While a major setback kept me from doing everything I came to Chiang Mai to do, I was still able to make the most of my stay. I still saw most of the things I wanted see and I was actually able to relax during my trip there. And despite having splurged on food and drinks, I’m surprised that the Chiang Mai leg of my backpacking Indochina adventure was still cheaper than I imagined. Planning a trip to Thailand’s “Rose of the North”? Check out my 4D3N Chiang Mai itinerary, budget and travel guide to get some cool ideas on what and what not to do during your trip.
4D3N Chiang Mai Itinerary
17:00 ETA Chiang Mai International Airport. Change money at the airport: 1USD = 34.64 USD. Take the flat rate taxi or queue up at the metered taxi stand.
17:30 ETA AirBnB room at City Center-Inside the old city. (Don’t have an Airbnb account yet? Use my Airbnb promo code when signing up to get $22 off when you travel!)
17:45 Start the Old City sunset tour from the North West corner of the Old City. Pass by the following temples:
- Wat Pa Phrao Nai
- Wat Dab Phai
- Wat Pha Bong
17:55 Must not miss: Wat Phra Singh, Temple of the Lion Buddha.
18:05 Must not miss: Wat Phan Tao, Former Royal Residence
18:15 Must not miss: Wat Chedi Luang turned golden by the rays of the setting sun.
20:00 Dinner at Krua Dabb Lob Restaurant
Suggestion: Wake up at 6:00 and participate at the giving of alms to monks at the 3 Kings Monument
9:00 Extremely chill wake up time
10:00 Head out to find some breakfast. Walk towards Wat Chedi Luang
10:15 Check out more minor temples:
- Wat Tung Yu
- Wat Chai Phra Kiat
10:25 Late breakfast at Pacamara Boutique Coffee Roasters
10:45 Morning tour of Wat Chedi Luang. Witness devotees receive blessings from a monk
11:00 (Skip this part) Walk to the Elephant Nature Park office to register as a volunteer for the next day.
11:30 Check out the Wat Phun Ohn
11:45 Walk along Prapokklao Road to the Chang Phuak Gate and catch a ride to Wat Doi Suthep. Pass by the following places:
- 3 Kings Monument
- Wat Saen Muang Ma Luang
12:00 Catch a ride to the Wat Doi Suthep. Feign ignorance and hitch a ride with total strangers.
13:00 Explore Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep. Entrance Fee: 30 THB. After walking around the temple complex, sample the various street food sold at the foot of the temple gates.
Suggestion: Go up to the Bhubing Palace. There is a jeepney station at the exit of Wat Doi Suthep. They charge 40 THB per pax for a minimum of 3 passengers.
14:30 Go back to the Old City.
15:15 ETA Old City. Take photos of the moat.
15:30 Chill at Kaffe 151 and wait for the start of the Sunday Walking Street Market.
17:00 Start of the Sunday Walking Street Market.
18:30 Dinner at the Khao Tom 1 Baht Restaurant.
19:30 Shop around or try some exotic food at the night market. Check out Peemaier’s stand and ask for a caricature.
20:30 Have a fish spa at the Beary Bear Fish Spa.
20:50 Check out the pretty-at-night Wat Ithanon. Walk around the night market some more.
22:00 Collect caricature from Peemaier. Donate generously.
Suggestion: Wake up at 6:00 and run around the moat of the Old City
8:30 Another chill wake up in Chiang Mai
9:45 Breakfast at East Coffee.
10:30 Take a ride to the Royal Flora Ratchaphruek Park.
10:50 ETA Royal Flora Ratchaphruek Park. Must visit: Orchid Pavillon.
12:00 Ride to the Central Plaza Chiang Mai Airport mall
12:30 ETA Central Plaza Chiang Mai Airport. Cool down. Window shopping. Lunch at the Food Pavilion.
14:00 Movie of the trip: Inside Out.
18:00 Free shuttle service to Amora Thapae Hotel (West Gate)
18:30 Dinner at Black Canyon Coffee
19:30 Walk back to AirBnB room. Rest. Pack. Lights out.
7:00 Check out. Taxi to Airport
8:00 Breakfast at Black Canyon Coffee at the airport
10:00 ETD Chiang Mai.
