Itinerary, Travel

Escape to Chiang Mai: 3-Day Itinerary

Escape to Chiang Mai: 3-Day Itinerary

Do you believe in love at first sight? Well, I do! That’s exactly what I felt when I first set foot in Thailand’s northern capital. After a 2-day whirlwind stay in Bangkok, Chiang Mai was a much needed breath of fresh air. With an abundance of magnificent temples, a plethora of delicious food options and a stunning scenery of rolling hills and jungles, Chiang Mai has easily charmed its way into becoming one of my favorite cities in the world.

Once a sleepy area with a population of around 200,00 (compared to Bangkok’s 8 million), Chiang Mai has recently seen a steady increase of travelers exploring the region thanks to its idyllic setting and laid-back atmosphere; something Bangkok fails to offer. Although James and I only spent 3 days exploring the city, I instantly felt a connection with Chiang Mai. I don’t know if it’s the people, the culture or the scenery; perhaps even all three, collectively luring travelers like me to fall in love with this charming city.

Things to know before you go:

  • Currency: Thai Baht ($1 = 33.23 Baht/Updated: August 2017).
  • Language: Thai and English. For the most part, everyone we met spoke some English but I recommend learning a few Thai phrases like “Thank you” or “Hello”.
  • Best time to visit: For the best weather (between November-April). For less crowds (between June-October). We visited in June and it was hot and humid! It rained sporadically, which I liked because it was a nice break from the heat.
  • How to get around: Songthaews/Shared taxis (most common transportation), Tuk Tuk, Taxi, Bicycle, Walk. From our experience, Chiang Mai is very walkable. We also felt safe walking around at night. We had no problems getting around because our hotel was close to restaurants and shops.

Where to Eat:

  • Woo Cafe
  • Akha Ama Coffee
  • The Larder
  • Rustic and Blue
  • Khao Soi Khun Yai
  • Tikky Cafe
  • Β Overstand
  • Ristr8to Coffee
  • Clay Studio Coffee in the Garden

Where to Stay:

  • 137 Pillars House Chiang Mai

This chic 30-suite boutique property, located in the quiet Wat Gate neighborhood, was recently named as Travel and Leisure’s #1 resort hotel in Southeast Asia. Yep, no big deal. Just the leading travel publication in the world, acknowledging how amazing 137 Pillars Chiang Mai is. After staying at their sister property in Bangkok, I noticed right away the contrast between the two properties. While the Bangkok hotel boasts a modern and sleek design, the Chiang Mai hotel is full of history and character. Full review soon!

Escape to Chiang Mai: 3-Day Itinerary

Escape to Chiang Mai: 3-Day Itinerary

Day 1:

  • Relax and enjoy hotel amenities, Dinner and Night Bazaar

From Bangkok, we arrived in Chiang Mai shortly after noon. Since its our first day in the city, we decided to just take it easy and relax inside the hotel property. Before sunset, we grabbed dinner at Woo Cafe – a cafe and art gallery located just 2 min away from our hotel. I really love the overall aesthetic and ambiance of this cafe. If Anthropologie had a restaurant, it would look something like this. Their food is quite tasty and their drinks are yummy! I definitely recommend stopping by for lunch or dinner.

Escape to Chiang Mai: 3-Day Itinerary

Escape to Chiang Mai: 3-Day Itinerary

After stuffing our faces with Thai food, we headed for The Night Bazaar. The Night Bazaar was easy to spot as the streets were filled with stalls lined up side by side. If you’re looking for souvenirs, then this is the place to be. We didn’t really plan on buying anything but we did grab a few items for our family and friends back home. They have all sorts of souvenirs like the famous elephant pants (yes I bought one haha), trinkets, antiques and handicraft wood work. Basically, any souvenir you can think of. You do need to haggle because some items are waaay overpriced. If you’re not a fan of night markets/bazaar or simply do not have the patience to haggle then just go for the experience.

Escape to Chiang Mai: 3-Day Itinerary

Flickr

Day 2:

  • A Day with the Elephants

Without a doubt, the highlight of our trip to Chiang Mai. I was so excited to experience this once in a lifetime opportunity of caring for elephants and seeing them up close at the renowned Elephant Nature Park, an elephant rescue and rehabilitation center located 37 miles from the city. There are so many “sanctuaries” in Chiang Mai but based from my research, ENP is the most ethical out of all of them. Every time I look through our photos from the park, I couldn’t help but smile because well, elephants are so damn cute and adorable! If there’s one thing you have to do in Chiang Mai during your visit, this is it! You have to set aside a full day for this because the single day visit is from 8:00 am – 5/5:30 pm. It’s definitely a unique opportunity that you don’t want to miss out on.

