Chiang Mai

Travel Tips – 5 Days In Chiang Mai

Based on our own experience from the 5-day trip in Chiang Mai, Thailand during October (which happens to be National Holiday in China), there are a few travel tips we would like to share with you. Hope it will help to make your journey easier and more joyful! Let me show you the itinerary first -

OVERVIEW

Chiang Mai is a fantastically beautiful and relatively small destination for pretty much everyone! Whether you are into historical culture or outdoor activities, whether you are young or old, whether you’re just stopping by Chiang Mai for only one day or you would like to stay for a few days or even live there, you will gain remarkable experiences from this place regardless.

The people in Chiang Mai are super friendly and helpful. Thai and English are basically the only two main languages used in Chiang Mai. As for effective communication, it’s better to know some English or even Thai if you are interested. The travel guides usually can speak very fluent English but locals can only speak very little.

Chiang Mai’s safety is very good. We didn’t encounter any uncomfortable safety issues in Chiang Mai. With the nice and non-aggressive people there, the atmosphere in Chiang Mai is extremely relaxing. You don’t have to worry about safety while traveling alone or walking outside at night as a female. We often saw tourist police patroling the streets especially at night.

TRANSPORTATION

From The Airport To Your Hotel 

There are two taxi counters at the arrival hall of Chiang Mai International Airport. Taxi Meter is located on the left of the exit of the terminal building and the other on is on the right. In order to grab a cab, you just go up to either of the counter and tell them where you want to go. It only takes about 15 minutes to get to most of the hotels in Chiang Mai City from the airport via taxi. Taxi fee for central Chiang Mai area is flat 120 baht (USD 4). For rides outside of central Chiang Mai are, please check out the rates in this list. (PDF)

Taxi Meter at Chiang Mai International Airport

We got a taxi (an SUV) from the counter on the right. The driver was not very familiar with our hotel. Thankfully, we had an Agoda booking confirmation letter saved in my phone. With the name and address of our hotel in Thai, the drive was able to immediately figure out where to go. So it’d be convenient to bring this type of document with you when you go to Thailand.

Get Around In The City

In Chiang Mai, there are multiple ways get around. Other than taxi, the most commom way is to flag songthaews (pick-up trucks with two long bench seats in the back) or three-wheeled tuk tuks down on the street. Songthaews usually serve as buses. The drive will agree to give you a ride if you are going to the same direction. Price usually starts from 20 baht per peson. You can basically regard tuk tuks as taxies. Fares are around 30-40 baht in the city area.

Me in a songthaew heading back to the hotel from the old city

If you would like to see the city more, Chiang Mai is actually an easy place to walk around. The old city is only 1.6 kilometers (around 1 mile) square. It takes about 10 minutes to walk from Night Bazaar area into the old city. Motobikes and bikes can also be rented everywhere in Chiang Mai, even on sois (A small street is called soi in Thai). Most of the guesthouses like Mandala House, where we stayed, offer bike rental (60 baht/bike/day). It’s fairly convenient but please make sure you check the quality of the bikes before you go on a ride.

Activity Transportaion

When traveling in Chiang Mai, the least thing you want to worry about in order to attend all these outdoor activities is transportation! Because most of the activities happen in mountains, jungles or rainforests where are far from the city, transportation is usually well handled by the organizations. All you need to do is to tell them where you stay when you sign up for any specific activities. They will come to pick you up at your hotel/hostel/guesthouse within a 30-minute range and send you back at the end of the day.

ACCOMMODATION

Please refer to ‘How We Came Up With The Travel Plan‘ for accommodation tips.

TIPS FOR TOURS

Booking for Elephant tours and Gibbon on Wheels can be easily done online in advance. However, if you are a plan-free type of traveler, you don’t necessarily have to book anything online beforehand. Activity brochures can be found at your hotel concierge, around the corner of a street, in a travel agency office, etc. They are everywhere. The easiest way is probably to ask your hotel concierge to book the activities for you. It’s said that they might be able to get you a cheaper deal.

