4 September 2012

Chiang Mai: A Northern Capital of Thailand

We arrived in Chiang Mai, Thailand 🇹🇭, at the beginning of May 2012, by a direct Air Asia flight from Kuala Lumpur. After the bustling Malaysian metropolis, it felt as if we got in a paradise. We checked into a green, super quiet guest-house with a nice courtyard and Wi-Fi access, right across the road from the main attraction — the Old City.



As it appeared, Chiang Mai's airport and the Old City were located very close to each other. We discovered that accidentally, after 30-40 minutes of aimlessly walking. That time, we wandered into the Airport Plaza (a.k.a Central Plaza), which is a large shopping mall right near the airport.

When we took that route by taxi, that costed us 120 baht ($4), which is rather inexpensive. But usually we were riding a songthaew there: an exotic passenger vehicle (kind of shared taxi or a bus) that looked in part as a truck, in part as a minivan. A songthaew costed 20-30 baht per person, which was very cheap. There were also tuk-tuks 🛺 (motorized rickshaws) and bike taxis 🏍️ in Chiang Mai, but they were not our cup of tea at all.

The Old City occupies roughly 1.5 x 1.5 km area, forming a square. It is built up of 1-2 story houses — guest houses, cafés, shops, massage parlors, houses of local residents — and beautiful Buddhist temples. There are also a number of markets there.

The most well-known night market takes place on Sundays on the widest street in the Old City. During the night, the street gets filled with the stalls selling souvenirs (we bought a couple of wallets, delicious-smelling soap and a night lamp there; we also wanted to buy a chandelier but realized that we couldn’t fit it into our suitcases), food, and musicians (often disabled people), many of whom play beautifully. Overall, the north of Thailand 🇹🇭 amazed us with its musicians; we have never met such an abundance of excellently playing and singing people before.


Accommodation in Chiang Mai is not expensive. Rooms in guest houses cost on average 250-350 baht (around $10). It is possible to rent a place for a month or two: a room in a guest house, an apartment in a condo, or even an entire house. And all of this at reasonable prices. Just keep in mind that it is a common practice to charge not only for a month’s stay plus utilities, but also to take a deposit. The deposit is returned on moving out, but it doubles the initial payment amount.

In Chiang Mai, we tried for the first time to wash clothes in machines located right on the streets. The system is very simple: one puts things into a washing machine, adds pre-bought detergent, throws in 30 baht, and the machine starts a preset program (f.i. for 40 minutes).

There is no need to stay at the place to guard the clothes. In our experience, theft is not common in Thailand (except Bangkok, they say). Local residents constantly surprised us with their lack of vigilance in this matter. And no one punishes them for this lack of vigilance, no matter how strange it would look to us. So while things are being washed, you can go away and have a glass of freshly squeezed juice.



In addition to washing machines, there are also dryers. They also cost 30-40 baht, but not everything dries well. After the first wash, we dried the clothes by hanging them on the territory of our guest house.

To summarize, Chiang Mai is a pretty good place to hang out, walk and get several (or many) massage sessions.



Note that the north of Thailand 🇹🇭 has many amazing places to offer. More on this later.

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