Three weeks in Chiang Mai, my first travel destination in Thailand and first major stop on my backpacking trip around Indo-china region of South East Asia.

The thing I loved most about Chiang Mai was the convenience of life in the city center. Most of the major temples were found within the historic fortress walls of the old city and could be explored just by walking or bicycle.

A lot of temples in Chiang Mai were remarkably amazing, while others were, although interesting, the sort that can be found all over Thailand. Since I spent a lengthy time in the city, I made it my mission to visit as many temples as I could.

Delicious Northern Thai food was already an attraction in itself and the best ones I had were served along side street stalls, which were cheap.

Chiang Mai was probably one of the cheapest major destinations in Asia. A thrifty backpacker could easily spend US$10 to US$15 per day. The cheapest I spent in one day was  around US$6, which already included food and my hostel stay. I walked around Chiang Mai’s temples, most of which did not charge admission fees for tourists.

Visiting the mountains and going on trekking tours was a popular activity in Chiang Mai. I didn’t get to see much of the beautiful natural landscapes in the area since I planned to go trekking, later during my trip, in Umphang. Not wanting to miss out, I ventured to Mae Ya Waterfall, one of Thailand’s biggest waterfall found on the foothills of Doi Inthanon, which in turn was the highest mountain in the country.

Itinerary Rundown

DestinationsDetails
Previous
  • Kuala Lumpur
Pre-trip
  • Clark
  • Kuala Lumpur
  • Clark to Kuala Lumpur Flight
Day 1
  • Chiang Mai
  • Kuala Lumpur to Chiang Mai Flight
  • Chiang Mai Airport to Chiang Mai City Center
  • Chiang Mai Hostel
Day 2 to 4
  • Chiang mai
  • Chiang Mai Walking Tour
Day 5
  • Chiang Mai
  • Wat Doi Suthep
  • Continue Chiang Mai Walking Tour
  • Wat Doi Suthep Tour
Day 6 to 16
  • Chiang Mai
  • Wiang Kum Kang
  • Rest
  • Continue Chiang Mai Walking Tour
  • Wiang Kum Kang Bicycle Tour
  • Wat Chet Yot bicycle Tour
Day 17
  • Chiang Mai
  • Doi Inthanon National Park
  • Mae Ya Waterfall
Day 18Chiang Mai
  • Rest
Day 19
  • Chiang Mai
  • Mae Sot
  • Umphang
  • Chiang Mai to Mae Sot to Umphang
Next
  • Umphang and Thee Lor Su Waterfall
Top
  • Northern Thailand
  • Indochina

Trip Date — August 2012

Route Map


Itinerary Notes & Tips

Day 1

Kuala Lumpur to Chiang Mai Flight

  • Arrival at Kuala Lumpur International Airport – Low-Cost Carrier Terminal (LCCT)
  • 4:40am – Check-in for Kuala Lumpur to Chiang Mai Flight via AirAsia Flight# AK816
    • Buy check-in baggage service – RM35
  • 7:00am – Departure from KLIA-LCCT
  • 7:00am to 8:40am – Kuala Lumpur to Chiang Mai Flight (1 hour and 40 minutes)

Arrival at Chiang Mai

  • 8:40am – Arrival at Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai Airport to Chiang Mai City Center

  • Ride taxi from airport to Chiang City Center – B120
    • Drop off at Giant Guest House 2 ()

Chiang Mai Hostel Search

  • Giant Guest House was fully occupied. A Little Bird Guest House was my second choice but along the way, I decided to inquire at Yellow House and it seemed decent enough for their prices.
  • Check-in at Yellow Guest House (20 Soi 1 Ratchavithi Road Sripum Muang Chiangmai; 081-992-2354 053-289634; [email protected])
    • Dorm bed – B100 per night
  • Eat Brunch at Yellow Guest House
    • Pad Thai – B40
    • Hot cappuccino – B35

Chiang Mai Walking Tour

  • Wat Lam Chang
  • Wat Chiang Man
  • Chang Phueak Gate
  • Wat Chiang Yeun
  • Wat Lok Molee
  • Northeast Corner (Bastion) of Old City Wall
  • Tha Pae Gate

