South East Asia Travel

Backpackers Guide to Chang Mai

Chang Mai, remains one of my favourite places I have ever travelled too. There was so much to do and see that it is hard to be stuck for something to do.


Where to stay

A Good Place Hostel

This was our favourite hostel we stayed at throughout our whole trip. The hostel was super clean and the owner really cared about the place. He always made sure that people had something to do. If certain people were going somewhere he would ask around to see if he could get more people to join. That way it would bring down the price of the red truck (how you get around Chiang Mai) and you would get to meet people. On our first day, we had walked down and he was just like “You wanna go to the sticky waterfall?” We had no plans so we jumped at the opportunity. He then called the driver to wait (as they had just left) and then brought us to the end of the lane on his scooter, which was hilarious, with all the speed bumps I’m sure we would have been quicker walking! Throughout our stay here he was just super helpful with everything. I have recommended this hostel to everyone we had met along the way. Plus at $4 a night you really cannot go wrong!


What we done 

There are absolutely no shortages of amazing things to do in Chiang Mai. From temples to hipster cafes the city center has something to interest everyone. When we were in Chiang Mai it had reached up to 43 degrees celsius. So, as you can imagine we didn’t get to explore the city as much as we would have liked. If we had we risked turning into puddles of water.

Climb the Sticky Waterfall

This waterfall is about an hours drive outside the city. If there is a group of you willing to go then it is extremely cheap to get a red truck. Plus they wait for you there. The waterfall is nothing spectacular to look at, but you can climb up,  all the way to the top. The rocks are non-slippery hence the name ‘sticky waterfall’. It is a fun way to spend the day and escape the heat.

Temple Hopping

There is no shortage of amazing temples to explore in Changi Mai, there are a few temples to check out in the city when you are walking around and then there is Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. Which is a temple at the top of a mountain around a 30-minute drive from the city. Again red trucks will take you there and wait for you. The temple is lovely to walk around and has an amazing view of the city from down below. There is also 316 steps to climb in order to get up to the temple. Definitely worth the climb. But of course like every temple you do need to dress appropriately. Which means shoulders and knees covered. However, it is a lot cooler up in the mountain than down in the city so it isn’t so bad.

The Grand Canyon

Chiang Mai’s version of the Grand Canyon. You can rent a donut and float about and you can jump off the edge into the canyon below. Most people sit on the floating bamboo rafts and watch people jump in. The fun is watching people chicken out at the top. It is defiantly a great place to spend the day and keep cool in the blistering heat.

Elephant Sanctuary

Visiting an elephant sanctuary is probably one of the biggest thing people do when they come to Chiang Mai. I would recommend doing some research on different Elephant sanctuaries and ask around your hostel for recommendations. I do not want to shove my beliefs down anyone’s throat but elephant riding should be avoided at all cost. Riding the elephants especially in those massive benches is completely inhuman. As you can imagine it is very painful for the elephant. Every traveller we had met were completely against riding elephants, which was a positive sign. With that in mind, we asked around for a sanctuary where we could just hang out with the elephants and help take care of them for the day. We were recommended The Elephant Jungle Sanctuary. Where we got to feed the elephants, give them a mud bath and get into the water with them. They treat the elephants with great respect and most of the fully grown elephants were rescued from elephant riding camps and you could see some of the scars left on them from the seats. When we went there was also little baby elephants, which are adorable. It was defiantly the most amazing day we got to spend. I would highly recommend this place if you want to hang out with elephants that are treated well.

Cooking Class

Another highlight from our trip was definitely doing a cooking class. It is something I would highly recommend doing if you are visiting Thailand. Thai food is amazing and learning to cook some signature dishes is a great way to spend an evening. We went to a school called Basil. Before the class we were picked up at our hostel and taken to a food market to shop for ingredients, then taken to the school where we got to cook seven courses!  I cannot recommend Basil enough, it was such a fun evening. They also can do everything veggie as well which was a plus.

The Sunday Night Walking Market

Oh my god, this was the mother of all markets. I cannot explain how amazing this market was. We literally kept comparing every market we had been to, to this one. The market is huge first off and you will need a few hours to walk around all of it. Not to mention it gets pretty crowded. The only regret we had with this market was that it wasn’t the last stop on our journey. If you are planning a trip to Chiang Mai try and make it so as you are there on a Sunday. You really do not want to miss this market!

Saturday Night Market

This has nothing on the Sunday night market and is basically comprised of food stalls. They offer food Stands of all kinds and really good smoothie stands. I would defiantly recommend checking out this market for dinner on Saturday’s. Pad Thai at 20 baht you just can’t go wrong!


Where to eat 

I really do not have much to say about restaurants in Chang Mai as there is an abundance of street food carts offering tasty dishes at cheap prices. So most nights we stuck to getting some street food and sitting down on the street with a Chang beer!

Into the woods

A very cutely designed cafe, modeled after different fairytales. The breakfast is pretty good and is definitely worth checking out.



Near the hostel is Cafféine, a really cute hipster cafe. They have awesome iced coffee and french toast.

Blue Dimond

Hidden away behind a garden is Blue Dimond which is a perfect brunch spot. Word of advice the pancake is huge, so do not think you need more than that. We made that mistake and couldn’t finish it.

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Lemon Tree

Lemon tree was recommended to us by Mark (the hostel owner), it is not a far walk from the hostel. They done very good Thai food for very cheep, we went back there more than once and were not disappointed!



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