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Our highlights of Chiang Mai – Thailand

Our highlights of Chiang Mai – Thailand

Chiang Mai is the largest city in North Thailand and one of the country’s top cultural destinations, with over 300 Buddhist temples.

We visited recently as part of a press trip with Amazing Thailand Tourism Board following the first TBEX Asia in October 2015 in Bangkok and put together our highlights of Chiang Mai.

Press trip photo Chiang Mai Amazing Thailand

Group photo during our press trip to Chiang Mai with Amazing Thailand and Anton and Rachelle of Our Awesome Planet Filipino blog.

#1 Learn to cook Thai food

We took a cooking class with The Chiang Mai Thai Farm Cooking School who we highly recommend. Our teacher was the very beautiful and patient Garnet who took us to a local market first to get acquainted with the local flavours.

Local market Chiang Mai Thailand

Garnet showing Seb the glutinous rice at a local market in Chiang Mai

We learnt to make famous Thai classics like vegetarian Pad Thai, red curry, mango sticky rice and spicy Tom Yam soup.

Mango sticky rice cooking school highlights of Chiang Mai

Sebastien showing off his freshly made plate of mango sticky rice

#2 Visit the Wat Phra Doi Suthep

You’ve not been to Chiang Mai until you’ve visited the famous temple perched on the Doi Suthep mountain. It’s a good 40 minutes drive from town and has the most incredible views of the city with 309 steps to reach it (or a tram).

The temple dates back to 1383 and is highly revered by Buddhists. Therefore, you need dress appropriately, like cover knees and avoid singlets.

Doi Suthep Temple highlights of Chiang Mai

A Buddhism pilgrim at the religious Doi Suthep Temple

#3 Meeting the monks

Thailand is a Buddhist country and monks play a prominent part of everyday society. One of the most beautiful things to witness is the morning almsgiving ceremony, which we also encountered from the monks in Mandalay, where the monks go from house to house receiving food from pilgrims.

Highlights of Chiang Mai monk almsgiving ceremony

A Buddhist pilgrim offering food to this monk as part of the almsgiving ceremony

Almsgiving is not begging or charity, but more about the respect given to a Buddhist monk (or nun) by everyday folk.

We were fortunate to see it done by boat at the Rati Lanna Riverside Resort, early in the morning:

Chiang Mai almsgiving ceremony by boat

Monk on boat for the morning offerings by Buddhist pilgrims in Chiang Mai

#4 Insect snacks in Chiang Mai

One of the more memorable foods we tried in Chiang Mai were the fried insect snacks at a local market.

We tried fried grasshoppers, which were oily with a nice crispy flavour.

Sebastien with fried grasshoppers

Sebastien trying and loving fried grasshoppers

Stefan's grasshopper selfie

Stefan’s fried grasshopper selfie

We also tried fried silkworm (rod duan), which we really didn’t like. You bite into them and suddenly a squirt of liquid surprises the back of your mouth…EURGH!

Fried silkworms at the market

Fresh fried silkworms at the market: we didn’t take to these very well

#5 Chatting with an elephant: just don’t ride them!

Chatting and feeding an elephant was a lot of fun in Chiang Mai.

These two greedy boys also met their match with Lady Di: elephants don’t stop munching and consume up to 300kg a day. And guess what? Despite their immense size, they are vegetarian.

Stef with elephant trunk

Stefan with his new friend called “Lady Di”

Unfortunately, elephant treks are also popular with tourists, which supports a very brutal practice of elephant crushing.

Elephants are not made to carry humans, so they are tamed through extreme torture from a young age, a practice called “elephant crushing”. This ritual involves them being caged, starved, beaten, stabbed, cut and kept awake for days until they become submissive under the torture.

The torture does not stop until they are judged to be “broken” or completely submissive, or if they are too strong to be “broken”, then they just die under the torture!

Happy elephants at the Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai

Happy elephants at the Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai

The Elephant Nature Park was set up in the 1990s as a rescue centre and sanctuary for elephants where you can visit or volunteer knowing you are helping them instead of promoting any cruelty towards them.

We urge all visitors to reconsider doing any elephant trekking in Chiang Mai and ensure their elephant encounters are with ethical organisations like Elephant Nature Park.

#6 Visit the Botanical Gardens

Another way to experience the surrounding nature close up is to visit the Queen Sirikit Botanic Garden, set up in 1992 to strengthen botanical research and protect valuable plant resources.

