Andy and I spent 4 days in Chiang Mai during our 3 week honeymoon around Southeast Asia. We had heard great things about the city and were excited to see it for ourselves. We had some fun adventures planned for when we were there, but after our time in Chiang Mai, ultimately we still liked Siem Reap, Cambodia better.
Things We Did in Chiang Mai
Patara Elephant Farm
Our favorite part of our time in Chiang Mai was our day at Patara Elephant Farm. We were elephant owners for the day – checking our elephant’s health, feeding them, cleaning them and riding them down to the river to bathe.
Being able to interact with an elephant was an amazing experience. I particularly liked the time that I was able to spend with the baby elephants who were adorable. It was an experience that will live with me forever.
Going to Tiger Kingdom and spending time with baby tigers as well as full grown tigers was a pretty cool experience. Although we were a little unsure about the ethical line of visiting a place like this, we are glad that we went. Everything seemed to be in line and the animals were treated well.
We visited a few temples around Chiang Mai which were pretty yet much smaller than the temples that we saw in Cambodia. Our favorite was Wat Suan Dok which had a cemetery which was a striking white color against the blue sky.
Even though we visited only a handful, there are over 300 temples in Chiang Mai. As you walk around town, swing by the temples you see as you pass by.
One of the attractions of Chiang Mai are the large night markets. While neither Andy or I are big on shopping when we are on vacation, we checked it out. It was quite large, but mostly stall after stall of the same things, nothing really super unique or different. If you are the type that looks for souvenirs for your family and friends back home, this is the place to go.
We made the mistake of eating at one of the food courts near the night market. When we realized that only tourists were around and the payment method was tickets we should have realized it was a bad move. Unfortunately, we ate there which was probably our least favorite meal that we had on our entire honeymoon.
When Andy got on TripAdvisor to make sure that we weren’t missing any of the sights of Chiang Mai, he noticed that one of the top attractions was a cat cafe named Catmosphere. It’s a drive from the city center but we coordinated for our driver to drop us off after our day sightseeing.
It was our first time at a cat cafe and quite fun, although it did make us miss our cat Gingerbread quite a bit. We got some dessert and relaxed on floor pillows, trying to get cats to come over by us so we could give them some loving.
Mae Sa Waterfall
Andy and I seem to always find waterfalls when we travel. While Mae Sa waterfall was not the best waterfall that we have been to, it was fun to go for a hike and see the number of smaller falls. It was a little cold for us to get into the water but we saw some locals going for a swim.
One really good thing about the hike was that there were not many people around making for some pretty easy photo ops. Make sure that you bring water with you as there are no food or drink options inside the park.
What to Expect in Chiang Mai
It was quite a bit cooler in Chiang Mai than it was in Bangkok since it much further north. While I am sure that this would be a great benefit in the scorching summer months, it wasn’t the right timing for us. We were there in the Thai winter and if felt a lot cooler in the evening when we were headed back to our hotel.
We don’t speak any Thai and had absolutely no problem getting around. It was super western, almost so much that we didn’t feel that we were in Southeast Asia anymore. While I am sure that is a benefit for some that want to feel the comforts of home, we wanted something a little more exotic.
The cheapest way to get around town is to hail a red taxi truck. You negotiate your fare with the driver then hop in the back. The drivers often give western prices for foreigners so if the driver tries to rip you off, just say no thanks and wait. There are plenty of taxis and eventually someone will offer a reasonable fare.
The back of the taxis are not luxurious and certainly not the safest option, but part of the adventure. The seating area is essentially a covered truck bed with 2 benches. You enter and exit the taxi from the back of the truck.
There were a lot of bikers, both motorized and bicycles, when we were there. We toyed with the idea of renting motorbikes to get around but the combination of never having driven a motorbike coupled with driving on the left side of the road left us a little uneasy with the idea.
Tuk tuks are also available but significantly more expensive than the red taxi trucks. For that reason there are fewer tuk tuks than there are trucks. Because of the price discrepancy we didn’t take any tuk tuk rides when we were in Chiang Mai.
While Chiang Mai was not our favorite city in Southeast Asia, we still had an amazing time with many memories.
Make sure that you visit Patara Elephant farm if you make it to Chiang Mai. That was a highlight and something that I think everyone will enjoy. Some of our favorite activities in the city were walking around and taking it all in, or just relaxing at a sidewalk cafe with a Chang beer.