5 Things to Do in Chiang Mai

5 Things to Do in Chiang Mai

Discover the beauty of Chiang Mai by exploring ancient temples, interacting with lovely people, and cooking exotic, traditional food. A gorgeous city, Chiang Mai has a lot of beauty and culture to offer.

Known as the “Rose of the North”, Chiang Mai is a wonderful small city with a history of more than 700 years old. Visitors to Chiang Mai are sure to find themselves busy exploring old temples, bustling markets, enjoying traditional food and having some adventure.

Big thank you to Chan Brothers and Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), I am honoured to be part of the Young Explorer Project to Chiang Mai. The ‘Young Explorer Project’ is a joint collaboration by Chan Brothers Travel and the Tourism Authority of Thailand. It’s all about travelling in Thailand from a foreigner’s perspective.

This joint project aims to introduce Thailand’s attractions and cultures in a fun and engaging way through the eyes of six bloggers; to introduce free and easy travel in Thailand; to emphasise it isn’t THAT difficult to plan a free and easy trip to Thailand (Perhaps if it’s still a hassle for you, you may wish to opt for Chan Brothers’ free and easy holiday packages to Thailand).

Shiberty and I, together with four other bloggers were sponsored air tickets and hotel accommodations to different parts of Thailand. I have never travelled to Chiang Mai prior to this trip. Bangkok yes, Phuket yes, but I have never read about Chiang Mai. I am so glad that I agreed to take up this challenge because there are just too many fun things to do in Chiang Mai! I am really glad to have met my friend/tour guide TOTO. He is a Taiwanese who’s been living in Chiang Mai for more than a decade. He brought us to the places less discovered by tourists. So here I present to you, my TOP 5 THINGS TO DO IN CHIANG MAI!

#1: Learn Thai cooking

While planning for this trip, one of the activities I really wanted to do is to learn Thai Cooking. By now, you should know my love for Thai food and I thought it would be great to learn cooking from a real Thai.

Chiang Mai is bursting at the seams with cooking schools these days. There are many operations conveniently run by guesthouses and hotels in town, as well as direct cooking schools. Most are on par with each other and will deliver a great half- or full- day of fun and food. I googled and picked Baan Thai Cooking School because their timing suited us best!

Baan Thai teaches how to cook real Thai food in a traditional Thai setting. I emailed them to make reservation and they replied very promptly! We picked the evening course (5pm – 8.30pm, 700baht / person, that is around SGD28) and the staff would pick us up from our hotel about 4pm. Then, we chose the different types of dishes we wanted to cook. Each person had to prepare a stir-fried, soup, appetiser and curry.

After choosing the dishes, we took a walk to Sompet Market (Moonmuang Road) which was just a few streets away. They have excellent quality fresh produce, fruits, very colorful flower stalls. Here, the instructor explained to us some ingredients used for Thai cooking.

Look! They have pink eggs! It is just like our century eggs!

After the market tour, we were back to the school to start cooking!

Here are the dishes I prepared that night. I cooked stir-fried prawns with curry powder, tom yam soup, green curry and papaya salad! ALL OF THEM TASTED VERY GOOD! Because I cooked them with heart and soul ok! I even had to pound the green curry powder and squeezed fresh coconut milk! Anyway, if you like to learn how to make the simplest dish, I shared the recipe for Green Papaya Salad (Som Tam) here.

WE HAD FUN! And we made new friends! It was something completely different from the usual touring activities, and it was nice to give yourself a break from aggressive touring. Be sure not to plan any makan following the cooking class because you’re sure to walk out feeling stuffed from eating all of your delicious food in class!

Oh, what I like about Baan Thai is, they took pictures of us in action and posted them on their website for free, so that we got to download and share with our friends!

#2: Make a wish

Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep is Chiang Mai’s most famous shrine. The temple is often referred to as “Doi Suthep” because this is actually the name of the mountain it is located on.

Legend has it that back in the 14th century, one of Buddha’s bones was brought to the area by a monk. Just before it was to be enshrined at the nearby Wat Suan Dok, the bone split in two. King Nu Naone placed one piece on the back of a sacred white elephant which was then allowed to roam. The elephant climbed Doi Suthep, trumpeted, and died on the spot. The King took this to be a sign from the heavens, and ordered the construction of the original chedi on Doi Suthep.

