Northern Thailand - Chiang Mai

Northern Thailand - Chiang Mai

Landing at CNX

Mon 11th February

I had touched down in Chiang Mai International (CNX) on my VietJet flight from Bangkok. For the past few years, I have wanted to visit Chiang Mai, mainly from seeing travel bloggers and the digital nomads vlogging about it all over the web. I landed early in the morning with no place to stay...

I was fairly wrecked from the previous night as didn’t sleep in Bangkok airport or on the flight so I grabbed a coffee and got a red taxi (songthaew) from the arrivals into Tha Phae Gate (Old City walls area) around 8am. Stomach wasn’t great but I grabbed some breakfast in a decent restaurant and booked some accommodation on my phone, the Pause Hostel.

Landing at CNX - Irish BootstrapperSongthaew to Old City Chiang Mai - Irish BootstrapperA healthy breakfast in Chiang Mai - Irish BootstrapperTha Phae Gate - Irish Bootstrapper

Pause Hostel in Nimann

Finding somewhere to stay in Chiang Mai is relatively easy. There are literally loads of hostels, hotels and then apartments available from 1-month to more long term if you are sticking around. Pause Hostel is pretty new, clean, modern, great wifi and very secure. With lockers in the rooms, and multiple doors to enter through at night you can be pretty sure that your stuff will be safe. There’s also a basic breakfast every morning from 7-10, coffee, juices, bananas, toast, and some Asian food. So this seemed like a good choice for me. I walked to the hostel, which was probably a bad idea as didn’t realise it was so far with two bags and with the sun beaming down. Crossing roads in Chiang Mai and in SE Asia, in general, can be tricky to say the least! You just have to go and the traffic will slow down!

Crossing a road near Tha Phae Gate - Irish BootstrapperPause Hostel Chiang Mai - Irish BootstrapperSmall Bananas at the Pause Hostel - Irish BootstrapperPause Hostel Breakfast - Irish Bootstrapper

Laundry On The Road

Tues 12th Feb

I dropped my bags at Pause Hostel and realised I needed some clean clothes, I was stuck so I walked down the road a bit and found a pre-owned shop, so got myself a nice short sleeve shirt and a book, The Chimp Paradox all for under €5. Most hostels and hotels will provide a laundry service at extra cost, however, it may be cheaper to a) do it yourself or b) go to a laundrette.

Wats and More

Chiang Mai has many temples scattered throughout the city, not to mention the famous Doi Suthep (Keep an eye out for this in an upcoming post!). I made my way back towards the old city and visited Wat Phabong, Intrawararat Soi 3 and did some research on excursions. Zip lining looked good. In addition to visiting an Elephant Sanctuary, going trekking and water rafting. I looked into scooter/motorbike rental prices also, but to be honest, the traffic is a little hectic here. Later on, I also checked out the Wat Bupharam temple. If temples are your thing, check out this guy 

Temple in Chiang Mai 3 - Irish BootstrapperTemple in Chiang Mai - Irish BootstrapperTemple in Chiang Mai 2 - Irish BootstrapperOld City street Chiang Mai - Irish Bootstrapper

Food in Chiang Mai

Before going to Chiang Mai I had heard about the great street food and Thai food joints throughout the city. And it’s true! Some of the tastiest street food I had was opposite the Maya Mall at night. There are lots of options; vegetarian, pork, chicken, beef and seafood as well as a host of smoothies, ice cream, and other desserts.
Also, for good cheap Thai food, go to the ground floor of the Maya Mall, where you can get a meal for under 100BHT. In my first few days, I learned of the UN Irish Pub, which is known for its high quality, Western food. As my stomach was still not great, I said I’d try it out to eat food I was more used to. So I ordered the Burger, Chips and Onion Rings along with a drink. It was nice food but a little pricey at 290BHT. I had some nice pressed juice also, a passionfruit and a kiwi one too - 30BHT each for a small bottle.

UN Irish Pub Chiang Mai Food - Irish BootstrapperIce-cream at Maya Mall Chiang Mai - Irish BootstrapperStreet Food opposite Maya Mall Chiang Mai - Irish BootstrapperBBQ Street Food opposite Maya Mall Chiang Mai - Irish BootstrapperPassion Fruit Juice - Chiang Mai - Irish Bootstrapper   

Night Bazaar, Chiang Mai

I walked down to the famous night market area, known for its Thai wares, arts, crafts, bags, and knock-off designer gear and electronics. There are a few bars here also, so I went into the Bay Blues Bar and met a Thai travel agent, Noi, there for a drink. A good blues band were playing and I left around 1.30 after a long day!

 Night Bazaar Chiang Mai Sign - Irish BootstrapperWooden Toys at Night Bazaar Chiang Mai - Irish BootstrapperUmbrellas at Night Bazaar Chiang Mai - Irish BootstrapperArtists at Night Bazaar Chiang Mai - Irish Bootstrapper

Things To Do In Chiang Mai

I got up at 9.30am and decided it was time to book an activity or day away. There are many different day trips, half-day outings, activities and stuff to do in and around Chiang Mai. It really depends on what you are into. Personally, I prefer outdoors activities with a bit of adventure in them. So with my new Travel Agent friend’s advice, I booked a 1 day excursion from Chiang Mai to to visit an elephant sanctuary, do some trekking and finally, some white water rafting. All of this cost 2,000BHT (€56/$63), which seemed reasonable for 3 activities. So I booked it for Friday 15th Feb with a hostel pickup at 8.30am.
You can book Temple visits, trips to Pai, Ziplining (Flight of the Gibbon), Quad biking and a whole host of other outdoor activities in Chiang Mai. Also, you can try some Yoga, meditation and Thai Cooking Classes to test your spice skills if that’s what you’re into.

Here is some ideas of stuff to do in Chiang Mai.

