In February 2019, I spent 6 days in Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand with my best friend Kara. Here's my itinerary with my recommendations:

Day 1 

Ferry to Koh Samui and Flight to Chiang Mai

From Koh Phangnan, I left for a very early ferry to Koh Samui so I could catch my flight. It was an easy transport luckily my hostel booked everything so that they would take me from the ferry to the airport! The flight was quick and adequate—I took a direct flight with Bangkok Airways. Note: they have free access to their lounge and snacks! Recommendation: Go for it! Something I learned about Thailand, is that you can pay for your transport in bulk and it’s the same price. I’m very happy I didn’t have to find my own transport from the ferry to the airport, because Thailand transportation is confusing. 

Check into Deejai Backpackers Hostel

I arrived in Chiang Mai and checked into my hostel. Chiang Mai is much cheaper than the islands which was a nice relief on my bank account, but I was rather underwhelmed with the hostel.
Recommendation: Skip it. I think there are better hostels to be found. The only reason I didn’t switch to another one was because it was so cheap and too convenient to stay.
Flying over the Gulf of Thailand
Deejai Backpackers Hostel

Lunch at the Bar and Pool

I headed over to the hostel’s annex location for some yellow curry rice. It was tasty and cheap! I ate by the pool and hopped in. The pool was a greenish color and I was skeptical but other people were swimming. Later in the week, they shut down the pool for maintenance. Just another reason I was underwhelmed with the hostel.
Recommendation: Go for it? Haha. The food was good, but the pool was questionable. 

Dinner at Pad Thai Rach-


I went along with some new hostel friends to a small spot around the corner from the hostel. It was delicious! I ordered the Northern Style Pork Curry and I was obsessed. It tasted similar to some gravies in Louisiana—but hey, I love the spice.
Recommendation: Go for it! This place was good. 

Out at Babylon Bar, Havana, Zoe's

We went back to the hostel bar to chill and play pool, and gathered a group of people to go out. Chiang Mai is an old city, steeped in Buddhist tradition. So going out is quite different from other places.  The main area is primarily referred to as Zoe’s. But there are a ton of little bars scattered around. We chilled at Babylon Bar, danced to hip-hop at Havana, and danced to latin music at Zoe’s. There’s a little something for everyone!
Recommendation: Go for it! But note that the bars all close at midnight. 
Yellow rice
Northern Style Curry

Day 2 

I wandered around the Old City, popped into some temples and found some pretty places.
Recommendation: Go for it! This city is gorgeous and historic at every corner. Just don’t forget to take frequent breaks, because Chiang Mai… is really hot. 

Walk Around

Old City

Starting off the day with some free hostel toast. This is pretty customary, nothing special. Just some free bread, butter, and jelly. Better than nothing!
Recommendation: Go for it! Or don’t. Whatever suits your fancy. 

Free Hostel Toast

The Wooden Temple
I had another hankering for Indian food! This place was so great—very good chicken tikka masala, and a nice spot to sit and relax.
Recommendation: Go for it! It’s along one of the main roads in the city. Easy to find if you’re looking to change things up from normal Thai food. 

Lunch at Grill of India

Grill of India
This place was right down the street from the hostel. It was perfectly adequate. But, I went to another spot a few days later… and that one was so much better. More to come.
Recommendation: Skip it. Only because the only place is better. 

Foot Massage at LaLa Massage

The Wooden Temple
Lala Massage
As I waited for my bestie Kara to arrive, I played pool at the hostel bar with some cool tattooing Aussies.

Hostel Bar

Dinner at Pad Thai Rach-adumneon 

I went back to the same spot from the night before with a new group of people. Kara just got off her long plane ride and she was exhausted and starving. And since this place was so close and so good, we went there again. Recommendation: Go for it! I really loved that Northern Thai curry. I would go back again just for that dish! 
Chiang Mai spring rolls

Day 3 - National Park 

Toastie at 7Eleven

Started off the day at 7 Eleven with a yummy toastie. You can’t go to Thailand and not eat toasties at 7 Eleven. It’s delicious, convenient, and cheap!
Recommendation: Go for it! They are traveler heaven. 

Day Trip to Doi Inthanon

Kara and I gathered a couple hostel friends to go

with us to the national park. We hired a private

tuk tuk truck for the day and headed on the road

for the long journey. This park was much further than

we knew… and there were some unpleasant feelings. But you get out what you put in, so we played games, stayed positive, and had a lot of fun! Our first stop: 

Royal Pagodas: This was quite underwhelming. It’s very beautiful here, don’t get me wrong, but just not all that interesting. Recommendation: Skip it. 

Doi Inthanon: We made it to the tallest part of Thailand! This had a fun little boardwalk through the jungle and some cute shops. Recommendation: Eh, if you have time. 

