Best of Chiang Mai / by Erika Belavy

Chiang Mai wasn't originally on my agenda, but several people had spoken to me of this city in Northern Thailand which was seemingly a hub for digital nomads.... and has been named Asia's coolest city! How had I not considered it before?! My visa for Bali was almost over, so I needed to plan my next steps. I considered doing a visa run to Singapore, but that seemed a bit risky. So Chiang Mai sounded like the perfect stop!

Where to Stay

Definitely the old town! At first I read about a neighbourhood around the Maya shopping center that was supposed to be the hipster hood in town. I found a cutesy apartment there on Airbnb, only to discover that the area was a bit too hipster for my tastes. I don't need to see man buns at every street corner! I wanted to feel a bit more authentic, so I quickly changed to a place in the SE corner of the old town... nearby to a couple of yoga studios, of course!

Places to Eat

There are plenty of healthy and delicious options in Chiang Mai. I was following a strict vegan diet, and I found the places that had the most options were usually run by expats. These were my favourite places:

  • Bird's nest Cafe
  • Bodhi Tree Cafe
  • Amrita Garden

What to Do

For activities, check out the Saturday night market. Everyone talks about the Sunday night market - it was SO busy and chaotic! The Saturday market is much more chill and you can buy/eat/see all the same stuff! It's at the south end below the old town (the taxi driver will know).

For a good yoga class, head to The Yoga Tree. It's not only for not only yoga, but also some nice ecstatic dance and meditation classes.

For sights, I went to Doi Inthanon. I thought it was 'ok' but not amazing. Doi Suthep is BEAUTIFUL! And if you go really early in the morning or late in the evening (after 5/6pm) there are less people and you can see a view of the city for sunset/moonrise.

Finally, make sure also to go to the elephant sanctuary when you're there!