2nd Stop, Chiang Mai!
After spending a month on the tropical paradise that is Koh Phangan, sipping coconuts from a hammock on the beach as you watch the sunset each day, hiking through the depths of the jungle to picturesque waterfalls, and dancing the night away with sand beneath your feet, maybe, just maybe you’ll be ready for the hustle and bustle of a city?
Well there’s not many cities more welcoming in South East Asia than Chiang Mai! The second city of Thailand is perhaps the Digital Nomad capital of the world. Spend a few days here and it’s easy to see why people who can make anywhere in the world home, choose this Thai city.
Chiang Mai is a perfect mix of traditional Thai culture, modern amenities, mouth watering food and drink, inspiring creative scene, and great nightlife. Not to mention it's surrounded by beautiful nature. Spend your days working away in coffee shops which produce (weirdly?) delicious cappuccinos. Spend your weekends scootering up through the mountains to Pai, walking with elephants, white water rafting, temple hopping or any of the other many activities in the area. Spend the evenings wandering through night markets that sell what is indisputably the best street food on the planet. And spend your nights dancing the night away in one of the bars hosting live music, which seems to be all of them!
Things to Do:
Walk with Elephants!
Thailand, northern Thailand in particular, is synonymous with elephants. The region surrounding Chiang Mai is full of opportunities to get up close and personal with these friendly giants, although many of these experiences involve ethically questionable practices. There are a few elephant sanctuaries and camps that are committed to treating their residents with the utmost respect, whilst still allowing visitors to learn about them in a candid and genuine way. This means no riding, and no performances, both of which must be taught through punishing regimes imposed on the Elephants from birth.
We think it’s important to have a positive impact on the environments we explore, and that extends to the animals found in them, especially when they’re as intelligent and majestic as the Asian Elephant!
Wander Through the Street Markets
One of the best things about the City of Chiang Mai has to be it plethora of markets awaiting exploration. There’s at least one every night of the week, and some during the days as well!
There are three things that these markets tend to revolve around:
Food: Thai street food, in our opinion, is the most delicious in the world, and so cheap as well! Every market is brimming with stalls selling all kinds of dishes. Our favourites are of course Pad Thai (the national dish), and sushi, which can be as cheap as $0.15 per piece!
Art: Chiang Mai has a vibrant artistic scene. This is very apparent when walking through markets that are full of local artists selling all manner of works such as paintings, sculptures, jewelry and other handmade wares.
Clothing: As well as the Harem pants and singlets (are these what they’re called?) that dominate South East Asian backpacker fashion, you’ll find plenty of interesting and exotic clothing to fill your wardrobe back home. Whether that’s in the form of super cheap traveler garms, or unique items handmade by the talented Thai fashionistas.
One thing to bear in mind is that everything (except food) is negotiable, to a surprising extent! The general rule of thumb we follow is cut their initial price in half and start from there, although for expensive items you can sometimes get an even bigger discount. These markets are a great place to sharpen your negotiation skills!
Explore the hippie hangout of Pai
Pai is a dreamy little hippie haven in the northern mountains of Thailand. It’s a really enjoyable 3 hour scooter ride up through a mountain pass that has 762 turns in it! At the end of this scenic ride, plenty of fun awaits. In the surrounding area there are jungles to trek through, hot springs to bathe in, and more waterfalls than you could possibly care to visit.
Pai makes for a great weekend getaway from the city and has a completely different vibe to Chiang Mai. It also has some pretty hectic nightlife!
Immerse yourself in the thriving Cafe Culture
Traditionally, Thai coffee has never been anything to write home about. For many years it was overshadowed by other crops (most notably opium). Due to a focused effort from the government and NGOs, Thai farmers have turned to “coffea arabica” in ever greater numbers as the cash crop of choice, the best of which fuels Chiang Mai’s booming coffee scene.
Rumor has it that there are more cafes than 7-Elevens in Chiang Mai, and as anybody who’s been to Thailand would testify, that means a heap. The city feels like a public experiment in fashioning a new coffee culture; it’s one of only a few places on earth where you have progressive roasters, baristas, coffee lovers, and cafe owners within just an hour’s drive of coffee plantations and farmers.
If you love coffee, you’ll love Chiang Mai!