More Chiang Mai

I went for a meal in Canito Restaurant just a few minutes from Pause Hostel. Later on, I went back to Maya. There’s a cool little bar there with live music a couple of nights a week. I met a girl from the Ukraine, Anastasia, who works remotely purchasing Facebook Ads. We went for street food, I had some BBQ beef skewers. We then took a lift to the top floor of Maya where you can get a pretty cool night view of Chiang Mai City.

Cainito Restaurant Chiang MaiCainito menuFood from Cainito Restaurant Nimman - Chiang Mai - Irish Bootstrapper

BBQ Skewer Street Food Maya - Irish Bootstrapper Food from Ground Floor Maya Chiang Mai - Irish Bootstrapper

View from Maya Mall Roof Top Chiang Mai

Bars in Chiang Mai

I later went down to the bar and club area, where I had a few drinks in Reggae bar and the popular Zoe in Yellow. It was a little dark and blurry to take good photos :)

For a list of more great spots for nightlife in Chiang Mai, visit here.

Monks on the Streets of Chiang Mai

Thurs 14th Feb
6:45am: I was up early and went out for a walk. For the first time, I saw Monks roaming the streets with yams, collecting donations of food and money that people give to help them survive.

Property Rentals in Chiang Mai

I was considering booking a studio or condo for a month here as I really like the place, which would also work out a little cheaper than hostelling and provide a more stable base. So I went into a few apartment blocks and accommodation providers (most of them will have a reception area to chat with a member of staff), where I viewed studios and condos ranging from 4,000BHT to 20,000BHT. A nice one with a pool and onsite gym was in the 10,000BHT/month region (€280/$316). Below you can see typical pricing in one place I check out.

For holiday rentals in Chiang Mai, vist here and for more longer term "Digital Nomad" rentals, take a look here.

Huay Kew Accommodation Chiang Mai 

Digital Nomadism in Chiang Mai

It was time to check out what this co-working and the digital nomad life was all about. I visited the Addicted To Work co-working space to see what it’s like and get some idea of prices. You can pay from 20BHT/hour to 120BHT/day or 2,500BHT/month. For that, you get good quality wifi with desk space, a free Coffee/tea/beverage, and some light snacks. There are other co-working spaces in Chiang Mai, such as Punspace and one or two smaller ones.

Contact Addicted to Work here.

Or check out the Punspace website here.

Back to the night markets 

I would need some kind of small bag and maybe a waterproof bag for my upcoming activities on Friday. So I went back down to the night bazaar and after hard bargaining, got myself a 5litre wet bag and a small backpack big enough for a towel, water, suncream etc. I got these for 200BHT and 190BHT. These would be ideal for rafting, and any future day trips.


Activity Day in Chiang Mai

Fri 15th March 

Chiang Thai Heritage Elephant Sanctuary

I was packed and ready waiting for my minivan pickup since 7.30am, like a child going on their first school tour. An hour passed. Finally at 9am, the driver picked me up and 10 of us made our way to the Chiang Thai Heritage Elephant Sanctuary.
Arriving at 10am, we all had to change into the same blue clothing, with big pockets. This is to hold all of the sugar cane (food for elephants). We learned about how to feed them, about their habitat, and about how some owners treat their elephants badly by overworking them and having them in substandard conditions. We then walked them down to the river to bath them. This was pretty cool and very interesting.
Lunchtime came and we went back tot he bamboo hut for some Pad Thai and some mingling. Met two girls from Austria and a couple from Poland there. It was time to make some medicine balls for the elephants, so we mixed up a few ingredients (green bananas, turmeric, sugar cubes, and garlic) in a postal and mortar and rolled them up into balls. Later on, the workers would feed these to the elephants to keep them healthy and fit off parasites.    
A great trip in Chiang Mai, and ticks the box for those who don’t approve of elephant riding.


Trekking in Chiang Mai

Shortly after 1pm we made our way to the trekking. About ten minutes into our trek we arrived at a waterfall, that you could slide down. This was pretty cool. Although, there didn’t seem to be much margin for error of splitting your head off a rock near the bottom if you came off wrong! But then again, we were in SE Asia. We then trekked on again for another few minutes and came across another waterfall where we stopped for some photos. The trek wasn’t too long overall, maybe only 45mins max. It wasn’t too demanding either or off the beaten track too much so in that respect, it was a bit disappointing. There are however, in Chiang Mai, other dedicated one day or longer trips where you only do trekking and I’m sure these are better options if trekking is your thing. Saying that, we did spend a lot of time at the elephants and still had the water rafting to do.


White Water Rafting in Chiang Mai

I was set to record this on my GoPro but realised I had taken out the micro SD card in Ireland before I jetted off. Raging! My raft had 4 of us; a couple, Fred and Florence from Montreal who were traveling around Asia before going to Europe and our skipper. The rafting was good fun, and not too difficult, with some nice plain sailing in with the rapids. Around 4.30pm it was time to head back to Chiang Mai after a great day.


Learning to Feed Elephants - Irish BootstrapperIrish Bootstrapper Feeding Elephant - Chiang MaiElephant Cooling Down - Irish BootstrapperBathing the Elephants - Irish BootstrapperLunchtime at Chiang Heritage (Pad Thai) - Irish BootstrapperElephant Medicine UtensilsMedicine Balls for Elephants - Irish BootstrapperTrekking 1 - Chiang Mai - Irish BootstrapperTrekking 2 - Chiang Mai - Irish BootstrapperTrekking 3 Waterfall - Chiang Mai - Irish BootstrapperWater Rafting - Chiang Mai - Irish Bootstrapper

More adventures from Chiang Mai and a little Northern Thailand treat soon! Keep following and thanks for reading!

Keep an eye on our Instagram also @Irishbootstrapper

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