Chiang Mai – family walks and temples
A delightful and easy train ride away from Bangkok, Chiang Mai is an easy destination to reach in northern Thailand. We spent 5 days in Chiang Mai. We did a could of longer walks and saw temples – lots and lots of temples!
Having just arrived from Cambodia,we were a little templed out. However, we enjoyed strolling through the streets of Chiang Mai and dipping in and out of the very colourful and ornate buildings. Most of them are free, but some have a small 20 or 50 bhat fee to enter.
The old city has city walls with a moat surrounding it. But as you’d expect from a large city there is a bit of hustle and bustle about the place. I enjoyed wandering around the back alleys and it’s where you’ll find the cheaper eats. Here’s our recommendations in Chiang Mai.
How to get there from Bangkok?
The easiest way is to travel by train. We opted for the very modern and easy sleeper train (#9).
It departed from Bangkok at 6pm and arrived at 7am. Timing couldn’t have been better. It was a very pleasant and comfortable journey.
We stayed in our seats and within an hour of leaving a gentleman came round to make up our beds!
Before long, we were all snuggled up and snoring. We were woken at 6am to start packing our belongings and to have our beds, by the same man, converted back to seats
Very efficient and seamless process.
For family travel, I much prefer trains – especially sleeper ones. We get a nights accommodation, the boys can wander freely or stretch out. Plus there are Western toilets on board. They were very clean and didn’t smell. Quite a step up from the last time I travelled by sleeper train in Thailand!
If you prefer, there is an overnight bus. This is half the price, but isn’t a sleeper bus and so not as comfortable as the train. But Thailand’s roads are in better condition than most other SE Asia countries.
Alternatively, if you have less time then there area plenty of flights to the area! I always recommend you to check the safety record of any airlines you use. However, we like being Air Asia for those short hops!
Getting from Chiang Mai train station
Arriving at Chiang Mai train station we were greeted by lots of Songthaew drivers. Originally we were quoted 200 bhat but after walking away, we were approached with an offer of 160 bhat.
During the journey to our hostel we were asked several times about tours etc.. which we declined.
Where to stay?
We used booking.com to reserve a room at Mannee guest house. I picked this option as the accommodation came with a pool. We booked a 4 bed dorm room with private bathroom for 750 bhat a night (about £19).
It’s an art to be able to arrive in a room and turn it into a bomb site in 10 seconds flat!!
The pool was also in great condition and big enough for the boys to cool off and relax in.
There was no restaurant on site, but that didn’t matter as there’s lots of eateries nearby offering delicious Thai food at a reasonable price. They do offer laundry service for 40 bhat a kilo (£1). They even give hugs when you leave 🤗
Where to eat
As I mentioned there are a lot of eateries. The cheaper options tend to be found down the alleyways, rather than on the main roads. I find it difficult to find the places to eat as there was just so much choice!!
Actually I was surprised at how much Western food was on offer her, but it just goes to show how many tourists visit this area.
Here’s a few places we visited:
We visited here on 2 occasions. The first was for breakfast. Coffee was ok and the boys ordered pancakes which were huge! They were very tasty too
Second time we visited was for dinner. There was a varied Thai menu from 60 bhats upwards and we could order meals with no spice for the boys. There were a few Western options on here, but we only are Thai food.
By hand pizza
Exactly what it says. This menu was pizza only made in a word fired oven. The pizza base was fresh, thin crust and very good. But it was expensive!! Margherita pizza was 170 bhat. But we were all craving one after a few weeks of rice and noodles!
It was directly next to our guesthouse too, so when we had travelled back from Chiang Rai we stopped here.
Night bazaar food court
One night we headed to the night bazaar based outside the old city. There are market stalls everywhere and a number of food courts. We went to the one near the Friday morning market.
There was a good variety of dishes from Thai, Chinese, Indian and even kebabs. Choices for everyone and cheap too. We all had a dish for around 50 or 60 bhat.
It was an ok stop; the prices were a little more than some of the other places we stopped. The food was nice, but then again we were starving by the time we got there!
My only complaint was that it was a bit dark and warm. The fans didn’t do much to cool us off that much!
Lam Chang temple
Within the grounds of this temple was a small restaurant. But a number of locals visited. The dishes here were only 40 bhat. We had the khao soi (local Thai dish that you must try!! ) and also had pork and basil with rice. Both were delicious!!
