I don’t know what I was expecting, but Chiang Mai wasn’t it. I wasn’t expecting the coffee shops or the coworking spaces or the expat community or all the restaurants and bars and FOOD. Chiang Mai is a city that likes to eat. A lot. Everywhere, on every corner, there’s a guy and a barbecue and FOOD. There are locals at the stalls and expats and tourists and everyone seems to be getting along swimmingly. How the Thai people stay so slim, I do not understand.
So I kinda fell a little in love with Chiang Mai. It’s so fun! And so cheap! And so delicious! (Did I mention the food?) I could happily stay here forever. I was sad I didn’t have more time here. In hindsight, I would have skipped Phuket (although it was nice to get some sunshine) and stayed up north. Ah well, next time. Here’s what I got up to while I was in town.
De Naga Hotel: Sometimes, I get lucky. I booked this hotel on the edge of the old town and whenever one of my tours picked me up or dropped me off, there were envious “oooohhhs” from the back of the car. De Naga is a gorgeous, gorgeous hotel. If they just upped their service, amenities and Internet speed, they could easily be five star. I really enjoyed my stay here. Great location, sweet staff, delicious food and drink. On the downside, the wifi was SUPER SLOW. Visit their website.
Zabb-E-Lee Cooking School: I spent an enjoyable evening at this centrally located Thai cooking school. Ann, our instructor, managed to make cooking fun (always hard for me). We made so many things…spring rolls, hot and sour creamy soup, green curry, red curry, massaman curry, Khao Soi (the dish of Chiang Mai), sticky rice with mango and I forget what else but it was all in abundance. Lots of Brits in attendance so I felt right at home. Highly recommended. Visit their website.
Ugo: Foursquare directed me to the restaurant at this small guesthouse by Thapae Gate and I am so glad. The massaman curry was ACE. And beautiful to boot. I liked the food and the service so much, I went back the next day. Visit their website.
Fah Lanna Spa: The spa treatments in Chiang Mai are deliciously cheap so I headed over to one of the bigger and bolder ventures, Fah Lanna, for a scrub, massage and facial and enjoyed my visit immensely. (It was a trifle chilly though.) The facilities are beautiful, modern but rustic at the same time. I loved the sarongs they used so much that I bought two. The ginger tea at the end of my treatment was particularly delicious. I made my appointment online via their website, and they sent a car and driver to pick me up! (They would have also driven me home but I decided to walk so I could check out the street art.) Highly recommended. Visit their website.
At Nail: Continuing my tradition of flying 8000 miles to get my nails done — you can take the girl out of Long Island but you can’t take the Long Island out of the girl — I dropped in here for a quick pedicure and it was perfect and inexpensive. It’s a small space so perhaps best to call ahead. Visit their Facebook page.
Mandara Massage: After a busy day of touring, my dogs were barking. I forget now if it was Foursquare or TripAdvisor that sent me here, but it took me a while to find it — it’s actually located within a shabby looking hotel complex, The Top North Hotel. Service was sweet and the almond cookies at the end of my treatment (along with more tea) were also very nice. A good value and it did the trick, but perhaps not work seeking out.
Chiang Mai Mind & Soul Tour: The tour I just could not stop talking about. This was an absolute surprise. Super early morning pick-up — 6:15 am — and then we sped off into the mountains to bring gifts to the monks. This was followed by a STELLAR breakfast at a place by the airport and military base — all the movie star handsome Thai pilots in their jump suits — and then more monks and more gifts and more blessings and well, by the end, I felt very blessed. A real highlight of the tour was monk chat, where I spent an hour with a monk, chatting about how they live. (Yes, they do use Facebook. No, we couldn’t be Facebook friends.) Highly, highly recommended. Visit their website.
Chiang Mai Food Tour: While the food that we tried was great, our guide wasn’t the most interesting guy. I learned more from the other American on my tour that I did from the guide. I would give this a miss but then again, maybe you’ll get a different guide who will be totally awesome. Visit their website.
Dash Restaurant: On my last day in Chiang Mai, I decided to just randomly walk around and see where Foursquare sent me. Well, they sent me here, to Dash, and it was interesting. Firstly, it’s a lovely space and someone has obviously thought about the decor. Oddly, everyone there was Chinese but me. OK, maybe not so oddly. The Chinese are all over Thailand. China has a new middle class…have passport, will travel…and travel to Thailand they do. In droves! Where they all eat at Dash, apparently, and enjoy the tasty pad se eu. Visit their website.
When can I get myself back to Chiang Mai? How? Anyone, anyone??