Day 2

Chiang Mai Walking Tour

  • Wat Dok Eung
  • Wat Dok Kham
  • Tha Pae Gate
  • Wat Sai Moon Muang
  • City Wall Southeast Corner (Bastion)
  • Wat Sai Moon Myanmar
  • Chiang Mai Gate
  • Baan Phor Liang Meun’s Terra Cotta Ars
  • Wat Pan Whaen
  • Nong Buak Hard Public Park
  • City Wall Southwest Corner (Bastion)
  • Chiang Mai Gate Market

Day 3

Chiang Mai Walking Tour

  •  Wat Chiang Man
  • Three King Monument
  • Chiang Mai City Arts and Cultural Center
  • Wat Inthakin Temple
  • Wat Sri Suphan
  • Wua Lai (Wui Lai Night Market)

Day 4

Chiang Mai Walking Tour

  • Wat Chedi Luang Worawihan
  • Wat Phan Tao
  • Chiang Mai Sunday Market
  • Wat Sum Pow
  • Sompet Market

Day 5

Doi Suthep and Old City Walking Tour

Located 15 kilometers from the city center, Wat Phra That Doi Suthep was one of the most sacred Buddhist temples in Chiang Mai. Impressive views of Chiang Mai could be seen from the temple.

  • Wat Lok Molee
  • Wat Monthian
  • City Wall Northwest Corner
  • Arrival at entrance gate of Chiang Mai Zoo. Near the gate was the waiting area for the rot-daeng (songthaew / pick-up truck) bound for Wat Doi Suthep
  • Ride rot-daeng Wat Doi Suthep
  • Wat Doi Suthep Tour
  • Ride rod daeng back to Chiang Mai Old City
  • Eat at sidestreet
    • Chicken rice
  • Wat Pha On
  • Eat at Sompet Market

Day 6

  • Transfer and Check-in at Malak Guesthouse
    • Single room with private TB (free WIFI) – B150 per night
  • Eat at Sompet’s Best restaurant (Sompet market)
    • Fried cashews with chicken – B55
  • Buy iced coffee at Sompet Market
  • USD to THB currency exchange at Siam Commercial Bank ((1USD = THB31.08)

Day 7

  • Rest
  • Eat at Sompet’s Best restaurant (Sompet market)
    • Red curry beef with rice and veggies
    • Red curry shrimp + squid with rice and veggies

Day 8

  • Walking tour of area east of Tha Pae gate
    • Wat Chetawan
    • Iron Bridge
    • Tourism Authority of Thailand
  • Eat at Sompet Market – B135
    • Steak lao (pork) with two rice
    • Chicken curry with rice

Day 9

  • Eat at sidestreet stall near Malak
    • Fried rice with seafood (shrimp and squid) – B40
  • Dinner at Ong Thipparot’s noodle shop (Phrapokklao Road; Near the Chang Phuak Gate)
    • Nipple fishball noodle with pork meat and pork bone – B40
  • Smoothie at Sompet market
    • Dragonfruit (red and white mix) with yogurt – B50
  • 2:00am – Eat at McDonalds
    • McChicken burger meal – B128
  • Buy at Tesco Lotus
    • 1 loaf of bread – B17

Day 10

Old City Walking Tour

  • Iced coffee at Sompet’s Best – B25
  • Wat Sam Phao
  • Wat Pha On
  • Wat Muen Larn
  • Ruen Tamarind Restaurant
  • Wat Phan Tao
  • Wat Chedi Luang
  • Wat Phra Chao Meng Rai
  • Eat at Huen Phuen Restaurant (Corner of Jhaban and Ratchamanka Roads; Near Wat Chedi Luang) – B180
    • Banana flower and pork ribs curry
    • Nam phri (Minced chilli paste)
    • Pot rice
    • Iced tea

Day 11

  • Eat at Sompet’s Best
    • Pad thai with tofu – B60
    • Iced Coffee – B25
  • Walking tour of the northeastern part of Chiang Mai Old City
    •  Wat Sum Paw
    • Wat Chiang Man / Wat Chieng Mun
    • Wat Saen Muang Ma
    • Wat Mo Kham Tuan
    • Chan Phueak Gate
    • Wat Chiang Yeun
    • Wat Pa Pao
    • Fountains in Old City Moat
    • Northeast corner of Old City Wall
    • Wat Chaisriphoom
    • Wat Chom Phu
    • Wat Ou Sai Kham
    • Sompet Market
  • Eat at stall beside Sompet’s Best
    • Pad Thai with Chicken – B30
  • Eat at sidestreet stall along Mun Mueang Road (near Sompet Market)
    • Pork noodle soup – B30
  • Buy at Tesco Lotus – B117.75
    • Milk, Thai Bread, Crackers, 500ml H20