The natural surroundings in this immense space of land are also quite spectacular, with a variety of waterfalls, jungle land and forests to immerse yourself and get lost in.

Queen Sirikit Botanic Gardens Chiang Mai

Admiring the nature of the Queen Sirikit Botanic Gardens in Chiang Mai

Theres also an abundance of beautiful plants and greenhouses to protect them. Our favourite were the orchids, so colourful and dramatic, rather like one of the Nomadic Boys…

Botanical Garden highlights of Chiang Mai Seb

A colourful and dramatic Sebastien to match the beautiful orchids of the Botanical Garden in Chiang Mai

#7 Try the sai ua spicy sausage!

Sai ua is one of the culinary highlights of Chiang Mai: the spicy sausage. It is a grilled pork sausage popular in North Thailand. Sai means intestine and ua means to stuff.

We tried and loved the sai ua during our many visits to the city and highly recommend you to try it too!

Spicy sai ua Chiang Mai sausage one of our highlights of Chiang Mai

The Nomadic Boys trying the yummy sai ua spicy sausage with friends in Chiang Mai

#8 Mountain Biking around Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai is very popular for mountain biking with some great tracks for all levels whether beginner (Stefan) or advanced (Sebastien).

We did a tour with XBiking on a bike trail from Doi Pui to Huay Thung Thao Lake, just outside Chiang Mai.

Sebastien took to it like a pro…he’d done it before in his childhood days in France. But Stefan struggled a bit and found it hard to just ‘let go’ and race downhill.

If like Seb you do get into it, you will have an adrenaline packed day, enjoying some stunning views of the surrounding mountains of Chiang Mai.

Stef and Seb mountain biking

Stef and Seb mountain biking

Watch our video Thailand travel video and enjoy our underwater adventures as we island hopped through this beautiful country:

For an alternative point of view, check out the Wagoners Abroad’s post about travelling with children in Chiang Mai and check out guest post by Miles of Happiness on 6 things to do in Chiang Mai.

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  1. You are awesome riders so much fun with you guys!!!

    • Thanks guys 🙂

  2. I’ve had some friends live in Chiang Mai and absolutely love it. I really want to learn how to cook Thai. Thanks for sharing.

    • Thanks Megan 🙂

  3. Sounds like you guys had a wonderful time in Chiang Mai. Beautiful place for sure. Thanks for spreading the world about not riding elephants. I’d love to do everything on the list (except snacking on bugs, just can’t get my head around that one).

    • Ha ha ha you should try at least once 🙂

  4. I’m in Thailand right now and about to do my first Thai cooking class tomorrow. I hear so many people say that it was a highlight of their trip as well. I can’t wait!

    • You’ll LOVE it – what did you cook?

  5. Seems like everyone is in Chiang Mai right now – we’re in Australia so not too far away, will have to get my act into gear and organize a trip!! Not sure how I would go with the local “food” … grasshoppers arent really my thing lol but who knows – try everything once right!!

    Thankyou for making the note about not riding the elephants – if we all start banding together to promote ethical tourism we can really make a change.

    • Thanks Meg – totally agree.

  6. elephants are such gentle creatures and so much fun! Chiang Mai is one on my list for the last time I was there was almost 10 years ago and I am sure it has changed a lot (plus I have short memory so I can’t remember much 🙂 but I’ll skip the grasshoppers, I saw millions of them in Uganda, in season, the entire city is filled with their wings as the locals pluck them before frying at it is gross to the next level 🙂

    • Ha ha ha thx Mar 🙂

  7. Great round up of things to do in Chiang Mai! I do not think i would be sampling the fried silkworms. I almost got sick in my mouth just reading that! haha. You guys are adventurous.. I think I will make my husband try it though 🙂

    • Ha ha ha- good luck to him! And thank you 🙂

  8. I would love to go to Chiang Mai! I was so bummed that we had to miss TBEX Asia–Chiang Mai would have been a great side trip. Sounds like there are a ton of fun things to do there! I would love to take a cooking class. Not sure I could do the whole bug eating thing though–might take a pass on that, lol! 🙂

    • Everyone should try bugs once in their life 🙂

  9. I’d definitely choose the spicy sausage over the bugs for eating, lol! So heartbreaking to hear about what happens to those beautiful elephants, but also awesome to hear that people recognise that it’s wrong.. Sounds like an overall great experience 🙂

    • Thanks guys 🙂

  10. The photo of the monk in a boat is just stunning! I freaking miss Chiang Mai so much!

    • Thanks!


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