Guide to Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai, Thailand

The New City

       Chiang Mai literally translated means The New City.  Nestled in lush, green mountains, it is Thailand’s fourth largest city and includes everything from open air bazaars to high-end tech malls. Chiang Mai retains its rich Thai culture while enjoying a Western influence.   One reason for the city staying true to its roots dating back to 1296 is the presence of the moated Old City and over 300 Buddhist temples (known as wats) which dot the town.  Today, the Chiang Mai metropolitan area has a growing population of over 1 million people, many who are tourists and expats from all over the world.  These people attend the local university, sell noodles on the street, ride in tuk-tuks, and pass time in karaoke lounges or internet cafes. This city is known for its low cost of living, delicious food, coffee shops, and relatively low temperatures. If you are a hardcore food connoisseur, photographer, or someone who loves to meet interesting people, Chiang Mai is for you.

Chiang Mai is known for its lovely food and attractions, but it is also known for affordable housing options to fit any budget.  One splurge hotel is Anantara which includes a 32- meter long pool, 24-hour security, 1, 2, or 3-bedroom housing, and five top-of-the-line restaurants which include traditional Thai cuisine as well as Western fare. Anantara is located right on the banks of the Ping River on the outskirts of the Old City. The location of the hotel at 59/26 Poi Phut Soi in the Ninnaman district allows you to walk to street markets, shopping malls, and tourist attractions galore. The Spa at Anantara offers promotions daily, such as 2 for 1, early bird, and kids free. Book early as many of these deals sell out. The English speaking staff is available 24/7 and is eager to help visitors with transportation, attraction information, dining referrals or cultural insight. The entire hotel offers reliable, free Wi-Fi which can be accessed throughout the facility including their sun-drenched pool, relaxing spa, lounges and rooms.  This hotel has unbeatable amenities and a great price which makes it an excellent Chiang Mai housing choice for business travelers, vacationers or long-term renters who want more than a basic hotel accommodation.

After hotel check in, you might need some food.  Chiang Mai is the right place for great, cheap food. A walk down any street will bombard you with a wealth of noodle stands, coffee shops, and restaurants. The term “restaurant” has a wide range of meaning in Chiang Mai and can range from a white tablecloth, sit down establishment, but more commonly, the family-run food stall located right outside their home.  Some restaurants look a little bit sketchy and you may worry about disease or food poisoning, but if they fry up the chicken right in front of you it’s fine. Most restaurants in Chiang Mai have similar menus.

The most common menu item is either fried chicken or clear soup. Usually fried chicken is stir fried with soy sauce and sesame sauce with a mound of rice. The restaurant owners are good about if you want pork instead of chicken and vice versa. Clear soup is glass rice noodles in chicken broth with minced pork and bean sprouts. I recommend all of these items to anyone who comes to visit Chiang Mai because they have tastes which are familiar to most palettes, but still are unique to this region of the world. These meals range in price from 1 to 5 dollars a plate. These meals are staples in Chiang Mai so getting them is no problem. Just walk down the road and enjoy the great, cheap food.

After gorging yourself on delicious local food and needing something to excite you, head over to The Grand Canyon. The Grand Canyon is an old quarry filled with water located just 30-40 minutes outside of the city. This unique spot is not a well-known tourist trap, but makes for a great afternoon of fun. The adventurous and brave can cliff jump 15 meters into the refreshing waters below, paddle around the canyon walls on a rented paddle board, lounge on bamboo platforms scattered throughout the water, while non-swimmers can rent life jackets or inner tubes to safely enjoy swimming. The water is pleasant year round and reaches depths of 52 meters during rainy season. At only $1.43 to enter per person, this swimming hole is great for all ages and includes access to showers, picnic areas, and beautiful scenery.   With food available inside the park, there is almost no reason to leave, except for when they close at 7:00 p.m.

As you can tell, Chiang Mai has it all – shopping, food, sites, culture and people.  With all of these things I mentioned, visitors must know I have barely scratched the surface of what to do Chiang Mai. Countless more restaurants, temples, beautiful sceneries and attractions exist in the New City ready for you to explore.

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