Located in northern Thailand, Chiang Mai is known as an artsy, culturally rich (but in reality, isn’t every place where humans are culturally rich?) part of Thailand.
By the time I reached Chiang Mai for a five day stay, my body was weary from all of the travel. Little did I know that I would end up sick in bed a day after I returned to Jakarta. The culprit? A variation of Strep throat.
Since I didn’t know what was brewing in my body, I chalked up my wish to lounge around and read, not visit temples and just be, to me having too packed of an itinerary.
Here are some suggestions for things to do:
Wander around Warorot Market
I’d gotten it into my head that I wanted a bamboo steamer. Though I ended up not purchasing one, seeing a market, to quote a good friend, is a great way to get a culture’s pulse. Purchase the Thai version of Tiger Balm (that stuff is the truth!), dried fruit, and whatever else catches your fancy.
Eat at the Salad Concept
I begrudgingly went into here when walking around the Nihammen neighborhood. Stereotypical Texan, I’m not about eating too many plant-based meals for too long. Now, I’ve cut down on my meat consumption significantly and have not experienced getting sick nearly as much as I did my previous years abroad, but still…
I am ever glad that I did stop in here…twice. In one day. Freshly pressed mango and ginger juice; chicken, pumpkin, olives, red beans, and much more wraps; mint chocolate cake; tea; a mango-pineapple shake, the list goes on.
Explore artsy Nihammen (allegedly)
Now, I’ll be honest, I didn’t see anything in Nihammen except closed shops and traffic. Since I was there right after the New Year, I feel like I’d need to stay in the area to get a better feel for what it’s about. It’s highly recommended though. Unfortunately, I can’t say I saw anything in particular.
Visit More Markets (the Night Bazaar and tie Tha Phae Gate Market)
Of the two, I would highly recommend the Tha Phae Gate Market. At that market I had amazing shrimp dumplings, a Chiang Mai sausage (I wasn’t a fan), fresh passion fruit juice that brought tears to my eyes because it tasted just like the parchita I used to drink weekly in Venezuela, and mango & sticky rice. I also picked up beautiful scarves (I appreciated the vendor honestly telling me they were not handmade), fresh OJ, and souvenirs. I eyed a waffle stand, but didn’t partake. There are weekend markets too within the city walls, but I didn’t go to those.
Ride out to the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary
EJS is more than an hour outside of Chiang Mai. I did the half day tour, which had me bumping in the back of one of those soft-top trucks with Argentinians, Canadians, other Americans, and a Scandinavian woman who was also traveling solo. The sanctuary encompasses a small space (or, rather, where, the tourists go), so it’s not like any serious hiking is involved. You can feed the elephants and bathe them (Prepare yourself for when they defecate. It’s quickly cleaned up, but it is what it is.). The money goes to a great cause and taught me not to ride elephants.
Take a Cooking Class at Zabb E. Lee Thai Cooking School
Along with the Tha Phae Gate Market, this was the highlight of my stay in Chiang Mai. After a short trip to a small market (where I picked up some saffron threads), we were cooking up a storm in the place! I made spring rolls, green curry paste, chicken in coconut milk soup, green curry with chicken, and mango with sticky rice. Everything was delicious. The best part was that each student received a small cookbook afterward. I’ve since made the recipes again, and I love them because they’re simple, quick to make, and high in flavor.