Market: We stopped on the side of the road to check out this market. Kara and I bought some dried fruit and lychee liquor. So many funs things to taste and try. Recommendation: Go for it! 

Warchinatran Waterfall: Our last official stop was at this gorgeous waterfall. This was fun and beautiful to see. Recommendation: Go for it.

Beers on the Way Home: Our actual last stop was when we asked our driver to stop at a convenience store so we could buy some beer and snacks. We knew there was a long ride coming, but hey… it’s a lot more fun with friends and beers. Recommendation: Go for it! Duh. 

Doi Inthanon
Doi Inthanon
Chiang Mai market
Warrchinatran Waterfall

Sunday Night Market

Every Sunday night, Chiang Mai hosts a large street market in the Old City. There is so much great shopping and art. We both purchased a gorgeous postcard from a local artist and some Thai pants for some relatives.
Recommendation: Go for it! Haggle the night away and come back with some fantastic new finds. 
Chiang Mai Night Market

Dinner at Annie's

After shopping around, we stopped at a random restaurant. It turned out to be amazing! Such amazing good food. I discovered that I’m now completely obsessed with dipping garlic bread in the northern dish Khao Soi (pronounced: Cow Soy). I crave it all the time. There was a band with live music and we enjoyed ourselves very much.
Recommendation: Go for it! This was a little bit off the beaten path (only a little bit though) so I’m grateful we stumbled upon it!
Khao Soi

Day 4 - Elephants

Street Breakfast

Kara and I walked around the neighborhood near our hostel, and stumbled on a small street car making breakfast. I ordered an omelet on rice for 30 baht ($1 USD) and had a delicious cheap start to my breakfast!
Recommendation: Go for it! Street carts are soooo much cheaper than restaurants and the food is usually pretty good. 
Chiang Mai
Elephant Jungle Sanctuary Chiang Mai
Elephant Jungle Sanctuary Chiang Mai

Elephant Jungle Sanctuary

There are a ton of different elephant sanctuaries you can choose from and they’re all around the same price. We looked very carefully at all the flyers and chose Elephant Jungle Sanctuary for a couple reasons: they give you traditional karens to wear and it seemed like you get to spend a lot of time with the elephants. We were right! I loved this tour. Our guide’s name was Kate, and he was not only hilarious but super nice and a lot of fun. We learned how to feed the elephants and went straight to it. We fed them bananas and bamboo and hung out for a long time. Then we walked to the mud pit and got to have some fun splashing around in the mud with them. It’s hot, so they enjoy a good mud bath to cool down! After that, we trekked to a small spring and bathed in the water with them. The elephants were so sweet and cuddly and fun. They are humungous creatures, but you can sense their gentle spirits. It was an experience I’ll never forget. After the long day, we ate a tasty dinner overlooking the jungle where the elephants roamed.
Recommendation: Go for it! I would use this company again in a heart beat. If you do want to see wild animals any time you travel, please use responsible tourism and research the companies you are using. If you are riding elephants and/or petting tigers, you are supporting companies that chain, whip, and drug the animals. Please be responsible. I highly recommend this company and this tour. We chose the half day option and paid 1600 baht ($52 USD).  Note: bring a bathing suit you don’t mind staining!
Elephant Jungle Sanctuary Chiang Mai
Elephant Jungle Sanctuary Chiang Mai

Lady Boy Cabaret Show at Sixcrets

After our elephant tour, we both took long showers to get to mud off of everything, and headed to the hostel bar to hang out and grab a drink. We ended up hanging with some cool people and got a recommendation for a Lady Boy show! We spontaneously got in a tuk tuk, the six of us were off to 6ixcrets! All I gotta is… we. had. a. blast! This show was so fun. The dancing alone was so incredible… that choreographer should work for professional performers.  The costumes, the set, the dancing. It all blew me away.  It’s also so nice to travel to a place that not only accepts the gay and trans community in their country, but truly celebrates it. They were gorgeous and incredible performers. Recommendation: Go for it! There was no cover, just a two drink minimum, which also blew my mind. I ordered gyoza and some tasty cocktails! 
Elephant Jungle Sanctuary Chiang Mai
Lady Boy Cabaret
Lady Boy Cabaret
After our show, we headed to Spicy, the only club open in Chiang Mai from 12am-2am. It’s very specific, I know.  This is not the world’s most amazing club, but it is open, and it was quite fun. You won’t see too many locals there (some), but it’s mostly tourists.
Recommendation: Go for it! You wanna dance? Is it 12am? You have no choice, but to go to Spicy. 


