5 reasons why I love Chiang Mai
The first time I visited Chiang Mai was back in late 2011 on my first South East Asian trip. With 2 friends, a blogger and a photographer, we spent a couple of days in Chiang Mai exploring the many temples and drinking fruit smoothies. Already at that time the town was a digital nomad hub and we were able to meet up with a group of other bloggers living there for a few months.
So when I was planning my 6th Thailand visit in January and February 2017 with my dad, we got an idea with a friend of mine, another Slovak blogger, to work online on another ebook together. I sent dad to travel on his own for 2 weeks and together with Milan we decided to go to Chiang Mai. There is no better Thai town for online work than the biggest North Thailand city, right?
How to get to Chiang Mai
Where to stay in Chiang Mai
Our first days we stayed at the Chiang Mai Riverside hotel outside of the city centre, mostly enjoying their huge breakfast, recording videos and planning our writing days. Then for 12 days we moved closer, just to the Northwestern outer edge of the old city square.
I have to say I fell in love with the city again and could easily spend a lot more time there, even months. (I admit meeting up with a really cool guy might have had something to do with it…) :D
Let me mention first the disadvantages of the city. There’s one thing I truly dislike in Chiang Mai… crazy traffic! The city has approx. 400 thousand inhabitants and drivers are not used to stop when you are crossing the road, not even when you are on the zebra crossing. Literally, we had to run to cross the street! Some drivers/motorbike riders even speed up when they see people on the zebra. Scary!
However, I still enjoyed more things in Chiang Mai than those I did not.
5 reasons why I love Chiang Mai:
1. Digital nomads
As I’ve mentioned above already, the city is crowded with digital nomads which can be both a good or a bad thing. But I believe it’s a big advantage as you can always do meetings with others and learn from each other. Another plus is that most probably there will be a person or two you know and can hang out together after work. During our stay, I bumped into a French blogger couple in the park (we’d met before at some conferences in Sweden and Philippines).
Also a Ukrainian friend of mine was in Chiang Mai at the same time. It was super funny to reunite with him after a year and a half, and most of all, meet again in a different country. We’ve met 4 times and each time was in a different country (Spain, Canada, Slovakia and now Thailand). It was such a cool feeling to have dinner together every second night at the market because it made me feel like at home. You know, having friends in town gave me that ”homey” feeling.
Also, a few Slovak nomads were in Chiang Mai at the same time so we could meet up and talk about possible partnerships in the future. It’s always very nice to spend time with other Slovak travelers abroad and talk in our mother tongue.
OMG, you all know I am obsessed with massages. I get a massage every time I can… Thai, foot, oil, any… Chiang Mai has loads of spas where you can get a cheap massage. My favorite place was a little spa in the Buak Haad park (sometimes spelled as Buan Hard) located in the Southwest corner of the old city. One hour massage cost there 160 baht, while almost everywhere else it was minimum 200 baht. I got 6 hours of massages there (4 foot and 2 full body Thai massages). And I even managed to convince 4 friends to get a massage there with me :)
I really miss our daily walks to the park, chilling there by the lake, observing others practicing acro yoga and then getting a massage before dinner. Priceless time I won’t forget!
3. Vegan food
I remembered very well all those fruit smoothies, young coconuts and even healthy restaurants still from my 2011 visit. You have no idea how much I was looking forward to revisit and stuff my face with vegan meals. After a week vegan detox Chivasuka retreat in the North of Chiang Mai, I was eating less than usual. But I still managed to taste loads of vegan meals in Chiang Mai, and also get coconuts and smoothies on a daily basis. We even had our favorite restaurant for coconuts and mango sticky rice, and then got dinner at the night market by the Chang Mai gate in the South. My friends could get their meat and I opted for stalls with vegetarian/vegan meals. Oh yes! And if you are up for a better quality, healthier vegan options (maybe even organic), there’s some restaurants, especially on the Ratmakka road in the Southeast corner. They are more expensive but worth it.
I am not sure if I’ve ever been to a city with more temples than Chiang Mai. In the beginning you just keep looking all around you as there is a temple in every corner. They are all different, yet seem very similar after a while. You know, same same but different…
You can visit most of the temples for free, but there is an entrance fee to some of them. To get a better connection, I recommend visiting in the evening when there’s almost no people (and maybe no fee any more either). My favorite ones were Phra Singh and Chedi Luang in the old city and Doi Suthep on the hill outside of the city.
Before Chiang Mai we visited Bangkok with dad, and also spent some time on Koh Tao and Koh Samui islands. All those places were more expensive than Chiang Mai which makes the city really traveler friendly. It is possible to lead a lifestyle on a budget there, for sure, or the opposite. It all depends on you. As I was getting healthier food and massages almost on a daily basis, I spent more money there than most digital nomads when staying for longer. Because without a massage and going to vegan rstaurants you can really do it on a budget and eat at the street. Very convenient for everyone.
TIP: Check out what I wrote about Chiang Mai after my first visit in 2011 in my older article :)