A number of times we just grabbed a toasted sandwich or microwave meal from the 7-eleven. I think we’re just getting sick of eating out every meal!
Only on our last day did we find more tasty looking eateries on the north east side of the old city! Streets lined with coffee shops & restaurants. Head here if you looking for alternate +or some nice vegetarian) choices.
Things to do
Chiang Mai has so many activists. But I do wonder if it hasn’t forgotten it’s roots! The mountains and the hills around this area are amazing for exploring!
However, when we first arrived the most we saw advertised were Tiger or snake shows, elephant sanctuaries, ziplines and night safaris! These really went what we came here to see. However, having just voted Angkor wat we weren’t really in the mood for more temples either!
Still, our first day we went out exploring:
Walking around the old city
I really liked walked around the old city. It was easy to get around and there were little markets and Wats on nearly every corner!
But the best areas for me were the alleyways with the little shops and restaurants.
Exploring Chiang Mai’s Wats
There are soooo many of them. Most of which aren’t mentioned in the guides because you can’t possibly visit all of them!
So here are the ones we visited:
We saw this one at nighttime, although didn’t go inside. It was while we were on our way back from the night bazaar. At night time it was lit up beautifully
Wat prah Singh
A very colourful group of temples including a large golden one with elephants. The main temple was 20 bhat for adults and housed a large Golden Buddha.
As you walked inside there was a set of monks sitting and meditation. Or that’s what I thought! In fact they were wax works (very good ones I might add). It took us a while to realise it!!
But I particularly liked the grounds playing soft music. I find that I just sat and enjoyed some people watching while the boys went off to take photos!
As it was round the corner from Wat Prah Singh we popped in. It was a much older and less colourful wat. But I’m sure each has its own story to tell!
There are so many more, some smaller, some bigger. We visited the ones that were on our walking route, it’s the best way to see the old city!
Monks walking trail
Surprisingly this wasn’t a well known path amongst tourists or locals! I guess hill walking isn’t on the agenda for most tourists. But I’m glad we did it. I researched the route beforehand and fell upon this great (detailed) blog about the walk! We started at 9am, but if recommend earlier if you can.
Ensure you have closed toe shoes for this route. It’s not appropriate for walking sandals and definer not flip flops!
We arrived at Wat pha lat within 45 minutes. It was a nice ascent with don’t uphill section but not overly challenging. We met only 1 or 2 other walkers coming down.
We arrived at the temple and took a rest and enjoyed the needful views and ornate statues. After about 30 minutes we decided we still had energy so we decided to continue up the steeper path to Doi suthep. To reach this part of the walk we had to continue to and walk on the road for about 5 minutes. If recommend you use OsandM offline maps. It shows the route and is easy to follow.
This section was definitely more challenging, but not impossible. It was dry when we walked and so it wasn’t too muddy, but I can imagine after rains it can get slippy.
I kept the boys occupied by talking about their favourite subject, online games 🙈. It meant they were walking without even thinking! Plus I had a lollipop to keep them going.
Soon we made it to the top – I was red faced and sweating buckets. But it was worth it. We had reached the top!!
There was a gold temple at the top and impressive views over Chiang Mai. There’s just the small matter of 306 steep steps, which is nothing, but after you’ve walked the monks trail they were pretty tough!! There was no way we weren’t going to continue to the view point!
But even though we were shattered we still didn’t get the funicular / cable car up. Even if it was only 50 bhat!
We also decided not to pay 50 bhat each to enter the temple. But instead wandered around the grounds and to the photo spot with bright red faces!
A fantastic national park with waterfalls, walking trails and temples for you to see. Most people just take a long day tour to the area, but we decided to hire a car and stay overnight in the area. I’ll explain how we hired a car and how we got on with driving in Thailand here.
I’ll be creating a blog post shortly about our day at Doi Inthanon national park.
I visited Chiang Mai 20 years ago after doing a 2 day hill tribe trek. It wasn’t our most amazing experience as we didn’t stay for long enough. We also hadn’t come prepared for the weather!
Luckily, this time was much better and I really enjoyed Chiang Mai. It’s quite touristy though and much of the ‘activities’ on offer, I felt, were aimed at holiday makers. There was hardly any mention of trekking in the area or walks. But Thai boxing seems to be the big thing here!
If you are a budget traveller it’s easy to find those freebie activities of you dig a little deeper!