Chiang Mai: In general
– Many points of interest are located outside the city center, so if you get car sick easily, bring pills.
– Dress conservatively. That’s not to say that you have to wear long sleeved shirts everywhere, but it’s a pretty conservative city and you’re going to be weaving in and out of temples during your stay, so just be sure to have a cover up or something with you at all times.
– Always bring mosquito repellant. Don’t wait till you get there to buy it, it’s overpriced in Chiang Mai.
– Toothpaste in Chiang mai is SALTY! If you dont think you can handle this (if youre not used to it, it can be very strange), bring your own toothpaste.
You can and should pick up a SIM card from the airport. I didnt notice many wifi spots during my trip, so if you need to be connected, get a SIM card. For us, we had pre-booked an airport transfer, so the driver was waiting for us with pre-loaded SIM cards.
Chiang Mai: Getting around
When we were there though, mobike had just launched! There was a Feb special too, like a promotion where the first twenty days were free or something, so we essentially biked everywhere FOR FREE. It was amazing. It was great alternative to walking or cabbing, especially when we were trying to get somewhere that was too far to comfortably stroll to yet too near to justify hopping into a tuktuk. The only thing is, as with all bike sharing services, the bikes are pretty basic, so the steering was a bit funky and I’d only suggest this if you’re relatively comfortable on a bike already.
If youre headed out of the city to waterfalls and the like, you can book an uber, a private car, or ghetto it out by going to the market and seeing if any other tourists want to share a van with you. But that’s only if you have time to spare lah, cos there is no guarantee of success for that method.
However, if you already know where you want to go, chances are you can get a tour that includes entry prices and the return transfer, and they probably can pick you from your hotel/accommodation too. This is actually very similar to booking a private driver and telling them which places I’d like to go to beforehand so they can advise me on whether it’s a feasible day plan or not, which is what I do in places like Bali. The advantage of doing it with a legitimised tour operator is that there’s a guarantee that the operator wont default on you, and also that you not only have the day planned out for you but access to feedback on the same tour via other customers in the comments section. I’m talking about Klook, obviously – they have a best price guarantee, and you can read reviews before booking anything. Then once you book it, it goes into your phone’s app and you can download it for offline and easy access. Technology for the win!
Chiang Mai: Things to do
There were a couple of things we didnt get to do because of our tight schedules though, so if i were to return, I’d probably want to do a Mae Kampong Homestay and take a traditional thai cooking class!! We met some Americans on their retirement tour (they were all like, 60, and had biked across the length of thailand, putting us to absolute shame) and they said that their cooking class experience was revolutionary. I super want to take a cooking class but somehow have not had the chance yet. It’s on my list.
But yeah, if I return to Chiang Mai, i’d probably re-visit the elephant sanctuary. I think that was hands down the best thing I did on the trip; I’m probably going to write a post on it soon. 🙂
Chiang Mai: The Classics
Chiang Mai: Unexpected hits
I’ve recently gotten pretty into aroma diffusers because they make your entire room smell like a legit spa, and I got my boyfriend one for christmas too. They really transform the entire vibe of your living space, but damn, those oils are expensive. Imagine, then, my delight when I discovered them selling mega cheap at every corner in chiang mai!!!!!
It’s great that the bottles are so affordable. I was an idiot and forgot to bring mosquito repellant, so I bought a bottle of lemongrass essential oil and dabbed it on my pulse points everyday in chiang mai. Didn’t have much problems with mosquitoes after that. If you’re looking out for oils, I also recommend you get at least one bottle of moke flower oil, it’s special to Thailand and the locals are pretty proud of it. It has a pleasant, light scent, and is often used in thai spas.
Please note that not all oils can be used in an aroma diffuser, so let the shopkeeper know if youre buying it for your diffuser and they will point out which oils you should be looking at.
Another sleeper hit from our trip were the amazingly sweet and cheap strawberries. I think strawberries are MAD expensive in singapore because they’re not native to our region, so seeing them go for 10BHT(40cents) was mind blowing to me. I got a cup and they were SO fresh and sweet, and in Chiang mai they also serve the strawberries with this interesting mix of salt, chilli flakes, and sugar, which sounds strange but is incredibly addictive. I bought another cup of strawberries for the road after this, and then bought a giant bag to bring home to Singapore.