- Khao Soi Mae Sai – Khao Soi (pronounced Cow-Soy) is a traditional Northern Thai dish. It is a like a red curry soup with noodles and your choice of chicken, beef or pork. It is amazing. And this location is the best in the city. We once went three days in a row. And a bonus – this delicious dish is only 35baht about ($1usd).
- Dash Restaurant and Bar – This beautiful open air restaurant has the best atmosphere in Chiang Mai. The Teak wood building and green foliage transforms the space making it a great spot for a special night out. The food is good and although a little more expensive, the ambiance is well worth it. It also accommodates large groups. It is a good idea to make a reservation.
- Nasi Jumpru – there are two locations , one in Chiang Mai at the Harbor and one east of the city. We went to the location outside of town – about a 20minute drive. Nasi Jumpru is situated on a rice field with the mountains in the background. The building itself is a beautiful warehouse design. The food is Asian fusion and very delicious. And a bonus – it is BYOB! So stop at the mall and get some wine or beer. It is well worth the drive out of town. We highly recommend this spot! (prices 150-300baht, $3-6usd per entree).
- Archer’s – Western Restaurant and Bar. Does both Western and Thai food quite well. Has a good selection of beer and wine and an outside garden as well. Does trivia nights on Sundays and has fresh baguettes if you really want a Western style sandwich.
- Funky Monkey – a small stand located in the southeast corner of Old City. It has cheap hummus and falafel which is decent, but the real draw are the shakes. The Funky Monkey shake is coffee and banana and it is so good (and only costs 40baht – $1.30)!!
- By Hand Pizza – This is the best pizza in Chiang Mai. We also tried Street Pizza but it was not as good. By Hand has a wood fire oven and the ingredients are really fresh. While some people complained about the long wait (there is only one oven which means only one pizza can be cooked at a time), we went later at night and there was no issue. The pizza is almost as good as some we had in Italy, which is saying a lot. If you want pizza then this is your spot. (located in Old City near Sompet Market)
- Kebab House – located near the party hub at Zoe’s in Old City. The Indian food is good, and relatively cheap. Ask for the “special spicy sauce” for the samosas – yogurt mixed with spicy sauce.
- Hear Tong – local Thai food stall across the moat from Sompet Market. Delicious food and very cheap. If you want to eat with the locals then this is the place. Fried rice and Pad Se Ew both delicious and only 40baht ($1.30 usd).
- J&L Restaurant – this place is located right next to Ab Petite. Cheap beer and good food. The Pad Thai is great and the chicken with cashew nut is amazing (although it tastes more like American Chinese food then the Thai version that can be found at most restuarants).
- Akha Ama – the best coffee in Chiang Mai and some of the best I have had in the world, and I have sampled a lot of coffee! Akha Ama is locally sourced and organic. The cafe is very popular with expats and has reliable wifi. It is open air so be prepared and wear light weight clothing – no air conditioning here. I have had their iced teas, iced coffee and cappuccino and all are delicious. But the cappuccino is the best.
- Ab Petite Cafe – this is probably the best cafe in Chiang Mai but the coffee is not as good as Akha Ama. However, the western food and beautiful air conditioned interior make it the perfect spot to work for the day (all you digital nomads out there) or grab a nice meal. The salad with rosemary chicken is not only large but fresh and delicious. We went here a few times a week. They also have great baked goods – cookies and cakes.
- Alcoholic beverages – Beer is relatively cheap and can be bought in convenient stores. At restaurants it ranges from 60-120 Baht ($2 – 4usd). Wine is another story. There are a few wine bars in Chiang Mai. We didn’t try any of them. I bought wine a few times at a wine shop at the local mall (Central Festival Mall has a Wine Connection.) The cheapest bottle was 350 baht ($12usd).
When we stay in Chiang Mai our first requirement (after clean and relatively updated) is a POOL! All three of these accommodations include a pool, but there are many options out there if you don’t need a pool.
- MD House – located in a great spot in Old City. Basically like a very minimal hotel, nothing extra special but it is cheap, clean and offers a free breakfast that you can eat poolside. If you are on a tight budget and want to stay in Old City then this is a good option.
- The Opium – The Opium is a serviced hotel and apartment and is located north of the Old City, about a 15min walk from the North Gate. This is a modern style accommodation and very affordable especially if you are staying longterm. A month here usually costs $600usd for an apartment with a living room and kitchen. *Would recommend renting a scooter which would make it’s location outside the Old City easier
- Lanna Mantra – This is a beautiful more upscale hotel located right on the Ping River. It is quite a bit north of the Old City, maybe a 10-15 minute car or scooter ride. If you want a peaceful more romantic stay in Chiang Mai, then this is your spot.
*** With all accommodations in Chiang Mai, the rates online are higher than through the actual hotel/guesthouse. It is better to call and try to negotiate a price or only book a few nights online and negotiate once you arrive for the remainder of your stay. The latter suggestion is a bit risky depending on availability at the accommodation. So make sure you plan ahead if it is high season (December – March).
Where to begin? There are so many great things to do in Chiang Mai and the surrounding countryside. But first let’s start with inside the city.
- Take a Thai Cooking Class . We have done this many times with two different “schools” and both were fantastic. Asia Scenic Cooking School is located right in Old City. Smart Cooks is a great cooking class. We have done it twice and we always ask for New – she is the best cook!
- Rent a motorbike. There are rental locations all over the city – Chiang Mai is big enough that renting a scooter is a great way to explore more extensively. Biking around Old City in search of cafes and restaurants is always fun and exploring the Night Bazaar (which is outside the Old City) and Nimmanhemin Road (aka Nimman Road) is a bit easier by bike.
- Visit Wat Phra That Doi Suthep – Take your motorbike up this windy road. If you’re not feeling as adventurous you can take a songthaew.
- Go Trekking. Trekking is a popular event in Chiang Mai, from tigers to elephants to ziplines and waterfalls. There is something for every adventurer. Simply ask at your hotel or guest house and they will set you up with any adventure tour you want. We have done The Flight of the Gibbon, which you will see advertised all over town.
- Visit Bua Tong Waterfalls. They are a bit off the beaten path but totally worth it when you are scaling the waterfalls like spiderman. One of the best things we’ve done in Northern Thailand.