Chiang Mai -Is it Worth the Trip?

Old Jun 10th, 2004, 04:08 AM
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Chiang Mai -Is it Worth the Trip?

We're going to Thailand at the end of this month and were going to spend 5 days in Bangkok and 3 in Chiang Mai. Is Chiang Mai worth the trip or should we go somewhere else?
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Old Jun 10th, 2004, 04:55 AM
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It depends on what you like. There are those of us on this site that are rather bored by Chiang Mai and those that love Chiang Mai. If you do a search on this site you'll find the many opinions.

As I don't especially like Chiang Mai, I'd either spend the whole week in Bangkok with a day trip up river to the old capital or I'd choose a few days at the Anantara in the Golden Triangle or a few days at a beach.
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Old Jun 10th, 2004, 05:39 AM
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I was hoping to get out and see some of the rural life. Also, my daughter lived in a village 1 hour outside of Chiang Mai for 5 weeks 2 years ago while she was building a community center. We wanted to go see that. Is Chiang Mai a big bustling city now that has limited charms?
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Old Jun 10th, 2004, 05:48 PM
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In my biased opinion Chiang Mai has been a big bustling city for at least 20 years.
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Old Jun 10th, 2004, 06:09 PM
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while i agree with kathie on the excitement in chiang mai, i would definetely go to see the good work that my daughter did. i'm sure she would find it exciting to see how the facility is being used, and see old friends again. go, and be proud.
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Old Jun 10th, 2004, 07:02 PM
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Absolutely I agree with kuranosuke - do visit where your daughter worked.
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Old Jun 10th, 2004, 08:16 PM
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Kathie, Bob on this site has the same view about Chiang Mai, but it seems there are lots of things to see and do -- night market, handicrafts workshops, elephant centers, nearby villages of other ethnic groups. What is it exactly that you and others don't like or find boring about CM? We're planning three weeks in Thailand in February -- our first trip. We're thinking about a week in BKK, a week at a Southern beach resort, 2 or 3 days in CM and maybe 2 or 3 days at the Anantara in the Golden Triangle -- based on your rave review. Tangata had some good suggestions about things to do in CM.
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Old Jun 10th, 2004, 08:51 PM
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If you are interested in Chiang Mai, definitely listen to Tangata.

What I don't like about CM is that it is billed to people as a charming mountain town. In fact, it is the second largest city in Thailand, with all the big city problems of traffic and pollution without the excitement of Bangkok. Yes, the night market is fun for an evening. The "craft villages" (more like factories) are ok, prices are good but not astounding. There are a few wats worth visiting. But for my time and my money either give me the big city (Bangkok) or give me a rural area like the Golden Triangle or Luang Prabang in Laos. There have also been a dearth of nice hotels in CM. You can stay at the Four Seasons for lots of money, and it's way out of town, not really in CM. You can stay at the Westin/Sheraton which is ok but rather institutional. The food in CM in my experience is ok, but there are no truly stunning places to eat.
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Old Jun 10th, 2004, 09:08 PM
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Buy the "TimeOut guide to BKK, Chiang Mai & the islands". This guide contains info on some really fabulous ideas for eating, cooking schools, galleries, tours etc. We would never have found La Gondola restaurant in Rimping Condo-in a glasshouse right on the river-the best Italian food outside Tuscany & Leichhardt(Sydney). After 14 days of Thai food this place was a godsend!!Whole Earth (mainly Vegetarian -gorgeous old Thai house converted to two story restaurant). We ate here several times. Just One (16/1 Thanon Huai Kaew)-perfect outdoor garden restaurant. We found the shopping in Chiang Mai far, far better than the typical junk at Chatuchak weekend markets-but I dislike Bangkok so I'm biased a bit!!We hired a car and drove up to Mae Hong Son-maybe time is a bit short for you but the "Loop" around Pai, Mae Sariang & MHS is Thailand at it's most exotic! Suan Doi House & Lai Thai Guest House are bargain places to stay with lots of Thai ambience! Then again Krabi (Railay West)is spectacular too!! Good luck!
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Old Jun 11th, 2004, 07:16 AM
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Thanks, you guys have all been great. I'm definitely going to go to Chiang Mai to see my daughter's work and meet her family. I'm just trying to decide out of our 8 days in Thailand how many should we spend in Chiang Mai. What is this "Loop" around Pai, Mae Sariang &MHS? How long does it take to do?
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Old Jun 11th, 2004, 08:46 AM
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I, for one, have a very difficult time understanding how anyone could NOT like Chiang Mai. I FAR preferred C.M. to the noxious yellow pollution of BKK that made my chest hurt within 20 minutes of being outside. (There's a reason that all the BKK traffic cops wear thick surgical masks!). In my group of 8, all of us, to a greater or lesser degree, preferred C.M. over BKK. Other than afternoon tea at the Grand Hyatt Erewan with its chocolate fountain, and the Mandara Spa at the Royal Orchid Sheraton, BKK did not really appeal to this poster at all, too hot, too polluted, too much "forced-for- the tourist" friendliness.

