Photography & travel tips from an award-winning photographer, educator & wanderlust

Things to do in Chiang Mai, Thailand

1. Walk to discover city art.

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2. Drink coffee at “Mountain Coffee.” They say its the strongest coffee around, freshly grown and roasted from Doy Luang, Chiang Dao. Visit them to find out for yourself, but after having Vietnamese and Balinese (Kafe Luwak), a cup of cafe late from Mountain Coffee was the most aromatic and delicious (and I don’t even like coffee). https://www.facebook.com/mountain.coffee

3. Ride a bike around the city. It’s cheap, relatively safe and everyone’s doing it (no, not like hiring a hooker). Oh yea and if you’re really adventurous to drive on the other side of the street, then hire a motorcycle while you’re at it. You can have a road trip to nearby towns and sights, just don’t forget to keep saying: “Left, left, left.”

4. Try Kao Soi at a place on the corner of Intrawarorot and Prapokklao Soi 12 –  I know, not very specific, but trust me, its orgazmic, compared to Kao Soi in any other establishment. The broth of Coconut Milk is sweet, yet salty and sour, full of noodles, crunchy toppings, green onion and the meat of our choice (I went with fried pork – oh yea, I was going for a Heart Stopper!) This dish will haunt my dreams until I have it again – it was that amazing (and I don’t even like pork that much.)

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5. Shop, ship, then shop some more. Don’t worry if your shopping habits get the best of you, I know I can’t live without more summer dresses, silk lamps, fridge magnets, clever saying T-shirts, spices, tea and other nick nacks. Just ship it all home from a local post office for a reasonable rate (especially via a slow-ass boat).

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6. Live a little, stay at $5/night guesthouses. Yes, in Chiang Mai, you can find even cheaper establishments (dorm-style is the cheapest), but haven’t you always wondered. I did! Will there be bed bugs, roaches, little children crying in the corner? Nope, just a cozy room, a bed, a personal toilet – no swimming pool, soap/shampoo in the bathroom or bars on the window. So there! I’ve stayed in a super cheap accommodation and live to tell the story!

7. Visit Long Neck tribe village Karen, but group-less. Organized tours may take you on a whirlwind of activities, bunched in a-couple-of-hours-worth-of-fun. I suggest visiting the Karen village in a small group or solo. You’ll have a better chance to catch them at ease (sowing, making scarves, playing with their kids). You may even sneak a chance at chatting them up to discover what their lives entail, where they come from and get a sincere smile.

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8. Get clothes tailored. This goes for traveling in most places in Southeast Asia. Do your research online (Trip Adviser is a good place to start), then go around a couple of shops to compare prices, see their window displays (who’d like a shirt dated from 1980?) and don’t be afraid to say no or walk away. Once you find a great tailor with wonderful services, you’re only a phone call away from getting the next custom-tailored batch, because your measurements are always on file.

9. Don’t be a wimp and get a full body massage. “Head, shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes.” You remember it well! For only 4-5$ your whole being can be tenderized on the daily bases. Thai massage is not for the faint of heart, but don’t you like to feel like you’ve exercised and had a massage? They stretch, twist, push, crack, abuse the heck out of your muscles, but it hurts SOOO GOOOOD!

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Wimpy Kids out there, can settle for a Dr. Fish dead-skin-eating extravaganza.

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10. Research your retirement options. We’ve met a very spry 70-some year old lady who was on the lookout for the next best retirement place. With cheap transportation, accommodation, fantastic food – she might be on to something…

Speaking of food…

11. Eat yourself silly at the Sunday’s night market

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12. Don’t go to a Cooking school

Just watch how the pros do it at local street stalls, which are everywhere. Kitchen on wheels  with a stove and even a seating area = all on 2 or 3 wheels. Just pull out your GoPro, press Record and Voila! Oh yea, don’t forget to pay!

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