Side note: I’m writing a separate post about my experience with more cute elephant photos and details about the organization, so keep an eye out for that.

Price:

Single Day Visit (2,500 Baht/$75 per person), Lunch and Pick up/Drop off included.

Escape to Chiang Mai: 3-Day ItineraryEscape to Chiang Mai: 3-Day ItineraryEscape to Chiang Mai: 3-Day Itinerary

Escape to Chiang Mai: 3-Day Itinerary

Chiang Mai jannaonajaunt.com

Day 3:

  • Cooking Class, Temples, Thai Massage

Our third and final day in Chiang Mai was spent in the Old City. Aside from hanging out with the elephants, I was really thrilled to learn how to cook authentic Thai food. This has been on my “must do” list ever since I started traveling. And what better way to learn than from the locals themselves. I booked our cooking class through Asia Scenic Thai Cooking School. What I like about Asia Scenic is they’re very organized and booking is hassle free. Once you book through their website, they email you right away to confirm the time and date of your class. You don’t need to pay anything up front, just make sure you have cash on the day of your class. I chose the half-day morning class for us so we can explore and visit the temples in the afternoon.

The cooking school was clean, spacious and homey. I like that they separated us into smaller groups to make it easier for the teacher to help us individually. After settling in, we toured a nearby market to check out some ingredients we would be using for our dishes. I’ve never been to a Thai market before so I thought this was pretty interesting. Our instructor Chana, showed us different spices and produce often used in Thai cooking.

We made a total of 5 dishes that day. 3 were pre-selected (spring rolls, curry paste, curry) and the other 2 we had to select if we want stir fry/dessert or soup. I chose to cook pad thai, red curry and deep fried bananas. While James picked pad see ew, panang curry and sticky rice with mango. I was so proud of us because everything tasted delicious! We were so full and had food babies for the rest of the day. As a departing gift, they gave us a cookbook with all of the dishes we prepared that day. How awesome is that?

Prices:

Full Day (9am-3pm) Cook in town (1,000 Baht/$30 per person) or Cook at farm (1,200 Baht/$36 per person), Pickup/Drop off included.

Half Day AM (9am-1pm) 800 Baht/$24 per person or Half Day PM (5pm-9pm) 800 Baht/$24 per person

Visit their website for more information: Asia Scenic Thai Cooking School

Escape to Chiang Mai: 3-Day Itinerary

Escape to Chiang Mai: 3-Day Itinerary

After our cooking class, we got dropped off at Wat Chedi Luang, a towering temple located in the heart of the city. It was once the tallest structure during its time, standing at 80 meters high but was unfortunately damaged by an earthquake in the 16th century. What I like the most about this temple is its unique appearance. It’s unlike any of the temples we’ve seen in Bangkok and Chiang Mai. It looks like it belongs in Angkor Wat, doesn’t it?

Escape to Chiang Mai: 3-Day ItineraryEscape to Chiang Mai: 3-Day Itinerary

The second temple we saw was Wat Phra Singh. It was built in 1345 by King Pha Yu to enshrine his father’s ashes. In present time, the temple is active and houses hundreds of monks.

Escape to Chiang Mai: 3-Day Itinerary

Flickr

Before heading back to our hotel, we soothed our aching feet by getting a foot massage at a nearby spa. It was the perfect moment to get it because just as we entered the spa, the rain started pouring. I recommend Lila Thai Massage, established by a former director of Chiang Mai Women Prison. Lila Thai Massage helps eliminate the cycle of crime and lack of opportunity by supporting the lives of newly released inmates, training and allowing them to make a living. A 1-hr foot massage cost 200 Baht/$6.

 

Chiang Mai Travel Video

 

Have you visited Chiang Mai? What’s your favorite thing to do there?

Let me know in the comment section below.Β 


Heading to Chiang Mai? Pin this Itinerary!

