This city is very enjoyable if you visit it during right time. Where is lots to do and see, great surrounding nature. Lots of young people to meet.
Check the Bangkok first impressions article for some of the tips that could be applied to Thailand.
The currency is Thai Baht (THB). The rate is about 34.8 THB for 1 EUR, 100 THB for 2.87 €, 1000 THB for 28.68 €, 3860 THB for 110.7 €. Depending from which country you're traveling it might be hard to find the exchange to arrive with local currency.
Check the Bangkok first impressions article
If you want to get extension you can get photos and copies of documents on the other side of street at Tian agency (about 106 THB), bring everything to get a queue number and wait (for very long time or for short time, depends on your luck). You will need passport, signed by you photocopies (main page of passport, current visa page, TM6 departure card, latest entry stamp), extension form TM7, recent photo (non-blue background photos should be fine), 1900 THB for a fee, current address and Thai phone number.
They give you a QR code which you can scan and it gives a rough idea of when your number should come up, but it wasn't working on my phone (that way you don't need to wait at immigration office and could go to nearby shopping mall for example).
Can read How to Extend a Thai Tourist Visa in Chiang Mai for more information.
Haven't tried it myself, but one option I heard for staying long time would be to get a hand to hand combat education visa.
Check the Bangkok first impressions article
Rajdarbar Indian Restaurant very tasty Indian food, good prices.
Tsunami Sushi very smoky inside. Think 38 and 39 are nice options because they are cooked.
Fresh Fruits Market, Chiang Mai lots of fruits and other produce.
Beast Burger tasty burgers.
Chef Clint Bistro has slow service and can get very hot, but burgers/fries are great.
TCDC Chiang Mai well equipped library with AC. Can be a good place if you need some place to read a book or get something productive done.
Wat Pha Lat Hike nice short couple hours hike, it becomes much more interesting once you reach the waterfalls. If you plan to do it with someone else good meeting place is at Basecamp coffee.
Samoeng Viewpoint great view. Has no toilet and smoke from nearby vendors can be annoying.
Mae Sa Waterfall nice waterfalls, broken path so be ready for some exercise. 100 THB for adult and 20 THB for scooter.
Bua Tong 'Sticky' Waterfalls amazing place and it's free. You will have lots of fun climbing it up and down, you will get wet, and if you slip you will probably get hurt (at least I didn't bash my head open). The road to it is quite boring.
Tat Mok Waterfall at first seems like nothing but the end looks very nice. 120 THB. The road to it is very bad.
Pa ta cave close to some religious destination. Looked abandoned the first time I was visiting. Almost crapped my pants thinking this is the time I will get eaten by rabid dogs. Very cut doggies once we had a chance to know each other and they have been protecting me. A dangerous place especially if you start exploring outside the path. Cave is short but you would still need a flash light (phone camera light is not enough) if you want to go from one side to the other. Some stick so you don't slide off the mountain is also useful.
Tat Krok Waterfall hard to access and a long walk through the jungle, but once I reached it my jaw dropped.
Muang On Cave mountain with a peak and cave in the middle. Google location is incorrect so follow your GPS to 18.786117, 99.23801 coordinates. 20 THB for cave and 10 THB for parking. You have to crawl to get into/out of cave and was so funny when some small kid clapped once I got out. Loads and loads of steps, I think it took me about 10-15 minutes to get from the top of it, did about 1000 steps in total.
Kew Fin 360 degree view of surrounding nature. Very hard ride to the top but it's very silent as had no people.
Mae Kampong Waterfall nice waterfall. Lots of stairs to get to top, but you can't reach all the way up as path is broken (tried to look for some way around it, but couldn't find anything).
Some random waterfall after a decent hike where I tried to find it by sound.
Mork Fa Waterfall very tall waterfall which has a cave near it. 120 THB.
Lod Cave a nice big cave, smells of bat crap. Nice views and enjoyable experience swimming on some raft. 450 THB for 3 people (I just joined some random couple and we split the price).
Mae Pan Waterfall large park. Road to it is terrible (lost my brakes multiple times) so if you are ready for a walk might want to leave your scooter near main road. Walk to the waterfall is very dangerous (having a staff to not slip was useful). Waterfall is amazing and water is very cold. 320 THB to get into a park.
Pai Canyon interesting place which isn't for people who are afraid of heights. Good for watching a sunset.
Huay Tung Tao Lake, Chiang Mai big lake (water looks dirty) with low seating are, can be nice if you get some breeze. 50 THB to get in.
I had to update my vaccinations which can be done in Chiangmai Ram Hospital. It can take some time for them to take care of you even if it looks like it's empty. The service is great and everything is very clean.
I also had an accident while riding around jungle. It was relatively quick to get doctor take a look at me, get x-rays, get medication. You could probably get all of this done cheaper in some other hospital, but it was cheap enough (about 50€).
