Chiang Mai's Best Kept Secrets
Below are some of my notes on Chiang Mai, a collection of the best experiences I’ve had in the city. I hope they’ll inspire you to get out and explore Chiang Mai, absorb all that it has to offer, and leave a bit of room for serendipity.
One recommendation before we get into it: Don’t be afraid to try something new, unique, unexpected, unconventional.
Sunday night street walking market: For the best juice at only 25 baht, go to the east end in the food court area around Wat Samphao. It’s not the one right at the West entrance, but a few stalls in on the right (if you enter from the West side of that little area). The lady doesn’t add any water and has a good selection of fruits. The first time I went, she even made what I asked for (which wasn’t prepared in a cup yet). I got pink dragonfruit and passionfruit, the second time around I had one of the already prepared ones (lychee, pineapple, white dragonfruit and green apple). Both were really good!
Walk around the temples and their surroundings at night. (E.g. during Sunday night market -> get away from the hustle and bustle, the business and consumerism). It’s so peaceful, calm, quiet and magical.
Go up to Maya rooftop at night and look down on the street and up to the moon and just stay there. So meditative.
Walking around the temples, and being up on Maya’s rooftop were both some of the most special things I did and two of my favourite nights.
Some other special memories and some of the best experiences I’ve had in Chiang Mai were usually the ones I had not planned, just wandering around, trying a local “hole in the wall” restaurant that didn’t look like much and that I didn’t reap up on or read reviews about prior to going. Just the places you stumble upon or that someone local you just met tells you about. Those places aren’t usually the ones that have millions of reviews on Google or Tripadvisor, but they’re the best, because locals just know about them and go. No one’s needs or wants to read a ton of reviews to know if the place is good - people just go, they eat the food, it’s good, they keep going back.
Do something a bit different. E.g. on my third (last) Sunday I entered the night walking market from the street parallel to main one (Arak 5 Rd, by Tree Sis Coffee). There still were lots of stalls (especially food), but it was less busy and not so overcrowded. I got tom yum soup at a little stall (veggie and not spicy!) where you could sit on tiny plastic stools around the stall, kind of like sitting at a bar). It was so much more relaxed than being crammed into a huge crowd on the main street.
CM felt very special to me. Somehow I feel called to go back soon and stay for a while. I met people every day, and towards the end of my stay I met a lot of interesting, likeminded, and very intriguing people I would love to meet again.
I hope you’ll experience the same sense of magic and “familiarity” when you go. I would love to hear any personal stories, ideas or recommendations you might have - add them in the comments below.