Chiang Mai, on the other hand, is lovely, and the difference in the air quality from BKK is immediately apparent the moment you step off the plane. It has some great restaurants with atmosphere, and my favorite is the Gallery, which is located on the Ping riverbank. There are pictures everywhere of Hillary Clinton who dined here in her trip to C.M. a few years back. The Gallery has fabulous fresh-grilled seafood and other interesting and traditional Northern Thai, Lanna style dishes, in an old Thai house furnished with antique furniture (some for sale). Outdoors, the dining experience is enhanced by traditional Thai music being played adjacent to the tables along the riverfront. A lovely and very sophisticated setting. Plus, there's the Antique House-which is as described-romantic, over 100 year old Thai home filled with lovely Thai, Chinese antique furniture. My kind of place. Good food (not great, but good). We whiled away an entire rainy afternoon sitting outside under the eaves on an antique Thai settee, reading and relaxing. The Whole Earth restaurant, as mentioned, is another great restaurant with atmosphere to go and dine, and very conveniently located close to the Night Market.

As has been discussed a number of times on this forum, C.M. is the base for several different inexpensive mountain treks, either one day or longer, which I know some of my friends did and enjoyed. But for me, C.M. is all about the shopping! Re the Night Market-anyone who tells you to go and shop on Sankamphang Rd. rather than the Night Market simply hasn't done any comparison shopping. Go to SKP Rd. to look, and then buy in the Night Market. As an example, I bought some Thai flatware pieces at the "factory store" on the SKP Road. I found the exact same pieces, and every other piece, for fully 60% less at the Night Market, as well as lovely Thai silks-half of what I paid in BKK at Chatuchak-and of excellent quality. No one of us that I was with could seem to pull ourselves out of the Night Market-we were there every night. It was simply a fun place to be-to socialize, to compare prices, find something new. You could try and walk away, but then the price falls some more and voila! another Thai silk textile bought! Everything I have bought there I continue to be pleased with. But if you don't fancy the Night Mkt. every night, there is a street intersecting the Night Mkt. full of funky bars, jewelery and silk shops-Loi Kroa Rd. At night, the Old City looks lovely riding around in a tuk-tuk as part of the ancient wall and gates of the City are lit up. Then there's the mountaintop Wat (temple) of Doi Suthep. I could go and on about the things to see and do here, how comfortably it is set up for the Western traveler-everything is easy here. The people are much warmer and friendlier than they are in BKK, IMO. And NO CHOKING POLLUTION. I have no real desire to re-visit BKK anytime in the near future-but Chaing Mai? Absolutely.
 
