Home LifestyleDesign Chiang Mai in 24 hours
If you’re in Thailand, be sure to factor Chiang Mai into your itinerary. Rated as the country’s cultural capital, it’s pulling a diverse crowd to the region, from creatives to adventure travellers and everyone in between. Situated in the misty mountainous of the North, it’s the fourth largest city in the country and an uber cool destination where heritage meets hipsterdom and the vibe is nicely laid back.

08h00 – BREAKFAST: Tub Tim-Krob

Address:
193/15 Sridonchai Road, Chiang Mai (no website)

‘When in Rome’ right, so ditch your usual and make like a local.  Try flat noodles or a gem of a delicacy that is in my humble opinion, the pièce de résistance of Thai treats, mango and sticky rice.  The best place for it is at Tub Tim-Krob, a cantina style set up where a whole mango is sliced in front of you, dished up alongside warm, fragrant rice, and drizzled with sweet coconut cream sauce – the stuff of dreams.  Be warned though –  once you’ve savoured this most famous of Thai dishes done just right, it will become your snacking staple.

09h00 – TEMPLE: Doi Suthep

Address: Wat Phra That Doi Suthep Road Tambon Su Thep, Chiang Mai | http://www.chiangmai.bangkok.com/attractions/doi-suthep.htm

Forty minutes from the CBD is the shimmering Wat Phra That Doi Dutep, the most sacred temple in the province and a truly spectacular pagoda. Legend has it that King Kuena entrusted a white elephant wth its precious cargo, a sacred bone relic, with finding the location of the shrine that he then built in 1383, a thousand meters above sea level. Access is via a funicular although Buddhist devotees prefer to climb up 306 steps of the intricately carved serpentine staircase. Today the Wat is a working monastery and a great example of Lanna architecture, complete with a replica of the famed Emerald Statue, enormous ritual bells, a frescoed cloister, exquisite wall murals, golden umbrellas, small shrines and a terrace that offers sweeping views over the city on  a clear day.

Akha hill tribe girl on the carved staircase at Doi Suthep

10h30 – COFFEE: Ristr8to
Address:
15/3 Nimmanhaemin road, Suthep, Mueang, Chiang Mai | http://www.ristr8to.com/

The baristas at Ristr8to on trendy Nimmanhaemin Road are slaying it, and it so happens that the 2017 World Latte Art champion, Arnon Thitiprasert, is in-house, so you’re assured of  a sublime flat white topped by fancy foam. Speciality coffee is a thriving culture in CM and this particular brand, with an outlet in Bangkok as well, has a cult following among hipsters and connoisseurs whop rate it as the city’s finest.

winning latte art

11h30 – SHOPPING: ONE Nimman
Nimmanhaemin Soi 1http://www.onenimman.com/

The latest ode to materialism, and the most sought-after place to part with your plastic is One Nimman, a chic retail paradise that has smartly merged culture, art, food and design into an uber stylish shopping emporium. From galleries to boutiques, eateries, a spa and an organic supermarket, it’s a great space to spend a few hours, perhaps take in an exhibition, or meet up in the food court where there is grub to suit every budget.

cool interactive installations at ONE Nimman

 

13h00 – LUNCH: Huen Phen
Address:112 Ratchamanka Rd, Tambon Phra Sing, Amphoe Mueang Chiang Mai | www.baanhuenphen.com/restaurant

The speciality dish in this part of the land is Khao Soy, a noodle soup dish with coarsely chopped pork, tomatoes, fermented soy beans, chillies, shallots, and garlic, topped with bean sprouts, scallions, and cilantro. Locals gather at Huen Phen for their, a restaurant that has been serving it and other traditional foods like Guay-Tiaw-Kao-Soi (egg noodles with curry in coconut milk), for forty years. There’s often a waiting list but put your name down and stick around – it’s worth it.

