Don’t fear the rats. You will see them. You will hear them. You won’t like it one bit.
But you’ll also see a lot of pigs due to the Chinese New Year, so I guess that balances things out?
My wife and I were fortunate enough to spend thirty days in Old City Chiang Mai from middle January of 19’ to February. You can get into a lot of trouble (read: fun) during an extended stay, so I wanted to share some of our adventures with you.
I’ll spoil it right off the bat though, we LOVED it. From Thai massages to flower festivals we had a ton of fun and if there is one place in the world you should go it’s here.
Spending an extended amount of time in one place is hands down the only way to travel. For those of you that hate the pressure of fitting everything into a seven day period, consider booking a longer vacation if circumstances allow. Get integrated and stay awhile. Chiang Mai now feels like a second home to us, and we can’t wait to go back.
Without further ado, let this post be your guide for things to do in Chiang Mai old town and important points of interest. (Links will take you to the google map listing to add as a point of interest).
1) Farm Story
This is where we stayed and we loved it. Was it the Ritz? Not at all. But it was a friendly environment in the back of a cafe in Thailand. Exactly what you’d expect.
They also have great food and even better (and rare) pour over coffee. Definitely make The Farm Story one of your stops in Chiang Mai.
2) Breakfast at Rendezvous House
Cheap and easy American style breakfast is offered here. Miranda and I aren’t snobs about too many things, but we do enjoy a normal breakfast from time to time. Neither of us enjoy a super spicy plate of Pad Thai first thing in the morning, and this cafe was around 6 bucks for each of us for coffee and a meal.
3) Where you can get anything- 7/11
You’ll find 7 11s everywhere in Old City and Chiang Mai in general. I have no idea what made that specific store so popular, but they’re everywhere and they have everything. From 50 cent coffees to quick snacks and toiletries, it’s good to know that you’ll have pretty much anything you need right at your fingertips.
4) Grazi and the cheap food strip
This is some of the cheapest food we found in Chiang Mai. The average food cost was around 50-60 baht per plate. We did find a few meals for 40, but even street food was usually around 50-60 as well.
Maybe we missed the super cheap areas, or maybe prices have gone up and most of these posts are old? Not sure.
Regardless, you can go to a place called Grazi or two other nearby surrounding restaurants and pay about 200 baht for food and drinks (if you like smoothies). If you bring your own water you could get by on about 100 baht for two people.
5) Jazz Coop: Best entertainment in Old City
The Jazz Coop was super cool. It sits at the top of the north gate and always draws a crowd. We got there about an hour after opening and had to stand in the street. We bought a couple beers and listened to some super talented musicians jam out. Highly recommend as a stop in Old City.
6) Star Sonic: Nice Cafe
This was a nice cafe with decent food. The reason this was one of the few places we came back to was how nice the hostess was. She always talked to use and was extremely friendly. In A city where no one seems to speak the same language this was a welcome reprieve!
7) Tha Phae Gate (AKA Pigeon Gate)
On the East Gate of Old City is a wide open area with free entertainment. We noticed magic shows and live performances, as well as people who were picking up pigeons and taking pictures with them.
You’d have to pay us a lot to pick up a pigeon for any length of time, thus the reason why the East Gate is now Pigeon Gate to us. It’s still a good place to look up free entertainment and there is even a Starbucks nearby if you get homesick.
8) Southwest Park- Buak Hat Public Park
This park is sweet. It’s here they held a flower festival and was the last stop for a parade. Chiang Mai seems to have very few parks, so this one offers a nice and relaxing break from the hustle and bustle of city life.
9) Laundry- Otteri
If you are staying in Old City for any length of time, you will likely need to do laundry. It might seem like a silly thing to put on a to do list, BUT this laundry facility is state of the art. We didn’t mind walking over here and doing laundry at all. They have wifi, and the machines are powerful and up to date. Our clothes were washed and dried in under an hour total.
10) Bagel House
Sometimes you just crave a little taste of home. Sometimes you get more than you asked for. The bagels at the Bagel House were the best bagels I’ve ever eaten. If you are craving some bread and butter go here and you won’t be disappointed.
11) South Gate Street Food
This area of old town has the best street food options and variety. It’s a huge space with what seems like hundreds of vendors all cooking up various concoctions. We chose two giant spring rolls and were quite satisfied.
12) Sunday Market
The coolest place to go in Old City that happens every Sunday Night. The Sunday Market takes up several street and even expands to many side streets as well. Some of our purchases/adventures:
- Miranda bought a sweet handmade bag/purse/satchel that she loves.
- I bought a journal with an elephant on the front.
- Miranda tried a cricket (I had food poisoning the weekend prior and I was NOT feeling adventurous).
- I got to shoot a bb gun a couple of times and did pretty well. They don’t believe in prizes in Chiang Mai but if they did I would have won big.
- We got several gifts for various people back home for super cheap.
- I had several sausages on sticks, ate some squid, and had fried bread with jelly. The food was so random but all so good.
- We learned that if you don’t make space you will be crushed by the crowds. Sometimes you just need to be a little rude and push your way through. It’s like driving on the highway, if you give too much space in front someone will cut in front of you, guaranteed.
Overall the Sunday Market is a huge hit and we can’t wait to go back!
13) The Best Coffee in Chiang Mai: Mountain Coffee
Mountain Coffee was the best I had. They apparently grow their coffee beans themselves, and the roast tasted fresh and strong. Good stuff and worth checking it out.
14) By Hand Pizza Cafe
Small and quaint but the pizza cooks right in front of you. Can’t beat that right? Pizza was delicious and surprisingly one pie was big enough for both Miranda and I. We grabbed a few drinks and rang up at under 300 baht. Good place to know about if you are in Old City for an extended stay and are craving some pizza.
Other things to consider doing in Old City:
- Get a Thai massage for super cheap
- Explore the many Buddhist temples (but dress appropriately!)
- Take a Tuk-Tuk
- Walk over to Nimman (not in Old City) and check out the hip Maya mall. Expensive, but fun to see a little bit more modern environment after staying in Old City.
- Try the coffee: There is so much good coffee in Chiang Mai and it’s worth it to try as many places as possible.
I wish you the best and I hope you enjoy your time in Thailand!