If you’re looking to escape the chaotic bustle of Bangkok, make your way to Thailand’s northern capital. Though popular among tourists, Chiang Mai remains blissful and relaxing, a serene oasis among amid an otherwise buzzing nation.
Short on time? Follow this itinerary!
8:00 a.m. Wake up at the RarinJinda Wellness Spa Resort
From this beautiful resort located directly next to the Ping River outside the Old City walls of Chiang Mai’s east side, follow the road and walk over the bridge into the Old City.
As you walk, you’ll spot the legendary Warorot Market, Chiang Mai’s oldest. Stroll through the stalls and get a sense of the smells and sights of the city. Don’t forget to wander through the Flower Market, right up the street.
9:30 a.m. Eat breakfast at the Blue Diamond Breakfast Club (15 min walk)
Now that you’re sufficiently hungry, stroll up to the northeast corner of the city, where you’ll find this gated oasis.
Blue Diamond has a variety of cuisines, from typical Western breakfast fare to traditional Thai and Vietnamese offerings. The folks at Blue Diamond do both fantastically. In addition, they have a selection of delicious pastries — most of which are vegan. Take some time to peruse the small wellness store attached to the restaurant — they’ll probably have a natural cure for jet lag, if you need it!
10:30 a.m. Explore ancient temples (10 minute ride)
From Blue Diamond, hail a songthaew (red car) for the start of your temple tour.
Don’t pay more than 20-30 THB for a ride to any locations within the Old City walls. Start at Wat Phra Singh, one of the most gorgeous temples in Chiang Mai and one of the most historical, as it was founded in 1345. Then, make your way over to Wat Chedi Luang, only a short walk away and a spectacle because of its destroyed stone chedi.
1:00 p.m. Eat lunch at Khao Soi Khun Yai (15 minute walk)
From Wat Chedi Luang, walk north up Prapokkloa Road until you reach the North Gate. Lunch is just a short walk from the North Gate, on Sripoom Road.
Khao Soi Khun Yai is a must-try for visitors who’d like to sample the dish that put northern Thailand on the culinary map. The dish, a soupy curry made from coconut milk, includes meat or vegetables and is topped with fried egg noodles. At Khun Yai, a bowl will only run you about 30 THB — a steal.
2:00 p.m. Get a history lesson at Chiang Mai City And Cultural Center (30 minute walk)
From Khun Yai, walk south down Khang Ruan Jum Road until you reach the Center.
Here, you can learn all about Thailand’s history via a variety of media: videos, photos, murals, and movies. There’s a small shop for souvenirs, if you’re inclined. There are even a couple of massage places in the area, if you’re interested in unwinding.
3:00 p.m. Grab a quick bite at the South Gate (20 minute walk)
From the Chiang Mai City and Cultural Center, walk south to Chiang Mai’s South Gate, where you’ll find a bustling food market.
If vendors are between peak selling times, stop at Mr Kai, where you can find a cheap snack to tide you over— or a Chang (Thai beer) if you’re looking to escape the midday heat.
3:30 p.m. Take a stroll at Nong Buak Hard Public Park (5 minute walk)
Walk along the southern end of the city toward the western-most side, where you’ll find the park.
This lovely green space is the perfect location to recharge after a long day of walking. Sit in the shade and observe the small playground, various beautiful plants, and other park-goers.
5:00 p.m. Eat an early dinner at Rustic & Blue (15 minute ride)
From the park, catch another Songthaew (red car) to the trendy Nimmanhaemin neighborhood and head over to the restaurant.
Rustic & Blue serves up some of the prettiest (and tastiest) food in Chiang Mai. It’s a local and expat favorite, known for its Western and traditional Thai fare, all of which are served with dazzling presentation.
6:00 p.m. Watch the sunset at Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep (30 minute ride)
Hail another songthaew from the Nimman area, which will run you about 100 THB.
Enjoy the ride up the mountain and see if you can spot cyclists making the ascent. While it’ll take them nearly an hour, you’ll breeze up in about 20 minutes. Purchase a ticket (50 THB), explore the golden stupas of the temple complex (Chiang Mai’s most famous), and watch the sun go down over the city.
8:30 p.m. Grab a drink at The Beer Lab (30 minute ride)
Once darkness has fallen, get into another Songthaew and start the ascent down to the Old City. Stop in the Nimmanhaemin neighborhood and head to The Beer Lab.
If you’re a hops enthusiast, this is the watering hole for you. This trendy locale has the largest selection of brews in the entire city, including: U.S.-based beers, Euro draughts, and even Japanese and Thai brands. Enjoy yourself, but make sure to save some energy — you’ve still got an active night ahead of you!
9:30 p.m. Dance the night away at Warm Up Café
Warm Up Café is only a few minutes down the street from the Beer Lab.
Warm Up is as versatile a club as they come: a sprawling location featuring several different rooms that play a variety of different tunes. Some are house-music oriented, others pop, some rock, and still others sport DJ sets. There is generally a live band out front, near the open air seating. The food and drinks are delicious, though a bit pricey by Thai standards, but you’ll be happy you spend the night at this happening club.
1:30 a.m. Turn in for the night at the RarinJinda or Akyra Manor
Whenever you decide to call it a night, hail a Songthaew or get an Uber (they’re extremely cheap in the city) and head back to the RarinJinda or choose a new place to spend the night: Akyra Manor, which is a few minutes walk from the club.
Header image by Vincent Carabeo.