City: Chiang Mai
Time of Year: February
Stay: Compass Backpacker’s Hostel is a great accommodation option if you’re after something simple, cheap and clean with friendly staff. It is located in the northeast corner of Chiang Mai’s Old Town and walking distance from some great attractions and eats.
See: Everyone knows better now, than to get involved with sketchy animal attractions that are exploitative and cyclical in their destructive nature. I say this because elephant experiences are very popular in this part of Thailand. If you want that elephant experience but want to engage in it more ethically or just admire from a distance you could visit the Elephant Poo Poo Paper Park. This outdoor museum educates visitors on the wonders of producing paper made from elephant poo fibres and allows for a unique and interesting shopping opportunity. It’s a quirky alternative to other forms of elephant activities and this eco-tourism venture is a great way to appreciate the beautiful animals that Thailand are so proud of.
Eat: One of the best local eating experiences you can have in Chiang Mai would be to attend a cooking class. After all nothing beats home cooking right? The Tom Yum Thai Cooking School has two exceptionally friendly instructors that will pick you up from your accommodation and take you on a tour of the markets where you will buy your fresh produce for the meals you are about to prepare. The instructors are very welcoming as you cook in a kitchen just off their home. It is also a great opportunity for learning as class sizes are typically between 2 – 10 people, making the experience feel more authentic and less touristic. I have no doubt that some of the best Thai cuisine you will eat in Thailand will be what you have cooked yourself under the watchful eye of a friendly instructor.
Save: It’s a simple trick but works just about anywhere you go. If you’re travelling outside of the city, save on transport costs by sharing a tuk tuk with a fellow traveller. This works great as an excuse to get chatting and meet new people in you hotel complex or hostel room too!
Splurge: I’ve made it clear before that I love a good night market. So it really goes without saying that if there is a night market in town I’m most likely going to check it out and shop! The Chiang Mai Night Bazaar runs from 7pm until midnight and spreads along both sides of the street Th Chang Khlan, near the old city. In the market you can expect to find are an array of stalls offering unique handicrafts, souvenirs and clothing as well as little side streets where you can tempt yourself with some street food, freshly squeezed juices and more.
Pack: Pack light when you travel to Chiang Mai. There is so much to see and experience there that you will want to have space for the memories you will take home with you. Saving space is particularly important if you intend to go shopping in the Night Bazaar.