Old Jun 11th, 2004, 10:10 AM
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Bangkok is a more exciting place, yes there is traffic and pollution- but we got around the traffic with our driver and frankly the air was not a problem for us. It has so many things to see and do and shopping venues, cabarets, fantastic palaces, teak mansion, Jim Thompson House and on and on and on.And of course there is the Penn- voted the best hotel in the world at one point.
There is no comparison.
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Old Jun 11th, 2004, 11:09 AM
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Sure, there's a comparison. It just depends on what one subjectively finds in each city as a basis upon which to make that comparison. If you don't want the choking pollution, heat, crowds, traffic, ultra-insulating hotels, and want a more authentic Thai experience, then you go north. Chiang Mai has a relaxed, easy-going atmosphere, BKK does not. You want authentic antique Thai homes?-you'll find them in C. Mai -and you can go to Antique House and eat in one. I found far better Thai food in C.M. than BKK, and a lot less expensive. If you want to stay at the Penn, and go around everywhere with a car and driver, well, then BKK is for you. As for me, Chiang Mai is preferable by far.
 
Old Jun 11th, 2004, 12:15 PM
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Airlawgirl- If I took my wife there instead of Bangkok she would divorce me. She needs to shop till ya drop and we want those 5 star "Insulating" hotels.
But you are right there are at least two distinct types of touring. Give me the big city any day!
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Old Jun 11th, 2004, 05:07 PM
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Hi there Boose-the "Loop" is a 600 km drive or bus trip via highways 1095 and 108 through Nth Thailand. We hired a car from North Wheels in Chiang Mai or get a bus from CM's Arcade bus stn. The trip is truly an experience-the road is precarious-the scenery magnificent-rainforests, quaint villages, magic lakes, forests, mountains etc. We stayed at Fern Resort in Mae Hong Song-wow I was blown away by this resort-it is set in a valley with a river running through it and lots of gorgeous thai bungalows, terrific food, wonderfully friendly "Karen" staff (from the local village), great handicrafts for sale, traditional thai woven bedspreads & teak furniture-we had a second honeymoon there and I have never truly recovered! I'd have 3 days in BKK and 5 days in Chiang Mai if it was me!!!I said I was biased & agree 100% with Airlawgirl!!!
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Old Jun 11th, 2004, 06:17 PM
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Hey Lyndie-you've convinced ME. Next trip: the Loop, Fern Resort-Mae Hong Song?-Check!
 
Old Jun 11th, 2004, 07:06 PM
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Hi there Airlawgirl-do a google search and check out some photos-it is actually nicer than some of the shots on the web and for around US40-50 a night and food about US3-10 a meal depending on how much/what you eat-it is a great value destination. If you're brave, hire a Suzuki 4 wheel drive (around US30 per day)and drive up via Pai and come back via Mai Sariang. Give the car a good checkover and get an emergency phone number from the hirer-the road is pretty hairy (cliffs, buses, pot holes etc) but worth the effort and you can drive up into the national park surrounding Fern Resort. Wish I was there now! We went in July 03 and the temps were perfect-28-32 with nights 20-22! Paradise!!
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Old Jun 11th, 2004, 07:48 PM
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Thanks, Lyndie, for that info. -the Fern Resort sounds like a really special place, with excellent value! Unfortunately, I gotta go to London in a few weeks, (that will be a great drama/adventure in itself-but don't ask me to explain THAT!) but I'm definitely keeping your post for future travel reference!
 
Old Jun 14th, 2004, 07:08 AM
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Boose, there are those of us who really enjoy BOTH Bangkok and Chiang Mai! I'm one of them. I'll leave next week for BKK and will go to CM for about 3 days on a BUYING TRIP while I'm in the country. Both cities have charms of their own. I enjoy the food in CM and have also been to La Gondola for excellent Italian food, Nuam Nuang (not sure I spelled this right) along the river for seafood. You really should try CM!
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Old Jun 14th, 2004, 07:28 AM
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Simpsonc510,
Thanks for the info. What stuff do you go to Chiang Mai to buy and why do you go there to buy it? Which shops do you feel are best?
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