Dos & Don’ts in Chiang Mai, Thailand
Here are some dos and dont’s for short-term visitors to Chiang Mai, Thailand, from our experience of living here:
- Get a hotel/hostel inside the moat (the old city wall), or as near to it as possible. It’s where all the action is, the cheap eats, and you can probably just walk everywhere you need to go to (or hire bikes, or take a short Tuk Tuk ride)
- Go to the Sunday Walking Market – it’s one of the most remarkable night markets in the world (in my opinion)
- They say you haven’t been to Chiang Mai if you haven’t been to an elephant ‘farm’ – and we would agree. It can be a bit touristy, but there’s nothing quite like hanging out with elephants for a day
- The cooking schools (of which there are many) are good fun
- Treat yourself at either ‘DASH!’ or the ‘River Market’ restaurants (check trip advisor for more)
- Go to Nimman Haemin Road for the local student nightlife, if that’s your thing
- Book a place on the Scorpian-Tailed River Cruise for some light entertainment and local history for 2 hrs in a morning or afternoon
- Eat at Mike’s Burger any time after midnight (but before 3am)
- Go up Doi Suthep (the big mountain next to Chiang Mai. There’s a famous (and therefore busy) temple halfway up, and where most people go as far as, but you can go further if you wish), if only for the stunning views of the city (on a good-weather day)
- Barter at the Night Market (open every day). Golden rule is to go for about 1/3 of what the sellers quote, at which they will look aghast, and then you slowly work your way up to about 1/2 or 2/3 of their original offer. There are some things such as silver jewelry for example, and iPhone accessories (for some reason!) they they won’t budge much on
- Visit the U.N. Irish pub for almost any kind of live sport, or if you’re already missing home
- Go to a Muay Thai Boxing show (locals hand out leaflets when you walk through the Night Bazaar). The ladyboys might put you off at first as they usher you in when you arrive, but just go with the flow, and don’t feel obliged to sit where they take you
- Always be polite – Chiang Mai folk are known for being friendly, and it can be contagious. Enjoy it.
- Dress reasonably modestly, especially if you are going into a Temple
- We attend an international Church service at Chiang Mai Community Church (near Nawarat Bridge) on a Sunday afternoon/evening beginning 16.30 if you’re interested in joining us
- Get one of numerous free maps (probably in your hotel/hostel lobby)
- Hire a motorbike – at least for 1 day. It provides you with a unique way of experiencing Chiang Mai (& Thai driving!). It shouldn’t cost more than 150B / 250B per day for a 100cc automatic scooter. Make sure you wear a helmet, and carry your driving license. Also check that the scooter’s registration is up-to-date before you hire it. The police routinely stop traffic to check, and will fine you 500B if you fail to meet any of the above criteria.
- Consider hiring push bikes and spend a day simply riding around. It’s actually quite an easy city to navigate, and if you get lost, just find the moat, and you will probably be able to figure out where you are.
- Feel obliged to do anything a Tuk Tuk driver, tour operator, or ‘friendly’ local might be trying to make you do (this is more of a problem in Bangkok). Be confident in the decision you make, and either insist on it (within reason!), or walk away.
Some useful websites include:
Generally speaking, Chiang Mai is a very safe city to live in and visit – but do take any sensible precautions to keep yourself and your belongings safe.
Take care, enjoy your stay!