Day 5 - Cooking Class

Benny's Home Cooking Class

Our morning started with some free hostel toast, knowing that we would have plenty to eat throughout the day. I discovered this class on yelp. I wanted to find the best cooking class—not necessarily the most well-known.  Not only did this activity exceed my expectations, but I think this is an absolutely MUST DO for anyone traveling to Chiang Mai. Benny is an absolute dream, and you get so much bang for your buck, I’m actually confused as to how they make money! I could ramble on about how much I love Benny and supporting locally owned businesses is a crucial part in authentic traveling, but I digress. We were picked up by Benny in a taxi with the five others joining us for the day. Our first stop was at a market outside of town: Mae Hia Market. Benny took us to local market where she and many other Thai people buy their food products. We taste-tested all sorts of things, including the tastiest northern Thai sausage I’ve ever had and these little coconut cream pancakes that were delicious. We learned about the ingredients we will be using and walked around the beautiful market. We hopped back in the taxi and shortly arrived at Benny’s home. Her business is run by Benny, her wife, her mother, and her niece. Benny’s home was an oasis. A fresh garden and beautiful seating overlooking a lovely rice paddy. We were welcomed with a drink aptly named, “The Sexy Benny.” It was a delicious concoction of her own design. On the taxi we picked out the dishes we were going to cook—Kara and I mostly split up everything so we could taste as much as possible. Our first coarse was the appetizer: I made spring rolls and Kara made chicken satay. Next, we made our soups (I made Tom Kah).  After that was the curry course—I, of course, made Khao Soi because it’s my favorite and Kara made Massaman, also a very good one. And lastly, we created desserts. I made the famous mango sticky rice.  We left so unbelievably full from all the tasty food. I bought some Butterfly tea for some friends back home and a package of her very own Khao Soi curry. She gave everyone a cookbook that includes all the recipes we made and information about the ingredients. Needless to say.
Recommendation: Go for it! Couldn’t say a bad word if I tried. Best day ever. 
Benny's Home Cooking Chiang Mai
Benny's Home Cooking Chiang Mai5245_3090189481542
Benny's Home Cooking Chiang Mai
Benny's Home Cooking Chiang Mai
Benny's Home Cooking Chiang Mai
Benny's Home Cooking Chiang Mai
Benny's Home Cooking Chiang Mai
Benny's Home Cooking Chiang Mai






Benny's Home Cooking Chiang Mai

Drinks at Zoe's Garden, Reggae Bar, Spicy

After we napped at the hostel after all that delicious food, we headed out! We ended the night with friends at Zoe’s Garden, then headed next door to Reggae Bar, and lastly back at Spicy. 

Day 6 - More Temples

Lunch at Lambpunwenring

Kara and I stumbled upon this small gem in the Old City. Chiang Mai truly has the best sausage and our meal came with some free soup!
Recommendation: Go for it! This place felt as authentic as it gets. The menu is in Thai, so good luck. 
Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai

Dessert at Pink House Garden 

We decided to walk around and temple hop for the day. On our way to a temple, we stumbled upon this oasis and just had to stop. This restaurant was so zen and fun. We could have hung out there for hours.
Recommendation: Go for it!
I imagine it's magical at night with
all the lights—grab dinner, have
some drinks, enjoy the
Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai

The Aluminum Temple

This temple is really interesting. The best part was watching the monks and others work on the aluminum carvings. It’s an incredible craft! My suggestion: don’t pay to go in the main part, just enjoy the grounds for a bit and look at the art.
Recommendation: Eh, if you have time. 
Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai

Ice cream at

White Elephant

It was stupid hot—as it usually is in Chiang Mai. So we had to stop at this place and grab a refreshing mango ice cream.
Recommendation: Go for it! It’s tasty and cheap!

Wat Chedi Luang Temple

Our next temple was Wat Chedi Luang. We did not pay to inside the grounds because we were hot and temples are much cooler when they’re free.
Recommendation: Eh, if you have time. 
Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai
Lila Thai Massage

Lila Thai Massage

Okay! So this is the Thai massage place I was speaking of earlier. This is a MUST DO. Kara and I were joking that we were on our honeymoon because this place makes you feel so special and pampered for basically the same price as everywhere else. I got a Feet, Hand, and Head massage for 90 minutes for $12 USD. They take credit card, and they change your life. Haha. But seriously, we walked in and they sat us down and washed our feet. We changed into these luscious robes and had such a fantastic and relaxing massage. At the end, they gave us tea, specialty soaps, and little rice cracker treats. It was the best. It’s a must do in Chiang Mai.
Recommendation: Go for it! Best $12 I’ve ever spent. 
Lila Thai Massage

Goodbye Thailand!


Dinner at It's Good Cafe

Across the street from the massage place was this restaurant. It looked cute enough and we were on a time schedule because Kara had to catch her flight at 10pm. The food was fantastic! We both got pad Thai, and a special kind of blue butterfly tea. For dessert, we split a “sleeping banana.” Which is basically a deep fried banana with honey on it. It. was. amazing. This place was really tasty and cheap and we loved it.
Recommendation: Go for it! 
It's Good Cafe