Chiang Mai – From backpacking to education!

Chiang Mai – From backpacking to education!


Beyond the city walls lays a community like no other.

Many blogs & guidebooks will make it known that Northern Thailand is special.

With its lush jungles, blissful mountains & colourful street art, 

it has a lot to offer, the guidebooks are right, 

there is something quite unique about the Northern most parts of this beautiful Kingdom of Thailand.


Location & transport


Chiang Mai is located around 10 hours North of Bangkok (by road), or just an hour by aeroplane.

The night bus can be taken either way, at a very affordable price (approximately 500Baht one way).

Most buses offer fully reclining seats,

so, it’s possible to sleep if you can get comfy!

Tickets are available at the bus stations either end (arrive at least a few hours before you want to travel to buy a ticket! More in high season)

Sometimes you can buy tickets through your hostel or via a third-party tour operator,

just remember you’ll be paying extra for the middle man.

Most airports in Thailand have domestic flights to Chiang Mai, from as little 2000Baht! 

If affordable, this is a very comfortable, quick & convenient way to travel.

Chiang Mai airport is located just 10-15 minutes’ drive from the old city!

Chiang Mai for backpackers (Tourist Visa) 

This diverse city is drenched in authenticity, community & natural beauty.

Top backpacker to dos include;

Temple visits – With so many to explore, the main temples alone can take up a lot of time.

Within the old city walls lay dozens of beautiful temples, homing hundreds or even thousands of Buddhist monks.

From silver, gold or even gender specific, each one is unique & holds its own special energy.

Doi Suthep is the most famous temple of Chiang Mai.

This tourist hot spot sits at the top of the mountains, a ten-minute drive out of the old city.

It’s particularly popular to visit for sunset, as it boasts incredible views.

Red trucks shuttle tourists from the inner-city temples up to Doi Suthep & back most evenings.

There are hundreds of steps to be climbed from the base of the temple stairway, up to the temple entrance! 

Depending on your fitness levels, it may need to be broken down into a few bursts!

Rest assured, It’s well worth the climb. 

From the moment you see the entrance, 

you feel the calmness surrounding you.

The grounds are reasonably big, with a few different areas to explore, from the story of Buddhism art on an outer wall, to the view point over the city.

Another popular backpacker choice is to hike to Doi Suthep.

There is a walking group on a Saturday morning that convoy up together, catering for a range of fitness levels, it’s a great way to experience the hike, see the temple & make some friends!

On route to Doi Suthep (if taking the pilgrim path) is another temple, which has a beautiful waterfall to sit & admire as a pit stop.

This alone can be a great hike & experience, which is more suitable for a beginner.

Besides temples, another backpacker favourite is to go on an Elephant experience.

Unfortunately, there are still some less ethical tours taking place, so ensuring you are supporting animal welfare,

always go by recommendation.

Riding elephants is frowned upon, but is still well catered for!

Elephant nature park has a great reputation, as does the Karon Hill Tribe!

Both will allow up close experiences, washing & feeding, your tour guides will give you a great understanding of this gentle giants!

After a day getting muddy, perhaps it’s time to kick back with a few beers!

Alcohol isn’t served between 2-5pm or after 11pm,

so, if you want to make a purchase for your evening, be aware of these restrictions.

The live music venues in Chiang Mai provide a great atmosphere for backpackers to socialise & kick back with a few cold ones,

from Jazz to Blues, from Reggae to R N B, there is plenty going on.

Start early & finish early is the general rule in Chiang Mai. 

With most bars shutting the doors at midnight.

There are a select few that operate illegally past this curfew.

(Spicy & The living room)

The Zoe complex is a backpacker party favourite,

located near the East gate of the old city.

Zoe in yellow is the main bar there, you’ll hear it before you see it!

It’s packed all night & full of young, merry tourists having a good time.

Chiang Mai for a holiday (Tourist Visa) 

This beautiful city isn’t just about backpacking experiences, far from it in fact.

Taking a holiday or short break here will be full of great experiences, catering for the masses.

Maya is a 6 storey state of the art shopping mall, a paradise for shopaholics!

With a whole floor dedicated to food, a court full of delicious restaurants awaits.

The top floor has an SFX cinema complex, so you can make an afternoon or evening of a trip to Maya.

The 5th floor also homes Maxx Fitness, a brand-new gym with sauna, steam, state of the art kit & a studio bursting with classes!

Nimman – located just 5 minutes North-West of the old city, is the newly developed & ever-expanding province Nimman.

Popular with many Chinese, Japanese & Korean tourists, Nimman is both trendy, quirky & upmarket.

With hundreds of restaurants, ranging from Japanese to Indian, to speciality mango desserts, 

you are spoilt for choice when it comes to pleasing your pallet!

Nimman is also known for its shopping. With plenty of outlets & boutiques, as well as its convenient location to Maya shopping mall,

spending some time & money in Nimman is a popular choice amongst tourists.