As for each activity we experienced and also recommended in Chiang Mai, if you want to try the same, we have a few useful tips for you! :-)

One-day Elephant Training Course with Baanchang Elephant Park

  • They provide uniforms at the park. Visitors are required to wear them upon arrival. The course includes learning about elephants, feeding elephants, riding elephants and bathing elephants in a pond as well. (You are gonna get wet.) You may bring  an extra set of T-shirt and shorts for change after shower there at the end of the course. However that’s not particularly necessary since you can also wait  until you get back to the hotel to have a nice thorough shower.
  • Things to bring: Clean clothes, shampoo, soap and other toiletries if you plan to shower at the park (on their website, they suggest you bring towel too but they actually prepare clean towel for visitors at the park), camera, mosquito spray (very important).
  • What to wear: anything you like since you are going to change into the uniforms at the park. Flip flops are strongly recommended because a) shoes are not allowed when practicing and riding the elephants; b) they are simply convenient. No sneakers are necessary because elephants will carry you to go through the hardcore path in the jungle.
  • Chiang Mai’s raining season is from July to October. Even though it rains often in October, the rain lasts very short. It usually rains up  to 2 hours maximum in early afternoon and the sun shows up again after raining. Therefore, it’s also not necessary to bring umbrellas especially when you are on tour like elephant training. You will be too busy to care about the rain. :-P

Check out our morning with the elephants and afternoon with the elephants in Baanchang Elephant Park. This park is highly recommended to visit!

Two-day Trip Of Gibbon on Wheels – Mountain Biking

  • No need to worry about gear for biking in the mountain. They provide literally everything including helmets, elbow pads, knee pads, gloves, professional biking T-shirts and free water. You can grab as much water as you want. Don’t bring too much though since you want to bike light. Basically two bottles for one person is plenty. Energy bars and glasses can be bought in their office. Again, these are not necessities.
  • What to bring: water as mentioned above, camera (a point and shoot is a better choice on the way but DSLR will be icing on the cake for gorgeous views during breaks), day pack (they have some day packs in their office but they run out pretty fast, so suggest you to bring your own if you have one), mosquito spray, an extra set of shirt and shorts, maybe some snacks.
  • Everything else for stay over night at the homestay can be left in the office and picked up when biking tour is over.
  • What to wear: preferably dry fast T-shirt and shorts (If you don’t have the suitable shirt, they have plenty with all sorts of sizes), sports shoes (Please be aware that your shoes most likely will be covered with mud after the tour. Actually it definitely will happen if there’s been any sort of rain recently).
  • Please pay extra attention when they introduce the tour to you in the office. It’s about your safety.
  • There are 4 biking routes available. Please choose carefully according to your level.

We made our day with the easiest route! That’s a helluva experience! See Mountain Biking Episode 1 to 4 below-

  1. The Fulfilling Preparation
  2. Training In The Mountain
  3. Rock and Roll
  4. Lunch At The Lake

Two-day Trip Of Gibbon on Wheels - The Homestay

  • It’s pretty chilly at night in the mountain. A long sleeve shirt will be useful when arriving at the homestay.
  • Things to bring: everything necessary for staying over night.
  • When the greeter tells you there will be a Thai massage after dinner, he means that the masseuses will be sent to your homestay.
  • Please do not go out looking for massage place in the dark night (it goes dark very early in the mountain) like we did.

Two-day Trip of Gibbon on Wheels – Flight of the Gibbon (HIGHLY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!!!)

  • Things to bring: not much. I would say a point and shoot is enough. DSLR is not recommended on this activity because you will be flying around in the rainforest. Everything else can be kept in the locker including the stuff in your pocket.
  • What to wear: Hmm… doesn’t really matter. No high heels, no flip flops and no skirts for sure. Put on some mosquito spray before you head out of their office. Take off your jewelry just in case as well.
  • Remember to go to the bathroom before heading out too.

That’s pretty much it. Hope you find this post useful! Have a good day! We will see you soon!

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