As soon as I landed in Chiang Mai, at around 9am on Friday morning, I knew this would be a very different experience to Bangkok. Bangkok was crazy, overwhelming, and dirty, whereas as soon as I stepped off the plane at Chiang Mai everything seemed calmer; the air was clean, the airport was surrounded by lush green mountains and hills, and everyone just had a slower pace. My driver from the Shangri-La was waiting for me, and after a short drive to the hotel I could finally relax again before exploring the old city and temples.
I'm a Jade member with Shangri-La (the mid-tier level), so I get early check-in in the Horizon Club Lounge, as well as access to the lounge, a room upgrade if it's available (I was upgraded to a pool view room), free breakfast, and welcome gifts (I got a fruit bowl and L'Occitane wash bag and goodies). You may already know that I adore Shangri-La hotels, and this one certainly didn't disappoint. I'll tell you more about it in a full review, but let me tell you now, it was well worth paying the extra £££.
After checking in I went to my room where my case was already waiting for me. After unpacking I went back up to the Horizon Club where I had a delicious breakfast. They have a small buffet and a menu, so I ordered pancakes from the menu and refueled before heading out to explore.
The concierge were helpful and told me it's perfectly safe to get a TukTuk, and they should cost 100Baht per ride. So off I went, and found one waiting outside the hotel. I showed the driver where I wanted to go, and we sped off in the direction of the city centre.
My solo travel experience in Chiang Mai was very different to my solo travel experience in Bangkok. Chiang Mai felt safer, more relaxed, and it was full of backpackers, which I think helped hugely to give it a really great atmosphere. I paid the TukTuk driver and went into Wat Chedi Luang to take a look around.
I walked up the streets of Chiang Mai, got lost down a road, had to go all the way back to the main road, and then headed up towards Wat Chiang Man, stopping off at various temples and things enroute.
On the way I also stopped off at a 7-Eleven and bought some Thai sweets to try. A bag of them cost me a grand total of around £1.50. Bargain. I'll probably do a YouTube video soon, so subscribe and watch out for that!
The temples were beautiful! The ones I visited were all Buddhist ones, and free to visit (they just ask for a small donation, but it isn't mandatory), which is maybe one of the reasons why backpackers love Chiang Mai! Wat Chiang Man is well worth a visit, it was stunning and I loved the vibrant colours. Also, remembering the names of all these temples is really hard - I got Wat Chedi Luang and Wat Chiang Man muddled up when I was editing and saving the photos, and didn't realize until I'd already uploaded them to the blog that I'd mixed them up. Doh. Anyway, Wat Chiang Man was the very first temple built in Chiang Mai, in 1297!
I was feeling tired after my early start and had my Elephant Nature Park visit the next day, so I didn't want to risk any street food in case it destroyed my bowels (I made up for this the next evening, and thankfully my bowels were fine). So I went back to the hotel, got a cabana next to the pool, and laid there all afternoon drinking smoothies and eating some of the yummy pool bar food. After my hectic week it was pure bliss. The sun was shining, and I just completely relaxed as I stretched out on the huge cabana bed and ate and drank in the sunshine.
That evening I went to the night market just up the road from the hotel, and although it's worth seeing, I didn't buy anything as it's mainly just designer goods and tourist tat. I'd been eating huge 7 course meals all week (first world problem or what), so wasn't particularly hungry. I just got a soft serve ice-cream from Maccas. I know I know. Thing is, I really bloomin' love Maccas soft serve. It's the only thing I like from there, but in the UK they cost like 99p...in Australia they're 50cents (around 30p), so when back in Aus I always 'treat' myself to one (lol)...well...in Thailand they were a grand total of around 3p, so obviously I had to have one.
I got an early night ready for the day I'd been waiting for for years...and I can't wait to tell you all about it! Check out my Chiang Mai Travel Vlog below, and don't forget to subscribe!