Are you planning a trip to Thailand, the “land of smiles”? If you’re heading to the Northern side of the country, find out where to stay in Chiang Mai!
Known as the “North Rose,” Chiang Mai (literally translated as the “new city”) is Thailand’s second largest city, with 960,906 inhabitants living across the entire metropolitan area. Located 800 kilometers north of Bangkok, the city is not far from Burma and the former “Silk Road.” With a population of 148,477 inhabitants within the city municipality, Chiang Mai attracts thousands of visitors seeking a more relaxed answer to the madness of Bangkok or the crowded beaches of the south. Aside from being a cradle of Thai culture, home to numerous Buddhist temples, Chiang Mai is also an ideal starting point for trekking in the highest mountains of the country, Chiang Rai and Pai.
In Chiang Mai, you will meet many Western tourists and a few expatriates. Before departure, you’re probably wondering where to stay in Chiang Mai? Between the square of the old city, the night market district, Chang Moi, Green Paret, the accommodation offer in this city is vast: discover the best areas to stay in Chiang Mai.
The Old City
When we traveled to Chiang Mai in 2013, we chose to stay in the Old City. While it is often advisable for travelers to book their accommodation in advance – especially in touristy areas – you can find a youth hostel or a guest-house at the last minute in Chiang Mai. The Old City is surrounded by moats on the edge of a square-shaped fortification. This area is home to an array of Buddhist temples, including the temples of Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep, Wat Chiang Man, Wat Phra Singh, Wat Chedi Luang, Wiang Kum Kam, Wat Suan Dok, Wat Phan Tao.
The Old City is an excellent neighborhood to stay in Chiang Mai. Aside from being a cultural hotspot, it also boasts a culinary soul: don’t miss the Sunday Market (also called ‘Walking Street’), an open-air market taking place on Sunday evenings, from Thapae Gate and along Ratchadamnoen Street. The Sunday Market really comes alive after dark when all the street entertainers, musicians, puppeteers, and Thai dancers begin to perform. A great place to shop, get a massage, or delight your taste buds with delicious Thai cuisine. Overall, this a wonderful area to stay in Chiang Mai, and accommodation rates are affordable (around 200 baht per night). If you’re an early bird, you will probably see the processions of monks dressed in orange robes collecting alms every morning.
The Night Bazaar
The Night Bazaar is the city’s most famous market, bordered by the river to the east of the Old City. The area is the quintessential souvenir shopping hotspot, packed with a profusion of designer goods (real and fake), clothing, Thai art objects, and countless other items on display. You can also, if you are lucky, come across a traditional dance show. When you’re finished shopping, you can take in a Muay Thai boxing fight at the stadium on the premises. Muay Thai fights are a huge part of the local culture, it’s worth watching if you’re in the area. Accommodation-wise, the area surrounding the Night Bazaar is an excellent place to stay in Chiang Mai: you won’t have trouble finding a room here. If you’re a culinary aficionado, take a cooking class! Northern Thailand has a richer culinary heritage than southern Thailand, and the city houses many cooking schools.
Nimmanhaemin is a trendy, young, lively, and festive neighborhood in Chiang Mai. It is located on the western side of the Old City’s fortifications. The area adjoins the university and therefore attracts many students. Nimmanhaemin features a myriad of chic boutiques, cafés, and restaurants open until late. As everywhere in Chiang Mai, the new effortlessly blends with the old and you won’t be hearing the usual car horns so typical of Asia. Instead, Nimmanhaemin exudes a Zen atmosphere, offering the perfect mix between tradition and modernity. And delicious street food is available almost everywhere, in every street: the best place to eat great food for cheap (taste the famous “pad thai” or “red curry”).
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