 

Escape to Chiang Mai: 3-Day Itinerary

44 Comments

  1. jin

    September 2, 2017 at 9:52 am

    Wonderful post! I was in Chiang Mai back in February/March and actually fell in love with the culture there. I’d much prefer the city life there over Bangkok. Looks like we did some similar things in Chiang Mai! I thoroughly enjoyed your post – thank you for taking me down memory lane!

    1. Janna C.

      Janna C.

      September 16, 2017 at 1:17 am

      Thank you so much Jin! Chiang Mai is really amazing. I’m glad you had the same experience. I prefer it over Bangkok as well…although Bangkok does have some redeeming qualities as well. Writing this was a trip down memory lane for me too. πŸ™‚

  2. Caroline

    September 2, 2017 at 1:43 pm

    I am dying to go – it looks so beautiful! Definitely looks like love at first sight. Saving this itinerary, such great tips such! Beautiful photos too

    1. Janna C.

      Janna C.

      September 16, 2017 at 1:19 am

      I really had an incredible time in Chiang Mai. One of the best cities I’ve visited. Thanks for liking the tips and photos. Hope this itinerary helps you out for your future trip to Chiang Mai.

  3. C-Ludik

    September 2, 2017 at 1:48 pm

    Gorgeous photos ! Chiang Mai seems a relaxing world away from Bangkok’s hustle. With spectacular mountains, vibrant hill tribes and a relaxed vibe, Thailand’s unofficial “second city” of Chiang Mai is everything Bangkok isn’t ? I would love to spend one day with the elephants πŸ™‚ No doubt, I would also enjoy the cooking class… I’m very much inclined to food, I’m very interested in food culture, and different cuisine and part of my travel mission as well is to be able to experience all the fabulous flavors each country and cultures can offer πŸ˜‰

    1. Janna C.

      Janna C.

      September 16, 2017 at 1:24 am

      I do prefer Chiang Mai over Bangkok but I did enjoy the latter as well. You’ll have a great time visiting the elephants, no doubt! It was a dream come true for me. The cooking class was so much fun too! I loved learning about Thailand’s culture through cooking and tasting some delicious Thai food!

  4. Alex

    September 2, 2017 at 1:55 pm

    Wow you’ve captured some truly beautiful photos. I have Chiang Mai on my Asia bucket list – and would love to do a cookery class there!

    1. Janna C.

      Janna C.

      September 16, 2017 at 1:25 am

      The cooking class was so much fun! You should try it when you visit Chiang Mai in the future. πŸ™‚

  5. Kristen

    September 2, 2017 at 9:32 pm

    Your photos are so stunning! I may have the chance to stop in Chiang Mai later this year, so I will be holding on to this itinerary for ideas and inspiration. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Janna C.

      Janna C.

      September 16, 2017 at 1:26 am

      Thanks so much Kristen! Appreciate the love. Oh you will enjoy Chiang Mai. Happy travels xx

  6. Carmy

    September 4, 2017 at 8:37 pm

    The pool looks amazing! I’d love to do some laps in there to cool down. I’d also love to visit their cooking school! I love food and love learning how to make local dishes so that’s definitely going onto my bucket list! Chiang Mai wasn’t on my list but now it is.

    1. Janna C.

      Janna C.

      September 16, 2017 at 1:27 am

      It really was! We spent most of our afternoons there just relaxing poolside. The cooking school was so much fun too. I loved that it was very affordable.Glad I was able to inspire you to visit Chiang Mai, Carmy!

  7. Danni L

    September 5, 2017 at 2:40 pm

    Chiang Mai does seem to have something over BKK. I like how you recommended the best times to visit in the year, that’s well worth considering. I would for sure be down for some haggling at the night bazaar, all part of the experience! I’ve eaten at the Woo Cafe as you did, definitely rate that venue.

    1. Janna C.

      Janna C.

      September 16, 2017 at 1:29 am

      I mean don’t get me wrong, Bangkok was fun and vibrant! It kinda grew on me even though we were only there for 2 days. But Chiang Mai had that laidback atmosphere that I really appreciated. That’s so cool that you ate at Woo Cafe too! Loved that place. πŸ™‚

  8. Claire

    September 5, 2017 at 8:28 pm

    Chiang Mai sounds amazing!! This itinerary includes some of my favourite things – cooking classes, exploring markets and temples, and a serious bucket-list item with the elephants. I am definitely moving Chiang Mai up my list!

