The Old City of Chiang Mai Thailand


In Thailand by thedustyroad3 Comments

Chiang Mai: Where Old Meets New

Chiang Mai is smaller city in Northern Thailand. The 700 year old city is a perfect square, enclosed by a partially collapsed medieval wall and a moat, initially designed to keep Burmese invaders out. This is now the city centre of modern day Chaing Mai, as the city continues to expand outside the ancient walls. Chiang Mai is well known for its exhibition of Lanna culture. The Lanna influence can be seen throughout the city, especially in the architecture and temples.

Monks at the grounds of Wat Chedi Luang in Chiang Mai

Monks at the grounds of Wat Chedi Luang.

We spent 4 nights total in Chiang Mai but in two stays, travelling to Pai in between. While it is a town full of History and culture, we found it overflowing with tourists heading to the main attractions. We made a quick decision to travel to Pai, knowing we had to return to Chiang Mai to continue our travels.

We travelled via day train from Bangkok (at Jimmy’s request after he had a harrowing experience on the night train). This will make future travel interesting; Jimmy much preferred the day train whereas I would choose the night train without hesitation. The cooler temperature overnight was a relief, especially after the overwhelming humidity in Bangkok.


We stayed in Micasa Guesthouse for the first portion of our stay. Just outside the city walls, it was really close to the main precinct. We had a great room here, shared bathroom facilities and good WiFi. No complaints! On our return, we stayed at Thapae Gate Lodge. For 350B ($14 AUD) per night this place was great. Just inside the city walls and our own ensuite, we had a great stay. The only thing that was a bit strange was the sink was outside, with the toilet and shower separate and inside the room.


We have found the food here pretty ordinary and over-priced. What is worth mentioning is the omelettes at breakfast. Throughout our trip, breakfast has been something a bit difficult to come by. In Koh Tao we had a couple of outstanding omelettes. Nice, basic ham and cheese. After gaining a bit of confidence up with the omelette order, and was extremely disappointed one morning when my omelette came out with a square of (cold) plastic cheese sitting on top. I have played roulette with omelette orders a few times since and have now learnt when and where to order them. Jimmy had an unfortunate experience in Chiang Mai when his cheese omelette came with the cheese still wrapped in plastic! Omelette orders have since been strictly without cheese.


Chiang Mai is the city of temples! We spent the vast majority of a day wandering around the temples in the old city.

Exploring Wat Phra Sing in Chiang Mai

Exploring Wat Phra Sing

Exploring the ancient Wat Chiang Man in Chiang Rai.

Exploring the ancient Wat Chiang Man in Chiang Rai.

Prior to the temples, we went to the Lanna Folklife Museum. The Lanna culture continues to exist in Northern Thailand, where a unique set of traditions are still observed and followed today. The Museum opened in 2005 and is set inside the old Provincial Court House. It was really good to learn about the Lanna culture before going to the temples as it gave us more of an insight and understanding of all the statues and offerings that are made to the gods. With a bit of extra knowledge, we wandered around the cities temples. Most memorable temples for us were Wat Chedi Luang and Wat Phra Singh.

We hired a scooter for a day with the hopes of travelling to Doi Inthanon National Park. Unfortunately there had been some confusion and the park was a lot further away than we initially thought. We instead headed to the top of Doi Suthep, another National Park much closer to the city. We wound up the side of the mountain, through some amazing jungle to the top lookout.

Lookout over Chiang Mai

Lookout over Chiang Mai

Having a break in the Doi Suthep National Park, Chiang Mai

Having a break in the Doi Suthep National Park

It was an amazing view, I was amazed to see how far the city has sprawled. We went to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, an amazing temple on the side of a hill. Well worth the hike up the stairs.

Stairway to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai

Stairway to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep

The Night Bazaar was something we had heard people rave about. For us, we found it to be an over-hyped market place with stall after stall offering the same thing. Also, as it is very touristy, we found the street venders hiked their prices up to four times what they should be. As soon as you walk away the price drops significantly. With this in mind, if you can handle extreme bartering it would be a great place to pick up some souvenirs. I am ever conscious that whatever I buy I have to carry!

Street Stalls at the Night Bazzar in Chiang Mai

Street Stalls at the Night Bazzar


There is an interesting sub-culture in Chiang Mai, with a bit of a red light district in the well-established tourist precinct around the Thapae Gates. It is very obvious the women target single, middle-aged male tourists. During the day, you would be none the wiser but when night falls, the ladies are out to offer a good time.


Nothing to report here, we are managing ourselves quite well at this stage.


Watch out for the cheesy omelettes and the ladies of the night (unless that’s what you are after).


We have reigned in on our unnecessary spending. Our daily food budget is where we spend the most. Breakfast especially is a big spend; sometimes more than lunch and dinner combined! But we are averaging approximately 1,500B per day (about $60 AUD between us) in total.


We broke our trip to Chiang Mai with the venture to Pai. We will now head to Chiang Rai for a few days before heading across to Nong Khai to cross the border into Laos. Initially, we had planned to cross the boarder north of Chiang Rai into the Laos town Huay Xai. After a bit of research, it seems you can only get a Laos visa on arrival at the Nong Khai Vientiane land boarder crossing. Rather than staying longer in Bangkok to organise a visa, we have decided to take the overnight bus and cross the boarder into Vientiane (which will allow us to get a visa on arrival).


  1. you have a way with words lizzles! i love how these post are written. are you both taking the photos? they are amazing! misssss youuuuuuuuu & wishing i came in your suit case. stay safe! xxxx

  2. Another really great interesting read with awesome photos as well.
    Chang Mai has definitely grown since we were there 15 years ago!

  3. I’ll think of you both when eating cheese. Lucky James is not middle aged . Don’t want him being corrupted by the ladies of the night.

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