Where to stay
I stayed at The Banilah hostel, which is the cutest little place with the most helpful and friendly staff. However, if you are allergic cats then I wouldn’t recommend here as they have a cat cafe at their reception, (yes I did say a cat cafe), where they have 10 or 12 huge fluffy cats roaming about while you sip your tea.
Thailand in general has really good standard hostels which feel more like hotels so don’t be put off before you choose a hotel over a hostel. Everywhere is quite easy to get to in Chiang Mai so the location of your accommodation is less important than it is in Bangkok.
Where to eat
The Salad Concept
The Salad Concept is famous amongst both the locals and tourists in Chiang Mai. Set up by two sisters, Poy and Pye, who believe in the power of healthy eating and live by the saying “you are what you eat”. The concept is that you build your own salad with a base which may be a type of salad leaf, 5 toppings of your choice including vegetables, meat and nuts, and a homemade dressing – the pumpkin salad dressing is my favourite!
Rustic & Blue
The rustic décor and chilled indie vibe makes it perfect for a lazy brunch for health-conscious foodies. However the organic, and home-grown, ingredients is just a bonus to the delicious dishes that can be found on the menu. With options such as Chia seed cashew pudding with homemade granola and American style pancakes on the menu you will be torn on what to order! I would recommend trying the homemade goats cheese, chorizo, and tomato salad – fresh, flavourful and moreish is the only way to describe this dish!
What to do
I’ve always dreamed about riding an Elephant! However, after having researched such activities, I discovered the dark sides of elephant tourism and the cruelty they endure in order to be tamed and trained. I was keen to visit a park which treated elephants ethically and cared for them, The Elephant Nature Park is exactly that. Tucked away in the hillside of Chiang Mai, this sanctuary is a safe haven for rescued elephants which have been mistreated by the tourism and logging industries. It was an amazing experience feeding and bathing the elephants, and learning about their stories and different walks of life. It also felt great knowing the money we spent to visit the park was going towards a great cause!
Chaing mai has beautiful rainforests and what better way to view them than by zip lining? I went on a one day experience with the company ‘Flight of the gibbon’ . The company is a bit more pricey than the rest but has a flawless reputation and the cost includes transfer to and from your hotel, lunch, and all of your equipment. I also rented a go-pro for the day to video experience. Along the way you may even spot a few gibbons!
There are approximately 300 temples in Chiang Mai to see, some are more famous than others. I didn’t have time to visit very many but I would recommend setting some time aside to stroll around the city and visit some of them. The people of Chiang Mai are very proud of their temples and are the best people to go ask for advice on which ones to visit and how to get there!