    1. Janna C.

      Janna C.

      September 16, 2017 at 1:30 am

      It’s one of a kind Claire! You’ll love Chiang Mai! <3

  9. Tania Mukherjee

    September 5, 2017 at 10:04 pm

    Chiang Mai is so on my list! I think I would love checking out its night market or bazaar. I am an Asian and I know the art of haggling in these type of markets! Only if I could speak the local language the haggling would have been a breeze! Keeping a day aside for elephant sanctuaries is a brilliant idea. Thai food is so popular, I cannot imagine leaving the country without learning atleast one dish. You managed in cooking 5 dishes. Congrats!

    1. Janna C.

      Janna C.

      September 16, 2017 at 1:31 am

      It was kinda tricky at first but I got the hang of it after haggling so many times at the market and with taxis and tuk tuk drivers lol. And you’re right. It would’ve worked better if I knew a few Thai words. And the cooking class was so much fun! Would do it all over again.

  10. Ozzy

    September 5, 2017 at 10:40 pm

    Never have I seen Chiang Mai in depth although been there a couple of times. The night market is for sure one of the major highlights. Thailand is a country where exploration never seizes.
    I really appreciate the wonderful photographs πŸ™‚

    1. Janna C.

      Janna C.

      September 16, 2017 at 1:34 am

      Thanks Ozzy for liking the pics! I agree, Thailand is fun to explore! Can’t wait to visit again someday.

  11. Rhonda Albom

    September 9, 2017 at 2:14 am

    We haven’t been to Thailand yet but we are dying to go. The day with the elephants reminds me of when we visited elephants in Malaysia. My daughters also got to wash them in the river, but hubby and I chose not to enter the water.

    1. Janna C.

      Janna C.

      September 16, 2017 at 1:43 am

      Thailand should be a fun trip for you and your family! I’m sure your daughters will love Chiang Mai as well. πŸ™‚

  12. Meagan

    September 9, 2017 at 9:55 am

    Your pictures are amazing, but it sounds like that didn’t even compare the actual experience. I’ve wanted to visit ENP for so long – thank you so much for sharing your time there! Definitely going to read the post about it πŸ™‚

    1. Janna C.

      Janna C.

      September 16, 2017 at 1:44 am

      Thank you Meagan! Yea you’re right, there’s nothing like seeing it in person but it was fun capturing those moments. Hope you get to visit ENP soon. Will work on that blog post before this month ends. πŸ™‚

  13. amit

    September 10, 2017 at 5:36 am

    Do you believe in love at first sight? Well, I do! ….Well I do too πŸ˜€ I also fell in love with Chang Mia from the moment I stepped foot in it. Like yourself I started in Bangkok and couldn’t wait to get out haha, after exploring the south and the Islands Chang Mai was a much needed welcome relief. Reading through this post I could picture myself being back there. Great post πŸ˜€

    1. Janna C.

      Janna C.

      September 16, 2017 at 1:45 am

      Haha high five for loving Chiang Mai too! Bangkok was fun but Chiang Mai was sooo much better. It really was a welcome relief. Thanks for liking the post Amit!

  14. Debra Schroeder

    September 10, 2017 at 1:01 pm

    This was a handy guide for Chaing Mai. I’ve only been to Bangkok but hoping to get back to Thailand soon. Everything looks so delicious at the Woo Cafe. The Thai cooking class looks like fun.

    1. Janna C.

      Janna C.

      September 16, 2017 at 1:46 am

      Oooh you have to go back Debra and visit Chiang Mai this time. πŸ™‚

  15. Elena

    September 11, 2017 at 11:56 pm

    Couple years ago, I spent amazing six months in Chiang Mai. Naturally, there is an endless amount to see, try and taste πŸ˜‰ there. Three days are barely enough to get a first glance at this Northern Thailand city. You have a good itinerary for this purpose. Perhaps, I would recommend a hike to Pha Ngerb (2 waterfalls, impressive rocky formations, depending on the time of a year, you can either swim or just walk on water) instead of visiting elephants. The hike could be just a short one under an hour, or you can spend all day in the hilly woods enjoying slightly colder conditions under all trees.

    1. Janna C.

      Janna C.

      September 16, 2017 at 1:47 am

      That’s sooo friggin awesome Elena! 6 months! I wish we had more than a few days in Chiang Mai. I’ll look into that Pha Ngerb and maybe try visiting it next time.

