This charming little city in northern Thailand ended up being one of my favorite stops. Significantly less humid than Bangkok and the southern parts of the country, Chiang Mai offers food that is cheap and absolutely delicious, abundant temples, and extremely nice people!
There are over 300 temples in Chiang Mai, but I only visited a few in Old Town.
My absolute favorite was Wat Phra Singh. As you walk into the temple grounds, you are immediately welcomed by a sense of calm as the bells chime in the wind and the scent of incense drifts over you. The temple itself is gorgeous — surrounded by trees, monks performing rituals, and a shiny gold pagoda. You can sit, enjoy a coconut popsicle, and just relax in this little sanctuary surrounded by trees covered with Buddhist quotes.
Wat Buppharam is just outside of Old Town (only a 15-minute walk from the Tha Phae Gate), but well worth the short trip because it looks, in my opinion, much different than all the other temples I saw in Thailand. It also seemed to be a less popular option, as we were the only visitors there.
Nearby, we found Wat Mahawan, a smaller, white temple. The best part? There is a massage spot just inside where, for 150 baht, we got hour-long foot massages with a view of the temple as monks walked by and tended to the grounds. It was lovely and completely rejuvenated our tired feet. These cheap massages are a must during any Thailand trip.
Speaking of massages, the Thai massage is offered on nearly every street corner. In search of a complete relaxing (and sanitary) experience, I found Fah Lanna Spa and experienced my first official Thai massage. My masseuse used her entire body to pull, push, bend my joints. She stood on me, laid on me, pressed her knees into my back, her elbows into my calves — you name it, she did it. As strange as it might sound strange, it was extremely effective!
If you’re looking for souvenirs in Chiang Mai, the night markets are the place to go — on Sunday nights they really liven up. Finding food is easy since Warorot Market is right in the center of the Old Town. Not to mention, it’s huge, stretching across multiple streets. Countless booths offered clothes, soaps, knick-knacks, food, wooden and metal elephants — anything you could ever want as a Thai souvenir. We arrived early, around 4 p.m., and found it a lot nicer than a few hours later when it was so packed we could hardly make our way to the exit.
Months later I am still dreaming of Chiang Mai. The welcoming people, delicious, flavorful, food, and unbelievable amount of sights make this a must-visit destination in Thailand.