First Impressions of Chiang Mai, Thailand

I travelled from Bangkok to Chiang Mai on a Thursday night and the ride took 11 hours by bus. It wasn’t a grueling transport. I just had to deal with a couple of pesky female backpackers sitting on the back who seemed high or drunk. They kept talking to my seatmate (their friend) about how crazy the party was the other night. Their voices were so loud that everybody could hear them boisterously laughing as if they owned the bus.

Bangkok to Chiang Mai – 500 Baht (you can find cheaper tickets if you search enough)

bus chiang mai
backpackers, from Bangkok to Chiang Mai

In the middle of the night, they asked one of the bus staff to turn the air conditioning off. The temperature was already unbearable and they didn’t have any jackets/blankets on, but the staff didn’t do anything. Curses flew everywhere which practically disturbed a lot of people. Funny how they previously laughed at their friend for bringing a hoodie in Southeast Asia, but they had to suffer during that cold bus ride that night.

Anyway, the trip ended early in the morning and I arrived in Chiang Mai with arms open.

mong chiang mai
A monk, eating from his bowl, early in the morning.

Chiang Mai is located north of Thailand, and I’ve heard good stories of the place from fellow travellers and how great it is to live here. I had a vague picture on how it looked like. I thought the city proper was full of trees and that I wouldn’t find many buildings in the area. I was wrong.

Near Nature

The weather is colder here. Air is fresher and lesser pollution. You can also participate in a nature trek without having to travel far – this is always a plus on my book.

tha phae gate
Tha Phae Gate – not too crowded in the morning

Lots of Tour and Adventure Packages

You can see so many shops offering different packages of tours and adventures that you can do in Chiang Mai. From a simple walking tour, to mountain biking, to an elephant experience, to a wall climbing and bungy jumping activity. There’s just so much to do and the locals seem to have taken advantage of the tourism industry in this side of the country.

tour agencies
Flight of the Gibbons is one of Chiang Mai’s adventure highlights

If you check out the street, adventure tour posters and advertisements are more prevalent than cellphone prepaid load top-ups. I plan to go on a Do-It-Yourself walking tour in the last couple of days.

Cheaper Food

Thailand is a haven for food enthusiasts and I’ve had my share of food cravings in Bangkok. Chiang Mai is all that, but the price of the food is cheaper!

An example would be banana pancakes. Banana pancakes in Bangkok normally costs 30 Baht, but here, you can find one at 20 Baht.

chiang mai food
Crispy pork & broccoli with rice– 35 Baht

chicken kabab thailand
Chicken Kebab – it’s 50 Baht here, this costs 60 Baht in Khao San Road.

Finding Cheap Accommodation

For this backpacker, always my number one concern whenever I arrive at a destination is finding accommodation. I have to search for cheap hotels in the area that would fit my budget. Sometimes I can score a good deal, but sometimes the room is not comfortable. The biggest factor that I consider is that it needs to have fast Wi-Fi access (on top of a cheap rate). I’m glad that Chiang Mai has a lot to offer and the city center is a great place for backpackers to get good deals on room rates.

muang thong hotel
my 133.33 Baht room. – basic fan room with own toilet and fast internet!
Muang Thong Hotel, Chiang Mai

I found a basic fan room for 200 Baht/night. They had a promotion going on that if I stay for two nights, I get one night free. Hence, for three nights, I paid 133.33 Baht/night. Not bad at all. Still, since I’m such a cheapskate, I still searched for other rooms in other hostels. Luckily, I found one for 100 Baht.

peaceful guesthouse room
my 100 Baht fan room with a floral wall design. lol – shared bathroom
Peaceful Guesthouse, Chiang Mai

City Comparisons

I can’t help but compare this place to Bangkok since Bangkok is the only other place I stayed in Thailand. Immediately during the first day, I already loved Chiang Mai because of the overall set-up. It’s more laidback and more peaceful. I can cross the street without worrying about traffic since the streets are mostly one-way lanes.

thapae gate chiang mai
feeding pigeons, reminds me of Guimaras island

It also has some similarities with Siem Reap, Cambodia, where I stayed for a month; which is also the same as that of Dumaguete City, Philippines. Only this time, it’s more urbanized.

chiang mai street

I’ve heard a lot of feedback from friends that Chiang Mai is a digital nomad hub, and I understood why this is a great place for expats. Food is cheap, internet is fast and reliable (even in hostels), and the community of location-independent individuals doing businesses online are greater here. I hope to make the most of the stay before I go back to Bangkok.

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Please don't forget to confirm your subscription by checking your Inbox. is a travel blog by Edcel Suyo. He enjoys performing headstands and crazy stunts during his trips in the Philippines, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East. Now based in Dubai, United Arab Emirates and working to earn a living, he takes time to enjoy the city and travel during weekends.
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6 thoughts on “First Impressions of Chiang Mai, Thailand”

  1. i'll definitely follow your chiang mai blog series simply because i want to experience it too.
    i've been wanting to go, hop on the bus from our place in butterworth,  cross the border and head to chiang mai via hat yai -bkk (but we only reached bkk last august), but schedules at work and financial responsibilities limit me as of the moment. in time, we'll travel chiang mai too, hopefully.
    nice shot on that monk. 🙂

  2. @Annette: whoa, you're gonna love it there if you're looking for a laidback city with many nature adventures! enjoy!

    @ian: yes, I can call it like a Cebu. I prefer this place cause of the fast internet and the cheaper alternatives 🙂


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