Day 12

  • Eat at stall beside Sompet’s Best
    • Fried rice seafood – B50
    • Iced coffee – B25
  • Walking tour of Chiang Mai Old City
    • Wat Panping
    • Wat Umong Mahathen Chan
    • Wat Duang Di
    • Lanna Folklife Museum
    • Wat Chai Phra Kiat
    • Wat Chedi Luang
      • Beautiful sunset at Wat Chedi Luang
  • Eat at sidestreet stall along Mun Mueang Road (near Sompet Market)
    • Fried (flat white) noodles with pork – B40

 

Day 13

  • Rent bicycle – B50 per day
  • Eat at Kao Soi Khuj Yai (Sri Poom Road; Between Wat Kuan Kama and Wat Monthian)
    • Had some difficulty finding Kao Soi Khuj Yai. I thought it was on the back roads between the two temples. I went inside a local eatery that I thought was the place. Turns out, it wasn’t and they didn’t even serve Kao Soi. The friendly cook lady, drew a map for me so I could find Kao Soi Khuj Yai.
    • Kao Soi – B30
  • Wat Kuan Kama
  • Wat Monthian
  • Wat Lok Molee
  • Eat noodles at sidestreet stall near Malak Guesthouse – B40
  • Iced coffee – B40

Wiang Kum Kang

I rented a bicycle for B50 per day and cycled my way to Wiang Kum Kang. Wiang Kum Kang, located 3km south of Chiang Mai city center, was the former capital of the Lanna Kingdom. Frequent flooding in the area caused the relocation of the capital to present day Chiang Mai.

  • Bike from Chiang Mai Old City to Wiang Kum Kang
    • Chiang Mai Chinatown / Chinese Gate
    • Nawarat Bridge
    • Tourism Authority of Thailand
    • Road lined with super tall trees
  • Wiang Kum Kang Area
    • Wat Ku Maisong
    • Wat Phra That Kao
    • Wat Phra Chao Ong-Dum
    • Wat Chedi Liem
  • Southwest corner of Old City Wall
  • Banana Mango Smoothie at Mrs. Pa Stall at Chiang Mai Gate Market

Day 14

  • Rent bicycle – B30 per day (haggled the price down)
  • Iced coffee at Sompet’ Best – B25

Wat Chet Yot

Wat Ched Yot was located a kilometer north of the city center. The temple complex was more expansive than most temples in Chiang Mai. The main temple structure resembled the Mahabodhi Temple, where Gautama Buddha reached enlightenment.

  • Cycle from Old City to Wat Chet Yot
    • Wat Dubphai
    • Wat Phrao Nai
  • Wat Chet Yot
  • Eat sidestreet stalls along the highway
    • 1 pao + 2 sticks dumplings – B25
    • Banana shake – B20
  • Eat at Khao Soy Nimman – B135
    • Khao Soy Kung (shrimp)
    • Fried rice with egg
  • Eat noodles with pork – B30
  • Grocery run at 7/11
    • Bread loaf + milk – B75

Day 15

  • Old Chiang Mai City Tour
    • Wat Phra Singh
    • Wat Si Goet (Wat Si Koet)
    • Wat Tung Yu
    • Wat Chang Taem
    • Wat Chet Rim
    • Wat Fon Soi
    • Tha Pae Gate
    • Wat Buppharam (Wat Bubparam)
  • Eat at San Pa Khoi Market
    • Sweet chilli noodle (pork + pork blood curry) – B20
    • Bowl of rice – B10

Day 16

  • Cycle to “Kad” complex
  • Eat at Si Fah Noodle Shop
    • Noodle with steamed pork, pork stew, pork balls -B45
    • Iced coffee – B15
  • Eat at pork stick sidestreet stall
    • Grilled Pork stick – B50 per stick
    • 2 sticky rice packs –  B20
  • Eat at Sompet’s Best
    • Rice with minced pork omelet – B30
    • Pad Thai tofu (takeaway)

Day 17

Mae Ya Waterfall

Since the sky was cloudy during most of my stay in Chiang Mai, I decided not to go on a tour to the summit of Doi Inthanon. Instead, I took a DIY day tour to Mae Ya Waterfall, located relatively near the entrance checkpoint at Doi Inthanon National Park.

