I LOVED Chiang Mai. From the culture to the people... this place is somewhere you have to visit!
Thailand is nicknamed "The Land of Smiles" for a reason... and you really see that the most in Chiang Mai. From the city to the mountainous countryside... Chiang Mai has so many things to see and do! We only stayed here for two nights, and that wasn't nearly enough time! I wish I had booked at least four nights here. I loved it so much that I would like to plan to come back here someday!
Where We Stayed
Akyra Manor Chiang Mai
I've stayed in a lot of really nice, five-star hotels, and Akyra Manor is BY FAR the NICEST hotel I have ever stayed in. The hotel features a beautifully lit restaurant in the lobby along with a gorgeous rooftop bar and pool. The hallways of the hotel are lined with thick curtains that are beautifully lit from underneath. The entire building has a luxurious ambiance.
Not only is the hotel top-notch, the service here is of the highest quality! The hotel driver met us in the airport from our flight from Phuket and drove us to the hotel. On our day of departure, we were also given a ride to the airport AND the hotel staff asked us the night before what we wanted to breakfast. They had our breakfasts ready to go at 6:30 AM!
Our Room: Our room was super luxurious... I could have stayed here all day and been perfectly content! Immediately when you walk in you have a view of the mountains behind the outdoor bath! The bath tub was huge and amazing... we bathed in it at least twice a day! It was so relaxing. There were plenty of long mirrors, snacks, a mini bar, and you could make your own different special cocktail everyday. Our room had anything you could need... it even had a PILLOW MENU. You could choose the type of pillow you wanted for comfort and pick from a selection of scents. Our room came with a nice speaker where you can plug in your own music, however, we really enjoyed the lounge music they had on a playlist already!
If we left the room for not even 10 minutes, our snacks would be refilled and everything would be neatly organized in place.
Price: The hotel was $203.35 a night for two people.
Breakfast: Our room did include breakfast. Breakfast was over the top! There was a delicious buffet to choose from, THEN they bring you a three tier tower of fruit and pastries, AND you get to pick two breakfast items to order.
For the full room tour, watch my story on Instagram!
What We Did
The day we arrived in Chiang Mai we did a Tuk Tuk city tour for 400 baht round trip for the entire day ($12.26). This was a great deal and I'm glad we did it, however, be cautious! Tuk Tuk drivers make a commission on whatever you buy at the places they take you, so don't let them divert you from where you really want to go! Our driver took us the the Gem Gallery first which was neat but I didn't really care for it. Next we went to the Thai Silk Village, which was extremely cool. You get to see first hand the cycle of the silk worms, how they turn the silk into thread, and the silk weaving process. They have a store here where you can purchase fabric, clothing, and other accessories made from 100% silk. I got my dad and brother some really nice ties here. I have always been curious as to how the silk making process worked, so it was really neat to actually see how it's done in person.
Karen Long Neck Tribe
Now, this was wild. Have you ever seen this tribe on National Geographic? I can't believe we went here in person. It cost 500 baht to enter ($15.33 USD), and apparently the money doesn't even go to the tribe. However, they do sell a lot of handmade things here in their village. The Karen tribe originates from Myanmar, but many of them had fled to Thailand due to civil unrest. The women stack brass rings around their necks, legs, and arms over time due to tradition. It looks extremely uncomfortable to me, but they are very proud of their rings! They even put a mock piece on me to take photos with them! We were the only tourists wandering through their village, and it was interesting to say the least.
Our driver took us to the Tiger Kingdom Chiang Mai, a surreal experience where you can get up close and personal with tigers, lions, and cubs. It was 830 baht ($25.49 USD) to be in an enclosure with one of the big cats, and you were free to take pictures. It wasn't one of those things where they scam you into having to buy the photos they take that don't even look good. We chose to be in the White Tiger enclosure, in which we were standing in the midst of three tigers! Not going to lie, I was freaking out that they could rip my face off at any moment. The Tiger Kingdom Health Care Team & Foundation promote education and research for wildlife, medicinal, and veterinary practices. Despite this, I'm really not so sure how ethical this organization is, let me know what you think in the comments!
Elephant Jungle Santuary
The mountainous countryside of Chiang Mai is known for inhabiting beautiful Asian Elephants. We chose The Elephant Jungle Sanctuary for this excursion because they are a very ethical organization that supports members of the Karen Hill Tribes and Chiang Mai locals through a joint-initiative. We saw first hand what good care they take of the elephants! They are also not fully enclosed but free to roam around. Read more about their practices here.
Thank you Blonde Boarding for the recommendation!
Price: It was super easy to book this excursion online. It cost only $54 per person for the half day trip. The half day trip includes a pick up and drop off directly from your hotel. We were picked up at 12:00 PM and we got back to the hotel at 6:00 PM. The sanctuary is a 90 minute drive from the city. We learned about the elephants, fed them. played with them, bathed them, and gave them a mud bath! The trip also included a delicious home cooked Thai meal and plenty of water. They also take picture the entire time and upload them onto Facebook for you to download free of charge!
The full day trip includes a jungle hike with the elephants in their natural habitat. You can even spend the night at the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary to spend even more time learning and taking care of the elephants.
BATH TIME! The elephants LOVE the bath! They will lay in the water and roll around side to side. They like to be splashed with water, and they even splashed us with their trunks! When they decided bath time was over, they herded us to the mud spa.
MUD SPA: The elephants really enjoy the mud spa after their bath. The mud helps to protect their skin from the sun and mosquitoes! Side note: don't wear shoes or rings into the mud spa! I tried walking with water shoes and I ended up getting stuck and needing help. The mud is also so slippery that I lost one of my rings that I wear everyday. Now its deep down in the mud somewhere...
Streets of Chiang Mai
The streets of Chiang Mai were so fun and lit up with colorful lanterns! There are a lot of food markets and clothing shops here. The street food is of course amazing, and you can even buy cocktails to go. The shopping was not as good as Phuket, and everyone pretty much sold the same type of things! However, there were more artsy tents with some really unique, handmade items such as jewelry, fans, scarves, hair accessories, clothing, etc.
For Next Time...
Next time I am fortunate enough to come to Chiang Mai I will for sure want to stay an extra night or two. There are over 300 beautiful temples in Chiang Mai and we didn't get around to any of them! However, here is where our hotel concierge recommended we start:
Oldest Temple in Chiang Mai: Wat Chiang Man
Most Beautiful Temple in Chiang Mai: Wat Phra That Doi Suthep
Biggest Temple in Chiang Mai:Wat Chedi Luang Varavihara
We also didn't get around to Bo Sang, which I really wanted to see!