The main reason I chose to visit Chiang Mai was the Elephant Nature Park, but the more I read, the more excited I was to visit! Chiang Mai is apparently an expat/digital nomad haven, so there are plenty of travel blogs covering the area. The city was still larger than I expected, but much more manageable and charming than Bangkok. (10 million people vs 400,000!) Here’s how I spent 3 days in Chiang Mai.
Chiang Mai Food Tour
The morning after my arrival from Hong Kong, I joined Chiang Mai Food Tours for their Taste of the North & Old Town Chiang Mai Walk, which ended up being a private tour! I met my guide, Rain, near a temple in the Old Town. As we strolled through several temples, Rain did an excellent job explaining Buddhism, the history of Thailand and the kingdom of Lanna. Being a food tour, of course we visited many interesting food stalls. Left to my own devices, I will default to pasta and pizza (yes, I have the palate of a 9 year old) so it was great to have someone ordering for me! We sampled many local specialties, such as Chiang Mai sausage and Khao Soi.
The tour lasted from 10-2 and I’ll admit that eating so much food in the heat of the day was difficult. This was my first day in the Southeast Asian humidity, so I was really dragging for the last hour. Early morning or evening tours are a better bet for me! Fortunately, the tour ended at the lovely Makka hotel with lemongrass tea and sweet treats that Rain picked up at the market. When the tour was over, she helped negotiate a good tuk-tuk price to take me back to the hotel, where I promptly collapsed at the pool for the rest of the day.
Chiang Mai Photo Workshop
Later the same evening, I joined a photo tour with Chiang Mai Photo Workshops. I was very excited for this tour, as I still didn’t fully understand the functions of my DSLR camera and often still shot in “Auto” mode. Shortly before sunset, I met Kevin and his wife, Pu, near the iron bridge, which was a short stroll from my hotel. Again, I was the only one signed up for the tour, so I had private instruction. Kevin, a Kiwi who lived in Thailand for several years, is a great instructor, helpfully answering all of my questions and giving pointers on shooting the sunset over the river in front of us.
After the sun set, we moved on to our second location, which was a pedestrian bridge over a market area, where we would play with long exposures and shooting the traffic below.
Our third and final stop was Wat Chedi Luang, where the goal was to photograph the temple under night lights. However, we lucked out and happened upon young monks in training leaving their sessions for the evening, so we got some great shots of them as well.
Elephant Nature Park
The following day, I visited Elephant Nature Park for the day. You can read more about my day with the elephants in this post.
Chiang Mai Old Town
For my final day in Chiang Mai, I had no specific plans, but I wanted to practice some of the new photography skills I’d learned from Kevin and Pu. I was up quite early (thanks, jetlag!) and decided to just roam the streets in the general direction of Old Town. It was really cool to see the quiet side of Chiang Mai before everyone was out and about. One of my stops was Lila Thai Massage, where I had a 1-hour foot massage for $4. Lila Thai offers post-release employment for graduates from the prison’s massage training program. The foot massage was essentially a full leg massage – it was heavenly, and it wasn’t the only one I had on this trip!
After a morning of sightseeing, I returned to the pool for the afternoon until it was time to catch the evening train to Bangkok. (Tip: take the flight if you can afford it!) I really enjoyed my 3 days in Chiang Mai and would highly recommend it to anyone visiting Thailand!
Le Meridien Chiang Mai
I chose Le Meridien Chiang Mai as my home base for 3 nights – this was my first visit to a Le Meridien property and for only 4,000 Starwood points per night, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but was pleasantly surprised! Le Meridien has all the amenities of a luxury hotel, and is within walking distance of the old city.
For all of my pictures from Chiang Mai, click here!