We visited Thailand and spent 10 days hopping between Chiang Mai, Bangkok, Ayutthaya, and Phuket. Chiang Mai was one of our favorite escapes from the heat and crowds surrounding the major tourist attractions in Bangkok. The drive from the Chiang Mai International Airport to the Old City to visit the Wat Phra Singh Woramahawihan was a scenic one lined with luscious trees and greenery, things we hardly see as New Yorkers. The Old City was what you would expect Thailand to look like. Unlike the city-like feel of Bangkok, Chiang Mai is much more humble with street vendors lining the busy streets with food stalls full of coconut juice and mango slices. Although there were treats lining the streets, it was difficult to find a sit-in restaurant where the food wasn’t overpriced since the Old City is also a well-known tourist attraction.
The most popular dishes in Chiang Mai:
- Khao Soi: egg noodles drenched in curry. Anywhere in Chiang Mai you will find these light and airy noodles, perfectly covered in a sea of spices and flavor. While it may be intimidating and counter-intuitive to order a steaming hot dish while you’re sweating through all of your clothes, trust us – it’s worth it. It was one of our favorite dishes that we’ve had throughout our entire trip as the noodles are a delicate mix of what embodies Thai food: spicy, salty, and sweet.
- Tam Khanun: young jackfruit salad. This was, unfortunately, one of our least favorite dishes throughout the entire trip. The dish tasted like there was 3 extra tablespoons of sugar, which was way too sweet for a non-dessert dish. If that wasn’t enough, the texture of the dish was reminiscent of sardines. Imagine a very sweet, yet spicy, sardine hitting the palate of your throat on a humid day – not a pretty picture. Save your baht.
- Mango sticky rice: glutinous rice prepared with coconut milk and mango adorned with mango pieces on top. Although this dessert isn’t specific to Chiang Mai, we had our first mango sticky rice dish here. We were skeptical about the dish at first since we’ve had Thai desserts in the past in California that were too sugary for our taste buds. However, mango sticky rice should be a dessert option in every restaurant in the world. It’s light, sweet, and a refreshing end to a flavorful meal.
Our favorite dessert: Mango Mania snow ice with mango and mango-flavored pudding at La Mango, located directly across Wat Chedi Luang. The snow ice was a sweet and refreshing treat after trekking through all the temples in the Old City. Paired with the mango pudding and hefty portion of mango pieces, this dessert was absolutely delicious. So delicious that we had a second order. At only 95 baht (less than $3 USD), this dessert was a steal.
Unfortunately, we couldn’t visit the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar, a food emporium with local delights spanning for miles. It was on our itinerary but we ran out of time to explore. Although locals have mentioned that the Night Bazaar prices are much higher than anywhere else due to tourism, it’s still one of those places that we’d check out on our next trip to Chiang Mai.