Night markets
The famous Saturday & Sunday night markets are not to be missed when visiting Chiang Mai!
Both have a similar vibe but are located in slightly different locations & are of significantly different sizes!

The Saturday night market is the smaller of the two, just outside the South of the Old City, the road is shut off & hundreds of traders set up their stalls.
This is the place to find souvenirs, clothes, jewellery & all the usual market items!
Not forgetting the food! A lot of incredible (& cheap) food!
The Saturday night market starts at around 6pm & runs until around 10pm, it can get extremely busy, particularly in high season, keep your valuables close to you & be patient!

The Sunday night market is by far the bigger of the two, a whole road running down the middle of the Old City is closed off so traders can set up their stalls, the market spreads out down the side streets & even spills over into the temples!
In fact, one of the bigger food court sections of the Sunday night market is set up on temple grounds.
What a beautiful place to sit & have dinner, sat around a temple!
The Three Kings monument is also located along the Sunday night market road, another beautiful spot to pit stop!

During a market stroll you’ll also be likely to witness several street performers, predominantly musicians, playing anything from guitars, saxophones or even didgeridoos!

There is also a night market that runs every night, the Night Bazaar, located outside of the East of the Old City. Here you’ll find a huge food court, endless amounts of regular traders & a selection of live music & bars inside too!

Have dinner, shop for souvenirs & take in the calm yet lively atmosphere of the night markets!

Muay Thai shows.

A night out seeing a Muay Thai show is also very popular amongst backpackers & tourists.
During the day, you may notice trucks driving around with loud speakers playing advertisements for the shows!
Once this has grabbed your attention, it’s likely you’ll end up booking show!
Watching Muay Thai is a great way to appreciate Thailand’s local sport.
Appreciate the skill involved in this classis contact sport & make a night of it.

Ladyboy shows.
If you want less fighting & more dancing, perhaps a ladyboy show is more up your street, on selected evenings, located near the night bazaar market, you’ll find the ladyboy shows. A night of pure entertainment, beauty & an experience you won’t forget!
If you want to get involved, volunteer when they ask for participants & you’ll be dressed up & on stage in not time!

Relax with a massage!
Unwind with a relaxing massage in one of Chiang Mai’s many massage parlours!
Foot massages at the side of the market, ex-prisoner parlours or full on spa days, are all available in Chiang Mai. You can get a full hour Thai massage for as little as 150Baht!

Chiang Mai for digital nomads (Many visas applicable) 

As a DN, Chiang Mai has a lot to offer.

Let’s start with the workspace!

There are many popular workspaces both in & out the city.

A range of prices & facilities mean everyone is catered for.

For as little as 100Baht/day or 19Baht/hour, you can have a little work station with great Wi-Fi in a small, quiet space, you’ll be topped up with hot herbal tea & fresh drinking water & will have the option of upgrading to a private conference room if needed.

At the other end of the scale you 1can double or treble that cost &

access a huge open space that busting with co-workers.

If all depends on what you prefer, small & intimate with little talk. 

Or somewhere you can integrate into social circles & network with people!

Chiang Mai does offer it all!

Cafes & other work suitable hang outs.

Outside of specific co-working spaces, many cafes in Chiang Mai cater for online workers, with easy accessible power, good seating & quiet space.

Over the years more digital nomads have settled in the area, so naturally, businesses have taken note of what their customers are looking for!


One of the most noticeable takeaways from a trip to Chiang Mai is the sense of community.

The locals are incredibly friendly & are usually happy to assist tourists with things.

As with anywhere, you’ll find a few rotten eggs amongst the pack but that’s standard practice!

It’s not just the locals that give off a nice aroma to the newcomers, the farangs, the ex-pats of countless nationalities & the longer-term travellers create a hub of humble humans!

There is also a great online community in Chiang Mai, from traveller groups, digital nomad groups, spirituality group & plenty of meet ups, these communities are very warm & welcoming. It’s a great way to make new friends & integrate with like-minded people.

In comparison to the South & the Islands, Chiang Mai & most of the North is cheaper.
Accommodation is about 10-20% less & there is a greater selection of lower priced food on offer.
You can find plenty of 30-50Baht meals!

Location/transport links
Located in Northern Thailand, Chiang Mai is often used as a pit stop to explore other places, coming back & forth to the city between other trips.
It’s used as a stepping stone to go to Pai, as it has a direct bus link straight to Pai every day.
Chiang Rai is another popular route from Chiang Mai, again, buses & tours run directly from Chiang Rai.

Exiting the country by land is also easy from Chiang Mai, taking a bus or bus & boat combination you can get to bordering Laos.

Chiang Mai for education (Education visa)

Coming to Chiang Mai to learn is popular amongst returning tourists who just love the city!
Accessing an education visa will grant you a longer stay & allow you to learn something new!
Thai language, TEFL (English teacher) & Muay Thai are the top education choices.
Chiang Mai also homes one of Thailand’s top universities. The grounds take over a large portion of the North-West & many foreign students choose to study there.

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