  16. Reshma

    September 12, 2017 at 12:51 pm

    You had me when you said it was love at first sight! Ditto with me too. Chiang Mai bowled me over the moment I stepped in, and I have been planning to go back ever since! I even extended my days just to be here! Your post made me nostalgic. I have it on cards next year, and can’t wait to go back!

    1. Janna C.

      Janna C.

      September 16, 2017 at 1:48 am

      Chiang Mai is something else right Reshma? It’s such a vibrant city filled with history and culture. I’m so excited for you and your upcoming trip to Chiang Mai.. maybe nxt year?

  17. Rosemary

    September 12, 2017 at 6:31 pm

    Great article. It takes me back to the wonderful month I spent in Chiang Mai earlier this year. What a lovely place to visit. I fell in love with the food and especially Khao Soi, which became one of my top 3 Thai foods. There is so much to see and do and 3 days is definitely not enough time πŸ™‚

    1. Janna C.

      Janna C.

      September 16, 2017 at 1:49 am

      That should be the ideal time to visit, a month. Because 3 days sure wasnt enough to see, taste, feel everything that Chiang Mai has to offer.

  18. Heather

    September 12, 2017 at 6:56 pm

    Your guide perfectly sums up my ideal itinerary! I’ve always wanted to visit Elephant Nature Park, what a memorable experience! The cooking class looks like such a fun activity too, and the perfect souvenir that keeps giving. Hoping to make my way to Chiang Mai some day, this post is going to help me so such with planning.

    1. Janna C.

      Janna C.

      September 16, 2017 at 1:50 am

      You’ll enjoy ENP! It was a dream come true for me. I loved seeing the elephants up close. The cooking class was definitely one of my fave things that I’ve done during my travels. I would certainly do it again in the future.

  19. Mia Herman

    September 12, 2017 at 9:46 pm

    I am, absolutely, obsessed with three things in your post. Elephants, Thai food, and night markets. I loved Thailand because it has all of these things. I wanted to take a cooking class so bad but we were stuck to our cabanas for most of our vacation. Well, in the evening we went to the Night Markets which were amazing. I am determined to go to Chiang Mai on our next trip to Thailand and I look forward to eating more, cooking, and visiting this elephant nature park. Great info!

    1. Janna C.

      Janna C.

      September 16, 2017 at 1:51 am

      Thanks Mia for liking the post! Aww I’m sorry you guys didnt get to try the cooking class. But Im sure, you’ll be back in Thailand soon and hopefully get a chance to prepare those delicious Thai food.

  20. Trisha

    September 13, 2017 at 11:11 am

    I always hear Chiang Mai as a favorite in Thailand, especially those who want a less crowded place. I admire your effort to search for a sanctuary that has the most ethical practice and care towards elephants. And I love the cooking class, btw!!!

    1. Janna C.

      Janna C.

      September 16, 2017 at 1:54 am

      That was actually one of my absolute musts when I was doing my research for elephant sanctuaries. It has to have an ethical practice towards elephants. A lot of so called sanctuaries pretend to care for these creatures but in reality, they exist just to exploit them. And yes, the cooking class was so much fun Trisha! πŸ™‚

  21. lisa

    September 14, 2017 at 2:13 am

    Oh my goodness this is on our list when we do our year of travelling. I loved everything about your post and have saved all the information. What fantastic pictures, those elephants! I love the people of Thailand and have been to so many places except Chiang Mai now i really cannot wait!. Thanks so much for sharing.

    1. Janna C.

      Janna C.

      September 16, 2017 at 1:56 am

      Yaay thanks Lisa! Glad you like the post and the pics I have posted. I have sooo many of them left that I really want to share it to everyone. Maybe, I can do a photo diary too. Hope you get to experience Chiang Mai for yourself too someday!

  22. Sylvia

    September 14, 2017 at 7:10 am

    Wow! Amazing post. Those elephants, my heart is melting already!! The pool in that hotel is surreal!! And those temples!! Your video was the cherry on top. Well done, thank you!!

    1. Janna C.

      Janna C.

      September 16, 2017 at 1:57 am

      Chiang Mai was wonderful to us! We had an amazing time. Thanks for watching the video Sylvia! πŸ™‚

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