Living the Good Life in Chiang Mai: Insider Tips on Experiencing the Best of Thailand’s Laid-Back City

Chiang Mai, a laid-back city located in northern Thailand, is known for its rich culture, picturesque landscapes, and friendly people. 

It’s a place where time seems to move at a slower pace, allowing you to relax and enjoy life’s simple pleasures. Whether you’re a first-time visitor or a seasoned traveler, there’s something for everyone in Chiang Mai. 

We’ll share insider tips on experiencing the best of Chiang Mai and living the good life in this charming city.

Explore Chiang Mai’s Old City 

Exploring Chiang Mai’s Old City is an experience not to be missed. The ancient walls and moat that surround the city center give it a distinctive charm and make it easy to navigate. 

Inside, you’ll find a wealth of history and culture, with many temples dating back hundreds of years. One of the most famous temples in the Old City is Wat Phra Singh, which dates back to the 14th century and is home to a revered Buddha statue. 

Another highlight is Wat Chedi Luang, which features a towering brick stupa that was once one of the tallest structures in ancient Chiang Mai.

As you wander through the Old City’s narrow lanes and alleys, you’ll discover hidden gems that you might otherwise miss. Quaint cafes, art galleries, and boutique shops are tucked away in unexpected places, offering a glimpse into the city’s creative and cultural side. 

Take a break from sightseeing and grab a coffee at one of the many cozy cafes, or browse the unique artwork and handicrafts on offer at the art galleries and shops.

The Old City is a great place to learn about Chiang Mai’s history and heritage. Many of the temples have museums or exhibits that offer insight into the city’s past, and you can also visit historic landmarks such as the Three Kings Monument, which commemorates the city’s founding fathers.

Experience the Magic of Songkran

Songkran is a traditional Thai festival celebrated in mid-April, and Chiang Mai is one of the best places to experience it. 

During the festival, the city comes alive with water fights, as locals and tourists take to the streets armed with water guns and buckets to douse each other in water. It’s a fun and festive atmosphere, with music, food, and drink stalls lining the streets. 

But Songkran is not just about water fights – it’s also a time for cleansing and renewal, with many people visiting temples to offer prayers and pour water over Buddha statues.

If you’re in Chiang Mai during Songkran, be sure to join in the festivities and experience this unique celebration of Thai culture.

Try the Local Cuisine

Chiang Mai is known for its delicious and unique cuisine, which draws influences from neighboring countries like Myanmar and China as well as the local Lanna culture. 

One dish that you absolutely must try is khao soi, a northern-style curry noodle soup that is a favorite among locals and visitors alike. Made with egg noodles in a creamy coconut curry broth and topped with crispy noodles, lime, and pickled vegetables, khao soi is a filling and flavorful meal that will leave you craving more.

Another must-try dish is sai ua, a spicy sausage that is popular in northern Thailand. Made with minced pork, lemongrass, and a blend of herbs and spices, sai ua is grilled and served with sticky rice, fresh vegetables, and spicy dipping sauce. It’s a tasty and satisfying snack that can be found at markets and street food stalls throughout the city.

When it comes to street food, Chiang Mai is a paradise for foodies. The Chiang Mai Night Bazaar and the Saturday Walking Street are two of the best places to sample a variety of local delicacies. At these markets, you’ll find everything from grilled meats and seafood to fresh fruits and smoothies. 

Don’t miss the opportunity to try khao kha moo, a slow-cooked pork leg served with rice and pickled vegetables, or pad Thai, a stir-fried noodle dish that is a Thai classic.

If you’re feeling adventurous, you can try some of the more unusual local dishes, such as deep-fried insects or ant eggs. While they may not be for everyone, they are a staple of Thai street food culture and are worth trying at least once.

Get off the Beaten Track

While Chiang Mai’s Old City has plenty to offer, there’s so much more to explore beyond its walls. Renting a motorbike or hiring a tuk-tuk driver is a great way to venture out of the city and discover the natural beauty and cultural diversity of the surrounding countryside.

One of the most popular day trips from Chiang Mai is to visit Doi Inthanon National Park, which is home to Thailand’s highest mountain and some of the country’s most beautiful waterfalls. The park is home to several hill tribe villages, where you can learn about the unique customs and traditions of the local communities.

Another great option for getting off the beaten track is to explore the Mae Sa Valley, which is just a short drive from Chiang Mai. The valley is home to several scenic spots, including the stunning Mae Sa Waterfall and the Queen Sirikit Botanic Garden, which showcases the region’s diverse plant life.

If you’re looking for a more immersive cultural experience, consider visiting one of the many traditional hill tribe villages that dot the countryside around Chiang Mai. 

These communities have unique customs and traditions that have been preserved for generations, and you can learn about their way of life by participating in activities such as cooking classes, handicraft workshops, and village tours.

Relax and Rejuvenate

If you’re looking to unwind and recharge your batteries, Chiang Mai is the perfect destination. With its abundance of spas and wellness centers, there are plenty of opportunities to relax and rejuvenate during your visit.

One of the most popular spa experiences in Chiang Mai is the traditional Thai massage, which combines acupressure, stretching, and deep tissue massage techniques to relieve tension and promote relaxation. You can find Thai massage centers throughout the city, from luxury spas to humble street-side shops.

If you’re looking for a more luxurious spa experience, Chiang Mai has plenty of options to choose from. Many of the city’s high-end hotels offer world-class spa facilities, with treatments ranging from hot stone massages to aromatherapy sessions. 

For something truly indulgent, you can book a spa package that includes a private room, sauna, and jacuzzi.

Chiang Mai is also home to many yoga and meditation centers. Whether you’re a seasoned practitioner or a beginner, you can find classes and workshops to suit your needs and interests.

If you’re looking to reconnect with nature, consider visiting one of Chiang Mai’s many hot springs. These natural springs are believed to have healing properties and offer a serene and peaceful environment to relax and soak in the mineral-rich waters.


Chiang Mai is a city that truly has it all: rich history and culture, stunning natural beauty, delicious cuisine, and an abundance of opportunities to relax and rejuvenate. 

From exploring the ancient temples of the Old City to venturing off the beaten track to discover the region’s hidden gems, there’s so much to see and do in this laid-back city. 

With its friendly locals and welcoming atmosphere, it’s no wonder that Chiang Mai is a favorite destination for travelers from around the world. 

Whether you’re seeking adventure or relaxation, culture or cuisine, Chiang Mai has something for everyone, and is a destination that should not be missed.