From the car park, we needed to climb 309 steps to reach the pagodas (or you can pay 50 baht for a two-way tram. It’s about SGD2). Visitors must be properly dressed and once they enter the temple grounds, they must take off their shoes.

Here, we saw about 50 mural paintings to illustrate the lives of Buddha before he reached the state of Nirvana. Although he lived many lives, it is the ten immediately preceding his birth that are most important to Thai Buddhists.

We also walked around the golden shrine three times and prayed for our wishes to come through.

In Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep, there is this famous golden elephant which is said to do fortune telling. Basically, you think of a wish in your head and raise the elephant up with your last finger. Then you think of the same wish again and raise the elephant for the second time. If you can raise the elephant for the second time, it means that your wish will come true. If you cannot raise the elephant for the second time, it means that your wish will not be granted. Amazing, isn’t it?

#3: Eat Khao Soi

No trip to Chiang Mai should be without trying khao soi or khao soy. This delicious noodle soup is so iconic in the northern Thailand city that it is often simply called “Chiang Mai noodles.”

It’s basically a coconut milk curry base soup with hearty egg noodles. You can choose chicken or beef. It is topped with crispy deep-fried noodles and is always served with condiments such as lime wedges, pickled mustard, sliced shallots, chili paste etc.

Khao Soi Samer Jai (391 Charoenraj Road, Tambon Fahham) is one of the most famous Khao Soi in Chiang Mai. Its broth is thick and flavourful, rich with spices and low on coconut milk. The closest I can think of is Curry Lor Mee! Each bowl is about 40 baht (around SGD1.50).

Tip: Don’t forget to also try the yummy grilled satay skewers with peanut sauce.

If you prefer a touristy and air conditioned environment, you could try Just Khao Soi (108/2 Charoenphratet Road). It follows a standard recipe of a medium spiced turmeric based soup, thickened by additional coconut milk, flat noodles, with commercially farmed chicken as the main ingredient.

One interesting ingredients served is slices of BANANA which is said to soothe the tongue from spiciness. Food was served on an artist’s palette, just like a piece of art. It costs 150 baht (about SGD6). How did it taste? Most like laksa to me, the soup was watery. If you ask me, I preferred Khao Soi Samer Jai.

Tip: You can also try their appetiser The Artist’s Paintbox which is a combination of four favourites: vegetarian spring rolls, sundried beef strips, crispy fried fish, spicy northern Thai sausage.

#4: Hop on an elephant ride

Maesa Elephant Camp is a privately owned elephant camp less than one hour from Chiang Mai. We started our morning with a 30 minutes elephant ride. It was my first time up on an elephant and I was all trembling and screeching on the top of my voice. But after a while, it wasn’t as scary anymore.


The camp has about 70 plus elephants and 80 mahouts. Although technically owned by the camp, most of the elephants go home with the mahout to their villages each night.

Food is supplied twice a day for the elephants at the camp. There is a full-time vet who constantly checks on the elephants. The mahouts are also very aware that the elephants must not be abused and they check on each other to make sure the elephants are all treated well. Everything here is very clean and well managed.


Big thanks to Toto who offered to drive us around. He is a Taiwanese but has been living in Chiang Mai for many years. He runs a tourism company but offers to bring us around without any charges. He has brought us to so many fabulous places less known to tourists.


#5: Lunch at Mon Jam


After the elephant ride at Maesa Elephant Camp, we drove up to the peak of the mountain and arrived at Mon Cham (also spelt Mon Jam) for lunch. This is definitely the most enjoyable lunch we had in Chiang Mai – beautiful scenery and delicious home cooked food!





Lunch was at the charming open-air bamboo restaurant while drinking and enjoying the cool air and glorious views. Not a bad way to spend a lazy day there. There was an old lady selling strawberries just outside the restaurant and we bought one to share while enjoying the breeze.

They cooked very traditional Thai food such as tom yam, kang kong, omelette etc. But each dish was well executed and you felt like you were having home cooked meals (with scenery). And it was so cooling up here!


Tip: Walk around Mon Cham and you will be able to spot some lovely flowers and take photos! The most fantastic lunch I have in Chiang Mai! Thank you Toto for bringing us here!


Contributed by Miss Tam Chiak

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Miss Tam Chiak
Miss Tam Chiak