I read that it was one of the highest waterfalls in Thailand and thought it would be an excellent prelude to visiting the highest, Thee Lor Su Waterfall, later that week. The Mae Ya Waterfall was breathtakingly beautiful and I had it all to myself! It was not usually included in the run-of-the-mill tours offered by travel agencies.

  • Walk to Chang Phuak Bus Terminal
  • Asked locals for SongThaew to Thom Chong. One was just leaving.
  • 8:11am – Boarded the Songthaew. No English labels. I was a bit scared I might get lost or not know where to drop off.
  • Arrival at Thom Chong. Lady driver dropped me off where single motorcycles bound for Doi Inthanon were stationed.
  • She asked for B50 for the ride from Chiang Mai to Thom Chong
  •  Talked to drivers. Offered me a ride from Thom Chong to Mae Ya Water fall and back for B300. Haggled it to B250.
  • Entrance to Doi Inthanon Nat’l Park – B200
  • 10:30am – Arrival at Mae Ya Waterfall
  • 12:30 – Arrival back at Chom thong
  • Lunch at Chom Thong Market
    • Fried rice with Chicken – B30
  • Khao Soi at the charming Khao Soi Shop – B30
  • Ride Yellow taxi from Chom Thong to Chiang Mai. – B30

Chiang Mai City Center

  • Central Kad Suan Kaew Shopping Center
  • Eat at Chang Phuak Gate night stalls
    • Pork with rice and egg – B30
    • Fried mussels (green shell) omelet for take away – B30

Day 18

  • Eat at Sompet’s Best
    • Pad Thai tofu – B40
    • Iced coffee – B25
  • Dinner at fried rice stall near Sompet market – B105
    • Fried rice with chicken
    • Fried rice with squid and shrimp

Day 19

Chiang Mai to Umpang

On my last day in Chiang Mai, I got on a bus to Mae Sot, located near the Thai-Burmese border. The next day, I traveled to Umpang, where I went on a trekking tour to Thee Lor Su Waterfall.

Notes

Get In

By Plane

  • Kuala Lumpur to Chiang Mai via AirAsia flight# 1439

Sleep

Chiang Mai Hostel

Ultra cheap and good quality hostels were all over the city. They were easy to find even when just going directly to the city center and walking around.

  • Yellow House Guesthouse (Near Tha Pae Gate) – The first hostel I stayed at after my arrival in Chiang Mai
    • Dorm bed – B100 per night
    • The dorm was simple and the sort you would expect for such a cheap price. Reception staff was friendly. They served delicious Pad Thai. A sidestreet stall, which served good and cheap coffee was parked in front of the Guest House.
    • I was alone in the dorm room when I stayed. Across the street from Yellow Guest House was a much busier and popular hostel called “A little bird house.”
  • Malak Guesthouse (Near Tha Pae Gate) – I transferred to a single room at nearby Malak Guest House since I wanted some privacy and the price difference was just an additional B50.
    • Single Room with private TB – B150 per night

Eat and Drink

Most street food meals in Chiang Mai cost US$1 to $3. I usually ate at the stalls at Sompet Market, which was near Tha Pae gate and my guest house. The food was amazing considering the cheap price.

I was happy I stayed a long time in the same area that had delicious food and a wide variety of choices. Though, I wouldn’t have complained if I ate Pad Thai every single day. The Pad Thai in Chiang Mai was one the most delicious I’ve had anywhere in Thailand!

I also loved Khao Soi (Egg Noodle Curry)! Since I tried it in Chiang Mai, I considered Khao Soi as one of my favorite Asian dishes.

