The Capital of The North of Thailand, Chiang Mai, is getting more and more hype. Many artists and designers have started to move there, leaving behind the crowded and chaotic Bangkok. Chiang Mai, one of the main places of Buddhism in Thailand with its more of 300 temples all over sharing its borders with Myanmar and Laos, hosts many Burmese refugees creating an interesting cultural mixture. The city has everything for being the perfect tourist destination and at the same time being a creative hub.
Miss Chiang Mai heritage home
In 1950, a young local lady won Miss Chiang Mai Beauty contest and fell in love with a Governor. Now that trophy and their favourite peacock chair are in the lobby of Si Phum Heritage, the boutique bed and breakfast of the granddaughter of these two lovers. A lovely heritage house that hosts 11 rooms on a quiet street on a side on one of the main corners of the Old City. The convenient location makes it easy for first-time short time travellers to the Capital of the North of Thailand and also for those that want to stay a few weeks exploring all the secret corners that can be found.
The helpful staff is a plus in an area where there is a significant lack of English, but at Si Phum, there is no need to try to speak Thai with the Google translator, all the staff speaks and understands English. It is also fun how some of them adapt their name to English like one of the lovely housekeepers, she likes to be called Moon. She is the one that every morning will make sure that every customer has what they need, even If she needs to get some bananas when she is not supposed to. Mornings at the reception are lead by the young and serviced Som, and the afternoons and evenings are from the charismatic Ben.
Lanna contemporary style
Si Phum Heritage has a charming vibe mixing the Lanna touch, Northern Thai style, with the classic European flavour. Spacious rooms with king size beds and floral wallpaper, more English than Thai. Vintage furniture and some local folkloric details like the elephant shape cover tissue cloth or the Swan shape towels once you get for the first time into the room.
Everything looks like new, including the minimal bathrooms with white tiles and black granite just for the shower. Towels and linens are always immaculate, which sometimes in South-East Asia is not as easy to find on this kind of mid-budget accommodation. Another detail that makes the difference in Si Phum are the slippers that you need to use to move around the spaces. Right at the entrance, there are some open boxes to leave your shoes and wear basic cotton slippers. This is not annoying, as every time arriving from long walks through alleys and street markets, there is a feeling of being at home just when you wear the slippers.
Next door Pad-Thai love affair
When in Chiang Mai, it is easy to gain weight, as there is delicious food everywhere at any time. Street food vendors, markets or typical family-run restaurants. After enjoying the basic breakfast at Si Phum, guests are lucky to have Paun Paun as the next-door neighbour for having lunch. Her little Thai “garage” like café is a heaven for local flavours. She has a great feeling for cooking pad-thai, coconut soup with vegetables or fried morning glory. Having lunch there is a life saver, and by night when she is closed the funniest thing is to go to search for the best street-food corners, there are many!
Calm and peace around the Buddhist temples
Some of the principal attractions are obviously the Buddhist temples. It is hard to choose a few, but walking along the Old City, there are many of them with different life inside of each. For example, inside of Wat Suan Dok, there is a fantastic vegetarian cafe called Pun Pun, they produce all the ingredients at their organic farm on the outskirts of the city. One of the most impressive temples of the city is Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, on the top of the hill of Doi Suthep. On weekends can be as busy as a theme park, Thais can be very superstitious, so after praying in the temple, they go Straight to the Loto vendors to buy their favourite combinations like their car number or the year they were born. There are various ways of reaching the mountain, but the most curious one is to trek through the 309 steps of the dragon theme stair that goes up to the temple.
Relax with a Thai massage and hit the street markets
Chiang Mai has many tourists attractions apart from the temples, like going to a Thai cooking class or an Elephant Wild Sanctuary, just make sure of the welfare of the animals. Enjoying a Thai massage it is also a must and there are options for all the pockets, from the luxurious Spas outside the downtown, or the simple and very cheap salons in the heart of the Old City. One of the best experiences is to support the inmates of the Chiang Mai Women’s Correctional Institute. It is such an attraction and a very nice initiative for adding this practical skill to their possibilities and providing a better future to some of those women.
If it’s your first time, the Thai massage, always with clothes on, can still look a little bit intimidating. So, feel fee to try the delightful foot massage. After a relaxing time, it is time to discover the famous Chiang Mai street markets like the Night Bazaar or the crowded Saturday and Sunday Night Market, both in the old city, in different streets of it. Buy handmade Thai souvenirs or design products such as ceramic cups or Indigo tie-dyed clothes.
Have you been to Chang Mai? What’s your favorite thing to do in Chang Mai? What should you not miss in Thailand?