culture. Just ask about the food, try to taste it, buy something that is not common in your country, observe how the locals interact, have a drink at the bar of the market or just enjoy some sticky rice wrapped in bamboo leaves.

You will find local markets that are opened also at night and that are not the same with Ching Mai Night Market. If you go to one of those places, just make sure to walk the streets that have light and be aware of the rats. They don’t look when they cross the street.

11. Eat street food

Freshly cooked fish on a street food stand

We were told to stay safe in Thailand and to avoid street food. But if you don’t eat street food you’ve not been to  Thailand, so we tried it and it was yummy, yummy, yummy.

Eat street food but look for other tourists that eat there and ask them how food tastes, look at the person who makes it, where they store the ingredients and how they cook it, and if you don’t like to eat very spicy then ask for tourist spicy food.

We ate the most delicious fish in a street food tavern. We hope this article was useful for you. If so, don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter.

If you need more information about Chiang Mai, you can write us an email at

Enjoy your staying in Chiang Mai,

Ancuta and Cristian

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