Haven't tried it myself, but heard someone suggesting that you can go straight to payment desk and ask for VIP card which costs around 100 THB. This will save you 20% and no need to wait in line anymore.
CM Mediclinic small clinic, knows English well and prices are reasonable.
Fah Lanna Massage - Night Bazaar great massage. 1 hour Thai massage (which is painful but very good) is 250 THB (~7€).
Women's Massage Center By Ex-Prisoner good massage but can be very loud making it hard to relax. 1 hour Thai massage 250 THB.
Somphet Massage silent place to get a massage, has AC, 180 THB (~5€) for an hour Thai massage. Hard to find parking.
Nirvana Massage great massages, 1 hour Thai massage for 200 THB (~6€).
Omsala great karsai massage, but very painful, price 2000 THB
Traffic / Walking
From airport to north of city was 150 THB using a taxi.
It might change depending on where you are, but it's quite walkable to get to most places. Sometimes you might need to go into street or be a bit risky, but for most part you can find some small sidewalks. If you staying somewhere in the center you could walk to most parts. If you staying farther away from it your only option would be using Grab or renting a scooter. Traffic is chaotic (especially during rush hour), but I quickly got used to it and was snaking around other cars and scooters. Parking can be complicated especially if you have a big bike. You can watch a compilation video to better understand traffic in it. You might also want to read Traffic rules in Thailand and how to avoid traffic accidents.
You do need to have an International Driver Permit which you can get from this website for around 50-100 €. If you don't have one and get caught by police (which got smarter at caching people using roadblocks at correct places) the fee will be 500 THB (but you are allowed to drive for 3 days).
It's very easy to rent a scooter for a day, if you like the scooter you can try renting it for a month (because you don't want bad scooter for a long time).
Mango Bikes Rent good place for renting a scooter. Has an alley you can try the bike without any traffic. Depending on time might have a lot of options or only a few. Good monthly prices and was able to get a discount for renting multiple months.
Bamboo Bikes Chiang Mai good place for renting a scooter. Didn't even charge me for when I lost the lamp cover driving the mountain. Monthly prices are high and it's better to rent for single day to try out the scooter first.
If you want more information about driving read the following links:
- Scooters in Thailand: How to rent, buy and sell your two wheels?
- How to buy (used & new) motorcycle in Thailand (visa are OK)
- Tips for Motorcycle Riding in the Mountains
Samoeng Loop around the mountain was my way to clear my head and I rode it every couple of days. Curvy roads going downhild without gas at 40-70 km/h, doing almost 90/180 degree turns. It gets a bit annoying at start/end until you get out of cities. But it's only nice during good weather, in Spring it's terrible because everything is brown and so dry it feels like it will just start on fire.
Siri-wattana Market has a lot of food and some clothing options.
Samudlanna has a lot of art and stationery supplies.
Decathlon Chiangmai lots of outdoor stuff for good prices. Also has a Tesco nearby to get anything else you might need.
Helmet Shop Chiang Mai good place for buying motorcycle gear.
Warorot Market good place for buying clothes (which you might throw before leaving) and other stuff.
Central Kad Suan Kaew lots of shops and supermarket.
Facebook group for purchasing things https://web.facebook.com/groups/305872182829627
Entertainment / Visit
X Centre Chiang Mai a great place for enjoying extreme activities. Did a one hour trail biking in jungle (was planning to do a longer one, but hour was tiring enough). Price was around 70€. Was the only one doing it. Had a bunch of accidents during it (I'm joking that I condensed all my life motorcycle accidents into a single hour). Flying couple meters of it was a lot of fun. Getting my knee stuck under motorcycle not so much. The most painful one was driving into my guide (the other choice was driving off the mountain), was painful for both of us. Luck had it that my family jewels stayed intact when I introduced my crotch with handlebars. We had to switch motorcycles as mine was too bend for me to drive. On next visit I also did a bungee jump, which looked a bit shady at first (when seeing someone before me getting hit in face with a rope), but it was a lot of fun (except for the end of it while you wait to be lowered down as all the blood goes into your head).
Chiang Mai Erotic Garden place full of nice and strange art. Very good owners who take you on the tour, later we kept talking and having some food. Stopped for a quick look around and left after many hours (only because wanted to reach another place before sunset).
Siam Insect Zoo a place where you can see lots of insects. You can also touch spiders (lovely things), scorpions (it feels so strange because their bellies touch your skin) and iguanas (they are like lizard cats). 200 THB.
I stayed first time during December and January months which is a perfect time for it. Weather is very nice during that time.
From end of January the burning season starts (but it's not clear anymore when it happens anymore as in 2019 it started even in December) which makes air quality very bad and I still have skin problems from it. Weather also starts being very hot and dry so you don't want to leave the apartment or do anything.
For other locations in the world see intro article.