  • Pad Thai at Yellow House Guesthouse – My first meal during this particular trip to Thailand. It was above average and worth trying if you are in the area.
  • Sompet’s Best (Sompet Market; Near Tha Pae Gate) – A Small family run restaurant located along a narrow alleyway in front of Sompet Market. The lady cook was very charming and friendly. Aside from the yummy food, I loved eating there because of the good vibes. They served a wide variety of typical Thai food and dishes more accustomed to Northern Thailand. The lady cook even made me dishes I requested like “Tofu Pad Thai.” The prices were the usual sidestreet affair but they served some of the tastiest food I’ve had in all of Thailand.
  • Sompet Market sidestreet stalls – There were much decent and cheap food stall surrounding Sompet Market that I would frequent because the area was near my guesthouse. Apparently, Sompet’s Best lived up to their name! The other stalls were noticeably cheaper though but the quality was also not at par.
  • Kao Soi at Kao Soi Khuj Yai (Sri Poom Road; Between Wat Kuan Kama and Wat Monthian; Along the road at the inner side of the Old City moat) – Where I had my first taste of Kao Soi, which was an uber delicious coconut based curry with a rich creamy texture. It was similar to Malaysian Laksa but less spicy.
  • Kao Soi at Kao Soy Nimman (Soi 7, Nimmanhamen Road; Northwest of the Old City; Along the way to Chiang Mai Zoo) – Not as good as Kao Soi Khuj Yai but they had a better variety of dishes to choose from and had a more upscale and trendy ambiance. Prices were reasonably affordable.
  • Kao Soi at sidestreet stall across the parking area from the big temple in Thom Chong (Wat Pra That Sri Chomtong Worawihan) – Encountered this stall on my side trip to Mae Ya Waterfall. While they didn’t have the best tasting Kao Soi, the quirky decor and friendly owners/cook were enough for a memorable meal.
  • Pork stick sidestreet stall (Prapokkloa Road; In front of the building beside Wat Chedlin) – The best-grilled pork skewers I’ve had in my life! A must try if you can still find it.
  • Mrs. Pa Smoothie (Sidestreet area at Chiang Mai Gate Market) – Refreshing and delicious cold smoothies. Perfect while on a long walking or bicycle tour of Chiang Mai. Ordered Mrs. Pa’s  signature Banana Mango smoothie.
  • Chiang Mai Gate Market (near Chiang Mai Gate) – Lots of decent stalls to choose from. Nice open air busy location.
  • Chang Phueak Gate Market – Another excellent outdoor hawker-style area. I tried some sort of pork strips at one of the stalls. It was super delicious!
  • Weekend Night Market Stalls – Food binging  is one fun way to enjoy the famous weekend night markets of Chiang Mai. The quality of food was a hit or miss, though.
  • Pork ball soup at the stall that was located down the road from Chang Phueak Gate – Got curious with this stall because it was always full of locals. The soup was indeed delicious but what made the lasting impression was the loud and quirky guy who takes and calls out your order.
  • Huen Phuen Restaurant – Nice intimate ambiance with detailed traditional Thai decor and refreshing garden. The food was okay and reasonably priced.

See and Do

List of all Buddhist temples I visited

47 Buddhist temples.

Chiang Mai City Center (Inside and near the Old City)

  • Wat Buppharam (Wat Bubparam)
  • Wat Chai Phra Kiat
  • Wat Chaisriphoom
  • Wat Chang Taem
  • Wat Chetawan
  • Wat Chet Rim
  • Wat Chiang Man*
  • Wat Chiang Yeun
  • Wat Chedi Luang*
  • Wat Chom Phu
  • Wat Dok Eung
  • Wat Dok Kham
  • Wat Duang Di
  • Wat Dubphai
  • Wat Fon Soi
  • Wat Inthakin Temple
  • Wat Kuan Kama
  • Wat Lam Chang
  • Wat Lok Molee*
  • Wat Monthian
  • Wat Mo Kham Tuan
  • Wat Muen Larn
  • Wat Ou Sai Kham
  • Wat Pan Whaen
  • Wat Panping
  • Wat Pa Pao
  • Wat Phan Tao*
  • Wat Pha On
  • Wat Phra Chao Meng Rai
  • Wat Phra Singh*
  • Wat Phrao Nai
  • Wat Sai Moon Muang
  • Wat Sai Moon Myanmar
  • Wat Saen Muang Ma
  • Wat Sam Phao
  • Wat Si Goet (Wat Si Koet)
  • Wat Sri Suphan*
  • Wat Sum Pow
  • Wat Tung Yu
  • Wat Umong Mahathen Chan

Chiang Mai Outskirts

  • Wat Chet Yot
  • Wat Doi Suthep*
  • Wat Pra That Sri Chomtong Worawihan
Wiang Kum Kang Area
  • Wat Ku Maisong
  • Wat Phra That Kao
  • Wat Phra Chao Ong-Dum
  • Wat Chedi Liem

*My favorite Buddhist temples in Chiang Mai