 

Khao Soy, a traditional Northern Thai dish

 
14h00 – eco textiles
Address:138/8 Soi Chang Khian, T. Changpeuak, A. Muang Chiang Mai  | www.studio-naenna.com

A few minutes from town is Studio Naenna, a core community of ten women weavers, embroiderers and designers who belong to Weavers For the Environment. All are craft makers from various ethnic groups who create high quality, environmentally friendly silks, ikat,  cottons and brocades on the back strap looms of the Karen tribe. The group, established by Patricia Cheesman in 1988, has revived the ancient industry and has sustainability at its heart. Naenna is based in a bamboo thatch workshop in lush surroundings, with a small boutique on site that sells the product.

 
15h15 – MARKET

A few minutes from town is Studio Naenna, a core community of ten women weavers, embroiderers and designers who belong to Weavers For the Environment. All are craft makers from various ethnic groups who create high quality, environmentally friendly silks, ikat,  cottons and brocades on the back strap looms of the Karen tribe. The group, established by Patricia Cheesman in 1988, has revived the ancient industry and has sustainability at its heart. Naenna is based in a bamboo thatch workshop in lush surroundings, with a small boutique on site that sells the product.

16h30 – massage: Green Bamboo

1 Moon Muang Road Soi 1, 50200, Chiang Mai  \ www.green-bamboo-massage.com
No visit to the Land of Smiles is complete without some Thai style TLC. Green Bamboo Massage is a reputable family-run salon that offers a variety of heavenly treatments and traditional Lanna and Thai style therapies employed age old techniques. Staff are highly trained and the business is eco aware, one of the few, using only organic products. If you go, take something with to donate to their micro charity, be it clothing or canned foods.  With costs starting at 130THB Green Bamboo offers pampering perfection in every sense of the word.

18h30 – COCKTAILS: The 1921, Anantara Chiang Mai Resort

123-123/1 Charoen Prathet Road, Changklan, Muang, Chiang Mai | chiang-mai.anantara.com

Cocktails with a view anyone? Order a classic Peruvian pisco at the colonial style 1921 Service Bar at the gorgeous Anantara Resort take a seat on the upper verandah and watch the sun go down over the Ping River. Formerly the British Consulate, The 1921 houses two dining venues plus a bar with an excellent mixologist and an expansive wine and whisky menu.  The renovated embassy stands where it has for close to 100 years,  a throwback to the days when M16 agents used to gather in the very same dark panelled rooms to discuss this and that about Her Majesty’s security. Sip your special something overlooking the water before you head out to dinner in town.

 
20h00 – DINNER: KiewKaiKa

KiewKaiKa in the new One Nimman mall has put a twist on traditional Thai dishes and the result is glorious. The recipe for bplaa haaeng dtaaneng mo is a case in point- fish that has been roasted to a dry powdery form, seasoned with granulated white sugar and mixed with deep fried crispy shallots. Unsurprisingly, KKK in Bangkok has just landed a mention in that city’s Michelin Guide and their newest shop in Chiang Mai looks set to follow suit. Small plate sharing is the way to go here so you can sample as much as possible. Chef Poy’s plating warrants countless Instagram pics and the award worthy eclectic interior design and decor is by the woman behind the stylish Trace Hotelistro.


KiewKaiKa

 
23h00 – LIVE JAZZ : North Gate Jazz Co-op
112 Ratchamanka Rd, Tambon Phra Sing, Amphoe Mueang, Chiang Mai \ https://web.facebook.com/northgate.jazzcoop/

Travel info: Amazing Thailand SA and Tourism Authority Thailand

Accommodation: Anantara Chiang Mai Resort

Getting there: Bangkok to Chiang Mai via Bangkok Air

From SA to Bangkok via Ethiopian Airlines

Currency: 1ZAR – 2.6THB

Tour operator: Diethelm Thailand

Transport in the city: red taxis, approx R30-50THB in the city (agree on a price before you climb in)

Temple dress code: covered shoulders and long pants

Day trips: Chiang Rai

> Useful Thai phrases

Note: a lot of places only open around 10h00 so check online before you rock up

My piece in the Sunday Times, 20 May 2018

Disclaimer: I was hosted on this trip by the Tourism Authority of Thailand/Amazing Thailand SA. All opinions are my own.
Recommended domestic airline: Bangkok Airways 
SA to Thailand: Ethiopian Air 
  Until next time,

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