4D3N Chiang Mai Budget
150 THB: Flat taxi rate from the Airport to any point in the Old City
120 THB: Dinner at Krua Dabb Lob Restaurant: Khao Soi Noodles 90, Iced tea with milk 30
10 THB: Water at 711
166.67 THB: (500 THB split 3 ways) 1.5 hours round trip to Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep
135 THB: Breakfast at Pacamara – Coffee cake 35, Plain croissant 45, Iced latte 55
22 THB: Snacks from 711 – Water 7, 3 Lotte cookies 15
40 THB: Doi Suthep street food – Pork barbeque 20, Coconut Milk Pancakes 20
120 THB: Kaffe 51 snack – Hazel nut Iced latte 75, Chocolate crepe 45
150 THB: Dinner at Khao Tom 1 Baht Restaurant – Papaya Salad 60, Thai-style Noodles with Prawn 60, Thai Iced Tea 30
55 THB: Iced Caffe Mocha at Chang Sawasdee Café at the Sunday Walking Street Market
30 THB: Entrance Fee to the Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep
20 THB: 20 minutes fish spa at Beary Bear Fish Spa
100 THB: Donation for Peemaier’s caricature
500 THB: Roundtrip Taxi to Royal Flora Ratchaphruek Park
109 THB: Breakfast at East Coffee – English Breakfast 79, Hot Cocoa 30
55 THB: Lunch at Food Pavillon – Fried Rice with Seafood
30 THB: Pop corn at Food Pavillon
180 THB: Black Canyon Coffee Dinner – Kao Kook Kapi 105, Chocolate frappe 75
152 THB: 711 snacks (and pasalubong) – Choki-Choki 12; 5 Mini Icebreakers 28 each
100 THB: Entrance fee to Royal Flora Ratchaphruek Park
20 THB: Tram ride
150 THB: Movie at Major Cineplex at Central Plaza Chiang Mai Airport
100 THB: Taxi to the Chiang Mai International Airport
130 THB: Black Canyon Coffee Breakfast (at the airport) – Croissant 50, Mocha 80
4D3N Chiang Mai Expenses
- Food and activities: 2644.67 THB or 76.35 USD
- Yangon to Chiang Mai Airfare via AirAsia: 2506.10 THB or 76.92 USD
- Chiang Mai to Siem Reap Airfare via AirAsia: 2777.94 THB or 85.26 USD
- 3 Nights at an AirBnB Room: 1853.13 THB or 55.13 USD
Total 4D3N Chiang Mai Budget: 9618.94 THB or 288.66 USD
4D3N Chiang Mai Travel Guide
1. Transportation: Going around inside Chiang Mai’s Old City is best done by walking. It is the cheapest and most practical (and healthiest!) way to get from one point to another. But walking around under the hot tropical sun may be taxing to some. For this, there are the tuktuks at your beck and call. However, do keep in mind that they are expensive as drivers would quote prices based on their judgment of how well-off you look. For destinations outside of the Old City, like the Wat Doi Suthep, etc., there are taxis available for hire. They are not metered so the driver is free to quote any price he/she would deem reasonable. But because of this, you are also free to haggle. Tip: Book only for a one-way ride to the Wat Doi Suthep as there is a queue of taxis for going back to the Old City at 40 THB per head. Extra tip: Central Plaza Chiang Mai Airport offers free shuttle service to various points in all of Chiang Mai. Check out the schedule at the concierge.
2. Communication: Although it is tourist central (I think 8 out of 10 people there were foreigners), locals in Chiang Mai are still not very good in speaking in English. No matter where I was – temples, restaurants, malls – or whom I was speaking with – taxi drivers, restaurant staff, mall employees – I found myself having a hard time getting my message across. Don’t get me wrong, I love this about the Thai, but it did make communicating difficult.
3. Money Exchange: A good thing about Chiang Mai being tourist central, though, is that there are plenty of money changers around. The airport exchange rate was the lowest one, so it is better to exchange more money at the money changers in the Old City.
4. Entrance fees: Compared with the pagodas of Yangon, a lot of the wats of Chiang Mai do not charge entrance fees, except for Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep which charges 30 THB to foreigners.
5. Temple behavior: Just like in the temples of Bangkok, the dress code is strictly enforced. Skirts or pants should always be below the knees, shoulders and chests should be fully covered. Failure to comply to these would result to having to wear some wrap which is rented out by the temple.
6. Eating in Chiang Mai: I love Thai food! Well, some of them anyway. It’s pretty easy to order off of menus since almost all of the restaurants would have an English menu or one with English translations. There are plenty of restaurants inside the Old City as well as coffee shops. Going hungry in Chiang Mai is next to impossible. Feeling adventurous? Try the exotic food sold at the night markets. Tip: When asking for the bill, call the server’s attention then make a motion like you are writing a letter ‘z’ in the air.
7. Chiang Mai in August: Although it was the monsoon season, it only rained once while I was there. And it was during the night while I was already sleeping. During the day it was hot and humid all the time, whether it was sunny or cloudy. So, make sure to hydrate and slather on sunblock.
8. Shopping: Chiang Mai is Thailand’s handicraft center so there is no shortage of stuff to buy there. Weekends mean the night markets: the Saturday Walking Street Market on Wualai Road south of the Chiang Mai (south) gate and the Sunday Walking Street Market on Ratchadamnoen Road at the center of the Old City. There are also several malls outside of the moat but there are also plenty of small shops scattered around the Old City. So, bring your best travel bag and do not skimp on paying for that baggage allowance if you feel like you won’t be able to resist shopping (for yourself or for pasalubong).
9. Running in Chiang Mai: A good place to run around Chiang Mai would be around the Old City. Trace the surrounding moat and get at least 4 km in mileage. Another great jogging location would be the Royal Flora Ratchaphruek Park because there would be no exhaust fumes around and it would be a nice break from the side-by-side temples in the Old City.
10. Yoga in Chiang Mai: Not surprisingly with its huge appeal to backpackers and spiritual seekers, Chiang Mai is one of Southeast Asia’s major hotspots for yoga. Some of the most popular studios in the area are Wild Rose, Mahasiddha, and Namo, each holding weekly classes, workshops and often retreats.
11. Internet Connection: Internet speed is pretty decent in Chiang Mai and most food establishments have free wi-fi. Inside the Central Plaza Chiang Mai Airport mall, a tourist can register for a free one-hour wi-fi at the concierge.
Explore more of Chiang Mai by checking out this blog by HotelsCombined on Where to Stay in Chiang Mai: Nimman or Old City.
August 22-25, 2015
***photos were taken using iPhone6 and GoPro Hero 4 Silver
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