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Let’s face it: Chiang Mai does not have the same night life as Pattaya or Bangkok no matter how some bloggers try to justify it— and there are no beaches to be found anywhere. So what makes Chiang Mai so appealing … why do thousands of people retire or visit Chiang Mai each year? Besides a tamer night life and no opportunity to listen to the roaring ocean waves or have perpetually-generated sand in your shoes, there is much more to Thailand’s “Jewel” than meets the eye.
Chiang Mai might have the best food in all of Thailand. Some of the dishes in northern Thailand are of Burmese influence, and many of these dishes are not as readily available in the south. When they are available, they aren’t on the same level.
Khao Soi is a great example of a brilliant Burmese dish that is abundant here. Chiang Mai (and its neighboring city of Chiang Rai) is famous for having the best Khao Soi in the world. It’s a complex noodle dish that is difficult to make properly, and it is both sweet and spicy. It’s made of crispy noodles, egg noodles, yellow curry, coconut milk and chicken. It will make your taste buds spin on its axis with its delightful and sophisticated flavors. It’s one of my favorite dishes, but surprisingly, many foreigners in Bangkok that I have met have never heard of it, much less tasted it. Khao Soi can be had in Chiang Mai for just 30 baht ($1).
Besides the mouthwatering food, another popular trait of Chiang Mai is the ancient temples, its primordial moat and the fortified walls. A dream come true for people who like artifacts, as the moat and the remains of the battlements that were built 700 years ago still remain. Olden temples pepper the “old city” of Chiang Mai throughout, where there are 300 of them in total inside the two kilometer square moat. It’s fun to just wonder and get lost in the quiet streets of the city square, where you can visit the temples on your own schedule, come face to face with locals riding bicycles who perhaps smile more frequently than in Thailand’s capital; the cooler temperatures and the friendly Lanna culture have a lot to do with this.
Chiang Mai is the “launch pad” for many sites and trekking tours that are close-by. One can ride elephants in the rain forest, play with tiger cubs, ride bamboo rafts, visit the “long neck” tribes, go zip-lining amidst the jungle canopy, or visit the Golden Triangle. About an hour away is one of the most spectacular creations I have ever seen called the White Temple. Although it won’t be completely finished for another 40-50 years as it is created only by hand; it is still spectacular and a must-see, even at its early stages.
Chiang Mai was named by U.S. News as the number one place to retire, based on the modern health care, low crime, low cost of living, Western amenities and things to do. Apartments and houses are abundant where one can rent a nice house for 5000 and 10,000 baht per month, which is $160 to $320. In the old city, there are scores of guest houses for short-term travelers that can be had for 400-500 baht per day, and this yields a private bathroom, balcony and free Wi-Fi. This is about the same as what people pay for a hostel in Bangkok, where there is no private bathroom, balcony, and sometimes these places just aren’t that clean. If you’re coming here for a brief stay, I really like Moon Muang Soi 9. It’s inside the city square at the northeastern corner, and it’s a cozy part of town. Here is a YouTube video I made of Soi 9 to give you an idea of how quaint it is.
What Chiang Mai lacks in night-life and sandy beaches, it makes up for it with the cheap cost of living, comfortable atmosphere, awesome food, and welcoming people.
This post has been written by David Yow – who wrote the new book titled, “The Golden Gateway to Thailand: Amazing tales of an odyssey abroad.” His inspirational story, whimsical sense of humor and the imaginative narrative of his Thailand adventures will likely make this book difficult to put down. He also hosts a member’s forum and he assists people who want to tour or live in Chiang Mai. To read his eBook or for more info, click here. www.GatewaytoThailand.Club