Asia Pacific

Chiang Mai

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I did so much during my time in Chiang Mai that it’s hard to sum it all up in a short post but here goes…After 10 days in Myanmar, I was ready to do some laundry, get a massage and eat a big salad.  My version of GTL minus the tan and gym.  Chiang Mai has changed so much since I was last there 12 years ago.  There are vegan restaurants, hipster cafes and boutique hotels.  I love Chiang Mai because it’s more chill than Bangkok and it’s the perfect mix of Thailand and the Western world.  It’s the perfect place to recharge and eat amazing food.  Here are my Chiang Mai picks:

TO STAY:

Kate and Hasu Boutique Hotel – Not only is this place so cute and modern but the staff is incredible.  I’ve never met a more helpful, warm and rock star staff like Gate, Po and Saint. They all went above and beyond the call of duty to help me out and to make me feel comfortable.  I would go back to Chiang Mai just so I can see them.  The room was $40 a night with a swimming pool.

TO DO:

  1. Elephant Nature Park – This is a must when you’re in Chiang Mai.  Elephant Nature Park is a sanctuary for rescued elephants; elephants who were abused by the tourism industry.  There’s absolutely no riding or shows here.  I don’t really understand why you would want to ride an elephant when you get to feed them, wash them and walk side by side with them.  It was my favorite thing I did in Thailand.  Stay tuned for my post on Elephant Nature Park.  
  2. Get a Thai massage – Gate from Kate and Hasu booked me a massage at Fah Lanna Spa. It’s the nicest spa in Chiang Mai and they even pick pick you up from your hotel.  I got an hour long Thai massage for $20.  Thai massages are a little different than a European massage.  You wear a top and pants that they provide you, there’s no oil, and it feels more like stretching and yoga moves than a massage. These little Asian women are really strong too.
  3. Fish Spa – I know this is incredibly touristy but I did a fish spa for the first time and it was a weird and fun experience.  The fish don’t bite but suck the dead skin off from your feet.  For 15 minutes it was $2 and afterwards, my feet were really soft!  There are fish spas in virtually every corner of Chiang Mai.
  4. Night Markets – I went to the Saturday night market and the regular night market. Even if you don’t eat or buy anything, it’s worth checking out the scene.
  5. Wat Pha Lat – Hike the monk trail to this hidden Wat in the jungle.  Most people go to Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep when visiting Chiang Mai.  I didn’t feel like going to a crowded Wat and I read in a blog about this Wat that is less touristy and quiet because it is a mediation center. The monk trail takes about 40 minutes.  I hired a private driver to take me there and wait until I was finished.  This was my favorite Wat that I visited because it was like a hidden gem.

TO EAT:

  1. The House Restaurant – I loved this cute cafe because I finally got my big green salad. This restaurant is like every girl’s decor dream.
  2. The Salad Concept – If you are in need of a green salad and a green juice, this is the place.  I love it because you can make your own salads. I loved it so much, I ate here twice.
  3. Ristr8to Lab – After 2 weeks of instant coffee, I was ready for a good latte.  Even Po from Kate & Hasu said they are known in town for the best quality beans.
  4. The Cowboy Hat Lady – Before I came to Chiang Mai, I watched the Anthony Bourdain episode when he went to Chiang Mai with Andy Ricker, Chef and owner of Pok Pok in New York City.  They ate the cowboy hat lady’s stewed pork and rice which claims to be the best street food in Chiang Mai.  I am not wild about pork so I didn’t know what the big deal was, but once I ate it, I was blown away.  The dish is so simple; pork over white rice with a side of boiled egg.  The pork was so flavorful; it was the best thing I ate in Chiang Mai.  To find her, you go to the North East Gate and search for the lady with the Cowboy Hat.
  5. Mango Sticky Rice – I went to Thailand in March which is when mangos are in season.  It was the first time I tried mango sticky rice.  The combination of sweet and a little salty and the different textures of soft, crunchy and sticky got me hooked.

MORE TIPS:

  1. Hello in Thai – “Sawasdee Krab” if you are male and “Sawasdee Ka” for females.
  2. Thank you in Thai – “Kob kun krub” if you are male and “Kob kun ka”for females.
  3. Uber and Grab work in Chiang Mai but it might require you to show the driver the Thai address.
  4. I was able to walk everywhere but tuk tuks are readily available.  You will have to bargain with the driver.
  5. When you visit the wats, you will need to wear pants or a long skirt and cover your shoulders.  Some places require you to take off your shoes but socks are permitted.

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Kate & Hasu Boutique Hotel

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The pool and breakfast area

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Perfect for hot afternoons

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Complimentary breakfast at Kate & Hasu

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My cute room

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The perfect spot to write

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The latte art at Ristr8to Lab is incredible

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The oasis at Fah Lanna Spa

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Tha Phae Gate

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Flowers at Wat Chedi Luang

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Offering

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Ribbon wrapping

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Wat Chedi Luang

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I love the juxtaposition of the old temple and the gold buddhas

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Gold at Wat Phra Singh

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You write down your wish and ring the bell

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I need these lanterns

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This was my favorite motivational quote

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I love lotus flowers

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Street art

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I want the House restaurant’s flower wall in my home

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I loved the decor here

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And the fresh food

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Elephant Nature Park

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Street food is everywhere

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The cowboy hat lady is LIT

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Stewed pork with rice

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 Grilled shrimp for dinner

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Sampling all the local beers of course

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The Saturday night market was packed

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So addicted to mango with sticky rice

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Hiking up the monk trail to get to Wat Pha Lat

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WAT an entrance – Get it?

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This will be me at the end of this trip

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Gratitude

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This place looks like a secret jungle temple

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and all the cute buddha statues

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Morning meditation

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Another cool statue

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My favorite wat by far during the trip