A Morning Walk
I began the morning on a mission to procure an authentic Thai breakfast, not an easy feat since Thai people seem to primarily eat foods I typically deem lunch or dinner food for breakfast. After walking through the Old City for a while, I found a small restaurant that offered Thai omelettes for 30 baht (less than a dollar) so I stopped and the chef prepared it right in front of me. I walked over to a nearby fountain and dug in. A Thai omelette is basically your typical egg omelette but it comes with rice and a sweet & spicy sauce so it really hit the spot. I then hailed a songthaew to meet up with a friend who kindly had agreed to drive me up to Doi Suthep, the majestic golden temple that sits on a mountain overlooking the city. My songthaew driver was very friendly and asked where I was from and how I was enjoying Chiang Mai – this stood out since the rest of my songthaew drivers hadn’t expressed much interest in me 😂
Up The Mountain
I hopped into my friend’s super cute bright green car and we left Chiang Mai as we drove up a windy road into Doi Suthep-Pui National Park. This large national park occupies much of the space in the mountains and hills west of Chiang Mai – the main portion that is frequented by tourists is a road that leads to the Doi Suthep temple.
The ride up provides several opportunities for scenic stops – we first stopped at Wang Bua Ban Viewpoint and walked over a small creek to get a nice view of a small waterfall. Our next stop was a smaller temple (Wat Phalad) where we explored the grounds and then went for a short hike through the forest. Further up the hill, there’s a large viewpoint on the left side of the road that offers a stunning panorama of Chiang Mai and its environs as well as dozens of vendors offering food and souvenirs.
After a 12 mile drive from Chiang Mai (it takes 30 minutes without stops), we made it to Doi Suthep itself. Next to the road lie several shops and street vendors and then one must climb a long, grand staircase for about five minutes to reach the temple (there is a funicular that will take you for a fee but take the epic walk if you’re able :)). I paid a small admission fee at the top and then joined the swarms of tourists exploring the magnificent temple grounds. Doi Suthep quite literally glitters with gold and is teeming with beautiful statues, candles, and architecture. I stepped into a small temple and received a blessing in the form of sprayed water from a monk. You can catch some more city views if you walk around the back of the temple. Overall, Doi Suthep was one of the most beautiful spots I saw in Thailand and absolutely a must if you’re in Chiang Mai 🙂
Treat ‘Yo Self Time
My friend drove me to Ton Payom Market to look for a couple of Thai desserts I’d been looking to try. I got Tong Yord (Round Egg Yolk Tart) which looked like a bunch of yellow globs in a goldfish-style plastic bag and was pretty good although it wasn’t quite sweet enough for me. I also tried Sa Choo which I can only describe as soft purple things covered in peanuts. The sa choo’s flavor was a bit off-putting to me so I let my friend finish it 😉 Then I walked back toward my hotel down a major street (Suthep Road) which had tons of interesting shops and vendors along the way. I stopped to get a 30 baht (under a dollar) Thai tea from a little cart – amazing as always! Once I started walking along the moat, I realized that the market hadn’t been where I thought it was and that I was slightly lost but I followed the moat and my geographic logic and after quite a long journey made it back to my hotel room for a quick rest.
The Obligatory Massage
I had noticed many massage parlors in the old city offering hour-long full-body Thai massages for under 200 baht and I felt like I needed to take advantage of such a great deal so I decided to go procure one. I found a place that did it for the equivalent of $5 and then “endured” a quite painful hour-long massage lol. My masseuse was very friendly but she was quite firm even when I asked for it be softer. I did get a delicious cup of sweet tea after and sat outside near the fish tanks in which I could have chosen to dip my feet and receive a “fish massage” in which hundreds of tiny fish bite at your skin in an apparently pleasing manner. Maybe next time 😉
The Cool Neighborhood
In the U.S., most cities seem to have at least one cool/hipster/up and coming area and it turned out Chiang Mai did also 🙂 I met a local friend for dinner in the Nimmana Haeminda area at a restaurant called Lab Kai. It had much fancier décor than the other Thai restaurants I’d been to and I ordered Khao Soi (the most famous dish in the Chiang Mai area – chicken leg in a yellow curry sauce). It was amazing and my only regret is that I didn’t order a second helping! (I did end up getting Khao Soi for dinner again the next day though. ;)) After dinner, we walked around the area and I marveled at the fancy lights that were built into the streets and the very modern upscale vibe of the area. There were hotels & hostels around but it seemed like a mix of locals and tourists.
Bus Bar & Shopping Spree
I took a songthaew to the other side of town to attend a Couchsurfing happy hour. Couchsurfing is a great organization in that it not only provides a place to stay for travelers and a chance to meet new people for hosts but also social opportunities in cities across the globe. I saw on their website that they had a weekly Chiang Mai happy hour at Bus Bar, located next to the river and featuring (you guessed it) a large red old-school double-decker bus with tables inside and on top. The happy hour was a mix of European & American travelers, expats, and a couple locals. After that, I walked down a colorfully illuminated bridge next to the bar and then walked over to the Chiang Mai Night Market nearby. I hate shopping while traveling (and in general) but I wanted to get my mom a gift and myself a new dream journal so I walked among the hundreds of booths, haggling like crazy and eventually procuring both items for great prices. Fellow customers appeared to be primarily tourists and there wasn’t a ton of variety of merchandise (many repeats of the same items at multiple booths), but it is a good spot if you want to pick up some souvenirs.
Click here to go on to my Chiang Mai Day 3 blog as I head to possibly the coolest place on Earth: the Sticky Waterfall.
Click here for a travel guide to Chiang Mai outlining cheap, free, and local-endorsed things to see, eat, and drink.